By Dan Emicus
Having previously been an Australian football player, what made you want to switch to boxing?
I really enjoyed Australian rules football and it is the most popular sport by far in Australia, so I was surrounded with it. However, when I first saw some tapes of Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, I became obsessed with boxing. While I was a natural at most sports, boxing was not something that came easily, but I was determined to do it.
It’s been said that you idolised Mike Tyson. Was it the explosive KOs, or did you also come to admire him stylistically?
He was the first fighter I became a fan of and you can’t deny he was exciting. The heavyweights were the ones I wanted to see. Not the little guys who looked like school girls in a slap fight compared to Tyson fights back then.
You only had 11 amateur fights before turning professional. Was there any reason in particular for wanting to get straight into the pro game as opposed to picking up more amateur experience?
It wasn’t easy getting fights as a teenager because we simply don’t have many registered boxers in Australia. To make matters worse, I was always bigger than most my age. From the age of 16 I was often fighting guys with much more experience, or I fighting adults. I got sick of it and hated the dieting since it left me feeling so weak and drained all the time. I retired aged 19 from competition because I wanted to focus on weight training and build my body into a heavyweight wrecking machine.
In terms of your progress as a prospect, which fight(s)would you say you’ve taken the most from and why?
For most of my early fights I was very nervous, so I just couldn’t relax and use my skills. I aimed to finish fights as soon as possible, but as I got more experience, I learned to use my skills and take my time like a real professional. My fight with Ed Mahone in 2008 was a huge turning point for me stylistically and it gave me a lot of confidence to finally relax and enjoy a fight. It was such a big moment for me being a fan of Ed Mahone and it felt like I finally got to prove something to the countless people that thought I was an idiot to turn professional.
What would you say is your favourite part of training when in camp?
I have been in a few different training camps in America, but my training typically takes place in my garage back in Australia. My favourite part is when you feel yourself jump to the next level. When you only focus on something and have no distractions, it’s impossible not too improve. I think I made huge improvements when I was sparring and training with Mike Mollo at the Don King training camp in Orwell, Ohio, USA. It’s Amish territory and there is nothing to do there but train and rest. I also learnt a lot by being around Sergio Martinez in the gym and running the mountains for two training camps in Oxnard, California in 2010 under the tutelage of WBC trainer of the year, Gabriel Sarmientio. Sergio’s attitude and mental strength is the reason he is a success. It was such an honour to train alongside guys like him.
You did of course suffer a setback very early on in your career in the form of a stoppage loss to John “Digger” Wyborn. What do you feel was the reason for this defeat against such an opponent?
He was just a much better fighter than me at the time and he proved it. He has dropped a lot of big heavyweights and had even beaten UFC and K1 star Mark Hunt, so I knew he could punch. When he rained down repeated with right hands on my chin, I went down hard. Digger Wyborn is a really nice guy. He has kept in touch and always encourages me.
Did the loss make you question your future in the sport, or did it merely lead to adjustments made that paved the way for where you are today?
I knew I wasn’t good and was getting by with pure power when overcoming more experienced guys. I still felt like a novice due to having just a few fights as a pro and only 11 fights as an amateur before that. I knew deep down that I still had so much to learn and after the Digger Wyborn fight. It incited me to make some changes and go back to the drawing board.
Unusually for a heavyweight, you are renowned for being a very effective body puncher. Are these angles that just came naturally to you, or was it just something that was honed extensively as part of developing your style?
When I did my first sparring session at age 16, I got hit with a body punch that hurt so much that I decided I needed to use this weapon! I love to watch guys getting broken down by body shots and over the years I’ve learnt how to disguise them and sink them in. When I went to Guadalajara, Mexico, where I had been scheduled to fight before it was cancelled, I saw that the punches I love so much are a Mexican tradition. I really loved Mexico because wherever I went, the people were nice to me, just like they were in Oxnard, California, which is a nearly all a hispanic area.
Also uncommon for a heavyweight is the fact that you prefer to lead with a low left hand, throwing up-jabs, while also using shoulder rolls to defend against right hands and setup counters! When did you discover that you were comfortable with this stance? Do you feel it makes you a more fluid fighter, both offensively and defensively?
Every trainer I’ve ever had wanted to force a conventional style on me and I just never felt comfortable. When I started studying James Toney, Niccolino Locche, and Pernell Whitaker, I decided to use some of their moves and there was instant success. Every trainer in Australia has told me it doesn’t work, so I trained myself.
Comfortable on the backfoot, effective on the inside, quick hands, solid power with both hands, and good combination punching. It’s fair to say that you’re a very well-rounded fighter, even if unproven. Just how much do you relish the chance to be able to test your skills at world level?
It is something I have been asking my promoter Don King since 2007 when I signed for him. Back then it was the likes of Andrew Golota and Jameel Mccline, while now it’s the Samuel Peters and Bermain Stivernes of the division. I have always asked to fight his big name heavyweights, as he rarely puts his guys in with other promoter’s fighters if it’s not for serious money. I am not attached to that goal anymore as it’s beyond my control, so I will just keep busy and enjoy my boxing either way.
You expressed an interest in fighting Deontay Wilder recently. Is this because you see him as being an ideal name to potentially add to your record in light of his growing potential, or do you see things that you believe you would be able to exploit, or both?
We both have nice records and need to break into the next level with a credible opponent. Our managers have spoken and while we are both happy for it to happen, the promoters are seemingly not at this stage.
Main Event mentioned you as a prospective opponent for Byrant Jennings towards the end of last year. Despite the fact it fell through, is this a fight you see happening at some point in the future?
They made an offer and Don King said he wanted me to fight Samuel Peter instead, so it was rejected. Neither fight happened, but luckily my team organised a bout with Damon Reed to ensure that I wasn’t left on the shelf again.
Although you’re currently ranked #19 by the WBC, you’ve been ranked within the top 15/20 for a few years now. How frustrating is it that boxing politics has been the biggest obstacle in preventing you from having the opportunity to prove yourself against a fellow world ranked opponent?
It did really frustrate me, but lately, as I can’t control it, I have just tried to make sure I am fighting regularly. I got caught up waiting for big fights and before I knew it, I had missed over 2 years sitting on the bench. Now I want to keep busy, although lately some good offers have been coming our way and I keep forwarding them to Don King Promotions.
You picked up the WBC Asia Council Continental heavyweight title against Rob Calloway. Might other such titles be on the agenda in the future?
Fans complain that there are too many titles for fighters, but for those who are off the radar such as in Australia, it’s our only way to get ranked, so I would definitely like to keep winning regional titles.
You don’t currently have a fight scheduled as of yet. Is your next outing likely to be geared towards keeping you busy, or might there be a possibility of an exciting announcement soon?
I am going to spend some time training and fighting in Europe this year. My first fight is going to be in Germany on April 20th. I just want to fight every month if possible and see as much of the world as I can. Boxing has already taken me all around Australia, USA, Mexico, New Zealand, Indonesia, and soon Europe!
Any message for supporters and critics alike?
Thank you to everyone who takes a seat and watches the Mark de Mori show, whether you like it or hate it. This is my journey and I am so lucky to have the support of my sponsors Alan Burns, Ken Corfield, and Buel. They have given me the opportunity to see how far I can take this crazy ride. I appreciate all the support I get and it really does motivate me to keep pushing and not give up when I know I have so many people behind me.