Emanuel Steward: “I think this will be Floyd’s toughest fight since his first fight with Castillo”

by Geoffrey Ciani (Exclusive Interview by Jenna J & Geoffrey Ciani) - This week’s edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who shared his views on a wide variety of topics including the upcoming fight between Andy Lee and Julio Cesar Chavez Junior, Chad Dawson’s majority decision victory against Bernard Hopkins, where Hopkins ranks all time among middleweights, Wladimir Klitschko’s upcoming rematch with Tony Thompson, Seth Mitchell’s third round stoppage win against Chazz Witherspoot, his upcoming May 6 Boxing Clinic in Las Vegas, the upcoming mega bout between Floyd Mayweather Junior and Miguel Cotto, and whether he believes Shane Mosley has a good chance at scoring the upset against Saul Alvarez. Here is what Steward had to say:

His views on the fact that Andy Lee will be getting a title shot against Julio Cesar Chavez Junior:

“Well I’m very, very happy for the fact that I think he deserves it, especially in view of the recent guys that I’ve been seeing fighting for the titles or whatever. He’s been still I think one of the most highly recognizable and active fighters in the middleweight division. To me when I think of the middleweight division as a regular American fan I think of basically Sergio Martinez, Chavez, and Andy Lee. So I feel it’s good that he’s getting his opportunity now. We’re very excited about it, and very excited about his chances of winning the title, also.”

Regarding how he feels about the type of exposure the Chavez-Lee bout will be receiving:

“Well it’s HBO, that’s the main thing. HBO is still I think the biggest and most watched boxing network today. So it will be great exposure. I’m just excited about the fight! There will be a lot of excitement because I think is the first really live challenging fight that Julio Junior has fought in. Most of the fights he’s fought, to me for the most part, have been all about the Julio Cesar Chaves Junior show and opponent, but not necessarily with a real fighter as an opponent. So it will be a challenge for everybody involved. I think Julio has improved a lot as a fighter, and I think his last fights with Manfredo and that fight with Rubiuo really showed his progress. He’s becoming a full professional fighter. There was a lot of criticism earlier in his career when he was a professional fighter that was getting his amateur background, and I think it was very smart the way he was matched by Top Rank and I’m quite sure his Daddy had something to do with the approval of his opponents. He was trying to move him much like he himself, Julio Senior, did. He didn’t have any amateur fights either, so he just compiled a lot of professional fights and got his amateur experience as a professional. I think he did the same thing with his son, but I think that Junior has turned out to be a very good solid fighter right now.”

On what he views as the biggest challenge Andy Lee is going to have to overcome to be successful against Chavez Junior:

“Well I think in this case you got an extremely, extremely pro and hostile crowd that we’re going to be going against, probably one of the worst ever in the history of boxing in this situation here. You know a lot of times fighting in a hometown is one thing, but fighting in these conditions down there where we’re going to be at is going to be extremely hostile, but when the bell rings it will still be just the two fighters left in the ring, and I’ve been in those situations before. I think that Chavez’s assets are going to be the fact that he is a highly spirited fighter who’s developed into a good balanced boxer. This is one of the few times, and I know a lot of people are going to be a little surprised unless they actually saw the photograph, that Julio Cesar Chavez Junior, unlike what everybody thinks, is not going to have that physical advantage that everybody is expecting. In fact most people were shocked when they saw him and Andy together and saw that he was about two and a half to three inches shorter than Andy, and Andy Lee is a physically big middleweight himself. So I think the weight advantage, especially we want to make sure that he makes 160 and it’s going to be not such an advantage. It’s just the advantage that he’s going to have a good pro crowd to push him on and support him, and he’s a good all the way around fighter right now. I think he boxes fairly good, and he punches good to the body, and he has a good high spirited competitive attitude, and that’s what I think is his biggest advantage.”

