“Maybe there’s an outside chance this is just a ploy to draw interest, because I think Hopkins knows that if in a year from now, if he was ever to put it together and fight Andre Ward in the last hurrah, and if he was ever to win—you know there are some very smart people that might call this guy the best fighter in history.”—Iceman John Scully
Exclusive Interview by Geoffrey Ciani – Last night I was afforded the opportunity to speak with world class boxing trainer ‘Iceman’ John Scully about the current boxing landscape. Scully shared his views on Bernard Hopkins’ history making performance last weekend when he broke his own record to once again become the oldest boxer to win a major world title, this time at age 48, with his sensational victory against previously undefeated Tavoris Cloud. Iceman also provided unique insight into some highly anticipated upcoming prizefights, including Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero (May 4), the rematch between Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch and Mikkel Kessler (May 25), and the super bantamweight showdown between Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux (April 13). Additionally he imparted opinions pertaining to the careers of other boxing stars such as Wladimir Klitschko, Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, and more. Here is what Iceman had to say:
GEOFFREY CIANI: Iceman, this past weekend Bernard Hopkins at age 48 once again made boxing history breaking his own record in becoming the oldest fighter to win a major world title. What did you think of his performance?
JOHN SCULLY: I mean it literally spoke for itself. I mean it was spectacular. I actually just did a piece for a boxing news in England; I just submitted it yesterday. What I was saying was that the obvious things are very impressive. It’s impressive that he beats these younger guys, and he’s still fast, and he’s still so smart, and he’s in great shape, and that’s all well and good. But for me, I mean the amazing thing is, just as a man and as a boxer, when you compare him to the greats, the all-time, you know the Sugar Ray Leonard, the Marvin Hagler, all of these guys. I’ll give you an example, and to me it is a very interesting fact. Bernard has been at the championship level, his first championship fight was in 1993 against Roy Jones. So you’re talking twenty years, right? Twenty years, and that’s just at the championship level. Marvin Hagler’s entire career lasted fourteen years, ’73 to ’87. So he’s been at the championship level seven years longer than Marvin Hagler’s entire career total. Now when you look at it in those terms, I mean that will tell you what we’re looking at.
You look at guys like Sugar Ray Leonard when Sugar Ray was I guess 35 when he fought Terry Norris, and it was very obvious he was ancient. Muhammad Ali was 38, and to this day I have heard the term “ancient” used to describe him when he fought Larry Holmes. He literally looked like he was a 90 year old man. He couldn’t hold his hands up, he couldn’t walk straight, and then when he fought Berbick at 39 it was just terrible, like he had no physical skills or strength left. You take Duran, when Duran beat Iran Barkley, which I believe that was sixteen years after he beat Buchanan for the lightweight title, and at age, I believe he was 35 or 36. It was incredible! It was like how can this old guy beat this young, strong, power punching Iran Barkley? That’s all historic. Now Bernard comes along much older than any of these guys were, and he’s beating guys much more convincingly than they did. I mean Barkley and Duran had a great fight, you know a close fight razor tight; where Bernard comes along at 48 and he’s just schooling these guys. It’s just unheard of. It’s never been done before.
CIANI: Building on what you said there, the twenty year stretch at the championship level—when you look at Hopkins’ career, he actually crossed more than one generation where on one hand you can look at guys like Roy Jones, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley. Those guys were from one generation he fought in, but now he’s still fighting at the championship level in this newer generation where Mayweather and Pacquiao have been the elite fighters. When you compare him to both generations worth of great fighters, where do you think Hopkins figures into all of this historically?
SCULLY: He’s crossed all the lines! He’s right there. I mean another point that I put in my article, I believe it’s eight. He’s been twelve rounds eight times since forty, since he turned 40. Most fighters, championship fighters, don’t go twelve rounds eight times beginning when they are twenty. This guy has been twelve rounds eight times just since he has turned 40! When he was originally going to retire, if you remember, he was supposed to retire; he promised his mother he was going to retire. So he’s a guy, you know it’s like when he goes to the Hall of Fame, if they were to put a guy in by his era, he would have to be in probably three different eras. He just beat Tavoris Cloud. When Tavoris Cloud was beginning boxing, just starting his first day in the gym as a kid, Bernard was already a world champion. It’s just kind of insane. It’s never been done, and it’s probably going to eventually be done, it’s going to be a regular thing 30, 40, 50 years from now, and people will point to Bernard as being the first guy. Maybe Duran, and Archie Moore and those guys were the first glimpse of it, and now Bernard has taken it to a whole different level.
