Boxing


Roy Jones Trainer Al Merkerson's Teleconference Transcript

September 21, 2005, Pensacola, FL: It really doesnít matter who is in charge. Both of us are preparing Roy for the fight. You would have to ask Roy who is the number one guy. From my standpoint it doesnít really matter who it is as long as I am part of making him effective for the fight. It is not a problem at all with me working with Big Roy. He has things that he does and I have things that I do. Roy has the privilege of us two.. Big Roy was with Roy prior to me coming along and it is his prerogative if he wants to bring his dad back Ė to bring him back and thatís what he did. We have our own things that we do and we give constructive criticism to Roy. He takes input from both of us and there is no problem at all in the camp.

Its working fine, he just has two corner men in the corner. If I have some input I give it to Roy and if his dad has some to give to him, he gives it to him.

Who will speak to him between rounds?

Thatís up to Roy and he has not determined that yet. He hasnít said it to me or his dad yet. Thatís a question Roy has to answer.

Heís doing fine. Heís on track and training very hard. Physically and mentally prepared Ė he is really focused on this fight. The lackadaisical state that he was in before, losing interest in boxing, I think has gone. I think heís back and more dedicated than he was the last two or three fights. So youíll see that in the fight. If he was that dedicated for the last three fights things would not have happened the way they did anyway.

How is the hand?

His hand is fine and there is no problem at all and he will be ready on the 1st. Heíll be fine Ė heís a big boy. Whichever hand it is it doesnít really matter. Heíll be OK for the fight. Thatís exactly what I am saying. His dad trained him for thirteen years and I have trained him for twelve and this is no different than the problems heís had before. So it wonít be a factor in the fight.

Once youíve been known for being a great fighter, thatís something that you canít take away. Personally, I donít think Roy has anything that he needs to prove to anybody because he had already proved that before by winning the middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight and that can never be taken away. I donít think he is interested in proving anything to society or the boxing world Ė I think he is concerned with proving something to himself and doing the right thing. Heís the type of guy Ė now if he retired after the last fight it would have been all right with me, because heís already been categorized as a great fighter. But he says he doesnít want to go out that way. He says heís not going to go out losing like that and he doesnít have to because he is still capable of being the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I think thatís whatís on his mind right now is that ĎIím different than what you think I am. I am not a washed up fighter. I am still the best fighter out there and youíll see that after the fight on the first of October.í

The previous few fights Royís performance wasnít what it should have been. I think he really got tired of the sport of boxing. He was bored, all of the criticism about him not fighting anybody. All of the negative input just made him fed up with boxing. I donít care who he fought or who he beat, it wasnít good enough. The guy wasnít physically prepared or this excuse or that excuse preventing people from saying that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. At that point he was ready to leave boxing and leave it as it stood. That had a lot to do with his performance.

Itís like taking a test. If you donít study for an exam and you take the exam, youíre not going to do very well on the exam. You might just blow it out and flunk it. So I can basically say thatís how he felt and he doesnít feel that way anymore. He wants to study so he can get a 100% on the test.

Looking back, does he think he would have left earlier?

I donít think he looks back at what he should have done and things like that. The fact of the matter is, that when you get to the status that Roy is in, and you are considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and youíve won the heavyweight title, youíve reached the ultimate goal so what else do you do. Tyson is a great fighter and Iíd like to fight him on my way out, but that falls out. Now you got to go down and fight somebody at another weight class and knows he is going to catch hell trying to lose that weight. That canít be a motivating factor Ė the first fight with Tarver. There was weight problem and everybody knows that. Then you fight him and you win. Then there is all of the controversy and everybody says it was a real close fight then Johnson fights Tarver after that then Johnson beats Tarver then Roy said, ĎOK, Iíll fight this guy.í He wasnít motivated for that fight. Then he loses that and he comes back and fights Tarver again. They were fights that he really wasnít interested in but I think the interest is there now for the simple reason that he has to reclaim his fame. These guys beat him and he wants revenge. Now the motivation is back.