His views on Chad Dawson’s majority decision victory against Bernard Hopkins:

“Well I thought Bernard fought a good fight when you consider that Chad Dawson is very difficult for anybody to fight, and also that Chad Dawson was also fighting a guy who is very difficult for anybody to fight named Bernard Hopkins. So I can never see those two having an exciting fight, but when I look at Bernard’s age and him dealing with such a real great, talented, coordinated, gifted fighter like Dawson, and still fighting a good competitive fight and not even really getting hit with too many really clean blows. He was mostly just outworked. The youthfulness of Dawson is what really carried him through the fight. But Bernard at this stage, I don’t know what he’s going to do but I really hope he quits. He’s still in a highly respected position. Out of all of the fights that he’s been in, never have we seen anybody just totally dominate him and beat him badly. Even in this fight, I thought he lost the fight by the points. But nevertheless one judge called it a draw, which must have surprised everybody else but I expected that from one of the judges at least. But also if he would go out now, he would have lost a majority decision in his last fight, he never got hit with two consecutive clean blows throughout the entire fight, he was totally unmarked, and his experience is the type where even though Chad Dawson has so much great speed, and balance, and skill, Bernard could feel certain punches. He was moving, rolling, blocking, moving his body in positions to neutralize his strengths just off his natural instincts from so many fights. Then he still has pretty good reflexes! So I thought he fought a good fight considering it all.

He’s got to be considered one of the all time great middleweights regardless, even though he fought in an era for the most part that didn’t have any good middleweights. But that’s not his fault! All he can do is be there and beat everybody that was there, and he did that. His biggest claim to fame primarily was beating guys who were coming up from welterweight or junior middleweight, but that’s not his fault. He did what was asked of him. He kept his title for about 20 defenses or something, and if you look at the middleweight division I think the greatest middleweight to me was still Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Robinson is known for a lot of great fights and he’s the greatest fighter of all time to me, but still, most of his greatest fights were in the welterweight division, which we don’t have too many copies of. But I think the greatest middleweight I would say is Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and after that when you look at the top guys you have to put him up there with the Monzons and the Harry Grebs or whatever after that, but he would definitely be up near the top in middleweight history.

So there is nothing more I think he can accomplish any more. But if he fought another fighter he might do better than he did with Chad, and Chad may fight another fight where he’ll do better than he did with Bernard, because they both have difficult styles. Bernard has never ever been dominated by any fighter in his entire career. I guess the Calzaghe fight he lost, but still some people really believe that he won that fight! The first Roy Jones fight he lost the fight, but it wasn’t really that Roy beat him. He just lost it because of inexperience, but he really wasn’t dominated. In fact all of his losses, the two losses to Jermain Taylor, you know it was never where Jermain really dominated him. So even in this fight here, he ended up losing the fight, but Chad ended up with the bad cuts. One judge called it a draw, even though I thought Bernard lost. Bernard is in a good position to leave the game and he’s going to be revered and respected more and more as time goes on each year. So he’s in a great position right now if he decides to quit.”

On whether he was at all surprised by the way Chad Dawson responded to being cut in the fight:

“No I’m not surprised! Chad his entire career has been obsessed with beating Bernard, and I don’t think anything would have turned him around or slowed down his drive and determination on that particular night. I thought he was driven on by the cuts. He did go all out. He really tried to get in close and put combinations together, which is very difficult to do with Bernard. And I thought his trainer, John Scully, did a good job of trying to motivate him and push him. It’s just styles make fights, and both Bernard and Chad are not known for being in super exciting fights for the most part and the chemistry between the two styles didn’t help the situation.”

On whether he is interested in a fight between Chad Dawson and Andre Ward given the fact Dawson mentioned Ward as someone he would like to fight next:

“No. I mean his name, it’s a good two name recognition, but I think style-wise the way I look at it, no. You know neither one knocks out anybody. They’re both good technical skilled fighters. It would be interesting, but just as a fight fan I’ll be honest. I don’t see it as a really exciting or appealing fight. I mean when you get technical fighters like that, you need someone who is going to be a big banger that’s going to try to punch and make them possibly come out of their boxing comfort zones, and I just don’t see that happening that much in that fight. It would be an interesting fight for the fight crowd, but as a fan I’m not that super excited about it. Who do you have to fight? I mean that’s the biggest question. They’re trying to find somebody to fight. When these guys are at this stage of their careers they want to fight fights where they can make big purses. That normally comes from fighting big high profile name fighters, even though the fights may not turn out to be so good. But that’s what the fighters are doing today, and I understand that.”

