Like the rest of us during this strange and unsettling time, Alfonzo Ratliff, the former WBC cruiserweight champion, is obeying the lockdown conditions the coronavirus has forced us to live under. But, as he told me when kindly taking the time to speak on the phone yesterday, Ratliff, now aged 64, is “not worried, not scared” about the coronavirus.
“I fear God and God alone,” Alfonzo told me. “Don’t get me wrong, I respect death, but I don’t fear it. I’m staying active, I’m exercising.”
Q: Let’s talk boxing. It was sad when Carlos De Leon passed away a short while back. You, of course, beat De Leon to become the WBC cruiserweight champ.
Alfonzo Ratliff: “Yeah, he was a good man. The five fighters I respect the most are De Leon, Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Tim Witherspoon, and Lee Roy Murphy. But De Leon, I knew I would beat him that night (in June of 1985). He had to kill me to keep that belt. But I tell you, I’m seriously thinking about fighting again. I never fought Holyfield but now, at age 64, I’d like to do it. I feel great. I know I can still do it.”
Q: You should be training young fighters, as knowledgeable as you are.
A.R: “I do love working with young kids. That’s what gives me the most pleasure. I love to pass on knowledge. All I ever wanted to be in life was a mechanic and I was able to do so because I was taught. It’s my goal to help young kids achieve their dream whatever it may be.”
Q: Most fans know you for your fight with Mike Tyson (being stopped in the second round in 1986).
A.R: “Yeah, he stopped me. Well, he knocked me down, he never knocked me out – I was never knocked out my whole career. But I only ever had one arm as a fighter, you know that, Mr. Slater. I was stabbed when I was a young guy. I was in trouble as a kid but I turned my life around. And against Tyson, I broke my foot. Can you imagine any fighter facing Tyson with just one arm and one foot! But that’s me – if I sign to fight you, I fight. I’m there, injured, ill, cut, whatever.”
Q: You are an old-school fighter for sure.
A.F: And I never fought angry. Apart from one time. This guy, James Dixon, he said to me he would whup me and then my momma. That was it. I gave him such a beating. I fought him twice, the second time, he quit in the corner, I beat him so bad. You have to be respectful to a fellow fighter. That’s why I’m pleased Deontay Wilder got beat; him saying crazy things like he wanted to kill an opponent. You can’t do that.”
Q: Was the De Leon fight you are your best?
A.F: I’d say me at my best was when I stopped Rickey Parkey (in 1988). He was a tough guy and he took a lot. I was USBA cruiserweight champ as well as WBC champion. I was a basketball player first. I don’t know how many fights I had. I don’t look at ’em. I don’t care. I had a great chance in life with boxing and it made me a better person, but I don’t look at names or results or dates. I got to travel the world and meet so many interesting people. But I’m not like other fighters, who look at their record book and point out certain fights and knockouts.
“I really don’t know how many fights I had. I loved it in England. I fought Gary Mason – let me tell you, that sucker could hit (Mason stopped Ratliff in round-six in 1988). I knew Beau Williford, who has passed now. I have a ton of respect for Glenn McCrory. I actually wanted to fight him. I told Williford not to match Glenn with Lennox Lewis that if he could beat Lennox Lewis, that he was way too small for Lennox.”
Q: You are deeply religious?
A.R: “Let me tell you, Mr. Slater, I don’t fear any man, I only fear God. I never feared any of my opponents in the ring. A lot of people are scared right now, and I don’t think Trump is fit to be our president, speaking with Kim Jong-un as he did (last year). What a disgrace, talking to him like that, as a friend when he’s an enemy. I try and live my life right. Young people today, they need guidance. The only guidance you can get, the right way, is from God. I put all my faith in him.”
Q: Just one final question, champ. One fight I’d have loved to have seen you have was one with Dwight Muhammad Qawi. What a fight that would have been!
A.R: “Yes, sir. We were supposed to fight, back in 1986. But I lost to Bernard Benton and he lost to Holyfield. But I would have fought anyone. Like I say, I’m working out now, banging the bag and keeping sharp.”