The Pros & Cons of being James McGirt, Jr.

VERO BEACH, Florida (January 30, 2007) - Being the son of a former world champion, as well as one of boxing's most respected contemporary trainers, certainly has its pros and cons for unbeaten middleweight prospect James McGirt, Jr., who has won all 13 of his pro fights with seven knockouts. McGirt, 24, was born into boxing, the son of famed James "Buddy" McGirt (73-6-1, 48 KOs), former IBF light welterweight (1987-88) and WBC welterweight champion (1991-93), as well as 2002 Trainer of the Year (Boxing Writers Association of America)..

"I was a part of boxing from the time I came out November 25, 1982," James said. "My dad always brought me to the gym and fights. I remember seeing so many great fighters in the gym when I was growing up - George Foreman, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Terry Norris and so many more. I was a little kid and wanted to be like my dad."

Buddy, however didn't want his son be a boxer. In fact, he didn't train James until he turned pro in 2004. "I did everything in my power to steer him away," Buddy explained. "I know how this game is and some of the people in it. But when he decided to turn pro, I said let's do it right, together. I didn't want to trust his life and career to somebody else."

Growing up in Brentwood, New York, James used his natural athletic ability to play basketball, a sport he believes he'd be playing professionally somewhere today if he hadn't given it up to box. McGirt was a good enough guard to earn a hoop scholarship to St. Petersburg Junior College. Off the hardcourt and into the four-cornered ring, James had a solid 44-4 amateur record, including gold medal performances in the Sunshine State Games and Southeast Regional, in addition to reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Championships twice and semifinals of the National PALs.

"I didn't coach James when he was an amateur but he'd send me his workout tapes," Buddy noted. "He had been watching my old tapes and was fighting like me. I told him I was a 10-round fighter (pro) and he needed to score points. I was in Vegas with Johnny Tapia when he called to say he was going to the Sunshine State Games. I thought he was playing basketball, maybe even track, but never boxing. There wasn't much I could do but he called me the day before Father's Day to say he was in the final and was going to win a gold medal for my present. He did."

The son of Buddy drew natural ring comparisons, as unfair as it may have been for James, right from the start. As boxers, though, James and his father are nothing alike other than their heart, work ethic and determination. James is a 6-1 southpaw, 6 1/2 inches taller and fighting 13 pounds heavier than his orthodox stance, welterweight father. "His style is more like Marvin Hagler's than his father's," James' manager Dennis Witherow added. "They are well conditioned, left-handed middleweights who hurt opponents with greats jabs before throwing the big rights. James is very skilled, very quick and he has a lot of ability to do a lot of different things. And like Hagler he's not a big one-punch fighter.

"James is improving with each fight. He's a smart kid who really comprehends. He has the ability and now he's working, one thing at a time, to master moves. He was raised in the game and wants to fight. James has been exposed every day to the best fighters in the industry - Tarver, Gatti, Adamek, Brewster, McCline, Adams, Mitchell, Guthrie, Malignaggi, Powell - the list is almost endless. He is learning from the best, all of world champions at Buddy's gym. He's won almost every round he's boxed as a pro. James has world champion potential."

Hagler is one of James' boxing idols, somebody he welcomes comparisons to in any way, shape or form. "I love Hagler," he noted. "I watch his fights to this day. I see some reasons for comparisons. We're balls-to-the-wall fighters and smart in the ring. A lot of guys find out in the ring I'm faster and stronger than I look."

While his surname has opened many doors in boxing for James, McGirt has also added pressures and often-high expectations. "My last name is a big part of me and my career," James remarked. "I'm Buddy's son. It's in the genes. He was a great fighter and he's one of the hottest trainers in boxing today. I've gained a lot of experience just being his son. The pressure is always going to be there because of who I am. I've been around this sport a long time and I know expectations are high. I expect that, but, if I mess up in the first round, I deal with it and don't get caught up in what people say. Win, lose or draw, I just want to give my best, please myself, the fans and make my father proud. I'm trying to get to his level and I am taking it one fight at a time working to become a world champion. I'm going to get there."

Witherow believes the media and fans will soon realize the talent behind his fighter. "James has won just about every round he has fought so far," he added. "I believe everyone will soon start to look at this young man and recognize how good a boxer he is. We have targeted bigger names but we want to take reasonable steps to get there.

"James is willing to take on anyone at his level right now. We have a plan that will take him to a world championship and we will follow the plan. We have the right combination; great promoter (Lou DiBella), great trainer, and a great fighter. The fans and media just have to watch and enjoy the ride there."

Buddy warned his son about the aforementioned comparisons, as well as impending questions about their father-son, trainer-fighter relationship. "No disrespect to any other father-son combinations," Buddy commented, "but a lot of fathers try to live their dream through their son. I've been there (world title) and know what it's like. I told my son that, people are going to compare him to me, but he is not his father. I also told him that whomever he fights would step it up because of his last name. Fighters who are 0-10 will fight my son like they're 20-0. They're going to bring their best show. James doesn't fight like me; he has his own style."

James has been developing in sparring sessions with many of the fighters who train at the Buddy McGirt Gym in Vero Beach, including WBC light heavyweight champion Tomasz Adamek as he prepared for Saturday night's title defense against lefty Chad Dawson.

McGirt, whose most notable victories to date have been eight-round decisions against Stephan Pryor (10-1), son of another great champion Aaron Pryor, and Dennis Sharpe in his last outing (Dec. 14), is scheduled to fight February 17 on the Paulie Malignaggi-Edner Cherry undercard at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

For James McGirt, Jr., although grateful for having Buddy in his corner, he is working to establishing his own identity in boxing, and making his own mark in boxing history.

Article posted on 30.01.2007

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