Exclusive Interview with New Zealand promoter Craig Thomson

By Charles Cody White - For every Don King or Bob Arum in the world, there is an equally dedicated and hardworking ďsmall timeĒ boxing promoter determined to make a name for himself in this glamorous sport of ours. Earlier this week, I was privileged to speak with one such promoter in New Zealand based Craig Thomson, who kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. Here is what Mr.

Thomson had to say...

1. How are you doing today sir?

Hi Charles, Iím great thanks my man. Have just relocated to Gold Coast in Australia for a year, so just starting to settle in.

2. How did you first get your start in boxing?

Well Iím a qualified personal trainer, and I met a New Zealand professional boxer by the name of Gerard Zohs. He was the first guy to fight Anthony Mundine and was the current New Zealand Super-Middleweight Champion at the time. We met a few years after his fight with Mundine and he was due to fight at a very small venue on Aucklandís North Shore. He was smoking cigarettes and had downed a pint of beer and was starting on his second when I asked him what he was doing as he had a fight in about 30 minutes time. He told me the promoter had changed his opponent last minute to the notorious (in New Zealand) Tony Renata, a bigger man, and he wasnít feeling too good about it. I wished him luck, watched the fight, and they fought to a 4 round DRAW. Afterwards I asked him if he wanted assistance in terms of his training, he said yes and was very appreciative as he had fights lined up in Australia he wanted to get fit for. So there I began, I helped Zohs train for two fights in Australia, one against Tim Bell, current PABA and WBO Oriental Light-Heavyweight Champ. At the time I also thought to myself ďI could run better promotions than the one I first saw Gerard fight on in a small, smoke filled, dingy Rugby Leagues club.Ē So at 19 years of age I held my first promotion at the ABA (Auckland Boxing Association) and had Chauncy "The Fat, Dorky, White Guy" Welliver as my main event against local heavyweight Richard Tutaki. And itís just snowballed from there.

3. What are some events that you have promoted thus far?

Iím just a small time promoter, I normally have an event with a few amateur fights then a few Semi-professional or White Collar (corporate boxing as itís known in New Zealand) bouts where a lot of my friends compete, they draw the crowds, and then finish with a couple of pro bouts. Like I said I have had Chauncy Welliver fight on a few of my shows, I also brought back former Don King fighter Jameson Bostic after a 13 month layoff. Heís fought for me a few times now. I promoted New Zealandís first outdoor professional boxing show in 15 years at the Mangawhai Tavern, a small holiday spot in the north of New Zealand. Nothing massive, but all my shows have had some real wars in them whether itís the amateurs, corporates or pros. I truly believe that even on the smallest of shows you can have some of the best fights. You donít always need Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones etc to have GREAT fights.

4. In the past you have also mentioned that you manage fighters as well. Who are some fighters that you currently manage?

There are a few kiwi based fighters, guys who are just trying to make a few bucks doing the sport they love. I also work with guys like Chauncy and Bostic who are looking at the bigger picture and wanting the bigger fights. I have just started working with Max Alexander also, who fights on the undercard of David Tua vs. Shane Cameron on October 3rd against Moyoyo Mensah of Ghana. Hopefully itís a new start for Max. I still believe he has a lot to offer, although personally think he should be back at Light-Heavyweight. I'd like to get into managing more fighters, I see too many guys, especially in New Zealand, being mismanaged. Itís a real shame we have some talented fighters but they never reach their full potential. A lot donít have the direction needed to stay on track so donít train as they should and get beat by guys who are simply fitter than them, not necessarily more skilled.

5. How is promoting a boxing event down under different from promoting one in the U.S. or elsewhere?

To be honest Charles, Iím not sure Iím qualified to answer this question. I have never promoted outside of New Zealand, although I have been to many promotions overseas such as Australia, Spain, England, Germany and the US. I believe that there is less regulation in New Zealand and therefore easier to promote a show. Having said that, the main sanctioning body in NZ, the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association (NZPBA) just brought in compulsory blood tests for fighters, which I believe is a good thing. Thereís less red tape involved and thatís a good thing also. Iím a firm believer in the "right to fight," so long as someone can pass a medical. Why should we deny them their right? A good example was a friend of mine, Mike Lloyd. He turned pro at 39 and has since retired with a 2-5-0 record, but during his time as a pro he got a chance to fight Chauncy Welliver, a much more experience fighter. After that fight he won his next 2 fights. The Welliver fight gave him a lot of confidence. A lot of countries wouldnít allow it but for Mike it was the biggest moment in his fight career!

6. With a few NZ fighters getting up there in the rankings of the heavyweight division, and with some intriguing match-ups being made, do you view this as an exciting time for the NZ boxing scene?

