Exclusive Interview With Doug DeWitt - ďTo This Day, People Tell Me I Beat Tommy HearnsĒ

boxingBy James Slater: The first-ever WBO middleweight champion, Doug "Cobra" DeWitt had an amazingly exciting up and down career - during which he faced everyone from Thomas Hearns to Nigel Benn, to Matthew Hilton to James Toney.

Today an accomplished actor, Doug keeps himself in shape and he has a sharp memory.

Kindly taking the time to speak with ESB the other day, the fomer champ had the following things to say:

ESB: Itís great to be able to speak with you, Doug! Iíve always been a fan - I remember vividly your great fight with Nigel Benn. I know you lost that one butÖ..

Doug DeWitt: Thank you. Yeah, I never had enough respect for Benn. I respected him a lot more after the fight. It was a good fight. He butted my eye in the first 30-seconds and I had a tough night..

ESB: Are you still a fight fan today?

D.D: Yes I am, but no as much as before. I like watching Bernard Hopkins, who has done amazing things, but it looks like heís coming to the end now. I like Pacquiao, I liked De La Hoya, Roy Jones Junior. But thereís really only one fight that people want to see today, and thatís Mayweather-Pacquiao. Iíve lost respect for Mayweather, because he doesnít want the fight. Heís just making excuses. But if they do fight, I like Pacquiao. You know, these guys [Mayweather and Pacquiao] have to realise that fighters only get a small window of opportunity to fight their best fights and make the best money. That time doesnít last forever.

ESB: Talking about your great career, what was your best-ever night do you think?

D.D: The best night of my career, and I had a number of good nights, has to be my fight with Matthew Hilton from January of 1990. That was my first defence as (WBO) world champion, and Hilton was a top guy, who was 30-1-1 with 24 KOís at the time. And the fight was on a big card, the Foreman-Cooney card, in front of around 16,000 people. I really shone that night, even though, truth be known, I was past my peak by the time I won the (WBO) title. But nevertheless, I put it altogether in the Hilton fight; probably the one fight in my career where I truly did that.

ESB: And you were know for your rock-chin - and I must say, you sound great today - who was the hardest puncher you ever faced, Champ?

D.D: Yeah, Iím still sharp, my mind is clear. Iím doing acting work now, on the stage as well as on the screen, I donít just want to be a tough guy, in action movies (Doug has appeared in 1996ís ďBulletĒ with Mickey Rourke) - but anyway, you need a clear mind for that job; all the lines and stuff. But on to your question: the hardest puncher I ever fought - there were three fighters that spring to the forefront of my mind: Hilton, Thomas Hearns and Nigel Benn. Iíd probably have to say Hearns, as his power was totally different to anyone else I faced. I didnít even see Tommyís punches coming; he had great speed and timing. He really shook me in the 3rd-round of our (Oct. 1986) fight; I got a little cocky and I heard a ďwhack!Ē and I was on queer street for a while.

ESB: And what was the hardest fight of your pro career?

D.D: The toughest nights of my career, Iíd have to say were the two fights with Robbie Simms. The first fight (Aug. 1985) still hurts and stays in my head today. I had a contract with [Bob] Arum for a fight with Marvin Hagler, as long as I beat Simms (Haglerís half-brother), and I blew it. I got unfocused and Iíd been somewhat inactive, with just one fight that year before Simms, and I blew a decision. The second fight with Simms (Apr. 1989), which I won, was hard as well. I sprained my hand, both of them actually, in the 1st and 2nd-rounds. Simms always gave me a tough time.

ESB: You came up the hard way, in the tough gyms - who did you spar on your way up?

D.D: Well, the best guy I ever sparred with has to be Hagler, although I sparred Mike McCallum quite a lot and he was great also. But when I sparred Hagler the first time, I was just a kid. Then I sparred him again in 1983, as he was getting ready for the Wilford Scypion fight. We did five rounds a day for two weeks; Iíd say around 60 or 70 rounds in all. I learnt so much and picked up so much experience from working with Hagler and I was in my prime when I sparred him the second time. I knew his style and thatís why I have so much regret that that fight never came about. I truly believe I would have out-boxed Hagler.

ESB: It would have been an interesting fight. I donít think Hagler would have stopped you, put it that way. Werenít you supposed to fight Iran Barkley at one point as well?

D.D: Yeah, twice. Both times the Barkley fight fell through. Iíd have won that fight, no doubt.

ESB: It sure would have been a great one, Doug! What was the worst night of your career, the one youíd love to go back and do all over again?

D.D: Oh, thatís a toss-up between the Simms fights and the Hearns fight. Hearns is an all-time great but I never really felt like I was in a tough fight that night. Honestly, I never gave it my all. I shouldíve gone for the ghusto and tried to KO him. People that didnít know me said I was gonna get killed in that fight. But to this day, people I donít know come up to me and tell me I beat Hearns. The other day, this black guy Iíd never seen before, he came up to me and just said ĎYou beat Tommy Hearns!í And then he was gone (laughs). Forget what the cards read; they were no accurate reflection on the fight. That fight wouldíve changed my life had I won. I wish Iíd really gone for it that night.

ESB: Itís been great speaking with you, Doug - a real pleasure. Do you miss boxing? Whatís the hardest part of being retired?

D.D: The hardest part of being retired is knowing that I could have done so much more. I never put it all together, which is mostly my own fault, I admit. I just never achieved all that I know I could have. I had a lot of injuries - my hands, my neck and even my feet, believe it or not - and I hate making excuses, but I never lived up to my potential. At one time, I believe I was the best middleweight in the world, but I never proved that. I had a good career and Iím grateful for the fans I had, but I could have, should have, had a great career. But I donít think about my fighting days all that much. Iím an actor now, working the theatre, and Iím focused on making it big at that. Iíd love to get a gig on the London stage. I love the theatre.

Article posted on 24.05.2012

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