Wearing a brand new glasses and with a big smile on his face – that’s how the Czech Republic’s most successful professional boxer Lukas Konecny (50-4-0, 23 KOs) approaches his American adventure (as well as his ultimate fight) against the local middleweight champion Peter Quillin (30-0-0, 22 KOs).
“Quillin’s still the big favorite, but I won’t give him anything for free. We’ve done some things in the camp, working on a specific strategy, so let’s see how it all pans out in the actual fight,” said the 35-year old fighter from Usti as he was waiting on the Prague Vaclav Havel Airport for his noon departure for Frankfurt. Once there, he’ll join his trainer Dirk Dzemski, and the two will then head straight for Washington D.C.
So Lukas, how did your training for the Quillin fight go? Were you satisfied with it?
I guess I can say I’m satisfied with it. Definitely with the weight, as this time, I was able to make it without any significant problems. I had some worries re: my eyes, but luckily, all the sparrings and training went OK, except maybe for two sparring sessions where I was a bit flatfooted. But as of now, everything’s okay. To be honest, I was expecting the camp to be a bit more complicated, fearing it won’t be as smooth as I wanted. But then again, I wasn’t entering it unprepared, as I’ve already had some training sessions behind me, even though there were still some kilos to shed for me, you know. But physically, I was feeling very good. In other words, I wasn’t really struggling with it. Currently, I don’t even feel any significant exhaustion, which I usually do at this time of my pre-fight preparations. So if there’ll be any excuses from me after the fight, then it will definitely not pertain to my preparation before the fight, as in my opinion, there really weren’t that many things which we could do differently in the camp.
Right now, you’re already well inside the middleweight limit. How come that, even without your beloved diet boxes, your weight has been decreasing so rapidly in the camp?
I don’t know. I’ve tried some new things like green coffee or stuff like that. I’ve also got some new protein drinks, which they made exclusively for me after I did those blood tests over in Germany. But I guess that the main reason for not having to worry with my weight before this fight lies in my mindset. You know, it’s my last fight as a boxer, so if you add my age as well as my experience, it all fits together. I guess that, at 35, I’m a bit wiser than before. Who knows?
I’d say it’s also because your wife’s doing pretty well in the kitchen…
Definitely. She’s been cooking me a lot of good, dietary stuff. But then again, even during these last days, I could afford myself a “normal” food. For example yesterday, when I was arranging my US visas in Prague, I had a nice beef steak with grilled vegetables. Back home, I also had two dinners in my pub, which I’ve originally planned to have no sooner than after my arrival from the US. All in all, it didn’t affect my weight even in the slightest, so in the meantime, I could also afford myself a beer or two.
You’ve mentioned your mindset going into this fight – which, as we now know, will be your last one. How much did this thought affect your preparations?
Well, I was thinking a lot about it. It’s a big relief for me. A relief that I’m definitely welcoming and looking forward to. Of course, there’s that big question of what will follow next, how I’ll be able to feed myself and my family? But I believe I’ll make it. It’s an inevitable decision that will sooner or later occur in everyone’s life. And I’m looking forward to it. To exchange all these hard training sessions for my time with my family and children, enjoying the fact that I can plan our holidays beforehand, without any stress.
So is this your definite decision? Don’t you still have some doubts?
No, I haven’t any. I’ve already thought about this for quite some time, but up until now, I wasn’t decided to call it a day – despite all these health issues which I had. In the end, I got this opportunity to fight against Quillin, which is really a fitting way of how to end my boxing career. If I’m able to come out of it as a victor, and, so to speak, finish my career on the top, then all the better. You can bet I’ll do everything in my power to make this wish come true! But you know, there’s also the financial aspect, so I’ll most probably think twice how to spend my money should I emerge victorious from this fight. In other words, if it’s a big purse, then it will probably make me contemplate the eventual prolonging of my career. But then again, what do you call a big purse? I myself don’t quite know it.
Originally, you’ve planned to do some training sessions in Slovenia, but eventually decided to train in Germany. Why?
Due to several reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t matter to me whether I book a hotel room in Germany or Slovenia – as long as I’m alone there, without my family and without any stress and distractions, I’m fine with it, because I can then fully concentrate on my training. Secondly, I still hadn’t my visa sorted out, and since I didn’t know when they’d call me to have these conversations, it wouldn’t be ideal for me to break up my camp and quickly return from Slovenia to Prague. In the end, they called me on Thursday, and frankly, it was bit of a stress for me, but I knew that, even if they hadn’t granted me the visa immediately, it wouldn’t be that much of a problem for me as I’d simply fly over to the US a bit later than planned. But the people at the embassy were very kind to me. After undergoing the initial conversations, I dropped by in one of the nearby restaurants for a dinner, and when I returned back, they told me that everything’s OK.
Prior to your training camp, you’ve said to me that the odds for winning this fight were 80 percent Quillin, 20 percent you. Do you still feel the same now?
