PRAGUE – In July, he’ll be 36, and boy, he really couldn’t ask for a better premature birthday present! On this past Wednesday, after two weeks of negotiations, the Czech Republic’s most successful professional boxer Lukas Konecny (50-4-0, 23 KOs) finally signed the contract for his fight against the American star from the Golden Boy Promotions stable and current WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin (30-0-0, 22 KOs).
Both fighters will square off on April 19 in the American capital Washington in a Showtime televised bout that will precede the main event between the ageless IBF light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs) and his WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov (14-1-0, 9 KOs).
“I would be lying to you if I had told you I’m not looking forward to this. Let’s see, what’s in store for me in this battle! From Monday on, I’m starting my main training camp in Germany. I’ll also do some blood tests related to my diet, which I’ve thus far never done, so I wonder how that pans out as well,” said Konecny in an exclusive interview with Profiboxing.cz.
In order to get himself ready for Quillin, the Usti fighter will have to postpone his planned holiday in the Alps, which he originally wanted to enjoy with his mother, wife and his three lovely daughters. After all, this is his first ever boxing visit to America, so the Alps will have to wait.
“For one entire week, I’ll be purely on my own in Germany, so there won’t be any distractions. I admit I’m looking forward to all this blood and sweat, dieting, regeneration and all the stuff that usually accompanies the preparation for a boxing match,” added the boxer who already began to shed some excessive kilograms and who according to the latest tests performed in his SES Boxing stable is already in peak physical condition, despite currently training purely on his own.
So first things first, Lukas. When did they first tell you you’re fighting Quillin?
Well, this bout has already been in the makings for quite some time. The people from WBO, whose title will be at stake in my bout vs. Quillin, were wondering what’s with me. They wanted a clear answer from me as far as my next fight was concerned. At the time, I wasn’t entirely fit as I had still these issues with my eyes, so I sort of waited and hoped to be fit just in time. In the end, it didn’t quite work out the way I wanted, but nevertheless, some 2 weeks ago, I got a call from my promoter Ulf Steinforth who had told me that he’s offering me a fight that simply can’t be turned down. My final decision then fell on February 24, when I decided I’ll indeed take it. Consequently, I had some conversations with my trainer and manager, and on Wednesday, I finally signed the contract and sent it back to the US.
So it could be said that Quillin had pretty much no other choice but to face you, right? If I’m not mistaken, he twice had a voluntary defense of his title, didn’t he? You yourself are positioned at No. 2 in the WBO rankings, but the guy in front you, Rubio, has declared multiple times that he’s interested in fighting for the WBC belt instead for the WBO one…
Well, I don’t know what the situation with Rubio is at the moment, to be honest. All I know is that I’m No. 2 in the WBO rankings, which is probably the reason why the sanctioning body has been pushing me to finally make a decision re: my next fight. They offered me this fight, and I took it. Whether it’ll be a voluntary or mandatory defense for Quillin, I don’t really care.
You’ve already made a little hint, so I’ll now ask you: what your eyes are at the moment? Do you still have some issues with them?
The Monday after my last fight, on July 13, 2013, I began to experience some difficulties with my eyesight, which eventually prevented me from fighting in the remainder of the year. Now it’s getting a bit better, so I can only hope I’ll be fit by the time the fight starts.
Personally, how do you rate this fight and how much you’re looking forward to it?
Well, it definitely is a big opportunity for me. Not a once in a lifetime opportunity, but definitely a fight that will be well watched by the fans. America is the perceived Mecca of boxing, but you know, this will already be my 4th title fight. Compared to my previous title fights, however, this one will be in the Mecca of boxing, so that’s the difference (laughs). But make no mistake, it definitely is a very interesting fight for me, last but not least because my opponent stems from the Golden Boy Promotions stable. So definitely, I’m looking forward to it!
And from the monetary point of view, is this your best fight to date?
It is, but not by mile. Not what my fans would probably expect, you know. But definitely, it’s a purse that’s worth of fighting for, even against a guy like Quillin. It will indeed be my highest purse to date, but it’ll certainly not double or triple the purses which I got for my bouts against Dzinziruk or Baysangurov, i.e. circa 1.2 million or 1.5 million Czech crowns.
So it won’t be the usual $ 5 million which the opponents of the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. have been accustomed to getting in these last 2 or so years?
No, unfortunately it won’t be. If it indeed was, I wouldn’t be sitting with you here, nor would I do these training sessions here at the BBC gym. But seriously, I love the training stuff, the verbal bullying of my fighters, but I would certainly not waste my time with people like you (laughs).
Have you and your trainer Dirk Dzemski already discussed your possible sparring partners?
No, so far, we haven’t talked about them yet. But I know that, on April 11, Stepan Horvath will be fighting here in Prague at the Heroes Gate show against Tolja Hunanyan for the middleweight title, so I’ll obviously want to help him a bit. So once we’re both ready, I’d like to do some sparring with him and also take him over to Germany if that’s possible. As for the other sparring partners, I currently can’t tell you any concrete names, but obviously, we’d want to choose some guys who are stylistically similar to Quillin. What I can confirm you now is that my last sparrings will take place in the US, as my trainer wants to come there already some 2 weeks in advance due to proper acclimatization.
