Fistful Of Metal: Phil Anselmo On Boxing

By Ezio Prapotnich- Photo: EZIO PRAPOTNICH - Letís say you have inside yourself the potential to bring light, but you were born in a place where there is only darkness, and all your life you felt something was missing but you didnít know what. Letís say that one day you heard a sound, a voice, which seemed to talk to you directly and express feelings you always had but could not explain. Letís say that voice changed your life forever, for the better, and lead you on the path that brought you where you are today. Well, many years later that voice is speaking right in front of you and is discussing the other thing you love the most in lifeÖBOXING!

Philip H. Anselmo is a true icon of heavy metal music. Best known as the front man for seminal bands Pantera and Down, he is also a boxing fan, expert, and writer, not to mention a good friend of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward. We met him 2 days ahead of Down appearance at the High Voltage Festival in Victoria Park on the 25th of July.

Q: When and how did you first develop an interest in boxing?

A: I was a kid, very young. One of my first boxing memories is the Holmes-Cooney fight, or, even before that, the early Hagler fights on ABC World Sport. It was my father who got me into that and also taught me the proper posture and fundamentals. My stepfather was a fan as well..

Q: Did you have any formal training?

A: I first tried the boxing program at Youth Camp. I was hyper and more energetic than the other children. Also, being Italian, I was all pumped up by the Rocky movies. I fought older and bigger kids, and I did well. Then, I started training when I was 19 at Lynn Balls' (a former pro who fought Nigel Benn, amongst others) boxing gym in Dallas. At the first sparring session, as soon as the bell rang, he went straight on the ropes. I threw a thousand punches and could not hit him once!

A: Can you describe your style of fighting and name a fighter that exemplifies it?

Q: Well, my weight is around Super Middle/Light Heavy and I am a boxer/puncher. I would say Roberto Duran is a good example, because of his aggression, and Joe Calzaghe, for the way he was able to improvise, adapt, and make the opponent fight his fight. Also, I liked the way Calzaghe threw the hook off the jab. I am not a southpaw, but I could hit you anyway I want with my left.

A: Is there any connection or similarities between boxing and metal music, if not in general, at least for you on a personal level?

Q: Yes, of course. When I was with Pantera, for example, the shows were very physical, demanding, and unpredictable. When I play live, I feel the crowd and try to make contact with as many people as I can. You start recognizing or noticing a few people during the first song and by the end you get to know all of them. Each night the crowd could have been crazier than the night before, or I could have been crazier than the previous gig. To keep up with that, you need to live a sporting lifestyle and take good care of yourself, or you could get injuries. Especially if jumping from a PA. The same is true of boxing: if you donít live the lifestyle, itís going to show in the ring and itís going to get you.

Q: Can you give an example of a song you wrote that was inspired directly by a specific fight or fighter?

A: ďMouth for warĒ, the first song on the second Pantera album ďVulgar Display of PowerĒ. I wrote that song when I was 21 or 22 and it was inspired by James Toney. Around that time, when he was fighting at Middle and Super Middle weight, before he started struggling to make the weight, James Toney really talked the talk and walked the walk.

Q: Even before the Greeks and the Romans, wherever traces of civilization have been found, there were also traces of some form of 1 to1 combat sport that eventually developed into boxing as we know it. But, as soon as 600 B.C., at the Greek Olympics, there were already documented examples of fight fixing. Also, the first attempts done in 1700 in the U.K. to regulate prizefighting were intended to accommodate and facilitate gambling. Therefore, as much as boxing has always been a component of the human experience, corruption and greed are elements of boxing. Do you agree on that? And now, in 2010, how far, if any, do you reckon the introduction of the sanctioning bodies has brought us since the days of Frankie Carbo, when the mob ruled the game?

A: Well, fight fixing is an expression of the nature of human kind. Man is a hostile organism. Civilization started from chaos, and greed and warfare go hand in hand. Throughout history, men travelled all around the world in the pursuit of land, money, and value. Boxing is a microcosm which represents the world on a smaller scale. About the sanctioning bodies, how many are there, 32 or 33? Each has its own agenda. You are a young man, a fighter, you make your way up the rankings to win the title, and once you have that belt around your waist you have to pay a sanctioning body to be allowed to bring it into a ring? That on its own is crap. A good case in point of these absurdities would be the Heavyweight situation of the WBA, who seems to have their own rules and rating systems compared to anybody else.

Q: Since you mentioned, WBA Heavyweight Champion David Haye will be at Selfridges in Oxford Street to sign autographs this Saturday. Is there anything you would like to tell him if you meet him?

A: We know his game in America. We know why he pulled out of a fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Here is my message: you canít beat Wlad. If you are ever going to fight him, he will jab right through you, keep you off balance and you wonít be able to counter. All you could do is running, but he would torture you for 12 rounds and then knock you out.

Q: Who is your favorite fighter of all time?

A: Impossible to pick one, there are too many. In the modern days, it would have to be Wladimir Klitschko. He is impenetrable. Definitely one of the most underrated fighters of all time. He will be appreciated after he is retired. Other names that come to mind: Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones Jr, Joe Calzaghe, Rocky Marciano, and Ali.

Q: Favorite fight of all time?

A: Ditto. There are too many. As far as action goes, I would say Benn vs McLellan and Benn vs Watson.

Q: Whatís your P4P top 3 of the current scene?

A: Floyd Mayweather Jr, Manny Pacquiao, and Wladimir Klitschko. Nonito Donaire is a close no.4. I do not understand how guys like Vasquez or Rafael Marquez are considered P4P material when they come off the ring with all kind of cuts and marks on their faces.

Q: You never came across as a fan of Mayweather. Has your opinion changed after the Mosley fight?

A: I always thought he is a good fighter. The best thing about him is his right hand, which he throws as naturally as if he was just scratching his head. He feints first and you know itís coming, but you just canít stop it. That being said, most fighters who are considered P4P challenged themselves by taking on bigger and better fighters. Floyd takes always the easy way out by picking smaller or older guys. In Mosley, he picked an older guy. Also, for all his talent, as a person he is very ugly inside and is hated because of some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. I know how the latter feels, so my advice to him is: shut up, Floyd, be nice to people and let the punches do the talking.

Down will headline the Metal Hammer Stage of the High Voltage Festival this Sunday 25/07 at London Victoria Park. Day tickets are £75 and are available at 0871 230 5582 or


Article posted on 24.07.2010

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