Fighters participating on Saturday’s Premier Boxing Champions on NBC card took part in the final press conference today at historic Fenway Park in Boston before their respective fights at Agganis Arena, with televised coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Murphys Boxing, are priced at $250, $200, $100, $75, $50 and $35, not including applicable service charges and taxes, and are on sale now.
Here are what the press conference participants had to say:
“A title means everything. It completes you as a fighter. That’s the top of the food chain in this sport, and that’s the pedestal we’re all trying to reach – world champion. Everybody wants to be a world champion. The greats had it and now we want it. It would mean more for my city, my family and my friends, and it’s something I’ll always be able to look back it. It would put me in the record books for life.
“DeGale is not quiet. Today he’s chilling, maybe because he’s a little out of his comfort zone. But there’s a lot of tension when you’re standing right there next to your opponent. He might just be a little cranky today.
“I like to lighten the mood and stay comfortable. This is all a part of the game. Let’s have fun now. It’s ass-kicking time when we get in that ring, but outside it’s all love.
“There was a time when I didn’t want to do interviews. I didn’t want to go to fights. I didn’t want to hear fans online and on social media. I closed all them down because I didn’t want to hear people ask, ‘When are you fighting again? Talking about talent wasted, or saying I’m glad he’s gone.’ It hurt because there was nothing I could do. I was powerless even with all the power in the world.”
“Andre says the belt doesn’t mean anything to him in the fight – well, the belt means everything to me and more. I am here to make history and it doesn’t happen without that title.
“I could win on Saturday night and retire a happy man – that’s how much I want to beat Andre Dirrell. But when I do win that title, I am going for the rest of the belts, creating a lasting legacy for my country, my fans and myself.
“Andre is a classy fighter and he showed in the press conference that he is a classy guy too – when two fighters who believe in their ability 100 percent and know they are going to win a fight, it is going to be explosive.
“There’s nothing but respect between us, but ultimately, we’re going to take each other to dark territory on Saturday night, it’s going to be a brutal battle – and one that I am going to win.”
“This is home for me and I’m thrilled. I know I have a good undefeated fighter in front me, so I’m looking forward to a competitive matchup. It’s going to be a great fight for the fans.
“This is an exciting day for me. I saw Pedro Martinez pitch so many times here at Fenway and he’s going into the Hall of Fame. Also, my fellow countrymen Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz have made so much history here.
“Being here today and then having the weigh-in at Faneuil Hall tomorrow and fighting on Saturday, it’s just an amazing experience.
“This is a great opportunity for me. I’ve dreamed of fighting on a grand scale like this since I first started boxing.
“The entire experience has been awesome. It’s going to be an interesting fight. I’m going to keep coming forward. I’m going to keep boxing all night.
“Everyone should look forward to an action packed night, I know it’s going to be an interesting matchup.”
“A couple of years ago Ken Casey and I talked about bringing boxing back to the city of Boston. Fast-forward to today and we’re doing it.
“I’m excited to be part of it and to see boxing in Boston blossom. It’s good for the city and all the young boxers in this area.
“I know I have a tough opponent in front of me and I won’t take him lightly. I’m planning on putting on a show for the fans come Saturday night.”
“I’m an aggressive come forward, in your face boxer from the first bell to the last.
“I was full steam ahead when I got the call for this fight. I train all the time, I don’t take breaks and I’m always looking for an opportunity. I couldn’t be happier.
“Danny O’Connor is one of the best in my weight division in New England. Everything he does, he does well.
“I just need to keep my head and continue to come forward, I can’t get frustrated. I’m going 100 percent the full way through. If I’m busy and I fight smart I get good outcomes.
Thanks, everybody for joining us for Premier Boxing Champions on NBC press call. The card is Saturday, May 23rd. That’s the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend at Boston’s Agganis Arena. The start time on NBC is 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT.
Tickets for the live event, which is being promoted in associated with Murphys Boxing are priced at $250, $200, $100, $75, $50 and $35, and they’re available at ticketmaster.com. To charge by phone, call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000. Again, the NBC broadcast goes on at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT.
