OSCAR DE LA HOYA, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions: Welcome, everyone, to the Luis Ortiz, Tony Thompson and Sadam Ali and Jessie Vargas media conference call. These will be two exciting matchups taking place on March 5th at the DC Armory in Washington D.C.
Fresh from a stunning knockout of Bryant Jennings and obviously eager to continue his quest to be the best heavyweight in the sport, WBA heavyweight world champion, Luis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz will make his first title defense of 2016 when he faces former world title challenger Tony “The Tiger” Thompson who is 40-6 with 27 knockouts. It will be the main event in the 12-round fight for the WBA interim heavyweight title on March 5th.
Ortiz versus Thompson is presented by Golden Boy Promotions, in association with King Kong Boxing and Warriors Boxing Promotions.
Opening up the live HBO telecast on March 5th is the co-main event, top contender and 2008 Olympian Sadam “World Kid” Ali with a record of 22-0, 13 knockouts, will face former WBA super lightweight world Jessie Vargas who holds a record of 26-1 with nine knockouts. It’s a highly anticipated co-main event, and that will be for the vacant WBO welterweight world championship title.
The Ali-Vargas is a co-feature. I see it as a 50-50 fight. The fans are eager to see who will be victorious. And it’s always a pleasure to be co-promoting this event, this fight, with Top Rank, in association with Top Rank.
And at this moment I would also like to thank our event sponsor, Cerveza Tecate Born Bold. They’ve been a great new partner for us in 2016. I’m pleased to announce that the tickets are reasonably priced, starting at $25 all the way up to $100 for ringside seats, and you can get those tickets at ticketmaster.com.
The doors will open at the DC Armory at 3:00 p.m. Eastern and the HBO Boxing After Dark telecast begins live at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Pacific.
Obviously I’m very pleased and excited that these two incredible fights will be broadcast live on HBO, which is the best network for boxing. So now let me take this opportunity to introduce the president of Top Rank who will say a few words. We are pleased to be working with Top Rank and to put together this stacked event on March 5th.
TODD DUBOEF, President of Top Rank: Thanks, Oscar. Welcome, everybody, to the conference call. Obviously co-promoting this with Golden Boy and this fight for HBO is highly anticipated. The welterweight division is just so robust and deep with talent and seems like for the last decade it’s just been a slew of fighters young and established that have been going through there.
That’s what we will see in this semifinal, co-feature event on March 5th. As Top Rank, we’re the promoter of Jessie Vargas. Jessie is a former world champion, earned it the hard way.
He had to be encouraged to go into the ring, and fought in China against DeMarco. He won that. He then went for the chance to fight Tim Bradley, which was a very close fight. Some people thought Jessie was very disappointed in the last minutes of the round where he thought he had Bradley out, where he could have secured a victory.
He’s an action fighter. He’s always a gentleman. He’s classy. He’s managed by Cameron Dunkin. He’s the pride of Vegas, and he’s always held up in the gym late at night in Top Rank.
At this point I’d like to introduce Jessie Vargas so he can try to earn his second world title.
JESSIE VARGAS, Former World Champion and Number Four Contender for the vacant WBO Welterweight World Championship: Thank you, Todd. Good afternoon to everyone. First of all, I’m very thankful for this opportunity once again. And I want to thank Top Rank and everyone that made it possible. I’m glad to be back on HBO.
And as you said, I always come to give the fans great fights. I’m an action-packed fighter and this fight will be no different, if not more, because I’m very eager and very anxious to come back strong and reclaim that WBO world title.
I’m coming in with everything I’ve got, and I’m fully confident that I will come out victorious because of my preparation with my team. I’m also very thankful for the support that Top Rank has given me and that Top Rank will be in the house in Washington D.C. to see me win another world title.
What can I say, I’m excited. And I’m planning on making Sadam Ali quit. That’s my goal, and I plan to achieve it. I’m not going to stop pushing from beginning to end. I’ve conditioned myself. I’ve prepared myself for that fight to come in busy basically and not leave it up to the judges. Just win a clear, decisive fight. And to be honest, like I said, my goal is to win by a tail. That’s my ultimate goal. I’ve shown the power that I can do so. It’s all about going in the fight and giving it my all, and I plan on doing so.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Thank you. We can now ask the media, we can have a few questions for Vargas.
