Exclusive Interview by Geoffrey Ciani – I was recently afforded the chance to talk with boxing trainer ‘Iceman’ John Scully, who is training light heavyweight champion ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) for his upcoming big match this Saturday night against super middleweight champion Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KOs). Scully talked about training and preparation, and also shared his views on the fact this fight will be contested at the 168 pound limit, a weight Dawson last made for a professional fight more than six and a half years ago. Iceman also provided his opinions on Ward as a fighter, the fact the fight will be in Oakland, and the upcoming match-up itself when these two elite talents square off. Here is what Scully had to say.
GEOFFREY CIANI: Hello everyone. This is Geoffrey Ciani from East Side Boxing, and I am joined by boxing trainer ‘Iceman’ John Scully. How’s everything going, John?
JOHN SCULLY: Spectacular! I’m very glad to be here.
CIANI: Good. Good to hear. Now you have the big fight coming up this weekend. Chad Dawson is going down to 168 pounds to face Andre Ward. How do you feel about Chad’s training and preparations for this fight?
SCULLY: I’m pretty excited about, and as I always say, when I’m training a boxer, especially at this level, I really go off the fighter. You know I see their mood, and how they look, and what their conditioning looks like. A lot of guys will say they feel good, but I’m looking at them and I’m saying well I don’t necessarily think you’re looking as good as you say you do. But Chad is so sharp and he just feels good. He’s really upbeat. You know most fighters when they get close to a fight they start to get moody and everything. He hasn’t even reached that stage yet, which is kind of surprising for a fight of this magnitude. I was expecting him to be a little bit more on edge and that type of thing, but he’s been really good and he’s very confident. So that makes me even more confident.
CIANI: Now the story of this fight is the weight: 168 pounds. It’s a weight that Chad hasn’t fought at in years. As his trainer, are you comfortable with the way Chad got down to 168 and do you expect him to be as effective as he was last time out against Hopkins?
SCULLY: I believe so. I mean my thing is this: He hasn’t shown any signs during the training of any slowing down. We run this mountain. People familiar with Las Vegas will know Red Rock Canyon and they’ll certainly know Mount Charleston, which are very tough runs, especially Mount Charleston. He breezes up these mountains like nothing. It’s amazing. You know I’m his boxing coach and his trainer, but he has his own personal nutritionist and strength coach, and he’s been in charge. He is in charge of the weight and I confer with him. I just talked to him about fifteen minutes ago. I keep conferring with him and I’m getting constant updates. He keeps telling me that there’s no problem, and based on the way Chad talks and looks, it doesn’t appear there’s a problem at all.
CIANI: Now let’s talk about the opponent you have in the opposite corner: Andre Ward. When you look at him, how do you evaluate his skills and do you view this as the toughest challenge in Chad’s career?
SCULLY: I would say it’s his toughest challenge. I mean Hopkins was obviously a huge challenge. Hopkins had me more than a little, I wouldn’t say “worried”, but I was leery of what Hopkins was capable of and his mental tricks. But Chad overcame everything. Andre’s similar to Bernard in style and tactics I guess, but he’s also very willing to fight and rumble. One difference between him and Hopkins is he doesn’t kill as much time. He doesn’t kill the clock as much. He’s always looking to let his hands go. Even when there’s no action, he’s always in a position where he’s trying to do something. So I respect that a great deal, and I’ve certainly drilled that into Chad’s head that this is a kid who can lull you to sleep and then all of a sudden! For example, in a lot of fights he actually makes it where he kind of initiates a clinch, but before the clinch actually gets carried out, he lets go a real sharp jab and a right hand, a little fast right hand. I’ve seen him catch a few guys with that. So we’re going to be very alert and very aware of the little things that he does that are so good.
CIANI: The last time we saw Ward in the ring was in the Super Six Finals against Carl Froch. What did you think of him in that fight?
SCULLY: Well, you know, he did what he had to do. He negated Carl Froch quite a bit. He kept Carl Froch guessing and thinking with little feints and the whole thing, and he disrupted Carl’s rhythm quite a bit. So it was good. Tactically and technically he did what he had to do to win, and he was very successful obviously.
CIANI: Now this is a pretty long break for Andre, last having fought in December. Do you think that he might display any ring rust that might be something Chad can take advantage of, particularly in the earlier rounds of the contest?
SCULLY: Well I mean you would hope so, but this is a kid who had a ton of amateur fights and has had some very high profile pro fights. I get the impression that he’s a dedicated kid. He’s probably working out between fights, he’s probably playing other sports and running, and I’m sure he keeps his weight as decent as possible. So I don’t think ring rust is going be a really significant problem for a guy like Andre Ward. For other people it might, but I think Andre’s the type of kid who keeps himself in shape between fights. You know he’s a professional. So I don’t really think so. I think maybe Chad’s style more than the ring rust might create some apprehension for Ward in the beginning. Hopefully it will be a combination of the two, but I wouldn’t count on it.
