Exclusive Interview With Mahyar Monshipour

by James Slater - All hardcore boxing fans will instantly recognise the name Mahyar Monshipour, as one half of a fight that was, simply put, one of THE greatest in modern day history. Back in March of 2006, the Iranian-born Monshipour (full surname, Monshipour Kermani) met fellow super-bantamweight Somsak Sithchatchawal in a fight that saw the French citizen attempt to defend his WBA title for a sixth time. Ten absolutely astonishing and must-see rounds later, the man from Thailand was the new world champion.

Instantly recognised as an absolute classic, the 122-pound title fight was awarded with Ring magazine's Fight of The Year distinction for 2006. For most fans outside of France, it was only after reading about this incredible fight that they had even heard of Monshipour (or Sithchatchawal for that matter)..

The Thai fighter lost his title in his next fight, as he was stopped inside three-rounds by Celestino Caballero, and Somsak never again won a major fight - he last fought as recently as January, but was KO'd in the 4th-round in his homeland. As for Mahyar, he came within a whisker of becoming a world champion for a second time, down at bantamweight, when he lost a very close split decision to Anselmo Moreno, in a WBA title fight that took place in France last July.

Monshipour Kermani, 31-4-2(21) has not fought since, and it seems both warriors who collided in that unforgettable war in France a little under four years ago have done all they can do in boxing.

I was lucky enough to have been granted an interview with Mahyar earlier this week, and below are this great fighter's answers to my questions; some of them I have been wanting to ask ever since first getting the chance to see his never-to-be-forgotten fight with the southpaw from Thailand.

Here are the 34-year-old's answers (as translated by an English teacher Mahyar is friends with):

James Slater: First of all, Mahyar, do you plan on fighting again?

Mahyar Monshipour Kermani: No. It's really over for me now. I managed to go much further in boxing than I planned at the beginning, and now I can devote my life to other things.

J.S: Your last fight, with Anselmo Moreno, was a very close loss. Do you feel the decision against you was a fair one?

M.M.K: Indeed it was a tight and frustrating fight. Anselmo only boxes in a technical way, and he stops any opponent's initiative with his jab and awkward position. But whatever the [official] result, I think two of the judges were not even looking at the fight! They gave Anselmo the first six rounds, which only left me with the possibility to win the fight by KO!

J.S: Did you feel as strong down at 118-pounds?

M.M.K: Yes, I did. I didn't have any insurmountable problem boxing again in the weight class I left behind in 2000. You know, in France, we don't have the same weight loss fighters in Asia and America are used to. There is always a weight class between a French boxer and a fighter from another country in world [international] fights.

J.S: Going right back to the beginning, now that you have retired - how did you first get into boxing?

M.M.K: I come from a good Iranian family, and it was a disaster for them that I actually took up boxing! This is the reason I only began at the age of 18. Before that, I was a good student and worked on my lessons and I also did athletics.

J.S: And who were your boxing heroes at this time?

M.M.K: I love Marvellous Marvin Hagler. He was like an animal in the ring. I see boxers as today's gladiators - doing what other people cannot. I wanted to be like them, and appear as a courageous person.

J.S: What was your amateur record, and did you win any titles?

M.M.K: I only boxed as an amateur in a little club, for three-and-half years. I had a total of 42 fights - 33 wins, 24 by KO, 7 losses and 2 draws. As I was an Iranian, I never participated in the French championships.

J.S: When did you move to France from Iran?

M.M.K: I moved to France in 1986, when I was ten-years-old. It was during the war against Saddam Hussein, and my father wanted to protect me from war and the possibility of going to the front. As I was a good student, I was able to obtain a student visa for France.

J.S: You are a hero in France today, what did it mean to you when you won the WBA super-bantamweight title in July of 2003?

M.M.K: I arrived in France in 1986, and even though I now have French nationality, I am always called Mahyar Monshipour Kermani, which does not sound like a French name. You can see by looking at me that I am not French. But when I became a world champion for France, I was loved by the French people and accepted as a real French citizen. This is what I won above all.

J.S: You made five successful defences of your WBA title - who gave you your toughest fight during this time?

M.M.K: I really liked my second championship defence, against Jairo Tagliaferro (W KO 7). He was very good but inexperienced. I often think about him, because when he retired he got into some shady things and was actually killed in a "settling of scores." This is the story with some boxers.

J.S: Your great, great fight with Somsak Sithchatchawal is recognised as one of the very best fights of all-time. What was it like, fighting such a hard, brutal and thrilling fight?

M.M.K: On that night, I should have won. But mistakes on my part and from people around me led to a defeat. In that fight, I tried to turn to the right side of him, with him being a southpaw, and surprise him. But he had been warned about this thanks to the press and I lost.

J.S: You both gave absolutely everything in the fight, did you want a rematch afterwards?

M.M.K: At first, yes I did. But then Somsak put on a lot of weight and he also had no market value any more. You know, it's no big deal [that I lost and that we never fought again].

J.S: Have you ever sat and watched a tape of the fight yourself?

M.M.K: Only once, nine months after the fight.

J.S: Do people ask you about this fight a lot?

M.M.K: Yes, of course. But that fight, it belongs in the past. I think it is better to look at the future. I don't like people who keep dreaming, thinking about their past glories.

J.S: You must have been happy when the fight was awarded with The Fighter of The Year award by Ring magazine?

M.M.K: It was the first and only time a French boxer has been awarded by The Boxing Writer's Association, and this gave me the opportunity to go to New York City and meet many people there.

J.S: For all you have done for boxing, do you feel you should be one day enshrined in The Hall of Fame?

M.M.K: No, that doesn't matter to me. You cannot live in the past. It is not strong enough.

(sincere thanks go to Benoit Pecher for helping me get this interview)

Article posted on 19.02.2010

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