Q. Tell me about what Cooper is doing with you in the gym that will allow you to win this fight. You said to me a couple of weeks ago that you’ve known each other since you were a kid. Now that you’re a man and you’re fighting for a second world title, what’s he emphasizing in the gym with you? What’s he doing to make you believe you can win this fight?
JESSIE VARGAS: You know, just with him I’m throwing a lot of combinations, getting down on my punches, throwing the punches correctly. Just small things that needed correction and that we are putting together, just going back to the basics.
Ultimately, it’s always just about going back to the basics. But I’m feeling very comfortable more than anything because I’m throwing more punches than I ever have.
And that’s going to be needed in this fight, because we know that Ali is the type to run around and move around, and we’re going to hunt him down.
Q. For you, you’re obviously still motivated by what happened at the StubHub Center. How do you keep that from being a negative in terms of wanting to win this title so bad that maybe you forget the things that you did well that gave you the chance to win in California that night?
JESSIE VARGAS: Well, you know, it’s close to fire. I’m coming back with rage into this fight. I have that fire that I just want to destroy any opponent that’s in front of me, not wait until the last round or not let any second, any minute of the fight just go. I’m planning on fighting the entire fight.
And I’ve prepared and I’m prepared to do so. And that’s what matters. That’s what I’ve learned from that fight. And I plan to just stay busy.
Q. Following up on what Steve just asked you about working with Dewey in the gym, you’re with a new trainer again, and I’m wondering, I’m sure that there have been things you’ve learned from your different trainers, and obviously you’ve won a world title and become one of the top welterweights around. But I’m wondering your take on this: You’ve been a pro for eight years. He’s your sixth trainer by my count. What’s the deal with six trainers in eight years? It is highly unusual.
JESSIE VARGAS: Yeah, it is. Well, you know, situations that I was put in just led me to either split, more than anything, just split. I’ve learned from each coach, and I have nothing but respect for them. But things are complicated.
What can I say? One fighter — one trainer, unfortunately didn’t have the time for my camp, another trainer had to leave to be in training camp with another team while I was in training camp. And others, Robert Alcazar wanted to do training out of California, I was out of Las Vegas. So it’s just different things. With Roger, he was very sick, very ill. I wasn’t able to train with him any longer at that time.
So it’s just the situation that was put in front of me at the moment is the things that led me to making a decision switching up, either me or them. But I’ve learned from every trainer, I can say that. And I’m learning from Dewey as well. So that’s a big benefit.
Q. Obviously even having made a number of trainer changes over the last couple of years, you’re still 26-1. You’re still top-rated welterweight. You’re still a guy that won a world title. You’ve put in heck of a effort and performance against Tim Bradley. I wonder, if you would have had stability in your training camp, you know, like Pac has with Freddie Roach for 15 years or guys who stayed — Bernard Hopkins has been with the same trainer like since 2002, just stayed and got that familiarity and the repetition in the gym and really got in sync, how much better do you think you could be if you had that sort of continuity in your training camp, fight after fight for many years?
JESSIE VARGAS: Well, those fighters are fortunate to have that team that would stick with them or that they felt comfortable with. I unfortunately — not so much unfortunately, because I have learned from everybody, but I haven’t been put in that position just yet. Like you said, I’m still young.
So I’m still looking for the trainer that I’m going to settle down with and feel comfortable with. And I’m feeling comfortable with Dewey, I will have to say that, and I look forward to showing off what we are putting together.
I’m sure Bernard Hopkins, if he’s 40 now in 2000, I don’t know exactly what year that was, I don’t know if he was 26, 28, or 30 years old —
Q. He’s 51 now.
JESSIE VARGAS: All right. So eventually we find somebody at one age, and I’m very comfortable with Dewey Cooper. He’s putting in a great effort and he also wants to bring out the best in me because he had a close relationship with me. And I’m feeling very comfortable.
Q. Can you just walk me through a little bit about what happened at the end of last year where this fight was supposed to originally — or at least it was being discussed and offered to do on the December 19th card that HBO and Golden Boy put on up in Turning Stone in Verona, New York, and ultimately Luis Ortiz, who is going to be in the main event on your card here, ended up fighting the main event because you guys could not come to an agreement about where the fight would take place. Could you walk us through that as far as your camp’s view of not fighting in New York state even though Sadam Ali is hours and hours away from there? How did that — what was the story there?