Tarver is a very solid fighter, heís a game fighter. Has good ring generalship and has a big heart. Heís somebody to be reckoned with. I personally donít think he has the boxing qualities that Roy has even though he did beat him. Heís a good solid fighter and itís going to be a good match. The person thatís going to win is going to have his thinking cap on and do the right things in the ring and not make any mistakes. Heís a great fighter.

The people need to mind their own business and get the facts straight. Itís not that Roy fought whoever he wanted to fight - it was the fighters that HBO and the governing bodies and society wanted us to fight. When he wanted to fight somebody, they would always say, well thatís not the right guy. The guys that people say we didnít want to fight, for whatever reason the guyís like Michelshewski, he wanted 50/50. For parity that wasnít what he deserved. Roy never dodged anybody. He fought whoever they put in front of him they wanted him to fight, he fought and destroyed. How would I rate Roy, I would rate him with some of the best fighters in the world. He should go down in history and he has and should remain that after the 1st of October. But you canít satisfy and please everybody. You just have to do what you think is right for yourself and your fighter.

People talk and some of the things people say doesnít faze me at all. When you look in the mirror and say that I didnít do enough or Iím not the best fighter in the world or categorized as one of the best fighters in the worldÖwhen you say that to yourself, then youíve got a problem. Self-evaluation is very important. Looking at Roy Ė he will go down in history as one of the greatest fighters out there.

What about the Jonesí

Let me tell you something about teamwork. As long as it is a winning team, whatever satisfies the athleteÖI cannot fight for Roy. His dad cannot fight for Roy. Nobody else can fight for Roy. All those critics that say its coach Merkís fault and Coach Merkerson this and Coach Merkerson thatÖthey didnít say that when he won for 10 years straight. ConsecutivelyÖwithout losing a fight. You can do a thousand things right and when 1 thing goes wrong, you have to point the finger. Which doesnít bother me that they do that? Sharing roles doesnít bother me at all.

Roy called me when he and his father had a conflict. Roy came in and his dad did not confront me about my training for a total of 11 years. We made history together. Now its Royís prerogative at this point to say well, me and my dad are back together now, and I want to bring him back on board, coach. Thatís no problem. Whatever you want, Roy. If you want to bring your dad on. If you want me to leave, that is your prerogative. But Roy doesnít want me to leave. He wants me here. It doesnít bother me. Iím going to do whatever he wants me to do to help him be the next light heavyweight champion of the world again. I donít care whoís in charge, itís not an important factor to me.

Iíve been training fighters since 1972 at a very high echelon. On club level, to Army level, to the Olympic teams to the pros and Iíve always had guys that were at the top of their game fighting top level competition for all those years, so Iíve been holding me breath for a long time and not being able to let it out. When Roy announces that heís going to retire, Iím going to need a break. Trainers get stagnated just like boxers do. Iím a self-motivator but if a kid is not motivated Iím not motivated. Youíve got to really want it and youíve got to really put out for me to be there for you. The individual is going to have to come to me and really want to give it his all and want to be a world champion.

We knew each other. We were associates. We communicated with each other more during the í88 Olympic team in Seoul, Korea. Walt talked and hung out together quite a bit then. I saw him on the national scene when I had the Army team with Hank Johnson. We knew Roy (Jr) because Roy was one of the sharper guys back then. We didnít really want to fight him if we didnít have to. Itís never been a real close relationship. Itís not a real close relationship, but people have to understand that in business, I can be the CEO and I really donít have to like my managers.

He knows his son. He trained him from the age of 10 to 1993. Thatís a long time. I worked with Roy for 11 years. So I know Roy and he knows Roy. Itís a plus for Roy even having both of us there because there are some things that his dad sees that I donít see and thereĎs some things that I see that his dad doesnít see.

We have interaction with Roy (but no with each other). Heís OK. Heís an associate. I donít have any problems with Big Roy at all. He does his thing and I do mine. Thatís the way business is. No tension with me whatsoever. Not at all.

That happened in the last fight and patience is the key to virtue. You have to take time and make things happen instead of rushing into them. His mindset is probably going to be that way (as in 2nd Griffin fight) but you have to wait for the right time and place to do things. And I think thatís what is going to happen in this fight. Emotionally (same as Griffin) yes, definitely so. I would tend to agree.

