Exclusive interview with Bonecrusher Smith!
By James Slater: Former WBA heavyweight king James “Bonecrusher” Smith earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitting big men of the sport courtesy of his formidable right hand. Turning pro late, the college graduate went on to achieve plenty at a time when he had relatively little boxing experience.
Article posted on 01.06.2011
Most famous for his battles with Frank Bruno, Tim Witherspoon, Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson, Bonecrusher compiled a 44-17-1(32) record from the years 1981 to 1999. Getting out with his marbles intact, the 58-year-old speaks clearly today and his memory is spot on.
Kind enough to answer the following questions on his memorable career, Bonecrusher had these things to say yesterday evening U.K time:
James Slater: It’s great to be able to speak with you, Champ! People still talk about you today, as one of the hardest hitting heavyweights ever; especially with a single shot. What was the secret of your withering power?
Bonecrusher Smith: Well, I grew up on a farm, and I ate lots of fruit and vegetables. I’m just about to get some of that stuff to eat for dinner actually. That was the secret!
J.S: When in life did you first discover you had natural, raw power?
B.S: Oh, when I first began boxing. I was already an old man when I had my first pro fight - I was 28. I was in college and then I boxed as an amateur in the military, then I went pro.
J.S: You actually lost your pro debut, to James Broad. What happened?
B.S: It was a six-rounder. James Broad had just won the Olympic trials, and I think he’d have won the actual Olympics had America not boycotted in ‘80. I was having my first pro fight and it went four-rounds and I got tired; out of gas.
J.S: You sure bounced back and went on to do big things of course. The KO of Frank Bruno in ‘84; was that you biggest win to date at the time?
B.S: Yeah, that was a big fight. He was like 20-0 or 21-0, something like that, and all [his wins] by KO. My trainer, Emile Griffith told me to keep going to his body. I was in tremendous condition for that fight, and so was he. Bruno was a good fighter, with a good jab and a right hand.
J.S: You KO’d him in the last round of course; did you think you might have been on the way to a points loss?
B.S: (laughs) Yeah, they had no judges if I remember correctly; just the referee. I knew I’d never have gotten a points win in England. That was a big fight and I knocked him out in his home town. My very next fight was for the title against Larry Holmes actually.
J.S: And you were stopped on cuts in that fight with Holmes?
B.S: Yes. It was a very good, close fight. People really took me seriously after that fight. Larry Holmes had been champion for over three years already, and I was only in my third year as a pro. That was a tremendous difference in experience.
J.S: How great was Holmes in your opinion? Top-ten of all-time heavyweights?
B.S: I’d put him top-three.
J.S: It was shortly after that loss that you twice went in with Tim Witherspoon. You lost the first fight on points but then destroyed him in a round in the return! What made the big difference?
B.S: (laughs) I’m a nice guy, maybe too nice. And I really had to get angry against an opponent. I never wanted to hurt people. I was like The Hulk - you know, off T.V? If you made him mad you had your worst nightmare. I was mad and also more mentally focused going into that second Witherspoon fight.
J.S: Was that you greatest win, your greatest performance?
B.S: My greatest win, my greatest performance, and my biggest win, yeah. To win the [WBA] title at Madison Square Garden; it was awesome. And what people don’t know is; I took the fight on just seven days notice.
J.S: What made you angry going into the rematch, was it something Tim had said?
B.S: I was just in a totally different frame of mind. I was suing Don King at the time; we were going back and forth. I think the lawsuit made me angry more than anything else.
J.S: And then you had that massive fight with Mike Tyson. Was your game-plan to tire him out, frustrate him and then come on strong late in the fight?
B.S: Tyson was very quick. He was very difficult for me to fight. He was short and small, ducking down under my punches.
J.S: You hurt him in the very last round. Do you ever relive the fight and wish you’d opened up earlier? Because you did buckle him when you caught him.
B.S: (laughs) Yeah, I do. I could’ve beaten Tyson; I was bigger and stronger. But I was mentally out-psyched in that fight. But who knows what would have happened to me if I’d won that fight. Had I won I might have gotten myself in trouble and got stuck on drugs or something. I’m grateful of how my career went and of what I achieved in boxing.
J.S: You carried on fighting until 1999. Was that simply out of love for the sport?
B.S: (laughs) Yes, I was 46 when I had my last fight, against Larry Holmes.
J.S: What was it like, meeting up again as two veterans, all those years later?
B.S: (laughs) We were two old guys. We never hurt each other!
J.S: Do you still follow boxing today, James?
B.S: Yeah, I follow it. I’m actually trying to build a Boxing Hall of Fame here in South Carolina.
J.S: That would be great, right where you live of course?
J.S: What do you think of the Klitschkos? How would you have done against them?
B.S: Against me in my prime, they’d have been in trouble. They’re good fighters. They know how to catch a guy at the right time - you know, making them travel, get jet lag. They’re both hard to beat.
J.S: Wladimir has been down 11 times as a pro - against you and your right hand he could have been in real trouble!
B.S: (laughs) Yeah, If I hit a guy with my best right hand he wasn’t getting up.
J.S: I think you’d have livened up the heavyweight division if you were around today, Champ! Just tell me about your two web sites.
B.S: I have the www.championforkids.org and I’m also endorsing a pain killer, called Real Time Pain Relief. I’d love to get that going in the U.K. It’s a lotion that you put on, instead of taking a pill or anything. It smells good and it works!
J.S: So you’re a busy guy these days? You always were smart, the first college graduate to win a heavyweight title. You have a great life after boxing?
B.S: I sure do.
J.S: Thanks so much for your time, Bonecrusher.
B.S: Thank you.
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