JESSIE VARGAS: My trainer — I’m sorry, my manager, Cameron Dunkin, is the one who negotiated for all of the fights and all of the deals. As we were sitting down talking about the next fight, Cameron did advise about how a fight in New York could be against a fighter from New York. And it wasn’t something that we were very interested in, just because of from the past experiences how it’s been in a hometown, a fighter from the hometown having the hometown advantage in New York.
That’s why we just wanted any different site. Just not New York. And that’s what I have Cameron there for; he’s there to advise me and make sure that there will be success. And he and I are very much looking forward to this fight in Washington.
Q. Earlier in the call you mentioned that you were going to make Sadam Ali quit. I was just wondering what you’ve seen in him that leads you to believe that you could do that.
JESSIE VARGAS: He’s not on my level. And I’m here to show this on fight day. I’m here to prove that he’s not on my level. Of course I’m saying it, but I’m going to prove it that night as well. It’s just two different breeds, and March 5th I’m going to show it.
I’m very confident coming into this fight, you know what I mean? My strength is better than ever, my speed and how comfortable I feel in the ring. And I’m just having fun in there, and I’m going to have fun March 5th.
Q. Can you elaborate why you think he’s not on your level? What have you seen from him that leads you to believe that?
JESSIE VARGAS: He doesn’t have the experience I have. I’ve been in there with world-class fighters in the beginning of my career. I’ve beaten several undefeated records already, and I’m planning to do the same March 5th.
So, first of all, he doesn’t have the experience. He’s never had to really dig deep. He hasn’t been in those wars. And it’s something that he has inside that he’s going to — something that he hasn’t experienced, he will experience in this fight.
Q. His win over Abregu surprised a lot of people especially him stopping Abregu, what did you think of that performance?
JESSIE VARGAS: I thought he fought well. He was a young fighter, and it was an opportunity. And he fought well in that fight. Abregu was a top fighter, but he had also been on a long layoff before then. And he was an older fighter as well. Like I said before, he’s never experienced being in the ring with someone like me — young, hungry, strong, fast, in his prime.
He hasn’t faced any fighters like me.
Q. Were you surprised that he beat Abregu?
JESSIE VARGAS: I didn’t know how Abregu was going to come back. I thought it was going to be a good match. I did tune in to watch it. But he did surprise me that he did stop Abregu. But credit to him for that. But I did know the possibilities of fighting.
Q. You’ve always been a very measured boxer over your career, but for this fight seems like you’re promising more of an aggressive style. Is that correct?
JESSIE VARGAS: That’s right. I’m coming back with a vengeance. I want to come back strong and take what’s mine and come back to Vegas and celebrate over here.
Q. You seem very confident about being able to change your style, and I guess become more aggressive. Have you found that just through training camp that that’s been a pretty easy transition to become a lot more of an aggressive fighter than you have been in the past?
JESSIE VARGAS: I’ve always been aggressive. I’ve always stayed busy. My last fight wasn’t as busy as I usually have been in the past. But one thing that you just mentioned is that I’m very comfortable with how training camp is coming along, I’m very comfortable with the team, and it’s going to show a difference March 5th.
Q. I also wonder, Jessie, you and Sadam are around the same age. Do you guys know each other from the amateurs or have any amateur experience together at all?
JESSIE VARGAS: I believe I’ve seen him before. I’ve heard of him in the past. He’s one of those amateur boxers that used to run around a lot, run around the ring and try to score points. I have heard of him. I have seen him when we were young, when we were kids.
So I do know of him.
Q. You guys never faced each other, never sparred at all or nothing like that?
JESSIE VARGAS: No.
Q. Just from your describing Sadam Ali’s style, you think maybe he still has an amateur style, is that how you look at him?
JESSIE VARGAS: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, a friend of mine dropped him in amateurs and had him nearly knocked out. So I know his weaknesses, and I plan on working on that.
Q. Do you remember who that friend of yours was who dropped him in the amateurs?
JESSIE VARGAS: Yeah, it was — it was a Toronto fight, which I don’t remember who it was, it was here in the U.S. And there was another fight as well with Francisco Vargas. Francisco dropped him and that was like, I believe it was in the Olympics.
Q. Based on that, you’ve kind of gleaned some of his weaknesses and you think maybe you can take advantage of them?
JESSIE VARGAS: Based on what I saw in his clips, in his last couple of fights, based on what I’ve known from when we were kids, based on some of the fights that he had as an amateur, so I’m just putting it all together.
MODERATOR: Todd, can you talk about the fight and final comments?