We’re going to start the call by talking to our co-main event fighters, the guys are going to open the telecast. That’s light-heavyweight contender Edwin Rodriguez taking on undefeated light-heavyweight contender Craig Baker. Craig is 10-0 with 12 KO. He’s coming off a KO of highly regarded Umberto Savigne in his last fight and he’s looking to upset the apple cart and derail the career of Edwin Rodriguez who’s looking for another shot at a world title; this time at 175 pounds.
Craig is promoted by Sampson Boxing. Craig, if you’d like to say a few words.
Well, I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to fight on such a grand field again. It clearly is what I dream about. It’s one of those things I’ve always looked forward to since I was little bity kid.
Thank you. Edwin Rodriguez, the pride of Worchester, Massachusetts and is fighting in his home state. This is his second fight at light heavyweight. His only loss is to Andre Ward, one of the pound-for-pound fighters in the world and Edwin believes at light heavyweight he’s stronger, better and that he can win the title. So, Edwin, would you like to say a few words?
Yes. First of all, I’d like to thank you, Lou, for bringing me back on NBC and giving me such a great opportunity and also to Al Haymon and the NBC crew. I’m ready to show the world that I’m one of the best or the best 175 pound fighter in the world. I just got to prove it and this is one of the steps to do it, fighting an undefeated fighter, Craig Baker, who’s hungry and I’m excited because I know that he’s hungry; I’m hungry to get at that elite level. It’s going to be a great fight for the fans.
Yes, I have a question for each of you if you don’t mind. Craig, how do you feel about fighting Edwin so close to his hometown?
At the end of the day that doesn’t really matter to me because everyone is out to pretty much beat the crap out of you. So, it doesn’t matter where you fight. It’s the competition, and that’s how I take it.
Edwin, what will it mean to you to fight so close to Worcester?
It means a lot because I haven’t fought at home for about four years now. So, I’m excited to come back and fight close to home with family and friends supporting me. It’s something that helps me and pushes me to take it to the next level.
Edwin, first question; how do you feel at light-heavyweight? Are you more comfortable now than you were at super middleweight? Do you feel stronger, and is your stamina a little better?
I feel great now. I feel like 175 is the weight that I belong at. I feel like I’m strong and I’m fast and I feel like I’m the best light heavyweight. I just need the opportunity to prove it, and this is one of them and I’m excited.
You’re with Al Haymon. Adonis Stevenson is with Al Haymon. Is that what boxing and fans can assume, that this is all building towards a fight with Adonis Stevenson for the title?
Right now, I’m focused on Baker. He’s an undefeated hungry fighter, but that’s the goal. I want to fight the best guy so I can prove that I’m the best. Adonis Stevenson is a good fighter. He has proved he’s the world champion and that’s who I want in the future. So, I’m just setting myself up and I’m working hard to look impressive against Baker and to get my opportunity to show the world that I’m on the best.
Craig, just what is it about Edwin that impresses you and what will you have to do to beat him?
Well, I’m really impressed with the improvements that he’s made. I see him pushing forward, pushing issues and always in your face. That’s good. I like that. At the end of the day, I just have to show up and fight. That’s the way I take the game. I have to bring my A game at all times and that’s what I do.
I was looking at the records of a lot of your opponents. You fought a lot of guys with pretty poor records. Why is that and why did you make the step up a couple of fights ago?
I just felt like it was time, man.
Edwin, what impresses you about Craig Baker?
He’s a hungry fighter and it doesn’t matter who he’s fought. He’s undefeated and you can’t take an undefeated fighter lightly, especially one that defeated a guy that had over 400 amateur fights and was a big prospect in the pros, like Savigne. You can’t take a guy like Craig Baker lightly.
You’ve defeated undefeated fighters in the past. So, how is your confidence level going in when you fight somebody who hasn’t lost?
I believe a lot of my skills and I’m very confident, but I’m not stupid. I know that a fighter who’s undefeated comes in with a very strong mentality and I’m ready. I’ve been working hard for this fight knowing that this guy is undefeated and I have to take that away from him. But at the same time, we’ve got to respect everyone because we’re all competitors and it’s all about looking good and winning and he’s just in my way right now.
