Exclusive Interview with Donyil “The Boxing Poet” Livingston
07.10.09 - by Geoffrey Ciani - The super middleweight division is getting a lot of attention these days, especially with Showtime’s Super Six super middleweight tournament slated to start in just over a week. Meanwhile, an exciting young prospect with a celebrated amateur career is preparing to make his professional debut in that very same division. His name is Donyil Livingston, also known as “The Boxing Poet”. Livingston, once a top favorite to make the 2004 Olympic Team, is now ready to make the jump into the professional ranks and is looking to have his first fight sometime in the very near future. I was recently afforded the opportunity to have a nice chat with the young prospect, and here is what he had to say:
Q: You had a very successful amateur background in boxing, and it is my understanding that you are looking to make your debut in the professional ranks sometime in the near future. When can we expect that to happen?
A: I’m hoping right now, there’s nothing concrete, but we’re leaning sometime towards this month, preferably in the middle of this month. Right now, like I said, we have nothing concrete but that’s what we’re looking for..
Q: Now when you enter the professional ranks, what weight class do you think is best suited for you?
A: I’m looking to turn in I’d say at about 168 as a super middleweight. We’re going to have a couple of fights at super middleweight and then we’re going to go ahead and creep down to middleweight, and I believe that’s where we’re going to wind up staying at as a regular middleweight.
Q: In your bio, you are listed as five foot nine, which seems a little short for super middleweight. Do you think that would cause you any disadvantage with some of the guys who might be three, four, even five inches taller than you are?
A: Well, my whole career I’ve always been considered the smaller guy. I’ve always been the shorter guy and everything. Me personally, I don’t believe that it will be a disadvantage. I actually prefer fighting taller guys because I’m so used to fighting them now being that I have fought them for ten or eleven years out of my career. At super middleweight, I do believe I will be strong and I do believe that will be a great weight for me, but it’s the pros and I’m going for every advantage I can take, and I believe we will wind up settling in at middleweight at 160 (pounds).
Q: Now speaking of super middleweights, during your amateur career you actually had a notable win against current contender Curtis Stevens. Can you tell us a little bit about that fight?
A: Well, Curtis Stevens is one of my good friends now. Coming up in boxing, I have over 200 fights, so there have been times where I have fought several of my good friends in the sport. The fight particularly with Curtis Stevens, I believe I was 13, it was a National Silver Gloves. It was a tournament where, as far as the JO’s (Junior Olympics) go, it was one of the biggest tournaments for a JO. He was coming from the east coast and I was coming from the west coast, and at that time I knew he was a great fighter and a knockout artist. It was a big fight and everybody was looking forward to Curtis and I in the finals. When we got to the finals, I believe it was a four day tournament, and he had knocked all of his guys prior to fighting me and I knocked all my guys prior to fighting him. Going into the finals my uncle Virgil Hunter was over in my corner, and he said, “Look Donyil, we’re going to box Curtis. Just outbox him. He’s a banger, and you can outbox him and we should have no problems.” We stuck to the game plan, and I was outboxing Curtis and it was fun.
Q: Now you also had another notable fight with Andre Dirrell who is a participant in Showtime’s Super Six super middleweight tournament. You lost that one. Can you tell us a little bit about that fight?
A: One again, that’s another one of my good friends. Him and my cousin are going to be in that tournament and they both have good competition coming up, which I honestly believe that should pull it out. However, when I fought Andre, taking nothing away from Andre, he’s a great fighter, a very skilled fighter at that. I believe I gave him too much respect. I came off late in the fight. He was the better man that day, he put up a good fight and it put him in the position that he’s in now. It was a close fight, you know, 13-6, in which he pulled off the decision.
Q: Now, just real quick again on the super middleweight tournament, I’m curious what your thoughts are on that tournament and if there’s any particular fighter involved in the tournament that you think will wind up winning that when all is said and done?
A: I’m going to be a little biased in the tournament, because like I said my cousin’s involved in it, my good friend is involved in it. It’s definitely going to be a great tournament. You have great competition in the tournament. You have the top six super middleweights in the world. Everybody, from my perspective, is a winner in the tournament. You have (Mikel) Kessler, (Carl) Froch, (Arthur) Abraham who’s coming up from middleweight, my cousin Andre Ward, and my boy Andre Dirrell. For me personally, they’re looking at both of the Andres as, on paper, the new guys. People don’t realize coming up from the amateurs into the pros, it’s a new position for a fighter, but when you have a solid background and you study the art of boxing, you take that advantage with you into the professional prize fighting aspect of the sport. I honestly see that it will be Andre Dirrell and Andre Ward in the finals and I believe it’s going to be a spectacular performance and it’s going to be a great fight.
Q: Donyil, after losing a controversial decision in the 2004 Western Trials in which you were a top favorite to make the 2004 Olympic Team, you intended to make the jump into the professional ranks, but that didn’t happen. Why not?
A: I come from a big supportive family and I’ve always leaned to my family and God for support and understanding. After the ’04 Trials, I said, “Okay, I’m ready to go pro”. I sat down and talked to my parents and everything about it and they said, “You know what Donyil, you’re still young. You might as well give ’08 a run”. Being that I was still in school and everything I said, “Sure, why not”. So I stuck around for a couple of more years and was losing the hunger I had in it before, but I stuck around , anyhow, that way I could please my parents. I just began to lose hunger for it because when I’d get to the Nationals, everybody that I had come up with and was competing against was gone. I was fighting against these little kids and it just wasn’t the same.
