Exclusive Interview With Former WBA Cruiserweight Champ Nate “Mr.” Miller

Nate Miller, known during his fine ring career as “Mr,” fought a number of big names, and the Philly warrior beat a few of them, or more than a few. Miller, who ruled as WBA cruiserweight champ from July of 1995 to November of 1997, faced – among others – Orlin Norris, Al “Ice” Cole, Thomas Hearns, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi.

Retiring in 2001 with a 31-9(27) record – with Miller never being stopped – the former champ kindly took time out to speak with ESB this week.

Q: You said one time that if there had been no cruiserweight division, you would not have been a fighter?

Nate Miller: “Yeah, I wouldn’t have been a fighter if there hadn’t been a cruiserweight division. It just so happened that Evander Holyfield came out of the Olympics, and made the division.”

Q: Cruiserweight was just the perfect weight for you?

N.M: “Yes sir.”

Q: Right. How would your life have been without boxing! You were a great fighter, a world champion with all those defences….

N.M: “Yeah, I only had four defences.”

Q: Okay, but today, guys seem to lose the title after maybe one or two defences. But what would you have been if not a fighter?

N.M: “I don’t really know. I’d have made out some kind of way.”

Q: Looking back at your pro record, the guy who first managed to defeat you – Boubakar Sanoga – who was he and how did he beat you?

N.M: “Oh, the guy from South Africa. I have no idea [how he beat me]. He ended up killing himself by punching through a window – he cut his tendon. He was pretty tough, but that was probably one of my off nights. He was taller than me. That fight was overseas.”

Q: You then got a win over Bert Cooper in your next fight. Bert was tough but he quit in the corner against you!

N.M: “Yeah. You know he died, right?

Q: Yes, about three years ago?

N.M: “Yeah. I went to his funeral.”

Q: He did more up at heavyweight, didn’t he? How did you beat him?

N.M: “I had actually sparred him and I knew what to look for. We had sparred in Philly, at the Civic Centre, which is no longer in existence.”

Q: You certainly fought a whole bunch of big names in your career….

N.M: “Yeah, and I stopped a few of ’em.”

Q: You twice fought Al Cole, one time for a world title. He beat you twice. He was a tall guy, and of course very good. How did he beat you?

N.M: “Well, simply because, he had the same style [as me]. If you look at it, we had that same, okey-doke, unorthodox style. If you look at the fights. He said I was the toughest, hardest puncher that he fought. That’s what he said.”

Q: It’s interesting, because he went up to heavyweight, as did Bert Cooper. Did you never think about going to heavyweight?

N.M: “Nah, didn’t even think about it.”

Q: Talk about your win over Dwight Muhammad Qawi, in October of 1992.

N.M: “I remember, he got the microphone [that night] and he said he was retiring. But I’ve seen him every now and then, when we go to functions and stuff. He was still a very good fighter, a very feisty guy when I fought him. I wouldn’t say that was one of my best wins, but it was a good win for me.”

Q: Talk about the 1995 win you had over Orlin Norris to win the WBA title in 1995.

N.M: “You know the excuse he had? How he had to lose all that weight to get into the ring. That’s no excuse – if he had to lose that weight, he shouldn’t have got in the ring with me.”

Q: Had you two fought before, at amateur level?

N.M: “Yeah, he beat me twice.”

Q: And the world title fight with Norris was in London. Why?

N.M: “I have no idea! Whatever the negotiations were, what they figured out, I was okay with. I went overseas three or four times to fight during my career. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to become world champion.”

Q: You made four defences, then lost on points against Fabrice Tiozzo. Was that a fair decision?

N.M: “Yeah, he beat me. That was a fight I should have won, but at the time I had my wife there and my girlfriend, and I was trying to keep them away from each other back then (laughs). I had a lot on my mind. My brains wasn’t there.”

Q: You’re one of the great Philly fighters. What makes Philadelphia fighters so tough?

N.M: “It’s up to the individual. Anyone can fight, but you don’t know how you’re going to be born. You have to find your talent. I found my talent and I thought I was tough enough, that’s why I became a fighter. But you really don’t know until you test yourself. Everyone’s born with a gift. Some people don’t know what their gift is. You have to try out [some things] I guess. But I became a fighter and I was ranked as the #18 best cruiserweight of all time.”

Q: You lost the return with Norris, up at “super-cruiserweight?”

N.M: “Yeah, I just didn’t do enough in that fight. Yeah, at super-cruiser. It was no big deal, I just didn’t do enough. It could’ve been [a split decision] but I think his name, it was bigger, or more valuable than mine. You know how the fight game goes.”

Q: Yes sir. You then fought Thomas Hearns here in the UK, I think on a Naseem Hamed card. We were so excited, expecting a Hagler-Hearns type fight! But it seemed as though neither of you showed your best stuff?

N.M: “Well, I had to lose 15 pounds, which was almost impossible. They didn’t tell us until we got there. I had to try – I ran, I didn’t drink water. My trainers literally had to hold me up on the scale. I had to lose 15 pounds in four days. So that’s what it was. I was like 220, and he was like 175. I was dead at that weight. I was done. That’s it.”

Q: It’s such a shame that that fight, between two greats as you and Hearns are, was so dull. Moving on, who was the best you ever fought in your career? And do you follow today’s cruiserweight division?

N.M: “No, I sure don’t. Not at all. The best I fought was probably Ice [Cole].”

Q: You were supposed to fight James Toney at one point?

N.M: “They had talked about us fighting, and they had talked about me and Holyfield fighting, but that’s all it was, talk. I saw Toney recently, at a convention. We talked; it was cool. Yeah, it would have been a good fight. But it never happened. I think I was strong enough to have put him down, with our styles. But we’ll never know.”