CIANI: Now that Hopkins beat Cloud, there is not a whole lot out there it seems for one of the guys who was commentating for HBO, Andre Ward. He’s considered one of the top pound-for-pound talents in boxing today. With him already having effectively cleaned out 168 and him having beaten Chad, considered the best at 175—do you think that Andre Ward going forward, is he going to have anybody on the radar that’s worth him fighting in order to maintain his status being an elite fighter?
SCULLY: I mean on the one hand it doesn’t look like it, but on the other hand there’s always somebody new. There’s always going to be a new guy. Somebody’s going to come out of an Olympic class; somebody’s just going to pop up somewhere. So yeah, I mean there’s going to be somebody interesting, and there’s guys out there like Cleverly and those different guys who, if they do something special over the next six, eight, ten months, then they’ll take their spot. They’re going to have to weed it out themselves and come up with somebody as a challenger, but there’s always going to be somebody.
And on that note I’ll say this: I was kind of surprised. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with Hopkins being adamant about, you know almost bowing to Ward, like kind of admitting that, “I don’t want to fight Ward”. A part of me just thinks that maybe it’s a ploy. Maybe there’s an outside chance this is just a ploy to draw interest, because I think Hopkins knows that if in a year from now, if he was ever to put it together and fight Andre Ward in the last hurrah, and if he was ever to win—you know there are some very smart people that might call this guy the best fighter in history based on that. You know I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I’m saying he’d make a case for something special there if he was ever to beat Andre Ward. So deep down I’m wondering if Bernard, if this is just a ploy, just him trying to manipulate the boxing game, using reverse psychology in drawing interest in that fight between the two of them.
CIANI: It’s funny you mention that, because a lot of fans are talking about that. As somebody who had a close look at both of those fighters within the last year, when you look at Hopkins and you look at Ward, in terms of what they’re capable of doing at this point, what were you able to see from your vantage point?
SCULLY: I mean I think Ward is going to be able to sustain the action for much longer periods of time. I felt like when we fought Hopkins, from watching him on tape, and I watched a lot of tape of him. I watched more tape of him than I watched of anyone that any of my guys ever fought, and I picked up a few things that I thought Chad could do good at, and they actually came to fruition in the second half of the fight. And that would go along with Andre’s overall program. So at this point I mean I can see why Hopkins could say that he wouldn’t be interested in the fight, but just as a fighter myself, I just find it hard to believe that Hopkins really in his heart believes that. I won’t be surprised if he wants that fight and is just trying to manipulate it.
CIANI: You know one of the guys, two of the guys actually that Andre Ward beat—Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch. They had their first fight together in the Super Six tournament, and it was widely viewed as the most entertaining bout of the entire tournament. On May 25 those guys are squaring off again. Kessler won a close decision the first time out. What do you think about this rematch, John?
SCULLY: It’s a great fight, one reason being because both guys know that the winner is right back in there with Ward, most likely. I mean that would seem to be the most obvious thing, so they’re fighting for the chance at redemption with the elite guy. So that’s going to make for heavy, heavy action. At this point I mean I think Froch is really on a roll. I mean he did as well as anyone, probably better than anyone has done against Ward, and I think in a crazy way he actually uses that in his favor. He’s using that as motivation, as sort of a confidence builder, like the fact that he was able to do so well against such a great fighter probably bodes well for his chances in this fight. I would favor him.
CIANI: Now when talking about all these guys at 168-175, where do you personally feel Chad fits into this coming off of the most difficult fight of his career?
SCULLY: Well I mean it’s very clear to me that despite them trying to say that the weight wasn’t issue, it was clearly an issue because he’s never going to fight at 168 again. So that’s out. So he’ll have to deal with 175. For me, I mean it’s just going to come down to one simple thing, and that’s going to be how did the loss affect him? Like you take Donald Curry when he lost in the manner that he did to Lloyd Honeyghan with the weight loss being a factor and the beating that he took, he never fully, fully recovered. He never because the Donald Curry again, even though he was successful after that. He never maintained what he was. So basically I mean it’s going to depend on Chad’s physiological and mental make-up to see if he can recover. I mean better guys than him have not recovered from this type of circumstance.