Thank you. The main event of the evening is a super middleweight world title fight and it features two guys that have been engrained into boxing since they were amateurs. James DeGale is an Olympic gold medalist. He’ll be facing Andre Dirrell. James is from England; Andre from the US. Andre was a bronze medalist in the Olympics. This is a match of two of the very best super middleweights in the world and figures to be a terrific fight.
James is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn is on the call. When you go to Q&A, if anyone has a question for Eddie, Eddie is available. We’re going to start with James DeGale. James, would you like to say a few words? James is 21-1, with 14 KOs.
Yeah, my time is here. My time is here, next Saturday. I’ve trained extremely hard and you’re in for a treat because you’re going to watch two very talented hungry fighters next Saturday fight it out for a world title. I honestly think it’s going to be a hell of a fight, one I’m confident of winning. So, fasten your seatbelts, man. It should be good.
Thank you, James. Andre Dirrell, please say a few words.
I agree with James. This is going to be a very good fight. I’ve trained my butt off as well. Everything went very smoothly this camp. He’s a hungry fighter. I’m a hungry fighter. We are both in desperate need or desperate want of a world title and I myself feel very confident and I’m excited about this match, man. He feels like he’s an undefeated fighter. I feel like I’m an undefeated fighter, but we both have a lot to prove, man. So, we’re going to come to the full effect and I believe it’s going to be a great show.
Thank you, Andre. We’re going to open it up to questions now. One more time, it’s PBC on NBC broadcast. It will be on May 23rd, Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend, 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 and we’re going to open it up for questions now.
This is for James. This is your first fight in the United States and also, this is the first time a lot of people are going to get to see you because you’re going to be on national television. What are you expecting in terms of the energy and what it’s going to be like performing in a completely new audience?
Yeah. I’m looking forward to it. I’m used to it as well because obviously back in England I’m promoted by Matchroom, a well-known commercial company. So, I box on big shows in front of 10,000-20,000 people. It should be good. They have a lot of Irish and English over there. So, I should have some good support and I’m looking forward to it.
Let me follow-up with another question. There was a time that you considered retiring from the sport and becoming a personal trainer. Can you talk about that a little bit and looking back, are you glad you made the right decision to continue to do boxing?
Yeah. It’s pretty simple. I was going through a hard time with my promoter at the time and I was a bit depressed because I wasn’t getting my chances and I wasn’t getting the right fights and I boxed on small shows. I basically was a bit depressed and I couldn’t motivate myself properly. So, yeah, that was the way it was and then I made the change to Matchroom and things have just gone from pretty bad to really great.
Obviously, my last two performances speak for themself. I boxed Brandon Gonzales, an undefeated American, a confident American. He come over to America and I boxed him front of 80,000 people and knocked him out in four rounds.
Then four months later, I boxed Periban. If you don’t know Marco Antonio Periban, he boxed Sakio Bika for the world title and lost on a split decision and I knocked him out in three rounds. So, I’m confident. I’m feeling good, and I’m motivated very well at the minute.
Andre, when you brother lost, he lost a close decision .What was your conversation with Anthony like because you lost a close fight you thought you’d won. So, how have you been able to converse with him about getting through that loss?
Well, I didn’t have to say much because he was confident after the fight, but I pretty much had him realize that you’ve had a bad night after he had a terrific camp, but I believe that’s where he left it. He left it in that. When it came to fight time, he had a few setbacks leading up to the fight and unfortunately, he lost, but we saw a lot of things that he needs to correct. I told him to watch the fight over and over again because that’s what I used to do in my fight, any fight that I feel bad about. So, I just told him keep his confidence up, man and stay on that run, man. Don’t lay off at all. That’s all we can do, man. I’ve learned a lot from past experience and one thing’s for certain; you can’t take anything from the past and bring it to the future. Only confidence.
So, I’m feeling good, man. He’s excited for me and I’m going to keep that name alive and keep the Dirrell name going.
Everybody talks about the super middleweights, they talk about Andre Ward. But it seems like some people forget how good of a boxer that you are because you had to take this time off. With this being on NBC and getting in front of a large audience, are you looking at this as an opportunity to put your name back in that conversation for people who may have forgotten how good Andre Dirrell is?