CIANI: The vibe I’m getting from looking at the boxing message boards and things like that, people seem to be giving a slight edge to Ward in this fight. And I would even note, after this weekend when Gennady Golovkin scored an impressive victory over Proksa, they were even talking about, Max Kellerman and him afterwards, a potential fight against Ward in the future for Golovkin as if it was a foregone conclusion that Ward will beat Chad this weekend. Do you think that people are writing Chad off a little early in this one?
SCULLY: Yeah, I mean I’ve seen that. I’m actually not necessarily surprised on message boards. I mean you never know who’s actually doing the talking there. It could be a fifteen year old kid in the basement somewhere, but when you have it on a broadcast like that with a guy like Max, it’s kind of surprising that they would dare to overlook a guy like Chad. I just wonder if some of these people have ever actually seen Chad fight before. I mean Chad is not a guy you can just overlook. He’s got a stellar resume and I’m surprised. I’m actually very surprised.
CIANI: Sticking with Golovkin for a minute here, I’m wondering if you got to see that fight this past weekend and what you thought of his performance, because he seems to have gotten boxing fans talking when there was a pretty long stretch there where there weren’t too many big fights and there wasn’t a lot of buzz in the boxing world?
SCULLY: To tell you the truth I did not get a chance to see the fight, but I do know that there is a lot of buzz about this kid. I have seen that online and a lot of boxing fans that I’m friends with are really talking about it. So I’m actually anxious to see what he’s all about.
CIANI: Now back to Chad, do you have any reservations about this fight being in Oakland and does that give any added pressure to you and your team going into this?
SCULLY: I mean of course! It would be foolish to say otherwise. You have to have some reservations about it, but at the same time I can’t really change the game plan so much because of that. I have to count on the judges being fair and everything like that. We just need to fight our fight. I’m sure if we have a very close round I will bring it to Chad’s attention that we maybe need to push a little harder and not have too many close rounds. Unfortunately that’s the situation we’re in. The only thing I can say is I hope that it will cause us to fight harder and push with a little bit more urgency, especially in the close rounds. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is and it’s a natural thing for it to be that way.
CIANI: The thing that impressed me most about Chad in his win over Hopkins was how well he seemed to respond to your instructions in between rounds. Especially there were moments I thought in some of the earlier rounds approaching the middle rounds, where Hopkins was playing the role of a spoiler in that he seemed like he may have been getting in Chad’s head a little bit.
SCULLY: I am actually, believe it or not, I’m 100% confident. It’s a funny thing. We seem to just have a connection on fight night, and this goes back to when we trained him in 2004 and 2005. I seem to have a way of connecting with him and he listens. I noticed that, too. In the early rounds I thought Hopkins was starting to get through with a little bit of his razzle-dazzle, and he was starting to lull Chad into something. I was able to break Chad out of that. Yeah. I definitely noticed that, and I really have no doubts that I’ll be able to keep Chad focused. If there is one thing that I do have with Chad Dawson, it’s a connection on that level where he seems to trust me and I seem to know what buttons to push. So I’m pretty confident on that end.
CIANI: What do you think is the most important thing Chad needs to do to be victorious this weekend?
SCULLY: I mean for me, it’s just like always with him. He just needs to fight his fight and be himself. Just be Chad Dawson, because one thing I noticed about the other guys that fought Andre, they weren’t themselves, and I’m sure Andre had a lot to do with that. He’s a good fighter. He’s got a way of shutting these guys down and stopping them from fighting their fights. Chad needs to step up and implement his game plan, and implement his presence. I think with his athleticism, and his skills, and his size, I think he’s going to be able to do that. I really picture him being able to do that, especially much better than the other guys have been able to. So I think that’s probably one of our biggest edges going is that I think Chad’s going to be able to implement his style more than some of Andre’s recent opponents.
CIANI: You said earlier that you did view this as the toughest challenge in Chad’s career. On the flipside, do you also view this as the toughest foe that Andre Ward has ever faced?
SCULLY: Oh I definitely do! Not just skill-wise, but size-wise, and the range, and all of the physical attributes—Chad has proven time and time again that he is a problem, not just skill-wise but physically. So yeah, I would say that it’s pretty clear that Chad is Andre’s toughest opponent.
CIANI: John, do you have an official prediction for the fight this weekend?
SCULLY: I always say I would never bet my life on anything. Boxing is a crazy thing and anything can happen, and I respect Andre Ward a great deal. I know he is a very capable guy, but my feeling is that we’ve done our homework and the one thing I’ll say, Chad has never in his life trained this long at this intensity for a fight. I can tell you other fights in his career when I wasn’t training him, but he’s told me how for title fights he trained slightly over three weeks. That’s insane, and he won the fights obviously! For this fight he’s putting in the time and the work. He understands who he’s facing and he did the work that was applicable. So I just see him winning. I really do.
CIANI: John, for my final question, is there anything else you would like to say to all of the boxing fans out there and all of the readers of East Side Boxing?
SCULLY: I can only say I just appreciate the honor of being interviewed and being on the site, and I hope the fans enjoy the interviews and I hope they enjoy the fights!
CIANI: Great! John, as always, it was an absolute pleasure speaking to you. I know personally, me myself, I can’t wait for this fight this weekend. I wish you and Chad the best of luck!
SCULLY: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.
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