CIANI: Changing things up here, May 4 Floyd Mayweather Junior returns to the ring and he will be facing Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero. Like all Floyd fights, he’s got the fans talking. What are your early thoughts on this one?
SCULLY: You know we live in a crazy era. It used to be where if a featherweight champion moved up and fought the pound-for-pound guy at welterweight, I mean back in the 80s that would have been like Eusebio Pedroza or Barry McGuigan moving up to fight Sugar Ray Leonard, and you just know Sugar Ray would annihilate those guys! There would be no question about it. But now with the way that people move up in weight so frequently, you know the old adage of ‘a good big man always beats a good little man’, that’s been blown away. That’s not true anymore. So at first glance I would say Guerrero is just not big enough, and this is a stupid fight, it’s like pointless in watching. But seeing past history with other guys recently and seeing his history, you know his fight with Berto, he’s as viable as anybody at 147. He’s right there. Whatever he did to make that weight, he made the jump. I mean he made the jump better than guys like Alexis Arguello. As great as they were they couldn’t even do it, and here this guy comes along and other guys too in recent times. I don’t know if it’s evolution or whatever it is, but I think it’s a good fight. I don’t pick anybody in the world to beat Mayweather. If Mayweather’s at his best I don’t see anybody beating him, but Guerrero will be right there with him just as anybody else at that weight would be.
CIANI: Now for Floyd it looks as if he will be reuniting with his father after having been trained in his professional career a long time by his uncle. Do you think this is something that could potentially either have a positive or an adverse effect on his performance with that switch?
SCULLY: I mean I don’t think it’s going to matter. To be honest with you, at this stage of the game I think Floyd is so advanced and so smart, he does what he does. I think you can put any one of ten top trainers in his corner for this fight, and whatever is going to happen is going to happen the same way. I don’t think his father at this stage, I mean Floyd’s 35; at this point I don’t think his father is going to have much influence. He’s not going to teach him something he doesn’t already know. I would say maybe he’ll have him doing things that he hasn’t been doing, but there isn’t much he hasn’t been doing in his fights. I mean he’s the total package, so for me I think the father’s there basically as a marketing tool to kind of draw a different angle to the fight and that will be interesting for people, but as far as the actual fight I don’t think it’s going to make any difference whether he is there or not.
CIANI: You know it’s still difficult to mention Floyd’s name without mentioning Pacquiao’s, despite the fact it looks as if we may never get that matchup. With the way Pacquiao’s last fight went down with Marquez, where do you think Pacquiao and Juan Manuel both go from here? Do you think a fifth fight is a logical direction for both of them, or would you prefer to see them ultimately go off in different directions?
SCULLY: You know I don’t think there is much else for them to do other than fight each other, to be honest with you. I think they should. And people can say, ‘Oh I don’t want to see them fight’—they’re going to watch! If those two fight again, just from sheer curiosity people are going to watch. They’re going to want to see it, and for me I think it’s the end of Pacquiao personally. At his age and having been stopped, as I said a few months ago—people say should he get rid of Freddie Roach? Is he the problem? Is this the problem? Is that the problem? And I think the problem is he’s been a pro for I think 17 years, he’s had 60-something fights, he’s been a champion, he’s a multi, multi-millionaire—I mean that’s the problem. This is not a 22 year old guy who’s still learning the game. I mean this guy is well past his best days, and it is what it is. Age catches up with people; time catches up with people. I don’t think it’s Freddie. They can get rid of Freddie and whatever is going to happen is still going to happen. I mean I don’t blame Freddie at all for what happened, especially when you get caught with a shot. I’m sure Freddie didn’t tell him to leave his head there and run into the right hand.
CIANI: This Saturday a guy who officially holds a victory over Pacquiao, a disputed one, in Timothy Bradley—he’s coming back to the ring for the first time since that fight to take on Ruslan Provodnikov. Do you see any surprises in this one?
SCULLY: To be honest I’ve never seen his opponent fight, the Russian. I’ve never seen him fight. I think the fact of the matter is with Bradley, and it sucks for him, but he has a lot to prove because the fact is, and it’s no secret—a lot of people thought he lost that fight with Pacquiao. He has not gotten the credit he deserves, so even though he’s fighting a guy that’s very unknown, he needs to go out there and really, really make a statement and put on a really exciting show to follow up his disputed victory over Pacquiao. He cannot have a subpar performance. So there’s a lot of pressure on him to look good against this guy, because if he doesn’t look good against a guy that most people have never heard of, that’s not going to help his situation at all.