People know and in the end, it’s my job to keep my name lean. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that as well. I had a major setback as well, but with that I stayed in the game, stayed sharp. I was sharp in my last couple of performances. I’m looking forward to the future and this is the breakout fight like I said. James is one hell of a fighter. He has a lot of heart, a lot of spunk, a lot of energy, man, and he wants to win.
If you want to put me in front of a fighter for a world championship fight, then James DeGale is bar none one of the best to do it in front of. So, I’m excited about this fight. I think this is probably one of the biggest fights from Premier Boxing Champion that they’ve had and I’m excited to be on that big stage. So, I want a breakout performance and I did everything in camp to make sure I can do so.
How does it feel to be the first Brit on the verge of making some boxing history?
It feels great, but I need to stay focused and keep my eye out on the prize. That’s what I have to do. But, you know what? A lot of people say I’m obsessed about making history, about becoming the first Olympic gold medalist from Great Britain to win a genuine world title. But you know what? I am. I am because that’s what drives me and that’s what makes me train hard every day. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Okay, and you touched on a little bit there. I mean not so long ago you were boxing in front of a couple of hundred people at the shopping center in Blue Water and now you’re making noise on TV in America. How does that feel, the difference?
Well, it’s fantastic. Sure a lot of credit has to go to Eddie Hearn. I’m a buzz fire. I like the big audience. I like the big lights. I’m just feeling real relaxed, chilled and ready to perform next Saturday. I’m buzzing. I really can’t wait; just being in America and knowing that I’m going to make my debut next Saturday in front of millions of Americans and back in the UK as well. It’s going to be fantastic.
Andre, this fight seems to be your highest profile fight since five years ago when you had the Abraham fight, when he got DQ’ed. You were leading at that time. Can you tell us at this point, where are you physically and mentally compared to where you were when you were obviously at the top of the division five years ago?
Well, I look at it all from a mental aspect. As of now, man, I’m grown tremendously in my mind. I’ve realized how important boxing is to me and what it takes to become world champion, the work you have to put in and I just follow those guidelines every day. I’m a very motivated fighter, very self-motivated. A lot of fighters run with music, have to listen to music.
If I can hear my punches while I’m hitting the bag, I’m motivated. So, nothing motivates me more than hard work and that’s all I look for. The fight is won in the gym, not on fight night. It’s what you do in the gym, not how hard you put up a fight.
I’ve done all of that and more. I feel very relaxed. I’m very energetic and I’m feeling the vibe already and I really can’t wait to make Saturday myself. I feel I have a lot to prove and I have a different Andre Dirrell to show, one that’s just as sharp, just as fast, just as brave, but just has a bigger mental capacity. I’m excited about next week.
What do you think your advantages are over James DeGale in this fight?
We’re pretty much evenly matched and I actually like that scenario because I know I’m faster. I know I’m smarter and I know I’m a better boxer. It’s just as simple as that. But, none of that can come into play without hard work, and I know he’s worked his ass off, man. He has to come over to America just like I went over there to England to try to fight for a world championship.
I know what kind of guy I’m going to face come the 23rd. I’ve worked my butt off like I said, , and with those advantages, I’ve put the hard work in so I can display that. I just feel like I’ll be the better man that night.
James, tell us why you think you’re confident that you’re going to be able to win this fight?
Momentum is a big thing. Look at my last two performances against good, quality opponents and look his last three. Listen, I come from good pedigree and so does Andre. We’re good, quality, young fighters. But I just think overall, I’m better. I think he struggles. He doesn’t like it when it gets hard in there. He’s a competent fighter, but he likes it when he’s dictating the pace and he’s on the front foot.
Well listen, I’m not going to let him rest. He thinks this is going to be a boxing match. Well, this ain’t. I’m telling him now. This ain’t going to be a boxing match. I’m going in there and I’m taking the title. I’m taking it. I’m ripping it away from him.
Do you think you’re a really improved fighter? I know that the loss that you had to Groves was very controversial, but how much do you think you’ve improved since that fight with Groves?
It’s like night and day. Listen, and another thing, I was in this for two years as well. I had two operations on my groin. So, I couldn’t throw my shots with any power. I couldn’t run the ring properly. Even in the fight at Wembley in front of 80,000 I wasn’t 100% right. Even against Periban I wasn’t 100% right. Now I’m 100% right, fully healthy, fully focused and mentally right. So, you’re going to see me step up again next Saturday.