So I ended up losing the hunger for the fight game as far as an amateur. I’m a true believer that once you don’t have the hunger for the sport no more, or once you get to a spot in your career where you feel that you didn’t learn or do all that you can do, step away, because at that time is when you are going to get hurt. So that’s what I did, I stuck around for a couple of more years. I didn’t feel that I had the hunger for the amateurs no more, so I took a step back from the sport until I was able to mentally and physically get myself together because I knew that the pros was where I wanted to be and the pros was where I was going to do my best work at.
Q: You’ve had a very impressive amateur career but at the professional level very few people know your name. Can you give us a reason why people will want to watch your fights?
A: To be honest with you, like I said before, a lot of people got away from the art of boxing. By me getting into the pros, I’m a boxer-puncher. I could box when I need to box and I can bang when I need to bang. You’re not going to be able to predict my fight, you’re not going to be able to predict when I’m going to do my next move. When people think of boxing they think, okay, you’re going to have two guys who are either going to sit there and bang it our or you have two guys who are going to sit there and just box. One thing that’s going to be exciting about Donyil Livingston is I’m bringing the roots back—the feinting, the angles, it will be spectacular. You’re going to have speed and power, you’re going to have punches in bunches, you’re going to have combinations, you’re going to have a person that actually knows how to represent the sport of boxing and bring it back from its roots. That’s what’s going to be so exciting about watching me compete.
Q: Now can you tell us a little bit about when you first became involved in boxing and first became interested in the sport?
A: It’s funny you bring that up because when I first got into boxing, I got into it to lose weight to play football. I really didn’t know anything about boxing. I knew of Muhammad Ali and I knew of Mike Tyson, however, I figured that they were someone like a Malcolm X or a Martin Luther King. I didn’t know, I heard those names before, I didn’t know what they were or anything like that. My dad had taken me up to the parks in ’95 to play football, to sign up for football. Me and my brothers, we went up there and unfortunately they wouldn’t let me play because they said I was too big for my age and the weight limit. So as we’re leaving the park, we hear pounding in the gym. Of course, me being nosey, I stick my head in and there’s guys in there sparring and hitting the bag and everything. I bring my father into the gym, we sat down, and we speak to the couch. He gave me the paper and said, “Here, fill this form out. Come back tomorrow”. He kind of made it seem like, “Leave me alone”.
The next day, we brought the paper back, I got in there and got to sparring. The coach wanted to see exactly where I was at, and I took a couple of beatings. I did, I took a couple of beatings and a couple of nose bleeds. Funny that at the time, that didn’t discourage me that only made me hungrier. I’ve always been the type that could show you better than I could tell you. So I didn’t run my mouth, I just kept training, kept training, kept training. I went on to drop the weight. When I first started boxing I was ten years old, five foot two, and weighed 185 pounds. Three weeks after I started boxing, I dropped all the way down to 114. I grew to love the sport, and I did come back to football. When it was time to go to college and I had to choose, it was either do something I like a lot or do something I love. And I went to do the thing I loved and that was boxing.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of your interesting nickname, “The Boxing Poet”?
A: (laughs) Well, like I said, I’m not the type to do a lot of talking. Coming up as a kid, like I said, I was a big kid. I was a fat boy. A lot of kids talked about me. I heard every fat joke in the book. Every fat joke in the book, I heard it. I really didn’t have any friends that I could really associate with growing up. I have a twin brother. It was so bad at times coming up that I used to tell him, “You know what, leave me alone, that way they will play with you and they won’t bother you like they’re bothering me”. I went through a rough period as far as dealing with the kids calling me names and all that, and like I said, I didn’t have any friends so I resorted to writing. I wrote all me feelings down. I talked to the paper through writing. Later on I would go back and read what I wrote and it basically was answering me back.
That led to poetry. I’ve been doing poetry ever since I was ten years old. Back when, I believe I was nineteen years old, a woman did an interview on me by the name of Krysti Rosario. We got to talking and everything and she asked me about my interests and my background and I told her it was poetry. It’s funny because I was boxing and people were saying, “When you get in the ring, you’re totally different. It doesn’t seem like the same you”. When I’m in the ring you got to go get it because no one if going to give it to you, however, when I’m outside of the ring I’m humble, I’m very laid back, and in my spare time I write. So they ended up giving me the name “The Boxing Poet”.
Q: Donyil, I’m wondering if you could tell me a little bit about some of your short term goals and some of your long term goals as you’re preparing to make your professional debut?
A: Short term goals, there’s so many of them. As far as short term goals go, I want to make my pro debut and get out there. Like you said, in the amateurs a lot of people know who I am. In the pros people don’t know who I am. They may have heard of my name through my cousin or things of that nature. As far as making my pro debut my goal is I want to just hit the circuit and have people say, “Donyil who?” “Donyil Livingston.” “Yeah, that kid! I heard about that kid, I want to know more about that kid”. In order for me to do that I have to come out every fight and perform spectacular, so I train that way I can be spectacular with my performance. That is one of my short term goals.
For future goals, boxing professional doesn’t last that long. I’m just using that as a stepping stool to do other things in life that I want to achieve. I’ve been blessed with the talent, the skills, and the knowledge to actually do something great in this sport, and I’m definitely going to take advantage of that. Using that to propel me to other things that I want to do in life and other people I want to help in life. Like I said, boxing don’t last that long. It’s a great opportunity for me to use it as a stepping stool and I intend to do that to better my future goals.
Q: Is there anything else that you want to say to all the fans out at East Side Boxing?
A: Definitely stay tuned. They don’t know about me yet, however, once I hit the scene it won’t be long before my name is running against the circuit, so definitely stay tuned.
I would like to thank Donyil Livingston for his time and wish him the best of luck in his professional debut and career
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