Exclusive Interview With Tom Tsatas, Manager Of Heavyweight Contender Fres Oquendo

by James Slater - Almost one week on, and Fres Oquendo and his team are still hopping mad at the split decision victory James Toney was awarded in Cabazon, California after 12 rounds on December 13th. Most, if not all, in attendance and watching on TV felt late replacement Oquendo had more than done enough to have had his hand raised. This was not the case, however, and "Fast" Fres and his team - headed by manager Tom Tsatas - are now looking at appealing the decision.

Talking to this writer over the phone today, Tsatas told me what is happening, or is going to happen about the given verdict, the future for his fighter, and other things..

James Slater: Firstly, have you lodged a formal protest yet?

Tom Tsatas: No, not yet. We're working on it now. We want to get all our facts straight first and find out where we stand exactly. I'm talking with my attorney about all this now. But we are looking at writing to the governing bodies - the WBC, WBO etc - and getting them to do what's right. Ideally, we want a rematch and the result overturned to either a draw or a No-Contest.

J.S: Ideally, Fres just wants a second fight though?

T.T: Yes. We'd like to get both - an overturned decision and a rematch - but a rematch mostly. James Toney should be a man and give us this re-match. You know, aside from Toney himself and his promoter Dan Goossen, you will not find anyone who thinks Fres lost the fight. So we have said we will fight him again winner take all. And, I have to check with Fres, but we have also said that if Fres doesn't knock out Toney, James wins. Fres took the first fight on just one week's notice, meaning he had around four days to train. He started slow, but came on strong later on. Had he had more time to train, James wouldn't have lasted 12 rounds with him. I guarantee you, James Toney will not last 12 rounds in a rematch where Fres has had the proper time to prepare.

J.S: Most people agree it was a bad decision, but was it the worst robbery ever? Your thoughts.

T.T: Well, even if Christmas came early for Toney, you couldn't have had him winning this fight. There's just no way Fres lost. Whether it was 8-4 or 7-5 [in rounds] there is no way Fres lost the fight. Was it the worst decision ever? No. But even Chris Arreola, who I have a lot of respect for, came up and told Fres he won the fight. You know, they say Fres fights scared, but he's a technical boxer. You're not going to stop James Toney or Evander Holyfield (who Oquendo also lost a close decision to), so you have to fight smart and throw lots of punches and come on late - which is what Fres did against Toney. Fres had a 101-degree temperature going into the fight with Holyfield, and never used that as an excuse. He's had a few bad results go against him in the past, the Chris Byrd fight and in the John Ruiz fight he was stopped way too soon. He deserves this rematch. Something good has to come out of this.

J.S: As you know, Hasim Rahman successfully got his bout's result changed to a No-Contest after he fought Toney, and most people think Rahman quit. You must have a good chance then?

T.T: Well, I don't really have faith with the system. But if you do nothing, nothing happens. So you have to try and do something. Hopefully the organisations will see this result for the injustice it was. We will take a rematch anywhere except California. Everything was against us. The point taken off in the 8th round was wrong. People have complained in the past how Toney turns his head away in fights. And that's what happened, Toney turned away and Fres had a point taken away for hitting him in the back of the head. We weren't even invited to the press conference, it was all James Toney talking about how great he is. It really was just the James Toney show. Our corner was hardly ever on screen between rounds during the bout. But there's just no way that showing by Toney should get him any talk of a fight with the Klitschkos.

J.S: Did your opinion of the fight lead you to believe James Toney is a shot fighter?

T.T: I wouldn't go as far as to say he's shot. You have to respect his great career, he's still crafty and he's got a great chin and a strong will. He still has talent. I think Fres made him look worse than he actually is. Fres is a hard guy to fight, because he's smart. Also, Fres is the natural heavyweight, with a great left jab. Like I say, he could've started faster, but once he got into his groove and came on stronger, from the 7th round on, he picked it up and did easily enough to win. We've watched the fight four or five times now, and, sure, Fres could've done better, but fighting for the first time in quite a while, it's hard to go 12 full rounds. It really is. But even then, he basically dominated a future Hall of Famer - albeit a 40-year-old Hall of Famer. I'll say again, I see no way how we lost. None at all.

J.S: If you do get a rematch, Fres can be even better - as you say, because he will have much more time to get ready. But can Toney be any better? Or was that the best James Toney can be nowadays?

T.T: James just doesn't have the discipline. He spars all the time, but he doesn't have the discipline. Everyone keeps saying, "if, if, if", with him. But he just won't put the time in in the gym. He has great experience, he's relaxed in there, he has toughness and a great chin, and he has that strong will. But he will make no effort to train.

J.S: How good do you fell Fres is at age 35?

T.T: He's smarter now, he's in better shape with regards to being smart. He's a young 35, he's running a lot more, he's a clean liver, he's never more than five pounds overweight. Fres is always training. I think he's pretty much in his prime right now. He's never taken a beating or been knocked out badly, and he had a two year break a while back when he was switching trainers.

J.S: If you don't get a return with Toney, when will you fight again, and against who?

T.T: We're looking at February, in Florida, where Fres is based now. We're with The Arena boxing group, and they allow us to fight on other promoter's cards - which I kind of wish we hadn't done now, after what happened. We're not looking at a super, big name for February, unless something pops up. But we're looking to stay busy. We've had offers to fight in Europe but I'm a little reluctant after what's just happened. It's so tough knowing you can't go in just to win a decision, knowing you have to get a stoppage to win. We'd love a fight with Arreola one day, or a fight with [Juan Carlos] Gomez, or David Haye, who is fighting Vitali Klitschko, we'd love to fight eventually.

J.S: At least Fres can say he got himself a moral victory over Toney, and he has had some sympathetic publicity with the points loss.

T.T: Yes. As I say, something good's got to come from this. People know what happened, there has been a lot of sympathy for Fres. People have come up to him and told him they know he won the fight. People have been supportive. And like I say, only about three people think Toney won the fight.

J.S: Thanks very much for talking to me. We hope you get a re-match for Fres.

T.T: Thank you. He deserves it. We just want to get our side of the story out.

Article posted on 21.12.2008

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