James, you mentioned about being a buzz fighter and this is the biggest stage, the biggest pressure you’ve ever been under. So, does this mean we’re going to see your best ever performance?
I honestly do. The way I’ve been in the gym training, sparring, running, I honestly think you’re going to see the performance of my career so far. My last couple of fights after my injuries have been sorted and I just got better and better and I think this one is going to top it and winning my world title as well and making history.
But, do you deal with the pressure and does that inspire you more?
James I thrive on it. You know me. I thrive in it. I’m just looking forward to it. As I say, it’s my debut as a professional in America. So, I’m buzzing right now. You don’t understand. I’m just really looking forward to it.
Andre. You’ve obviously fought Carl Froch and you’ve watched video of James I imagine. How do they compare as fighters and who do you rate as a better fighter?
As far as skill, I can give it to James DeGale, but as far as toughness, mental toughness, physical toughness, that’s Carl Froch. We all know how mentally strong he is. So, I have to give the edge to Carl Froch in that aspect, but as I said before, I know DeGale is coming to fight and no one gets in that ring and fights me as they want to fight. You know what I’m saying? Just like he thinks it’s going to be an easy fight. I feel like I have a lot more to prove as well.
So, I’m looking to bring the fight as well and I’m working hard in the gym. I made it tough on myself. The more pressure you actually put on me, the more dangerous I become.
I’m really excited as well, man. I have a lot to prove. He has a lot to prove. This is going to be the best fight yet on Premier Boxing Champions.
Basically for Andre, there was a chance obviously this fight could end up going to Britain. You’ve been to Britain before and you were very unlucky against Carl Froch. Was that something you were against, to face another title fight in Britain?
I’m not going to say that because I enjoyed my time over there. I believe I won the fight like I said and it just didn’t go my way unfortunately. I don’t like to judge my future fights based on past. I look forward to fighting in Britain again, in England again, the UK again whenever that day may come. I had a lot of fans over there; I have a lot of fans over there and I enjoy my time over there. I’ve been going over there since the amateurs. I enjoy it very much and I’m a world-class fighter. So, I want to be displayed on a world-class level.
I’m definitely looking forward to it. If it was over there, if it had to be over there, so be it. I would have came over there to fight James. We are world competitors, world-class. We fight for world titles. Why should it be in America all the time? This is a world-class sport and we should treat it like one.
Arthur Abraham kind of robbed you of your great win when he hit you on the floor. That was looking like such a great performance that night. In the sort of layup after that, how close did you come to actually having to retire? Was there ever a time you thought you might not box again?
I was going through some stuff with my family. I actually wanted to. I knew in my heart that I’d get my time again. I knew my time would come. I knew I had a chance of getting out of my contract. So, I kept training. Of course, there were times that I would hit slumps and feel like I’m doing it for nothing, but it was quite a stressful time for me. I think I always knew that I would be able to get back in that ring. So, I stayed busy and it didn’t really totally veer me away from the sport, but I do know the feeling.
I did feel like any moment could come up to where that it could be over just like that and I had to deal with it and I could easily retire. If it happened again, I just might. I knew that my time was coming again. There’s always hope there. I just kept pushing forward and here I am now.
One for you, James, quickly. You’re in Florida now. Can you tell us where you are and how’s it going?
Yeah, no, I’m in Miami. I’ve been training here for the past week. So, we climatized and we adjusted and we’re ready to go.
Just a couple of final words. Thank you, Edwin, Craig, Andre and James. This is a great undercard that features a lot of New England talent and I want to acknowledge Murphys Boxing, our friend Ken Casey who’s with the legendary Irish band, the Dropkick Murphys, and is helping us with local promotion. We’re going to have a lot of announcements coming about some great fight week activities.
Premier Boxing Champions on NBC, PBC on NBC Saturday, May 23rd at Boston’s Agganis Area, 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT for the beginning of the broadcast. Tickets for the live event are available at Ticketmaster.com. To charge by phone, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Tune into NBC on Saturday, May 23rd, but if you can be with us in Boston, join us at the Agganis Arena. Thank you, everybody, for joining us.