I am not going to say that he wasnít prepared, now you can take this the way you want it. I think that when you really want to pass a test you are going to study a little harder. He was coming to the gym and probably didnít want to be there. When he came to the gym he would give it his all but it really wasnít interesting to him. He really didnít want to be in the gym. He was discouraged with boxing and discouraged with coming to the gym and he was doing because he had a date. You work harder when you really want to be in the gym. You want to prove something to yourself or prove to somebody else and thatís the way he is right now. The last two or three fights he was like, ďI donít want to be here. Iím really tired of it.Ē So his attitude has changed for this fight.

He wasnít motivated for the first fight with Tarver, the second fight with Tarver or the fight with Johnson.

I think he won the fight. It was a close fight. Anybody that watches boxing and listens to the news knows at the time, Roy was talking to Tyson about fighting him. He just beat Ruiz. So heís got all this weight on him. So in med-stream, that doesnít happen. So he says, well, Tarverís here. So we are training and he says he really didnít want to fight Tarver, he wanted to fight Tyson so youíve got to come all the way from that heavyweight division and drop down and loses all that weight to fight Tarver and that is real strenuous. Itís hard to do that so that was an important factor in that fight with Tarver. And he just wasnít up for the fight.

What about the 2nd fight?

Motivation. Like I said, for those three fights, Roy wasnít as motivated as he usually was. We talked, but not a lot, about it. You know your athletes, just like your kids. You know when they are coming in your yard and they are helping you pick up leaves and they are happy to do it and you know they want to do it and you know when they donít want to do it and just get it out of the way so they can get out of the yard and go play.

What happened in the Tarver fight?

For ten years Roy beat everything in front of him, he was hot and the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world and doing everything that people want him to do and not doing the things that he wanted to do and then the thing with Tyson falls through and people criticize him and he doesnít make speaking engagements Ė heís always lateÖjust a lot of negative things. He was tired of the whole boxing scene altogether. It was really a low for him in his boxing career and personally, not him saying it but just an observation, he was saying, ďthe hell with boxing. I donít want to do this anymore.Ē Like after the Olympics, it was the same way Ė the same state of mind. But people said Ďyou are really good for boxing and you need to come back. Then he came back in í89 because he was so disgusted by the fight in KoreaÖI would say he felt the same way after he fought Ruiz after so many things went wrong for him, he felt the same way after the Olympics. He was just down on boxing.

If both fighters are on A game, what happens?

Roy wins. Like he should have the last fight he had with him. Roy is going to be ready for this fight. Heís doing the right things. Heís focused now. Heís not in a depressed mood like he was before and maybe because his dad came back on might have been a motivating factor. He looking at himself in the mirror might have been a motivating factor. I donít know exactly what it is but heís the old Roy that I knew back in the early Ď90ís that Iím seeing now.

How is his hand?

Good. Let me say this. Roy had hand problems ever since I started training him in 1993. If you remember he won the middleweight title against Bernard Hopkins with one hand. He fought Telesco Ė he didnít have a jab. He won that with one hand. But thereís not going to be any excuses at all. All the critics that are saying there is a problem with his hand Ė he doesnít express that to me, but I donít see any problem with it because heís the type of warrior that can bite down. The fight will take place on the 1st of October and Roy will be at his best Ė 100%.

You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. Roy and I had talked about even prior to those fights even taking place. We were both a little tired of boxing. You need to leave us along so we can just have some fun. But Roy came out of that and heís ready to fight again. Heís 36 years old and when I say mentally heís in the state of mind as he was back in the early Ď90ís, Iím not going to change my mind on that. He trains the way he trained then and he thinks the way he thought then. We all know how age plays an important factor as we get older. He may have slowed down a little bit but his ring generalship and his faculties and his ability to knock people out is still there.

Anybody, I donít care if itís King Kong Ė they will go to sleep.

Sharpness and condition has a lot to do with the reaction time and how you react to a given situation. If he was in a little better condition in those two fights Ė it may not have happened but we can all say that if I had a million dollars back in í60 I would be a millionaire right now. But heís motivated for the fight ad he will be the Roy of the early Ď90s or in the middle 90ís Ė whatever.