During your entire career, you’ve always had a love or hate relationship with your weight. But now that the Dieta Praha company has stopped producing your “beloved” diet boxes, where do you go from here?
Well, that’s right. I won’t be able to use the box diet anymore, but I guess I’ll do fine if I’d just stick to my experience from the past, since I feel like I’m doing this weight thing already for some 100 years. I was indeed very satisfied with the Dieta Praha products, so when they called it a day, I was actually contemplating to try some other box diet. But in the end, I’ve decided to try a different way, which means I won’t be using the boxes anymore. My wife’s doing pretty well in the kitchen, so at times, it’s a bit difficult for me to control my taste buds, but after all these years, I can say I already know what to eat and what to not eat. But anyway, considering what’s in front of me during these next two months, I guess I’ll do okay.
Recently, the weight has become a bit of an issue in boxing, with the likes of Orlando Salido, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and other fighters having significant problems to make the limit in their respective weight classes. In your entire career, have you ever failed to make the weight limit before your bouts?
No, I haven’t. Never. Neither in the amateurs, nor in the pros. Honestly, I’d rather kill myself in training than to experience this failure – even if it would mean the same, negative result in the end. If I ever had an issue with the weight, I’d probably try to solve it in some drastic way, so there would probably be some consequences, but to tell you the truth: not making the weight limit is something that’s simply not acceptable to me.
Do you think it’s an advantage for you that all the pressure will be on Quillin, who as one of the leading stars from the promoting stable Golden Boy Promotions will be surely expected to win?
Definitely! I’m not quite sure how he usually copes with these situations when everyone expects him to win, but if you ask me, I’ll definitely enjoy my role as an underdog, the one who’s maybe not expected to win but who can be fancied to do a miracle here. I’m going there to surprise everyone. I know my abilities. Even before my fight with Dzinziruk, the bookmakers weren’t giving me that many chances, but I had told myself I can beat the odds. And even though I wasn’t quite able to do it, you all know how that fight panned out. So if I ever say to myself I can do it, then I indeed can.
Although you’ve never boxed in the US, you’re unquestionably a very experienced fighter, having boxed in some big, title fights. I suppose the atmosphere of the whole event shouldn’t be a hindrance to you…
No, it won’t be. On the contrary, I believe it will make me box even better. So it will definitely be an advantage for me. I’ll go into the fight totally relaxed, knowing it will probably be my last fight, unless I win it, of course. And to tell you the truth, I’m fine with this scenario. Unless I produce some magical performance, or win the fight, I pretty much don’t care about boxing anymore.
So do you still plan, even in case of a loss against Quillin, to make that one last farewell fight in front of your home fans?
It all depends on my health. If I’m fit, it’s entirely possible that I will do a farewell fight for my fans at home. But you know, I’ve already had a tremendous career, fought in a dozen of great fights, claimed many trophies and titles, so if I now end my career on a losing note, then what the hell? At least it will be in a big fight, in a big event, and against a world title holder, not against someone who I shouldn’t really have lost to. So what the heck? Boxers lose, that’s nothing new. If I lose fair and square, I’m fine with that. But if it’s the same, close result as in my previous title fights, then I’d be really pissed off, but then again, at least I’d know that winning a title simply isn’t destined for me. At the end of the day, I’m very proud of my career, no matter how it ends. Of course, it’d be a lot better to end it with a world title, but on the other hand, that would also mean another fight for me, another title defense, which I’m not too keen on doing at this late stage of my career (laughs).
So you don’t really welcome the scenario of ending your career on a high note, as a reigning world champion?
If I beat Quillin, then I’ll definitely continue. Unless I’m in a death’s bed, I won’t retire, that I can promise you. But if it’s a lucky win, and the troubles with the eyes resurface, I’ll probably call it a day. I don’t really want to risk any future health problems, or try my patience and then lose to some C-level fighter. I’d rather end my career now that to finish it like that. But you know, that’s all coulda, shoulda, woulda…
So how do you view all this stuff about “ending the career on the top”, which is often mentioned among the sportsmen as they near the end of their careers? Some athletes claim that it’s indeed wise to end a career like that, while others claim it’s a stupid move…
I guess it all depends on the money. Whether you have enough of it to allow yourself a decent living once your career as a boxer is done, you know. As far as I remember, there aren’t that many cases in boxing where a well-known boxer had finished his career on the top. But then again, it’s difficult to judge. I too am very careful and think twice when it comes to spending my money. As a professional boxer, you can indeed earn a lot. I’m not saying it comes for free, as you have to sacrifice a lot in order to get there, but once you’re there, the money you earn can come in pretty handy, so it is hard to stop. If it all depended on my health, I’d easily say: that’s it! But you know, I also have a family to take care of. As silly as it looks, I can easily imagine myself in a fight which, although financially lucrative, will end up as a big embarrassment for me. I can identify with those fighters who simply don’t know when to stop, you know. It’s not about money, it’s about your family being able to live a happy life. You don’t want your children to have any worries. You want them to have a happy and trouble-free childhood, to provide them with everything they wish for. I, for example, have three kids, and it’s not easy to feed them all. I can easily understand the people who simply don’t have enough money to pay their kids, say, the skiing course which they usually attend when on a college, etc. I don’t really want my children to miss these things, but that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared for having to face this kind of situation if it arises.