His views on Seth Mitchell’s 3rd round stoppage victory against Chazz Witherspoon:

“Well it turned out to be an extremely exciting and entertaining fight. I’m very happy that we had that fight on the show because it was needed to create some excitement, but it was a good fight. I think that Seth is very refreshing for the heavyweight division. I love his mindset and determination, but in all honesty I’m not truly convinced he’s ready for a Klitschko. I don’t know, maybe in a year or so, but even still he was hurt and with the lack of experience he could have been stopped by someone else. But one thing that I gave him a lot of credit for was he clinched, and that’s something that a lot of the fighters don’t know how to do today. He said, ‘I was trying to grab a hold of him and stop him from hitting me’ and that shows he has good common sense. You know I think he would still have problems with a few others of the prospect heavyweights like Deontay Wilder, or even David Price and Tyson Fury. But he seems to be the one that’s in a great position with the connections he has with Golden Boy and Al Haymon. His whole situation, he’s just in a great position right now. With HBO, he is really the one heavyweight that they’re billing. So he’s in a good position, but I do like him as a fighter and as a person. He does what heavyweights should do. He throws punches. He lets his punches go. He punches with full authority and he punches through his targets! So he’s going to create a lot of excitement, and I know as a fan I would be looking forward to seeing his next fight.”

On whether he feels Seth Mitchell can develop into a real force in the heavyweight division if he takes the appropriate steps in his development given his lack of amateur experience:

“Yes I think he can! He’s a very realistic person and his basics are fairly good. It’s not so much how good you are and how bad you are. It’s what is the other competition and fortunately for him he is right now at a good time to be a heavyweight in history. I mean it’s not an era like when you had Larry Holmes and all of those guys, and Kenny Norton, or even with Ali, and Joe Frazier, and Foreman. You just don’t have that, and unfortunately that was it with Larry Holmes, who I think is definitely one of the most underrated and underappreciated heavyweights in history! Larry was just unfortunately where he never had a great challenge. But people forget his unbelievable great fight when he won the title in his fight with Kenny Norton, and after that there was nothing too much. Gerry Cooney was more of just a big hype buildup for that. They played a lot on the race and whatnot, and Don King and those guys made a lot of money building that up. Then he fought a faded Ali. He just had nobody to fight, but Larry Holmes I think in any generation would have been a great heavyweight and a big challenge to anyone. Right now Seth Mitchell is in a good spot in history in the heavyweight division. I don’t see that much out there, and his style of fighting, his humbling and honest personality, and his ability to punch through his targets instead of most of these guys that are punching at the targets, makes him an exciting heavyweight! In fact, it’s strange to say, he’s not the heavyweight champion of the world but there are a lot of people who will be just as excited to see his next fight or maybe more so than to see the true heavyweight champions of the world, Vitali or Wladimir, because they like the excitement that he’s generating.”

On whether he expects Wladimir Klitschko to have a better performance in his rematch with Tony Thompson, given the fact he improved on his firsts effort in the three other rematches where Wlad and Steward were teamed up for return bouts against Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter, and Chris Byrd:

“I think so. I think that Tony Thompson of all the guys that we have fought in title fights as champion, believe it or not he was most difficult. We had to lay out four different strategies until we found out the one. We couldn’t even lay out a strategy. That only happened with Thompson and with Eddie Chambers. Thompson was by far the most difficult because of his size, he’s left-handed, he’s extremely relaxed, it’s very difficult to hurt him, we couldn’t really penetrate him with jabs, the only fighter that Wladimir couldn’t hit with jabs. When you hit him with right hands he rolls his body back where you don’t really get the full impact. He takes the steam out of the punch and then he walks you down, and he’s a little awkward the way he punches, just awkward enough to get you out of your rhythm. So right now I’m quite sure with the momentum that’s going on in his little DC area with Seth Mitchell and Peterson, so he’s probably on a good emotional high right now trying to keep up with the winning spirit that going on there. So I think he’s going to be a very difficult opponent, but I think Wladimir has improved a lot and been more active. We realize some of the mistakes we made early in the fight, so we’re going to start off in a different manner this time and not start off so fast. I think Wladimir will win again, but Thompson is the one fighter who worries me even though everyone is saying it’s a rematch and we beat the guy before. But I never even wanted the first fight with Thompson, so definitely we don’t want the second fight. Wladimir has the same type of respect and is a little apprehensive going into this fight also.”