TODD DUBOEF: Obviously you mean the matchup between two very — it’s a 50/50 fight. Both guys are established, and obviously Sadam Ali is trying to win his first title.
It’s going to be a — it’s a terrific division, again. And to have both of these guys in the division creating some buzz and putting on great performances will make bigger fights for them.
I won’t forget when Jessie and I had our conversation right before the Bradley fight. I said, Go get it. Go do the best you can. He said, I’m going to win. I’m going to win. I said, Well, even in defeat, even in winning, whatever you do, I said, you chew off those big matches, you’re going to make opportunities for you.
So this one is another opportunity. Even though he didn’t win the Bradley fight, we commend fighters that take fights, and both guys will put it all on the line.
So we look forward to meeting everybody and seeing everybody on March 5th on HBO and working with Golden Boy and everybody. It’s going to be a terrific night of fights.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Now it’s my pleasure to introduce to you team Sadam Ali. First off, I would like to introduce Sadam’s trainer to say a few words, and his name is Andre Roizer. Andre, do you want to say a few words to the media.
ANDRE ROIZER, Trainer to Sadam Ali: Basically we’re getting ready for this opportunity that we’ve been waiting for for some time. Sadam is working diligently at his craft. And you’re going to see the best Sadam Ali that you’ve ever seen.
We’re preparing to be victorious. We’re preparing to look like a million dollars, and we’re preparing to show the world that Sadam Ali is an athlete that should be reckoned with in this welterweight division, which is loaded with so much talent.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Now it’s my pleasure to introduce a former member of the 2008 United States Olympic boxing team and the first Arab American to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. “Brooklyn” Sadam Ali has been climbing the welterweight ladder since a big year in 2013. Ali has had back-to-back victories over Michael “Cold Blood” Clark where he won the NBAO title. He beat Jeremy “Hollywood” Bryan winning the WBO intercontinental welterweight title. He’s coming off that great victory over the tough and rugged and experienced Luis Carlos Abregu, defending his titles and giving the experienced fighter his second loss and Francisco “Chia” Santana we’re he earned the WBA international welterweight title.
So it’s my pleasure to introduce a fighter who boasts remarkable speed, incredible power, and I know he’s ready for this world title shot against former champion Jessie Vargas. So it’s my pleasure. He has a record of 22-0 with 13 knockouts. Sadam “World Kid” Ali.
SADAM ALI, Number One Contender to the Vacant WBO Welterweight World Championshi[: Good afternoon, everybody. I’m excited. First and foremost, I would like to thank God for this opportunity and for keeping me healthy. And I’d like to thank HBO, Golden Boy and the WBO for this opportunity.
This is a world title match, and what pro fighter isn’t looking for that? Who doesn’t want that? We’re all going to want it as bad. He’s going to want it bad. I’m going to want it bad.
This is my chance. This is my shot. He had his. Well, he has another one. That’s good for him. But I’m ready. I’ve been working hard. I’m ready to show everybody why I deserve to be in this position.
You all know me, I’m the humble guy. I don’t like to talk. I do the talking in the ring. People say I run. I say I box. I move. I fight smart.
And I’m ready to go out there get that WBO title and show everybody why I deserve to be where I am, and I will do that.
Q. Here’s a question for you. I know it’s a big deal for you just talking about the opportunity to win this world title belt against Jessie Vargas, but you were sitting in the mandatory spot for a while. I wonder if there’s any part of you whatsoever that is maybe a little bit disappointed that rather than fighting Vargas for a vacant title that you would have rather had an opportunity to fight Timothy Bradley to take the title off the champion. Obviously Timmy beat Jessie, is a much more well-known fighter than Jessie. Or does it not matter to you at all?
SADAM ALI: Timothy Bradley is a world champion and a great fighter. That opportunity would have been amazing. But I look at it like this: Everything’s in God’s hands. Whatever happens is meant to happen.
I don’t blame the decision that Bradley has to make. I understand. And in his position I would have made the same decision. So I don’t knock anybody for that.
I mean, God put me in the position to do what I have to do. This is the opportunity that comes across me, and my mind is officially focused on that.
Q. You’re not one to say that Tim Bradley was maybe avoiding you or ducking you, you understand the business of why he would go for a third fight with Pacquiao?
SADAM ALI: Yes, I understand the business.
