Amir "Hardcore" Mansour - The Man To End The Reign Of The Klitschkos?

By James Slater: Unbeaten heavyweight contender Amir “Hardcore” Mansour made a promise to himself moments after being sentenced to ten years in prison for making “the silliest mistake of his life” - that he would, on release, “give every ounce of his soul” to become world heavyweight champion.

Back in 2001, when a promising 9-0(7) prospect, the Delaware native was running with the wrong crowd and he got himself involved with drugs. Busted for possession, the 29-year-old somehow managed to keep hold of his dream whilst spending a long nine years inside. This story is of course common in boxing, and the sport has seen some ex-convicts - Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Bernard Hopkins for just two examples - go on to have great careers after serving their time behind bars. Mansour believes he will emulate these men.

Released in August of last year - by now aged 38 - the shaven-headed southpaw got back into the ring almost immediately. Managed by Keith Stoffer and trained by Howard Mosley (who has worked with/ is working with Bernard Hopkins) but currently without a promoter, Mansour has won six in a row since his return.

The 15-0(11) contender won a near shut-out of a ten-round decision over the durable and experienced Dominick Guinn in his most recent fight, and he is now looking at facing a top-ten ranked opponent - with a certain Tyson Fury being on his hit list.

“I felt good in the Guinn fight,” the articulate, softly-spoken Amir told me over the phone a couple of weeks back.

“I actually had fun from the 6th-round on. That’s all I can say; I enjoyed myself. I’m in my element, I’m in my comfort zone in the ring. I’m so relaxed when I fight and this one was no different. My goal now is to fight someone in the top-ten as soon as I can. I want to always keep fighting guys who are ranked above me. It makes no sense to fight a guy you know you will beat. I want to fight the best because I want to be the best. I want to fight a higher-ranked guy each time out.”

Mansour feels the current crop of U.S heavyweights are less deserving of a shot at the title than he is. The southpaw with the chiselled physique feels it is time for some new blood - even that of a 39-year-old.

“I think that in my last six fights, I’ve proved I’m not facing bums. I’m taking chances right now, because I wanna rise through the rankings fast. These [other] American heavyweights today, they’re all recycled guys. They’ve all had their shot and they’ve been lacklustre. It’s not fair that these guys get a second shot ahead of fighters like me. Fans want to see good boxing skills, the kind of skills that I have. The Klitschkos haven’t ducked anyone, but at the same time they’ve had no real competition; they’ve never been given a run for their money. These guys [they are facing] are just intimidated and then dominated. I mean, I respect and admire both Klitschkos a lot, but I honestly don’t think they can beat me with my skills, my speed, my power. The Klitschkos are big guys, and they’ve mastered the art of being in condition, but they haven’t mastered the art of boxing. They haven’t got any better over the years, or any worse either - but it’s time to stop boxing when you stop learning. Someone is gonna take them out, and with my trainer, Howard Mosley, I feel I will come up with the plan to do that.”

As ambitious as Mansour is, the one thing the critics are sure to point to regarding his chances of reaching the top, is his age. At 39, has the 6’1,” approx 225-pounder the time needed to get himself a fight with either Klitschko? Amir says his age means nothing.

“If any critic brought up my age, I’d tell them this: if you were to stand all the world’s heavyweights, either active or retired, next to me, you’d see how I compare, appearance-wise, physique-wise, speed and power wise - everything. I’d be in the top five of the entire planet! My age doesn’t mean a thing. And I’ll prove it. There is no-one out there who is as fast as me, as powerful as me and as defensively adept as me. I’ve never ever been beaten up, I’ve barely been hit in any of my fights.”

Amir says his lack of a long and arduous amateur career is the reason he is so fresh today; that and the fact that he “trained his butt off every day” whilst incarcerated.

“I never had much of an amateur career, because I was running the streets and getting in trouble. But it all worked out for me, I feel. I’m glad I never had a long amateur career - like these guys who have two or three-hundred [amateur] fights. Because they’re worn out and slurring their words after 30 or 35 pro fights, because of all the wear and tear they got in the amateurs. Even with the head guards, a long amateur career can shorten your pro career. I was 24 when I began boxing. I fought in prison, we had state prisons facing each other in tournaments, and I won that tourney. I faced some real killers.”

Mansour has natural punching power, good speed of hand and foot, and he also has an unmarked face which he puts down to his defensive skills. The 39-year-old believes this combination of assets will see to it that he achieves all he is desperate to achieve.

“My best asset in the ring is definitely a combination of my speed, my power, my defence and my athleticism. My speed and power are overwhelming. Honestly, we have developed an offence where there is literally no defence against it. I’ve not come close to showing all I have yet - I’ve not been in a war and needed to yet. These guys out there, they don’t know what I’m capable of! It’s like the Klitschkos; they let small guys like Eddie Chambers back them up. They run the whole fight, just dominating with the jab. They don’t have the heart of a true champion. No way would I be backed up if I had their size. I just can’t see either brother beating me with my speed and power. No way.”

Mansour says he’d “love” a chance against either Klitschko, but that he realises he needs a win over a name guy before he has any chance of getting there. Amir was amazed to read how, a while back, Tyson Fury was being considered as a challenger for Wladimir. The unbeaten father of three says he will fight and defeat Fury and then get his own shot at “Dr. Steel Hammer.”

“[Wladimir] Klitschko was going to fight a guy who was 14-0, right? Tyson Fury, or that other English guy (Amir was referring to Dereck Chisora). Well, he should have no problem defending against me, a guy who is 15-0. But I tell you, I will fight Tyson fury, beat him up, KO him, and then I can make a serious challenge against one of the Klitschkos. I’m a humble person, I have respect for all other fighters. But no-one out there has the ability to stop me, not with my hand and foot speed and my power. Believe me, I am the next champion. I promised myself just after being sentenced that I would come home and give every ounce of my soul to win the world championship. I studied fighters whilst incarcerated, and some I knew then I could beat them. It’s so exciting to me now that all my dreams are being realised. I will not fail.”

Article posted on 20.09.2011

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