So that’s why you do all these business activities outside the ring, to provide your family with a decent future once your career as a boxer is done, right?
Exactly. Long ago, I started preparing myself for this moment when I’d hang up the gloves for good, so that’s why I’m now doing all these activities not related to boxing. Time will tell whether it’ll suffice to secure me and my family a happy living or not. There are a lot of expenses we have to cover as a family, but on the other hand, we’ve done some investments into various businesses, so let’s see how it all goes. I’m not going to lie you, this bout against Quillin will definitely come in handy to me as it will provide me and my family enough money to live, say for one year, without having to worry about the future. I have to admit that currently, I’m doing quite well, as I don’t have to worry myself with issues which would normally occur when I had some bout postponed or cancelled in the past. I can tell you it wasn’t a pleasant thing to have these worries in the past, but luckily, I can now say I’m doing pretty well at the moment.
That sounds as a very positive impulse to me, to approach the fight vs. Quillin with a clear head, without any worries. I assume your current situation, where you don’t have any financial worries, also allowed you to sit out for more than half a year, without having to endure all these squabbling that preceded your fights vs. Dzinziruk or Baysangurov…
That’s right. I didn’t really have to rush myself into fights, as I did back then. Now that I have this fight vs. Qullin, I consider it to be a nice financial bonus for me.
Not taking the financial aspect into account, do you view the fight vs. Quillin as a some sort of reward for your entire boxing career? Something, which will allow you to end your career in style, with a high-profile title bout staged on a big card in the US?
I’d say I view this fight as a reward for all the people that have worked around me and also people like you – journalists. You all kept talking about me boxing in America, asking me this question ad nauseam, so by now, you already know that your wish had finally some true and I’ll indeed box in America (laughs). Actually, it just came to my mind that, if I beat Quillin, the contract I signed for the bout allows me to fight three more times under the Golden Boy banner, so it seems like the orders are pretty much clear now.
What you’ve just said reminded me of the likes of Jan Zaveck or Tamas Kovacs, who too had similar clauses in their contracts when they fought guys from the Golden Boy stable. Seems like a common practice used by the Golden Boy these days, right?
You’re right, that’s how they actually secure the rentability of their investments. You know, if I beat one of their guys, they want to make sure that this “miraculous fighter” who beat one of their people will actually box under their banner and thus help them at least partially earn back the money which they lost when he beat their fighter.
At the same time, it seems as if the verdicts of the judges and generally the refereeing of the bouts is far more fair in the US than in Europe. Now I don’t want to say there aren’t any controversial decisions in the US, but still, you only rarely see a blatant robbery in a high-profile fight there, isn’t it?
Look, Quillin is the champion, he’s boxing at home, so if it turns out to be a close fight and he’s declared the winner, I wouldn’t protest. That’s how it goes in this sport. I’m not that naive to expect the judges or the referee to give me a helping hand when I’m boxing on the opponent’s home soil… Of course, such a loss would be annoying for me, but deep inside, I’d be satisfied with how it all went. But you’re right that there aren’t that many robberies in the US when compared to Europe. Occasionally, you get to see some doubtful decisions there as well, but from what I’ve experienced during my boxing career in Europe, I can pretty much concur with you that the refereeing in the US is probably a lot fairer.
The main event of the card in Washington features the fight between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov. How much do you look forward to having a chance of meeting such a legend like Hopkins?
Well, I haven’t really thought about that, to be honest, but make no mistake, it’s a pleasant occasion for me to meet a person like him. But that’s where it stays at. Same as I, he too is, first and foremost, a professional athlete, so our primary job will be to focus on our respective fights, without really thinking who else’s taking part in the card.
So you don’t worry about your friends wanting you to collect some autographs for them?
Even if they wanted me to collect it, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to make their wishes come true (laughs). There would be no time to do such things, you know. And after all, I’m not exactly the type of person who takes pleasure in collecting this stuff. If I’m not mistaken, the only exception is my photo with the singer Karel Gott, which I’m very grateful for, but other than that, I’m not really into these things. Rather than taking pictures with a well-known person and then boasting with it before my friends, I’m simply happy to have had the chance of meeting such people, you know.
Looking at you and Hopkins, it looks like your roles in the boxing world are pretty similar today. You’re acting as a fighter as well as a promoter, and he too, besides his career as a boxer, is involved in the Golden Boy Promotions as a managing partner…
Well, it seems like our involvement in the boxing world is indeed similar (laughs). But seriously, from what I can understand, compared to me, he’s not that much occupied in having to do all this organizing and stuff like that, or better said, in his case, it’s more about responsibility, and frankly, about doing shows that, compared to me, are on a totally different level. But you know, everyone has to start at something. I’d say that when you compare the boxing scene in the US and here in the Czech Republic, it’s a totally different ballgame.