Yes I do, there is no question that the Tua vs. Cameron fight has captured New Zealand as a nation like no other. Not since David fought for the World Title against Lennox Lewis have you heard so many kiwis talking about boxing, and itís a great thing. Itís great for the sport of boxing in New Zealand, and the pacific for that matter. Tua vs. Cameron is New Zealandís equivalent of Australiaís Mundine vs. Green. Sugar Ray Leonard likened it to "a fight for the street corner," basically whoís the best in your neighborhood. I hope that once the dust settles after this fight, it will pave the way for more big fights to happen is this part of the world. There are also some really exciting fighters coming through the NZ ranks at the moment. Guys like Ray Musson, Steve Heremaia, and Robbie Berridge. All 3 are young and have that KO me or I'll KO you style about them. Another couple worthy of mention with NZ links are Vaitele Soi and Emilo Leti, who isnít a pro yet but will be a BEAST when he makes the switch. Unfortunately we donít get a lot of quality televised boxing here in NZ, we occasionally get a big PPV card on Pay TV. Hopefully this will change as well, the young kids need something to aspire to.

7. When we last spoke, you mentioned the names Jameson Bostic and Max Alexander. Tell us about these two fighters...

Both are young guys with a lot of fuel left in their tanks. Max obviously needs no introduction given he was on the Contender 2 series. They actually fought each other earlier in their career with Max winning a very close decision. Max will be fighting on the Tua vs. Cameron undercard against the always game Moyoyo Mensah. For Max, heís had a tough run of it lately, going 0-4-1 in his last 5! I think the weight he had to lose for Contender, then going straight up to Cruiser has had a negative impact on his performances. This Mensah fight is the start of a new beginning, itís a chance for Max to get back on the wagon and notch up a win over an experienced fighter. Like I said previously, I believe Max needs to be at Light-Heavyweight and it will be something we discuss during his trip to NZ. Itís a weight I feel he can be more effective at. Jameson Bostic I talked a little about earlier in that I brought him back after his 13 month layoff. He came to NZ and had 3 fights in a month. He wasn't in top shape but showed his class and handled the kiwi boys with ease, including beating Former New Zealand Heavyweight Champion Daniel Tai. He came back again after sparring Beibut Shuemenov for his WBA Light-Heavyweight World Title fight and was in better shape and stopped tough Samoan Tapanuu Tagilima inside a minute. It was a dominating performance; he'll keep getting better and better. Heís tall at 6'5 and long, moves well and fights smart. Bostic is a future Champion in my opinion so long as he stays on track and moves himself back to his preferred Light-Heavyweight division.

8. How long do you plan on promoting events in NZ? Is this a prospective career, or just a side hobby of sorts?

Well Iím currently in Australia for 12 months then off to Europe for 12 months, maybe a little longer. Iím only young still so will travel and then when Iím back in NZ yes, I'll continue to promote. I'd like to open my own gym on my return and have it large enough so that small shows can be promoted there. Iím also looking into promoting an event in South Korea, and I'd love to promote a show in the small island Nation of Vanuatu. I hope to be full-time involved in boxing promoting, managing and matchmaking.

9. Kali Meehan vs. John Hopoate, who takes it and how?

Meehan KO3. Hoppa has been good for boxing in Australia and to a certain degree New Zealand also. He's helped bring the sport back into the spotlight. Hoppa has achieved well in the sport, winning the Australian Heavyweight Title over the cagey veteran Bob Mirovic, but his limitations were exposed by Oliver McCall. Hoppa has never had a great chin and Meehan is World Class, albeit inactive, so itís only going to end one way for Hoppa; he'll be kissing the canvas again. I take my hat off to the guy he fought, McCall. Now heís looking at fighting Meehan so heís not dodging the tough fights!

10. On October 3rd, perhaps the most anticipated fight in recent NZ history is being staged with the returning and seemingly re-dedicated David Tua going up against the young, hungry, and talented Shane Cameron. What does this fight do for NZ boxing?

Itís the fight the country has waited for, for almost 4 years. Itís massive down in New Zealand and both guys have to be commended on agreeing to "get it on." Expectations around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific are huge. Itís the single biggest sporting event in New Zealand this year and I really hope it turns out to be a success.

11. Any predictions for this fight?

Sure, Tua TKO6. I think Dave will take a couple of rounds to warm into his work. Heís been out of the ring a while now but heís trained so hard for this and heís such an experienced guy it should only take a few rounds for him to get back into his groove. Shane hasnít fought a guy who can bang like Dave either and heís been hurt by the likes of Terry Smith and Friday Ahunanya so you better recognize that when Dave pulls the trigger and it lands, its gonna hurt. I think Tua hurts Shane early on but remains patient and stops him in the middle rounds. I like Shane though, heís a nice guy, his heart and courage will keep him in it. I canít WAIT!

12. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview Mr. Thomson. Have a great day.

Much appreciated Charles. I always enjoy reading your interviews and stories. Please feel free to get in touch anytime. Please also let your readers know they can contact me anytime also, I always love discussing our sport of boxing. Take care.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Thomson for a wonderful interview and to wish him luck in all of his future ventures in and outside of boxing.

Article posted on 10.09.2009

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