26.02.04 – By Keith Terceira: Few fans can imagine themselves in the ring with Bernard Hopkins; fewer can picture climbing into the squared circle with the executioner twice. Envision for a moment training and fighting in such a grueling sport with an unknown undiagnosed case of asthma, cutting the normal circulation of oxygen to your blood nearly in half as you apply pressure to your opponent. Now you understand the career to date of Antwun Echols the NABA Super Middleweight title holder. Antwun’s future is much rosier now that his illness has been discovered and treated. With a new promoter at the helm in Murad Muhammad and for the first time in his life full health, Echols is thirsting for redemption again Hopkins.
“I am going to down to 160 as soon as the opportunity presents itself, I am healthy and I’m well now, and ready to rock & roll”
KT: Any thoughts now that you are healthy whom you would like to be matched with yet?
Echols: I just want to get a fight or two out of the way, somebody in the top ten. Then I’m hoping to fight for the title, maybe Bernard Hopkins again, then some of the other super-champions. This is my year and I’m putting it all on the line.
KT: Well, Otis Grant is moving up in the rankings and going strong again, any thoughts on Otis?
Echols: Otis, he is a great guy and a friend of mine; I don’t want to knock Otis out! (laugh)
KT: Antwun, being down in Dade City Florida, do you miss living in Memphis?
Echols: Not really, it’s a great place but I was shifted all over this United States growing up. My mom was a great mother it’s just that we moved around a lot. I was in Memphis and West Memphis, Arkansas for a while. Having lived in Arkansas that put my eye on Jermaine Taylor to. Jeff Lacy I want as well. I moved quite a bit though; I went to junior high and high school in Florida and Iowa. I was going back and forth there to. I had no problem with it though because I saw a lot of the country.
KT: Who did you like seeing fight growing up?
Echols: I was watching Sugar Ray Leonard, Hagler, Roberto Duran, and Tommy Hearns. Those were the type of fighters I watched, they fought they didn’t BS. That’s what I like to do when in the ring, I like to present. My style is going to be a little different when you see it now though. When the opportunity comes the old Antwun is gonna rock.
KT: Who are you training with Antwun?
Echols: Dan Birmingham, is still my same training despite all the internet rumors about us breaking up and junk. I don’t know where they get some of that BS.
KT: Any comment on the judging in the Mundine fight?
Echols: I thought the judging was poor! Enough said on that. But I always rise though the cracks you know! I am not going to get upset though, If I fight one fight I’m back in the top three.
KT: What about Danny Green, Antwun?
Echols: Lucas lost to Green and he is still ranked second. I don’t care about any rankings. As far as Green goes, I’m not going to Australia to fight him, that’s for sure! (laugh).
KT: You need to fight him in Tampa.
Echols: Venues the problem, there is nothing big enough for that fight! (laugh) in Tampa.
What ever opportunity presents itself I’m ready, whether it’s Green or Lucas. I’ll beat the crap out of Eric Lucas. That video tape has still never surfaced. I had him knocked out the very first round, the ref actually went over and picked him up, wiped his gloves off, like he was helping him.
KT: Any insight on what Murad Muhammad has in mind for you?
Echols: It doesn’t matter whatever he has in mind I’m ready to go. I’m not being selfish or anything, but I have had a terrible two or three years. I’m ready to fight and prove myself again. One, I didn’t know I had this chronic asthma bull; I got that taken care of. I think you could see it in some fights, you know where I withered and then I would spring back out again like when I fought Brian Barbosa, those were the times that the asthma was effecting me but I didn’t know what the hell it was. It even runs in my family. But nobody knew. I was going to the doctors and getting blood tests, all that junk, they still didn’t know what it was. They just now are hitting it up.
KT: Are you know getting your wind back?
Echols: Oh, heh I’m strong as hell now! What it was my blood not circulating through my lungs right! Oh my God, what a difference now!
KT: I noticed when you fought Kabary Salem some problems, any comment?
Echols: Same thing, like from the third round I would come out and I said “What the F-” I would try and muster a good shot or something and the energy wasn’t there. I would try and put that pressure, that force out there, put when I put it out there my body would die real fast. Now when I do it, I’m here. I’m back, my strength is there now.
KT: When did it first start bothering you, when you fought Rangel it didn’t seem to effect you, when did the illness become a factor in your performance?
Echols: Rangel wasn’t that big of a challenge, it was when I really attempted to apply the pressure to my body that it was a factor. The tougher the challenge and the harder I worked the more it became a factor. The change is amazing though in my training and in my style! I think that fans will be shocked!
KT: What is your relationship with Muhammad like?
Echols: I can’t call it yet, but you have to have a good channel with your promoter. You got to be able to read each other. Get along all that type of junk. Business wise you got to be able to come to the table and come with an agreement. Fighting and arguing with each other isn’t healthy. That makes a fighter not want to put out. I know I had those problems, many problems. Murad is good though, and we will see where it goes from here, I think it will go back to the belts though. Some big purses to. (laugh)
KT: So, did your power return fully with your treatment?
Echols: The thing of it is you have to have the endurance to keep the power right. Now, that is what I have back. The lungs carry you through the whole thing. I use the breathing machine twice a month and I notice its effects every day not only in the gym. Man, now I’m ready.
Asthma is a debilitating illness that can be of varying degrees of effect Echols asks that everyone be aware of its possibilities in the lives of your children and get them tested if its symptoms appear.