Q. The last few wins you’ve had have been very good victories, like Oscar was mentioning. Santana was a tough fight on a big stage. Abregu was a tremendous performance. But you only had the one fight last year against Santana, been off for a while. I know they tried to make this fight with Jessie at the end of the year, didn’t work out. What are your thoughts about having just the one doubt last year as you head into a world championship fight?
SADAM ALI: It was a little frustrating, a little hard to get the fight going and figure out everything that’s been going on.
But I’ve been in the gym. I’ve been ready. I never took off and stayed out because I didn’t have a fight. So I’ve been ready. For some people they might think I haven’t proved to be on the top elite. But this is why I’m here. This is why I’m here to prove that. Jessie Vargas is a great fighter, but I am a great fighter.
And if anybody wants to underestimate me, then that’s fine. I’m just ready to go out there and show why I shouldn’t be underestimated.
Q. I think many people look at this fight, look at your record, look at his record, Todd Duboef was mentioning on the Jessie Vargas part of the call, basically a 50/50 fight between the two of you guys, at least in the minds of many of the media and the public. Whose resumé do you think stacks up a little stronger? You have the two really good, outstanding victories with your past two fights with Abregu and Santana and solid victory with Jeremy Bryant. And, on the other hand, he has a tough, competitive fight against Bradley that he lost but also victories against DeMarco who was a former world title holder, Novikov who was undefeated, Khabib who was undefeated where he took the title off him. Seems awfully close. I know you’re probably biased toward yourself, but if you step back whose resumé stacks up better at the moment?
SADAM ALI: We both are great fighters, but he has 26 fights. I have 22. So he had more fights than me. He had more opportunities. As for me, my resumé is going to get better and better. That’s the way I look at it. I’m not comparing myself to him or to who he fought. I know who I am. I know what I can do. And March 5th I’m going to show it.
Q. He said he’s going to make you quit in the fight, which it’s one thing for a guy to say he’s going to win or maybe get a knockout. You don’t hear too often, I haven’t heard too often in a long career, other fighters say I’m going to make the guy quit. What do you make of that? Why would he say he’s going to make you quit? Not beat you, but make you quit?
SADAM ALI: This may piss him off, but it makes me laugh. He’s really confident. That’s good. That’s the way a fighter should be. But make me quit, that is not an option for me.
Q. Sadam was kind enough to allow me to visit his gym last week, and some of the things we talked about included Sadam wants stringent PED testing for this fight. Sadam, I’m wondering if you have an update for us about testing for this fight with Vargas?
SADAM ALI: Well, of course, this is a very dangerous sport. And I just want everything to be fair on both sides. So I did offer that. The other side didn’t really want to go half and half with it, because the fighters have to cover something like this.
And so in this situation where I’ve got to handle the whole thing on my own. So I’m in the situation where I’ve got to decide that on my own.
Q. You’re going to go it alone and you’re going to pay for all the testing?
SADAM ALI: A final decision hasn’t been made. But most likely that’s what the thoughts are.
Q. Oscar, I’d like your assessment of Sadam. Especially pertaining to Jessie saying, yeah, he’s got an amateur style. I see Sadam being able to do pro and more of an amateur style. But I’d like your assessment. Where do you think he stands? Does he still have some amateur ticks in his game? I’d like your assessment and analysis of Sadam.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Sadam Ali is the perfect combination. I mean, he has the amateur pedigree, which is very, very necessary to become a world-class athlete, and that’s exactly what he is. He’s a professional fighter who has tremendous speed and amazing footwork and great power.
He demonstrated that against Abregu, a fighter who was coming forward, a fighter who has tremendous power, and Sadam Ali took care of business.
So, look, Sadam Ali is at the perfect moment in his life where this is his year and this is the perfect time to shine. And March 5th, against the great fighter in Jessie, it’s going to be a tremendous fight. But a lot of people, like Sadam said, underestimate his abilities and especially his power. I’m really looking forward to this fight.
Q. Sadam, following off some of the comments that Jessie has made and you’ve made in response, how important is it that you not only win this fight but win making a statement, win in impressive fashion? Is that the top of your radar?
SADAM ALI: Well, for sure. It’s important for the viewers. It’s important for everybody who doubted. It’s important for my career. It’s important for what I do after this.
I’m not looking past Vargas. But this is the biggest fight of my life right now. And I feel I’m going to say that every fight after this, because I feel every fight is the biggest fight of my life.
So this fight has a lot to do with what’s going to happen in the future.
Q. Is fan friendliness an important aspect of the fight to you? Is being fan friendly entertaining, an important aspect of the fight to you?
