Exclusive interview by James Slater: Former IBF 140 pound champ Vince Phillips believes he should be in The Hall of Fame. You may agree with Phillips (I sure do). Wins over Kostya Tszyu, Micky Ward, Freddie Pendleton, and one or two other good names stand proud on Phillips’ resume.
It was a huge upset when Vince stopped Tszyu in an all-out war in 1997. But “Cool” wanted bigger names, he says Oscar De La Hoya, Pernell Whitaker, and Shane Mosley all avoided him.
Here, this seriously tough and underrated warrior speaks with Eastside Boxing:
Q: It’s great to be able to speak with you, champ. You fought so many great fights, great names…
Vince Phillips: “How’s Ricky Hatton doing?”
Q: He’s doing okay. His son, Campbell Hatton, just went pro. He’s 1-0 now; he won a four-rounder.
V.P: “I’d glad he’s doing well. I had a great time in the UK when I fought Ricky, even though I lost. I cut Hatton in the fourth or fifth round, and it was bad. In the U.S, like when I fought Micky Ward (TKO3 win for Phillips), they stopped a fight on a cut like that. So who knows, if we’d fought in America, maybe I’d have stopped Hatton. But he’s a great guy, and I’d so love to get in touch with him after all this time. That would be some reunion story.”
Q: It sure would. Talking about your win over Micky Ward, which was your first 140-pound title defense after you beat Kostya Tszyu – that was shaping up as a great fight for three rounds before the ending.
V.P: “You know they made a movie about Ward, right? But I’m not in it at all! I was the first guy to give him a world title shot. Everyone remembers him for the Arturo Gatti fights. He’s a great guy, but I fought him, and I beat him in his hometown. They were throwing rubbish at me, cups of water [when the fight was stopped]. I’d have loved a rematch. In honesty, I’d have loved a rematch with Tszyu. To show that there were no excuses for me beating him. Matter of fact, I never got a single rematch fight my whole career.”
Q: I guess once in the ring with you was enough for those guys!
V.P: “Yeah, I wanted a rematch with [Ike] Quartey. I know I could have beaten him. For Tszyu, I trained hard for 12 weeks; the last eight weeks were especially hard. I knew I could beat him. It was in my heart and soul to become a world champion. Nothing could stop me. You know, in my career, I was too dangerous, but I was also lacking in discipline. I was a f***k up. On my way out of the sport, as Floyd Mayweather was on his way in, I actually asked him to fight me; not so I could beat him or try to knock him out, but so I could go out with some money. I told him I could get around half a mil for a fight with him. But he said no, he wouldn’t fight me.
“See, I had dropped Roger Mayweather in sparring; he was getting ready to fight Rafael Pineda. I knew the style to beat the Mayweather style, and Floyd knew that. So he wouldn’t fight me. But I wouldn’t have tried to knock him out; I just wanted some walk-away money. But he wouldn’t have knocked me out! I wanted the big fights – Mosley, De La Hoya, Whitaker – but none of them would fight me. I was too dangerous.”
Q: Of all the greats you fought and beat, who was the toughest guy you ever faced?
V.P: “(long pause) I’d have to say Vernon Forrest. He was so long, with his arms and his height, I just couldn’t get in; I couldn’t get to him. He caught me. He was a great fighter. But I’ve got a question – how come I’m not in the International Boxing Hall of Fame? Tszyu’s in there, and I whupped him.”
Q: I agree, you should be in…
V.P: “You know, for the Ricky Hatton fight, I had to lose a lot of weight before the fight. The fight was postponed, and I thought for a time that it was off for good. I had a lot of sex, and I did a lot of fooling around. Then he [Hatton] said he’d add £20,00 to my payment to help me with my passport and my travel. They really wanted the fight to go ahead. I have so much respect for Ricky. I wish he’d have done better against Mayweather and against Manny Pacquiao. But those losses finished him.”
Q: Of all the greats you did fight, who was the one-star you most wanted but never got?
V.P: “Well, I’ve got to say, and no disrespect to the dead. I wanted Pernell Whitaker so bad. I couldn’t stand Whitaker. We were all at a boxing gathering – me, Evander Holyfield, Mark Breland, Junior Jones, and Whitaker. We were in a limo, and he [Whitaker] told me he’d never heard of me. I said, ‘well, you would if you fought me, you’d get a real action fight, for the first time in your career.’ I told him, ‘fight me now!’ He left me stranded, taking the limo to a nightclub. Junior Jones picked me up.
“Whitaker tried to degrade me. I couldn’t stand Pernell Whitaker. He was a straight ass hoe. At 140, that’s where I’d most have liked to fight him. He may have been faster at 140, but I punched harder at 140. But even at 147, I’d have still succeeded against him. No way would I have ever let him beat me. He wouldn’t have been able to take my power. I stopped [Freddie] Pendleton, and it wasn’t on cuts or anything. He [Whitaker] had to go the distance with Freddie.”
Q: You had a great career without having had that fight…
V.P: “I had a good 18 years. I still talk pretty good after 61 pro fights. I set a few records – me and Ray Oliveira, we threw a record number of punches. Now, today, my nephew wants to go pro, and his dad wants no one but me to train him. I’m looking forward to it. But again, send my number to Ricky [Hatton]. I’d so love to get in touch with the guy.”