Sugar Ray Phillips: “Mike Tyson's back in the gym, he’s looking good”

boxingby Geoffrey Ciani - This week’s edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with former professional fighter Sugar Ray Phillips who owns a boxing gym in Dallas called ‘Big Sugar Ray’s Real Deal Boxing Gym’. Phillips had an impressive amateur record of 145-6 and he won a National Golden Gloves title to his credit. As a professional, he is best known for his 1977 bout against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Still closely connected with boxing, Phillips is an avid fan of the sport who had some interesting things to say about news pertaining to a potential showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as well as rumors regarding a possible ring return from ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Here are some excerpts from the interview with Sugar Ray Phillips:

On Julio Cesar Chavez Junior’s unanimous decision victory against John Duddy:
“That was a great fight. That was a good test for Cesar Chavez. I believe he’s ready to step now up into the majors and I heard talks with some more people with that I believe he’s going to fight maybe Cotto next..

On how he believes Chavez would do against Cotto at this stage of his career:
“I think he would do exceptionally well. He’s tall, he’s rangy, he’s got a good jab—Cotto’s got to come in. A young fighter, they haven’t really been beat up just yet. They haven’t been hit as hard as the older fighters have so they’re a little hesitant, those older fighters, to throw that punch. But these young guys coming up today, they’re not afraid to let them punches go. Boxing is all about hundredths of seconds then. You throw your combinations—bam, bam, bam, bam, boom. If a guy’s been hit up like say when Cotto fought Margarito and he used the illegal wraps and everything, it kind of hurt, but the kid’s a good kid. He came to my gym and trained with Emanuel Steward right before he won the title again, but you could see his timing is just a couple hundredths of a second off then where it needs to be to beat the great fighters.”

On whether he believes Chavez Junior can ever overcome the shadow of his father and become champion:
“Well, his father was a legend. I know the great Julio Cesar Chavez Senior. It would be like Laila Ali overcoming her dad Muhammad Ali. It would be hard. You can set your own fighting style, you can set your own character, and I think Cesar Chavez can say, ‘Hey, I’m not a slugger like my dad, my dad was a great fighter. I’m more of a boxer-puncher’.”

On what he thinks of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward pairing up with Cotto and what he thought of their training sessions he witnessed:
“I think Emanuel was showing him something that his uncle or his nephew or whoever was training him before that, he was showing something that he didn’t have. I’ve known Emanuel Steward since 1972. He’s been with some of the best trainers and been around some of the best fighters in the world. The only way you can really learn in boxing, it’s what you call ‘on the job training’. You cannot sit behind a desk and get a degree being a professional boxing trainer like Freddie Roach. I’ve known Freddie Roach since the early 80s. He fought on my card when I fought Marvin Hagler, Freddie Roach did. It’s on Freddie fought a six rounder when I fought Hagler for a twelve rounder for the North American title back in 1977. Freddie was groomed under Eddie Futch, so Emanuel Steward is right along in there. He’s a great trainer for Miguel Cotto. He was showing him balance when he was in the gym. He was showing him when you throw the left hook to the liver how you’re not really set for a right uppercut and another left hook. You got to get set back for a shot right here again and get out of the way.”

On who he views as some of the best boxing trainers in the sport today:
“Well Roger Mayweather’s a great trainer and I can’t take anything away from his brother, Floyd Senior is a great trainer. There’s quite a few great trainers out there who’ve been in the gym all their lives just waiting to get a break, but a lot of times they get set back due to the fact the fighters, they get these amateur coaches and the amateur coaches don’t want to let them go. They want to take them onto the higher levels, which I understand that, but sometimes it’s better to break away from father or from the coach, like Roy Jones did, like Mayweather did, like so many other fighters did. Break away, and then learn more on the higher level with different trainers than you can just staying with your father or staying with your amateur coach who you’ve been around for years. He cannot teach you no more, I’m sorry, he cannot teach you no more because he taught you everything he can teach you. It’s time for you to move on to another level. Why would a Heisman Trophy winner stay with his high school football coach? He’s got to go onto a professional coach like Wade Phillips. He’s got to move on to one of those Cowboys coaches or something to take him to a higher level in the game.”

On what he thought of Shane Mosley’s efforts against Floyd Mayweather and whether he thinks Mosley has anything left to offer at an elite level:
“To be truthful with you, Sugar Shane, I’ve known him since he was ten or eleven years old and he’s a great little fighter but I don’t think, at 37 years old, he’s been in some wars and he’s a warrior. He’s a straight warrior. He took a lot of punishment from Vernon Forrest, he took a lot of punishment from Winky Wright, he took a lot of punishment from Margarito who had the illegal wraps and everything. He beat the guy, but he took a beating before he knocked the guy out so all that catches up with a fighter when you get banged upside the head so many times, and plus he had about I think 350 amateur fights in his career. Sugar Shane’s a great fighter, but I just don’t believe he’s got nothing left. He had Mayweather hurt in the second round, and he couldn’t finish off Mayweather and after that, Mayweather adjusted to another style and he was home free then.”

On whether he believes a fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will happen:
“Well, I have some information that was faxed in to me from Beverly Hills over there with some brokers over there and they want to sell and they want to sell a percentage of the fight right now and it looks like it’s going to be on for November 13 at the MGM. Jerry Jones said he wanted here in Dallas, but I don’t believe we’re going to get here in Dallas at Texas Stadium but Jerry Jones said he’s willing to go to the sky to get that fight. It all depends on Mayweather. If this fight could be made, I got the sheet here right in front of me, they’re looking for this fight to do over a billion dollars. The De La Hoya and Mayweather fight, it did close to six hundred million.”