SADAM ALI: Being fan friendly?
Q. Fan friendly. In other words, being entertaining in the ring, putting on a good show. Is that also important to you?
SADAM ALI: Of course. That’s one of the most important things to me in boxing. Because, at the end of the day, we’re in there. It’s a dangerous sport. We put a lot just going into the ring.
But at the end of the day I like to perform for the viewers. I like to impress. I like to look special. So that is very important to me.
Q. Do you think Jessie is a little overconfident in this fight, judging by some of the comments he’s made about you on this call?
SADAM ALI: Well, honestly, I wouldn’t say overconfident, because he’s coming off the fight with Bradley. He feels it didn’t end like he wanted it to. He has a second chance at a world title fight. I don’t blame him for being this confident at all.
I mean, I wouldn’t say overconfident. You should be confident as a fighter. But I’m confident, too. I’m just not going to go around and tell the whole world. I’m going to show it in the ring.
Q. I’m also curious, just because I’m not really used to, I guess, hearing this type of like animosity from a fighter towards you, and I’m wondering just were you kind of caught off guard by it and maybe surprised that Jessie was, I guess, that dismissive of you as a boxer, just some of the comments?
SADAM ALI: I mean, it is what it is. People are going to doubt me or people are not going to think too highly of me. There’s going to be people like that. But that’s up to me to change their minds. That’s my job to do.
I don’t blame them. There’s different kinds of fighters, different types of attitudes. This is me. Like, this is not an act. This is how I’ll always be. This is who I am. And as I’m fighting I’m going to run into a whole different type of personalities, and this is just one. It’s no big deal to me at all.
Q. How do you see this fight unfolding? Do you see yourself winning a decision? Do you see yourself trying to stop him late? How do you envision this fight ending?
SADAM ALI: Honestly, I can’t call it. First and foremost, he’s saying he’s going to come — I don’t know if that’s how he’s going to come. I’m the type of fighter that’s ready for any type of style.
So if he wants to come to me, I have something for that. If he wants to stay outside and try to counterpunch, I have something for that.
So I don’t know how this fight is going to turn out. All I know, it’s going to be a great fight.
MODERATOR: Sadam, any final words you want to say to the press on this call.
SADAM ALI: First and foremost, I want to say thank you to the press. I appreciate the write-ups they do and the talk they keep about us fighters, because it’s very important to keep it out there and for the sport.
I want to also thank the viewers and everybody who is watching. Tune in. It’s going to be a great fight. And I will be the WBO champ, and I’m excited about that.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Thank you very much. The main event of the evening will be a heavyweight showdown. And I would like to take this opportunity to commend Tony Thompson and his team. Here you have a fighter who is experienced, a fighter who is from Washington D.C., American, who is ready to prove that he’s afraid of no one. He’s going up against “King Kong” Ortiz, and it is really a pleasure to be working with a fighter who can step up and face probably the most feared heavyweight in the division today.
So let me introduce to you to say a few words, and it is my pleasure to be working with, Leon Margules, president of Warriors Boxing. Here is Leon Margules.
LEON MARGULES, President of Warriors Boxing and Promotions: Thank you, Oscar. First of all, I’d like to thank HBO for the opportunity that Tony is getting, and I’d like to thank Golden Boy for the opportunities Tony is getting.
Tony’s been around many, many years. And he fears no one. While he’s not the youngest guy in the division, he’s been very active and he’s fought all over the world. I mean, in 2015 he knocked out Odlanier Solís, in 2013 he knocked out David Price twice, 2014 he beat Solís.
So he’s been around the world. And he’s lost a couple of close decisions like to Carlos Takam and to Pulev, but Tony is a well-traveled, well-seasoned, fought Klitschko twice, veteran who is excited, because I’m looking at Tony’s record, and I don’t think he’s fought many, many years if at all in his hometown of Washington D.C.
So this is like a dream come true and, of course, the bigger the challenge, the more motivated Tony is. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce world title contender, former world title challenger from Washington, Tony Thompson.
TONY THOMPSON, Former World Title Contender: Hello. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. How are you doing? Wonderful introduction. I’m just too tired to enjoy it. I appreciate the opportunity from HBO after, what, nine years, eight years. You should have had me back sooner, but we won’t get into that. But I appreciate the opportunity.