I’d say yes. Quillin’s the clear favorite here, there’s no doubt about that. Now it is all about making his life in the ring as hard as possible, and also about getting myself properly accustomed to the local timezone and surroundings. I’ve already received the fight-week schedule, so I can now tell you that the weigh-in, for example, will be on Friday at 1:00 p.m., which I’m really happy for as I’ll have more than enough time to rehydrate.
You said 20 percent. Where do you think you could find those 20 percent that will ensure you the victory?
Hard to say. It’ll be a clash of two different fighting styles. Quillin’s not used to box guys like me, but the same can be also said vice-versa, so it’ll all go down to who can cope with the circumstances better. Quillin’s not exactly a defensive master, but he can compensate that with his fast reflexes. I on the other hand can rely on my defense, but have difficulties when facing quick boxers. Will be interesting to see how it all turns out…
Do you fancy your chances of winning this fight on points?
I think so. All in all, the judges in the US are a lot fairer than here in the Europe, so why not? For example, if I was fighting Dzinziruk in the US and he was the home fighter, I’m pretty much sure the local judges would’ve given me the victory. If it’s a close fight, though, I can’t expect any helping hand, that’s clear. But if I give him a sound beating, I guess they’ll give me the victory.
For the first time in a long time, you’re entering the ring as an outsider. Do you consider this as an advantage?
It’s a nice and welcomed change for me, as I’ll enter the ring totally relaxed, not having to bear any great burden of expectations. But then again, I always have big expectations when in the ring, as I don’t want to disappoint myself by enduring some brutal beating or any such embarrassment, you know. So even though I’m not the favorite against Quillin, there’s still going to be some pressure. Pressure to win, to not disappoint myself, my wife, my fans, my trainer. So the expectation to do well is still there, even when the current scenario is a bit different to where I was prior to my previous fights.
Do you have any doubts of not getting properly accustomed to the local surroundings, timezone, etc.?
That shouldn’t be a problem for me. Compared to our timezone, there’s a six-hour delay in Washington, and as far as I know, we’re planning to arrive there sometime around 10:00 p.m. I’m not quite used to sleeping when flying on a plane, so once I’m in Washington, I’m going to bed ASAP and sleep all the way till the morning, which will be the most ideal scenario for me. I’ve already travelled outside the Europe and can indeed confirm that it wasn’t easy to cope with the time delay, but eventually, I could deal with it. I guess we’ll have more than enough time to get properly acclimatized to Washington as we’re flying there a couple of days in advance.
I see you’re now wearing glasses. How fitting do you think this new image is for you?
Everyone’s saying I’m looking more intelligent with it. So you see how easy it is – just put some glasses on your face and you’re immediately an intelligent man (laughs).
But seriously, I suppose you’ve done this to protect your eyes, am I right? Are these some special type of glasses without diopters? I guess you won’t be able to wear them when in the ring, will you?
You’re right, but I’m not going to tell you any details as I haven’t checked it yet. What’s important for me is that I’m now able to see things better. I wear them even when running, and as for the inability to wear them in the ring, well, it’s not as if I was to spend my whole life in it, so it’s okay. But the other reason I’m happy when wearing glasses is because a lot of women are now telling me how good I’m looking with it. I’ve also heard compliments from some men, but you know, it’s not the same as if you were to hear it from a woman (laughs).
So with a new, more intelligent look, do you plan to box more intelligently as well?
We’ll definitely try some new things vs. Quillin, but naturally, I won’t be telling you much about that. Compared to my previous fights, I’ll have to box differently, but you know, I, like every other boxer, have my style and skills, so there are certain things on my ring appearance which you simply can’t change and omit. So don’t expect some drastic changes. We’ve prepared some strategy which we plan to use from the beginning, but if it won’t work the way we wanted, I’ll most probably revert to my usual approach.
In one of your interviews with the Czech Television, you’ve said that your biggest fight in the amateurs was at the World Championships in 1999 in Houston, where you fought a certain Cuban boxer for the bronze medal. Now you’re again in the States, and even though Quillin currently owns an American passport, he actually has Cuban ancestors…
Well, that’s correct. And it’d be really interesting. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve originally asked me which fight or fights from my career I remember the most, so if I could now add this bout vs. Quillin to that Houston fight as well, it’d also mean that it ended in a success. I’d be more than glad to say this once I’m back at home!
Speaking about the Cubans, they’re notorious for falling in love with the American fast-food once they’re in the States. Do you have some doubts you’ll fall in love with it as well?
I hope I won’t (laughs). But seriously, one week is too little to have any kind of addiction, so I won’t be that tempted to have a try. To be honest, I’d rather try some healthier stuff, even though I have to admit that I’m not in any way shy of the fast-food when at home. I suppose in the US, they’re having all kinds of this stuff and then some. But anyway, I’ll do my best to keep my taste buds in check, so if there’ll be some feast, it’ll probably be no sooner than when I’m back at home with my wife.