On who he believes would win a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao:
“You know, it’s a touch and go. It’s a touch and go, this fight is so close right now. I just look for Pacquiao to edge out a real close decision. I look for three fights. I look for three fights out of this one, honestly, I look for three fights. I look for Pacquiao to edge him out the first fight. I really do. I think he’s going to out-speed him and out-move him. How seriously is Mayweather taking Pacquiao? I don’t know for sure, but I heard it’s not as seriously as everybody thinks it is because Pacquiao pulled up from 106, to 112, 118, 122, and on up.”

On how he believes guys like Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, and Roberto Duran would fare in today’s boxing landscape:
“I don’t believe they (today’s fighters) could hold up to the fighting that we did back in them days. We fought with eight ounce gloves and it was the best man win. It wasn’t about all the politics that’s involved in boxing, and all the judges that are involved in boxing and sports period. Basketball, football, baseball, it’s always about the referees, it’s about the judges. The same thing with boxing today, even with the Olympics, it’s the same thing. It’s not about pure fighting like it was back in the 60s and 70s. Pure fighting, it’s just not there anymore. I’m sorry. It’s just not there anymore. That’s why they cut it from fifteen to twelve. It’s a shame today, this is the first true world champion sport was boxing—not football, not basketball, not baseball—boxing was. Everybody looked up to the world champion boxer back when Rocky Marciano was champ, Muhammad Ali was champ, Jack Johnson was champ, Gene Tunney. You looked up to those guys because they were the heavyweight champion of the world and they were the best there was out there. But today, you got so many. The WBA, the WBC, this association, you got a million associations—so a fighter doesn’t train as hard as he needs to train. It’s not as pure as it used to be, just to be honest with you. It’s not as pure as it used to be. These guys (today) couldn’t hold up with a Roberto Duran—no, they couldn’t.”

On his professional fight against Marvelous Marvin Hagler in September 1977:
“When I fought Hagler, I fought Marvin Hagler on 48 hours notice. When I fought Hagler, I hadn’t lost a fight since 1970. I beat Michael Spinks in the National Golden Gloves, I was a two time National Champion so I didn’t feel like a human could beat me. I was a three time Texas State Champion. I didn’t feel like anyone could beat me. So when they called me to fight Hagler, they said, ‘Will you fight him?’ I said, ‘Man, I’ll fight Hagler, his grandmother, and everyone else’. So they flew me into Boston on 48 hours notice and I’m in the ring with Hagler. I had seen him before at the Nationals, but like I said he puts on his pants the same way I do, one leg at a time. The manager I had shouldn’t have moved me as fast as he did, but he saw the opportunity there and he knew my heart was as big as Texas and he knew I was going to get in there and give it all I had to try and beat Hagler. On that particular night, Hagler was just the better man, that’s all there is to it. He just wore me down, wore me down, and then he hit me with that big old head every now and then but they wouldn’t say anything to him because I fought him in the Boston Garden. I talked to him later on, down the line I saw him in Las Vegas at Ceasar’s Palace. He said, ‘Man, I wish I would have given you a rematch because you stepped in and I didn’t have a clue how tough you were until we got up in that ring’. I buckled him in the second or third round. Angelo Dundee was in my corner.”

On rumors about a possible comeback from Mike Tyson:
“I’ve known Mike Tyson since 1984. Tyson is a destroyer. Someway, when Cus D’Amato passed away and Kevin Rooney got of his corner, Mike seemed like he lost a lot of desire and a lot of love for the game. This man studied and he eats boxing and he does boxing every day. He let himself balloon up before he fought the Douglas fight. He had some guy named Aaron Snowell, who I know personally—he never had worked a heavyweight championship fight in his life. He was with Slim Robinson who had five or six halfway decent fighters around Philadelphia but he never had worked a big fight before, so when he hurt Mike Tyson, they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t even have an end swell. They had a big old balloon they tried to put on his eye. He was a world champion and they couldn’t control him. So all control went out of Mike Tyson when Cus D’Amato passed away, but, what I’ve been hearing from some friends of mine in Vegas who got a big gym out there, they said Mike Tyson’s back in the gym, he’s looking good, he’s been dropping a lot of excess weight. They said Mike is back in the gym and he lost and probably dropped I think forty or fifty pounds right now I’ve been hearing through the grapevine.”

On the current state of the heavyweight division:
“The heavyweight division is soft right now due to the fact there’s so much money in football, in basketball, so the big guys who don’t want to take the beating in boxing while they can sit on the bench in football and make two or three million dollars. So they said why would I want to be a boxer? Why would I want to be a fighter? Like Angelo Dundee said, you have to be a special breed of person to be a fighter.”

On the work he does at his gym—Big Sugar Ray’s Real Deal Boxing Gym:
“I train a lot of like CEO’s. I condition you. You want to come in and lose weight, cardiovascular, you want to live longer to see your grandkids, you want to live a long prosperous life, at least you give yourself a chance. I put people on vitamin programs—the B12, B6, folic acid. I’m ready to come out with a big Sugar Ray energy drink it’s called ‘The Seven Hour Big Sugar Ray Real Deal Energy Drink’. I have a lot of B vitamins. The B vitamin is one of the strongest vitamins in the family. I teach people. They come in sometimes and say they want to trim their hips, they want to lose their stomach. Okay, I work in those areas. I’ll start out at 6:30 every Monday at Big Sugar Ray’s Real Deal Boxing Gym. “


For those interested in listening to the Sugar Ray Phillips interview in its entirety, it begins approximately fifteen minutes into the show.


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Article posted on 01.07.2010

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