Like Leon said, I’m not the youngest guy in the sport but I’m probably still the hungriest guy in the sport. I don’t know how I’m going to be facing the most feared fighter, the most feared and tough fighter in the division, because that’s myself, so I can’t box myself. But I understand what you’re saying about your guy. It’s all good, baby. He won’t have no problem finding me, trust me.
Q. A lot of people would commend you for taking this kind of fight on relatively short notice. I can’t say I’m that surprised having followed your career for a long time. So let me ask you this, then: You get the fight on short notice. That’s not necessarily a good thing. But, on the other hand, you get a fight at home, where you haven’t had a chance to fight for a long time, and now all of a sudden you get an HBO main event in your backyard. Can you kind of balance the two out? Like on the one hand it’s short notice, but on the other hand you get to fight at home. Is one better than the other? I’m sure you’d rather have the fight with plenty notice in home, but how much does having it at home make up for the fact that it’s fairly short notice?
TONY THOMPSON: Absolutely makes up for it. My whole career has been a span of short-notice fights. This is nothing new to us. And before y’all ask me, no, I wasn’t in the gym. It don’t matter because I’m working my ass off, and I didn’t want to talk myself into this fight to get embarrassed in my hometown or HBO at that. I’ve only been on HBO one time. They never invited me back.
So I’m out to prove not only to my hometown that I’m a live candidate in this division but HBO or any other television network that chose to leave me off for whatever reason.
So, I mean, again, short-notice fights have made my career because everybody think they’re going to catch me off guard, catch me slipping. All they can do is make me extra motivated. So when I go in the gym and I bust my ass two or three times a day getting ready, that’s what I try to think about: They’re trying to pull the fast one on me again.
It’s up to me to show them it’s not the case. You can do what you want. Handicap, put my left hand behind my leg and make me hop on my knees — everyone know I got bad knees — make me hop on one knee, doesn’t matter. I show up for all my fights. Not only do I show up, I win. I don’t care if the decisions didn’t go my way. A lot of the decisions should have went my way. If everybody was honest about it, they would print that.
Solís beat me, yes, he beat me with a great game plan. I should have waited a little bit longer because I was a little bit under the weather, whatever. So but with this fight I’m healthy, and I’m going to train as hard as I can.
Q. He’s got a big-time amateur background out of the Cuban national system. He’s obviously looked good so far as a pro. Hasn’t faced the kind of opponents overall that you’ve faced, although has looked very impressive particularly against Bryant Jennings who’s been regarded as one of the top contenders for the past few years. Do you feel that people are maybe overhyping Ortiz a little too much and you’re there to sort of extract the truth about them, or are you impressed by his talent also and you’re looking forward to the challenge?
TONY THOMPSON: I think it’s a little bit of both. They say he’s a hype job until he did beat one of the best heavyweights in the division in Bryant Jennings who stood toe to toe with the best in that division still, in my opinion, in Wladimir Klitschko. The way he demolished Jennings shows you there’s something there. You feel me?
I’m not Bryant Jennings. As much as I love — one of my favorite heavyweights. As much as I love him, he’s not Tony Thompson. And that’s not to say anything disparaging about Bryant Jennings, it’s just that nobody can copy his style. You wouldn’t go in the gym and say look at Tony, and that’s how we’re going to fight. You feel me?
Q. I do. Do you think, though, that the biggest attribute then — he’s got — seems like he’s got tremendous power even though he hasn’t fought like the top guys. You’ve been stopped a couple of times. Is that the main thing you’ve got to watch out for, is his big shot, or is it just something besides that and you feel like he has never been tested by a guy, because you’re a pretty good puncher yourself, never been tested by somebody as big and strong as you are?
TONY THOMPSON: Who have I been stopped by?
Q. Klitschko obviously.
TONY THOMPSON: There you go.
Q. I’m not saying anything bad; I’m just making the point that —
TONY THOMPSON: I’m with you. I feel you. I made my point with you. My point being I fought the toughest, hardest punching guys in the division. Yes, I was stopped by Klitschko twice. Yes. I was put down by David Price. I continue to get up. I continue to get up. And the only fight I’ve ever been disappointed myself in ever is the second Klitschko fight.
Q. Which one? The second Klitschko fight?
TONY THOMPSON: The second Klitschko fight. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. And I’m not going to elaborate on it too much. I’m just going to say it wasn’t me. And my career proves, the way I fought, that fight that wasn’t me.