CIANI: Now there’s another fight coming up in April, John, I just wanted to get your views on quickly, and that is one that I’m personally looking forward to—Nonito Donaire is taking on Cuban fighter Guillermo Rigondeaux. This is viewed by fans as the toughest test for either fighter to date in their professional careers. How do you see this one playing out?
SCULLY: Well I’ll tell you one thing: I’ll be there! I’m definitely planning on making the trip over to New York City for that fight. That will tell you, because I don’t travel as much as I used to for fights like that, but that one really draws my interest. I think it’s going to be very exciting. It’s a super fight that people don’t know is a super fight. To me it’s going to be better and more electric than even Pacquiao and Mayweather was going to be, as far as the actual in the ring action. I think it’s a great fight! For people who like boxing or they’re not sure about boxing, if you have friends that aren’t sure if they like boxing have them watch this fight. I think the excitement of it and the showmanship and then the actual fight I think is going to be special. The electricity in the air is going to be special. And I hate to pick a winner. I think it’s a pick’em fight in many ways, but if I had to pick I’d probably go with Donaire. I think Donaire is a little more textbook, a little sharper with his punchers, and a little bit more accurate, and I would go with him. But I think a victory by either guy wouldn’t shock me at all.
CIANI: Now John, there’s one more topic here I’d like to cover with you quickly. Coming up in May, Wladimir Klitschko has a new opponent set. It’s actually the same day Floyd’s fighting. He’ll be taking on an undefeated heavyweight named Pianeta. When you look at the Klitschko brothers right now, Wladimir in particular, do you see anybody out there that you think can give him trouble in the foreseeable future?
SCULLY: Not at all. I mean as long as he and his brother, as long as they both stay as focused and go through that preparation as they do, and come prepared 100%, there are just no known limits, age-wise, condition-wise. You know I was in the gym with Wladimir a couple of years ago, and I was really amazed by his body. There’s not an ounce of fat on the guy, and he’s just ripped—just totally ripped. I’ve never seen a heavyweight like that, and he obviously puts the time in the gym, and between fights he stays sharp, and with his size, and his jab, and his power—there’s nobody out there right now that I can see beating him.
CIANI: When you think of it in a greater context and you look at Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Larry Holmes, Marciano, and other great heavyweights in history, where do you think Wladimir belongs in the discussion and does he belong in the discussion at this point?
SCULLY: Oh without a doubt! And people don’t want to give credit, and it’s been like this for all of history. I’m sure in the 70s people and fans said that Joe Frazier and Jimmy Young and those guys couldn’t have lasted in the 60s and the 50s, and in the 80s they said it about the 70s, and in the 90s they said it about the 80s. You know the guy, I mean Wladimir Klitschko is a giant, his knockout percentage is off the charts. Not only is his winning percentage amazing for a guy with that many fights, for a heavyweight with that many fights, but his rounds of winning percentage is unbelievable. I mean he probably won 90-95% of the rounds he’s been in. With his size, of course he’s right up there. And I mean I love Ali, Ali’s my guy 100%, but of course this guy is right there with him and with any of them.
I mean I think people don’t realize what we’re looking at. I mean if you put Joe Louis, and Rocky Marciano, and Joe Frazier, and stood them next to Wladimir Klitschko you would be amazed by how small these guys were. It would be mind-boggling for a lot of people. They would say these guys aren’t heavyweights; these guys are middleweights. They’re not the same size. I mean I was in camp with Klitschko, I had Matt Godfrey a cruiserweight, and Matt at the time weighed about 215 or 220. He was sparring with Klitschko, and every day they sparred I just said to myself this is amazing. Matt looks like a child next to him. Not that Matt didn’t do well, but he just looked like a child next to Klitschko. The size difference was astronomical, and Matt at that time was taller and heavier than Joe Louis and Marciano.
CIANI: Well John, I want to thank you very much for your time. Before I let you go, is there anything else you would like to say to all the boxing fans out there and all the readers of East Side Boxing?
SCULLY: I just want to say again, as always, I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do this interview. I’m honored to do it, and I look forward to doing another one in the future.
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