On whether he would have imagined that almost 4 years later to the day that Wladimir and Thompson would be fighting again:

“Yes and no. I realized that Thompson, outside of Wladimir, could beat almost all of the other heavyweights, and as it turned out that’s what has happened. So we’re once again looking at him. I would say four years ago I was hoping that I would never have to see him again. I can see that! But here he is and we’re just going to have to deal with it.”

Regarding his upcoming May 6 Boxing Clinic in Las Vegas:

“Well this will be probably the fifth clinic that we are doing, and it will be interesting. Anita Ruiz who conducts these clinics and sets them up, she said we need to do one at a big super fight where we got big fight fans from all over the world instead of just going to individual cities and countries. It will be very interesting because we have a chance to not only teach basic fundamentals, but we will probably have a Q&A about the fight the previous night between Mayweather and Cotto. We’ll talk about a lot of old experiences and stories that went on behind the scenes with Hearns, Hagler, and Leonard, and all of those things, which is a big part of our clinic that the fans really enjoy after we finish up with all of the technical stuff. We just sit down on the ring apron and casually talk where all of us laugh and joke.

It’s about trying to still spread the basic fundamentals of boxing and trying to develop some kind of consistency in the boxing techniques, hand wraps, and little simple basic fundamentals that nobody seems to know. Everybody wants to be a trainer by getting some pads on and making a lot of noise, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, and they consider themselves trainers but they don’t understand basic things and that’s why they can’t teach those things. It’s impossible to teach something you don’t even know yourself. Anybody can walk into the gym and say I’m a trainer! There are no requirements, no tests, and no experience necessary. That’s what you have, and a lot of people have boxing skills but they don’t know how to teach. So we hopefully will develop some good trainers out of this. But it’s not just for boxing trainers and boxers. A lot of my clinics have been attended by some of the top officials and commissioners, and they also share their insights. I think it starts at 11:00am. It will be the day after the fight at the Palms Hotel. So it should be a good turnout and I think we have food setup and a lot of autographs and other things will be circulated. So a lot of people who are visiting from out of town will be able to throw a clinic in, in addition to what will hopefully be a good fight.”

On whether he believes the bout between Floyd Mayweather Junior and Miguel Cotto will actually turn out to be a good fight:

“Well I shouldn’t have said ‘hopefully’. I should have said ‘what I expect to be a good fight’! You know Floyd is so talented and so good that sometimes if he wants to shutdown and control the tempo of a fight he can do just that, as he has done often with a lot of his opponents. But I don’t think in Miguel’s case that’s going to happen. Floyd’s going to have to be consistent all the way through and he’s going to be challenged. I think he’s capable of holding up to the challenge, but I think this will be Floyd’s toughest fight since his first fight with Castillo. He’s going to have to be right on point for this fight. Even though he’s got the skills, the ego, which I think is a very important part, and his ability to think under all kinds of conditions, especially late in a fight, those are big, big advantages that he may have.