So am I afraid of his heavy shots? No, he’s a heavyweight (indiscernible) you want to kick my ass, you gotta bring some ass to get some ass. You feel me? And he got a lot of ass back there. So he’s got to bring it to come get it. Let’s do it, baby. If he’s Godzilla — he’s King Kong, I’m Godzilla, baby. Let’s go.
Q. I wanted to know what has changed from your last fight with Malik Scott to now. I know you said you haven’t necessarily been training for the fight, but you’re staying in shape. Like the talk after your fight, like some team members are saying you’re even thinking about retirement. I wanted to know what’s gone through your mind the past couple of months, like if you had every intention of staying in the game or even considering walking away.
TONY THOMPSON: I mean, at this age, honestly, it’s a fight-by-fight basis. I’m not 24. Hell, I’m not even 34. I’m 44. So what I say changes fight to fight, how I feel. Yes, I have been thinking about retirement. I’m 44. Who doesn’t think about retirement as a fighter or any professional athlete at 44?
Does it mean I’m not wound up for this fight? Hell no! It’s absolutely got my juices pumping. And that’s bad news. The worst thing they can think is that I’m retired. Oscar, tell your man I’m not thinking of retiring. I’m thinking about winning.
So don’t come in here thinking it’s a payday for me, because I don’t look at the payday. I look at the payday after this fight. You feel me? That’s what I’m talking about. Forget retirement talking to the fighter.
I go back in there, I look bad, my family worried about me, obviously you got to take a hard look. That’s just honest in the fight game. You get beat up as a 44-year-old, it’s not the same as you get beat as a 24. You have some comeback. 44, it might be my last beat-up, I have to quit. You feel me?
Yes, it crosses my mind when the fight’s over. But when the fight’s come up and I’m busting my ass, we’re not thinking about retirement. We’re thinking about getting ready. And we’re ready.
Q. At what point did you decide? Like was it the fact that Ortiz was available and he needed an opponent that changed your mind, or were you already thinking: You know what? I’m going to give it one last run in 2016 regardless of who I fight.
TONY THOMPSON: Of course I was going to give it one last run. Yeah, I lost to Malik, yes, but Malik absolutely has the wrong style for me and I wasn’t in the best shape I should have been.
Not to say I’m going to be in a whole lot better shape for this fight. But it’s a different fighter. He’s not running. We’re going to meet in the middle of the ring and we’re going to decide what’s going to happen. And just like he try to knock me, I’m going to try to knock him the fuck out.
Q. Just curious, you admitted you had not been in the gym when you received a call for this fight. I’m wondering, at 44, are you finding it tougher to get back in shape than you have been in the past, just given your age.
TONY THOMPSON: Well, I’m a half-glass-full guy, I’m always optimistic. To me a short period of time means you don’t have to sustain a long camp, don’t have to take as much punishment. You want to get in blasts as fast as you can. It’s like a sprint instead of a marathon there. And that could be even less taxing to the body.
Yes, this is a short time, but, again, my whole career has been a short time. So now I’m going in there, I get in shape as fast as I can, hopefully, coming out healthier because it’s a shorter time, and then we are going to let it decide the outcome in the ring. Forget the timeframe.
So we’re going to decide the outcome in the ring. That’s the beauty part of it. They can say what they want, but the outcome comes in the ring.
Q. If my records are correct, looks like it’s been 10 years since you’ve fought in front of a hometown crowd. So how motivating was that for you to take the fight to be in front of your hometown.
TONY THOMPSON: I mean, it was the sole reason for having the fight. Yes, Ortiz is a good fighter. He wasn’t on my radar, to be honest, but when they started saying because they have no nobody to fight them, I am in your backyard, stop playing with me, call me. I’ll walk to the venue and kick your ass. Don’t tell me you got nobody to fight and I live here.
You feel me? It’s a motivating fight. I’m geeked. I’m bringing the (indiscernible) with me, man. Hopefully they go loud, man, and prop a brother up more. I’m already pumped up for the fight. Pump me up more.
Q. Do you expect to have a big crowd behind you.
TONY THOMPSON: Yes, I do. I do. But if you think about it, I know my family will be there. And it’s like 20 of my family members. That will be enough. I really don’t care, actually. I think they’re going to come out. If they don’t, watch it on HBO.
If they do come out, then they’re going to be one of the lucky ones because I think it’s going to be a hell of a fight.
MODERATOR: Leon and Tony, do you have any final words you want to say.
LEON MARGULES: I’ll leave it to Tony, but I’d like to thank every