Head injury?

That concerns me too. I got knocked out once and it affected me mentally. Physically it didnít. I had the EKGs and the EEGs and all those things and everything checked out, which weíve all done with Roy. We had him thoroughly checked out. Personally, if Roy had retired then it would have made my day. It would have been great. But heís like a son to me, heís a great boxer. As long as he checks out OK and the Dr. says itís Ok, if he wants to give it another run then Iím all behind him. But in the vent that I see something in the corner that I donít agree with that I might see something happen Ė you donít have to worry about me jumping up on the apron to stop it. I donít care whoís there or what happens. As of right now, all of his medical exams check out fine. He feels find and we do communicate on that. Iíll be watching things in the corner just like everybody else that is saying it and if I see anything that would his life in harmís way, you can believe Iíll be jumping up on the apron doing something.

He had everything done. Everything you could possibly do he had done and he checked out fine.

Father I corner?

Nobody can stop me if I want to stop it. If somebody climbs up on that apron Ė the referee wills top the fight. If they think it would be detrimental, they can take it and shove it up their but. Iím just as much a part of the corner as anybody else is and Roy might be mad at me but if I see something that may cause him to be hut permanently; he can just be mad at me and talk to me after the fight. Iím looking out for his best interests and his health. As far as the reference to his dad Ė I think his dad feels the same way that I do. Roy is a grown guy and is very independent, heís very decisive and thereís one thing about himÖif you want to teach your kids about how they want to be when they grow up, when they crawlÖbut when you put them down they learn how to walk on their own and any man or lady that becomes an adult and they disagree with what you say, they say hey I understand what you are saying but I donít want to do that. Itís all going to be a positive note whatever happens.

When you put money into the bank and you go to write a check, you can get money out. But if you donít put any in, you canít get any out. Roy has made some deposits for this fight. So when he goes to write a check, the money is going to be there for him. Heís going to be prepared for anything that comes up. Some people say I am blowing smoke, but I call them like I see them. I told Roy and I told other people, we could have done more for those last 2 or 3 fights, but weighing the facts and looking at the overall situation, I donít know exactly how Roy feels, but I can gather how he feels by the things that were coming to him from all angles in a negative way. The motivation and the hard work were not there like they should have been. I am not saying he had a reason to do the things he did and feel the way he felt. HE DID, but we canít cry over spilt milk. But he doesnít feel that way now, so theyíll see a big difference on this fight on the 1st.

2 knockouts?

From a training standpoint, what I feel is that you know for a fact that if you take some shots to the body for a period of time you kind of get used to those shots you can deal with it. But take a guy on the street that doesnít know anything about boxing Ė you donít have to go to the head; you hit him with one shot in the body and guess whatís going to happen? Heís going down. Anybody can get knocked out if they get hit right. But if you are in good shape and you prepared yourself mentally and physically you can withstand a much better punch than if you are not in good shape.

After heavyweight title?

I thought it was going to be an early out for me after Ruiz, we would probably fight Tyson or another smaller heavyweight like Holyfield but the way things went at that time we couldnít do that. He was very successful in winning the heavyweight title. There were a lot of heavyweights that he could fight without fighting a big real heavyweight.

When society is pressuring you and the media is pressuring you saying there are no heavyweights to fight and you need to come back to light heavyweight, they donít understand the mental and physical strain that is on a person when you can eat all you want and feel comfortable and you can fight the best and all you have to concentrate on is fighting and all the sudden you have to say, well I canít eat this or I canít eat that because Iíve go to get this weight off me. Youíre not training to be the best fighter you can be at that time, you are more concerned with getting the weight off. I donít think itís fair to a great fighter to make him have to do that. Iíd rather have a healthier heavy guy than a weak lighter guy. I donít want it on my conscience that I took this weight off this guy because I thought he would be better in a lighter weight class. You can get hurt just as easy by losing all that weight because he is so weak as you would preparing for a fight.