In Miguel he’s fighting a class fighter who’s been in a lot of big fights. He had a very good amateur background, also. At this stage right now he seems to be coming back mentally I think and physically after his last three fights. I know the pride in addition to the condition of both fighters is going to be enormous for both fighters. Miguel Cotto is not just a fighter from Puetro Rico. He is probably the biggest star in their country. I didn’t realize until I was training him that boxing is not just one of their main sports. In Puerto Rico boxing is the main sport and the biggest sport, and at this time I think he is the biggest and the only really true Puetro Rican star. So based on that he’s got a lot of support, and I think the numbers in the pay-per-view are going to be phenomenal. They’re going to be much bigger than people think, and not just all because of Floyd. I think Miguel is very well liked and loved by everybody as a person and a fighter. Even though he’s lost some fights, those fights were dramatic fights. Then there was the Torres fight that he had, and even he won the fight with Clottey with his mouth cut up real bad and his eye closed. He came back strong, and the two losses that he did he lose big time, he went down to one knee. He was just beaten down. So he’s always been a true warrior, and people like Miguel Cotto! It’s that simple! He’s a very likeable person from a family viewpoint and all of that.

So based on that popularity and his exciting style of fighting and consistency, he’s going to have a big fan base and Floyd is the favorite, but I’ll tell you what! Floyd’s got to be very careful and never, ever underestimate Miguel, because Miguel is going to put pressure on him and I think he’s going to be ripping that left hook in there like he hasn’t done in a long time. Styles make fights and Floyd’s style of rolling the shoulder back and being in the rolled position where he can neutralize punches—he doesn’t do a whole lot of just bobbing, and slipping, and punching the way of Pernell Whitaker, who really was a classic defensive fighter that slipped punches and punched while he slipped. Floyd just shuts you down by rolling his shoulder and locking himself in a certain position. In that position he can’t get hit with right hands so much for the most part, but he’s vulnerable to left hooks. So Miguel is going to have to put a lot of pressure on Floyd and fight at a pretty good intense pace to take Floyd out of his comfort zone, and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to do that because Floyd is such an intelligent fighter and he has the ability to change the pace. He can make you fight at the pace he wants you to fight at. It’s going to be a very interesting fight, and even though Floyd is the favorite I could possibly see it going the other way, also.”

On whether he feels people are underestimating Shane Mosley going into his fight with Saul Alvarez given the fact Mosley is a 7 to 1 underdog:

“Nope! I mean firstly I just can’t see Shane doing too much in that fight. I just don’t see it. I’m surprised that the fight was made. I’ll be very honest with you. It’s just that one guy is heading north at such a fast pace and the other guy is heading south at a pretty decent pace. I think Saul Alvarez is just a very fabulous fighter, and I think whoever he fights would have a tough challenge with him, and I just don’t know if Shane has that physical strength and that high intensity and spirit that he once had earlier in his career. Just to say he’s going to hold him off with experience, I don’t think that’s going to be enough to me. But it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the fight. I’m just very surprised that the fight was even made.”

Regarding which fight he is most excited about with some of the big fights coming up in May and June:

“Well I’ll tell you what. I’m excited about all of the fights, and I’m serious! Peterson and Khan! Oh my God! All of those fights, I’m like I don’t know what, and I know this may surprise you but Manny Pacquiao and Bradley! That’s one of them to me that’s almost a tossup! I just think with Manny, as good as he is, hasn’t been in with a guy that’s strong mentally and real, real determined, and as physically coordinated as Bradley. This is a fight that I was surprised they took also. The same with Mayweather and Cotto, I just think we have some really good fights coming up and I believe they’re all going to live up to their potential. I didn’t expect much and most of the fans didn’t expect much in the last fight with Bernard and Chad. From that point on, the rest of the fights I see, I think all of those fights are like tossup fights. I’m going to the ring as a spectator more so than a broadcaster, but as a fan just trying to sit there and see what’s going to happen. And my fighter Andy Lee is going against Chavez. I think that’s a very good fight. I think it’s a little different step up for both fighters. Both guys get hit a little bit. Both guys have shown they can come back pretty good in fights where they’ve had a few problems. In the case of both of them, I think they’ve had about 70 fights between them and only one loss that was avenged by Andy Lee. So that’s a pretty good record and both guys have pretty decent knockout records. That’s going to be an interesting fight! So I think we have some good fights coming up and all of this should help boxing, and that’s what we need—good competitive fights!”


For those interested in listening to the Iceman Emanuel Steward interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and nineteen minutes into the program.



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Article posted on 05.05.2012

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