Exclusive Interview: Tom Tsatas Talks Fres Oquendo-Oliver McCall, The 5th St. Gym, Muhammad Ali And More

By James Slater: Tom Tsatas, boxing manager and co-owner/manager of the recently re-opened 5th Street Gym in Miami, is excited about the upcoming Dec. 7th clash between heavyweight contender Fres Oquendo and former WBC champ Oliver McCall.

Oquendo, fresh off that controversial points loss to Jean Marc Mormeck in Paris, is now being co-trained by the legendary Angelo Dundee, at the legendary 5th Street gym. Tsatas is of the belief that “Fast Fres” can become the first man since Lennox Lewis (when McCall had the infamous “breakdown”) to halt “The Atomic Bull,” and that he will then go on to get a shot at one of the Klitschkos - and surprise everyone by defeating either brother.

Always a great and interesting guy to talk boxing with, Tom kindly gave me some of his time earlier today.

James Slater: It’s always a great pleasure to speak with you, Tom. Firstly, how are things going at The 5th Street Gym after that awesome official opening a few weeks back?

Tom Tsatas: Oh, the official opening was beautiful. Yeah, we’re working at it right now, it takes time. We’ve had a couple of world champions stop by, Odlanier Solis sparred with Fres [Oquendo] recently, David Haye told me that as soon as he can get back to America he will definitely stop by. Sergio Martinez came by, and a few of the Cuban champions. We’re hoping for Miguel Cotto and Glen Johnson to come over soon. Also, Matt Damon trains here when he’s in Miami.

J.S: Just talking again about the official opening, which had lots of well deserved media coverage. It must have been great, especially as the one and only Muhammad Ali was there. Is that the first time you’ve met him, Tom?

T.T: I’ve seen him before, but that was the first time I’ve ever properly met him. And, I tell you, it was a great day. It was all set up for me. I got picked up, and it was horrible weather that day, and in the front seat of the car, directly in front of me - was Muhammad Ali! I spent almost 24 hours in his company, and it was amazing. The official opening, it was just pandemonium. Grown men and grown women were in tears, everyone was shouting Ali’s name. You know, I’ve met presidents, senators, but that was nothing compared to meeting Ali. He is bigger than life.

J.S: A fine writer wrote a piece shortly after seeing Ali at the opening, and she wrote how seeing Ali now, in person, is both an uplifting experience and a saddening experience. What do you think? Is Ali in such terrible condition today?

T.T: Well, put it this way, was I glad I met him? Yes. Would I have loved to have met the man when he was in his prime? Of course. But Ali is still an amazing person. He still has his wits about him. I was fortunate enough to spend an amount of time with him, and once you see past that first image of Ali as he is today - and it is sad, no doubt - you realise he knows everything that is going on around him. It annoys me when some people call it a viewing when Ali does appearances today. It’s not just a viewing, as some say - Ali loves it and enjoys it. If he was on an airplane and there were just three other people onboard, he would go and sit with them. He has good and bad days, like we all do, but I think Ali enjoys his life today. And he has two wonderful women who look after him.

J.S: Ali is truly the greatest, no doubt. But on to Fres Oquendo - Angelo Dundee obviously sees qualities in him, as he’s working with him. But how highly does Angelo rate Fres?

T.T: With Fres, people tend to overlook him. He’s not that high on the radar because he doesn’t get in the papers and he doesn’t cause havoc. But look at his talent, his skills. Just look at the guys he’s fought, and look at their faces at the end of the fight! Angelo has seen a lot of him now, and he realises the talent he has. I can’t speak for Angelo, but I think he’s excited and he sees Fres as his 17th world champion, at heavyweight. Angelo will be working with Fres three days next week, and we’re looking forward to the fight with Oliver McCall in December.

J.S: It’s an interesting fight. Will Angelo be working Fres’ corner?

T.T: Angelo will definitely be at the fight, and most likely he will work the corner, yes. I can’t say for 100-percent, but there’s a good chance he will.

J.S: Do you agree with me, that Dec. 7th’s fight is a definite distance fight? Seeing as how McCall has that granite chin and has never been KO’d?

T.T: Yes. Well, we won’t look for the KO. But we are looking for Fres to become the first guy to legitimately stop McCall. He will be more aggressive in this fight and he’ll set a pace that I don’t think McCall will be able to keep up with. Will Fres knock him out? No. But he will force the fight at a pace McCall cant match and he’ll make him quit in the later rounds.

J.S: Both guys lost their last fight, but McCall lost legitimately to Timur Ibragimov (L12), whereas Fres was blatantly robbed in the Jean Marc Mormeck fight. Was that the worst decision Fres has ever been robbed with?

T.T: That and the James Toney fight. It’s hard to say which one was the worst, actually. The Chris Byrd fight, the Holyfield fight, they were all bad. But against Mormeck, Fres won nine of the 12 rounds definitely. But Fres keeps on fighting. He’s a guy who, with all the bad things he’s weathered, could easily have quit by now, or turned to drugs or the bottle. A lot of guys would have. But he’s never been legitimately stopped in over seven years - the [John] Ruiz fight (of 2004) shouldn’t have been stopped. And Fres has more rounds of pro experience than anyone apart from the Klitschkos. As I say, people do overlook him, but - mark my words, James - he will get a title shot against a Klitschko, and he will surprise a lot of people that day! Will Fres get the decision if he doesn’t stop Klitschko? We don’t know. But he will fight them and he will beat them!

J.S: Fres does deserve credit for the way he’s stuck around and shown sheer persistence.

T.T: He does, and aside from Haye and [Tomasz] Adamek, who deserves a shot at a Klitschko? They can’t keep fighting the cream puffs they are fighting. You know, they look unbeatable, but is it because of the guys they are fighting? I mean, Derek Chisora, with only 64 rounds of experience? Come on! We’re looking for an eliminator for Fres after he beats McCall - although I’m not looking past that fight - and then hopefully he’ll get his shot.

J.S: Well, it’s been great talking boxing with you, Tom. Best wishes for the December fight with Fres. Will it be televised, by the way?

T.T: Oquendo-McCall will maybe go out on ESPN, or it will go out on Thanks, James.

Article posted on 20.11.2010

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