He lost it in a very short period of time. I donít want to get into it but it was a very short period of time. The doctor will tell you and people donít understand that once you get below 6% body fat Ė itís not healthy. As you get older you get more body fat and carry more weight. Just because you fought at 154 at the age of 30, you canít be messing around with the weight like that. Itís not healthy.

Why do you think Royís not talking?

I think, personally I donít know, but Roy as an individual and Iíve been around him a long time, you know how it is when people ask you why are you doing this and you did this before but you are not doing it now, there comes a time when actions speak louder than words. Constantly telling people what you are going to do like Tarverís doing and trying to explain to people why you didnít do what you were supposed to do the last time, thatís not a positive thing. Any negativity you will have will come about by answering questions like that because it is repetitious as it keeps pounding into you. You concentrate on trying to explain to people why something didnít happen than you are preparing for the fight.

He and I think a lot when it comes to that and Iím not down on the media. I can take you back to Viet Nam when Iím out on the field in a fire fight and you have a reporter coming up to you asking ďhowís the fight today?Ē You can go to hell and get out of my face because I am fighting. Personally thatís the way Roy feels, he has a job to do, heís trying to accomplish that mission and heís doing all he can do to prepare for it. And anything negative heís trying to just push to the side. That comes to basketball, music, socializing with people. I think heís just totally focused on the fight right now.

Tarver comments bother him?

No. Well, it probably is but heís saying, ĎIím not going to throw darts back at him and tell him what Iím going to do to him. Iím just going to show him what Iím going to do to him.Ē Tarver does talk a lot and he has the skills and ability to back it up. Iím not saying heís not a good fighter. Iím kind of that way. Iím not going to tell you Iím going to take this gun out and shoot you. If you are going to do something to make me mad enough to do that, youíre shot. If you know youíre pushing me to the limit, Iím going to react. Youíre not going to pull a gun on me and put it away, because youíre not going to be able to pull it again. Thatís the frame of mind he is in right now.

Heís tired of talking and heís tired of listening because people want him to say what they want to hear. He has a plan on what he wants to do. You donít tell everybody how you are going to catch a fish, you just catch the fish.

After the last Tarver fight, I didnít know Roy could pray so well. He was saying we did come a long way and we thank God for this and thank God for that and you are telling me to step down because things are not like they used to be. He does believe in God a lot and he did lay off for practically a whole year and when I wanted to talk about boxing, he would say, letís go fishing. He wanted to do anything but boxing. He just washed his hands of it. All the sudden, I donít know what came over him, but he wanted the gym cleaned. He said, ďI think I need to start boxing again. Itís something I think I need to do. I have to do.Ē Heíll have to explain to you what he did, but weíre here now in a positive way. If I thought there would be any problem with him coming back, Iím behind him 100%.

Glen Johnson?

I think personally, yes. He has to prove it to himself.

Who works on what?

We both work.

Do you talk about it with him (RJJ)?

Yes

Do you talk about it with each other?

No we doe not. Look, if you have two coaches on a team and one says, ďLook, youíve got to keep your hands up,Ē and the other coach says, ďRoy, you need to slip to the outside of the jab,Ē thereís nothing wrong with two guys working with a guy. Itís not like, ďBig Roy youíre wrong, it should be like this.Ē Roy takes what he needs from either one of us and he uses it or doesnít use it. We just give him constructive criticism and both of us know Roy.

Whoís holding the pads?

Neither one of us.

So you have someone else come in to do that?

Thatís exactly right. Iím getting too old for that. When I hold the pads my shoulder is killing me.

What about the hand?

No, heís not setting up an excuse. Because heís telling the truth. Why lie about it? As a trainer, Iím not going to say it, but he may come up to me and say my hand is bothering me. All I can say if his hand is hurting him, itís not hindering what itís doing in training. I can say Iíve got a headache but I still train my ass off. Itís not going to give anyone an edge in the fight and itís not going to be an excuse. He just told the honest truth when somebody asked him something. Howís your hand? Well my right hand is bothering me a little bit or my left hand is bothering me a little bit.

Believe me, there have never been excuses and thereís not going to be an excuse this time.

Article posted on 21.09.2005



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