Kali ‘Checkmate’ Meehan Interview

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11.12.04 – By Tony Nobbs: After dropping a hotly disputed split verdict to Lamon Brewster for the WBO belt on September 4, Australasian heavyweight Kali ‘Checkmate’ Meehan gets his second opportunity in the big league when he faces off with former world champion Hasim Rahman at Madison Square Garden on November 13. Currently back training in Sydney, the 34 year old New Zealand born Kali took the time to speak to Eastside on October 15.

ESB: Kali, tell us what you expect from Hasim Rahman.

Kali Meehan: Basically, it’s do or die for him as well as for me. Last fight, I showed myself to people in America and over here that I can mix it. This is an important fight. Don King has high expectations of me, I can’t afford to lose this one. Rahman has said if he loses to me he doesn’t deserve to be there. He is dangerous but I think he has had hard fights and I am the fresher fighter. I haven’t had the wars that he has. I’m expecting it to be a very hard fight and he will give it everything. When I was over there last he came up and called me the champ! He said I won the (Brewster) fight. It means a lot to me to get the respect of the top American fighters.

ESB: Give us your thoughts on the Brewster fight.

Kali Meehan: I do feel I won but I got no bad sentiments toward Lamon Brewster. We both got in there and fought and left it in the judge’s hands. I’m not sitting around moping that I never got he decision. Before the fight I said I hoped to win fans. I knew most people wrote me off. The man they seen before was someone who was holding down two jobs and not able to concentrate on boxing. Before the fight, I got sick and had only had one fight in two years when I knocked out Damon Reid in six rounds in April. I’m not making excuses, I was fit, but because of the little bit of training I missed plus the inactivity, I felt the pace. I’m real happy I did the twelve rounds though. I’ve watched the tape and I think it was a good fight.

ESB: Tell us about your experience in the U.S and with Don King.

Kali Meehan: It’s all good. I have nothing bad to say about Don King. Nothing! People say to me I lost the fight because of Don King. I honestly don’t believe that. I knew the plans Don had for me. He got me the fight for the title and he has since made this fight with Rahman which is a WBA eliminator. Fighting in America for Don King has made me. They flew me over for the Trinidad-Mayorga fight, we had our press conference and they got all us fighter’s on the November 13 card in the ring. It was a spin out, all the Puerto Rican Trinidad fans were coming up “Meehan Meehan, you’re the champ”. It’s awesome that I have got the recognition, finally being regarded as someone good enough to be at that level. I’m doing a lot of interviews for different websites and it took a while to get used to but it’s awesome to know that people in the media acknowledge what I’m doing now.

ESB: When do you plan to go over for the Rahman fight?

Kali Meehan: Two weeks before. We will probably leave on the 1st and get over there on the 1st. Right now I’m doing plenty of hard training, working with the guys from the Parramatta Eels. I’ve been doing weights. Not to bulk up but to get stronger. I’m also sparing this guy, (Cannibal)Kava. We are really working hard together. He is better work than some of the guys in America. I might get a bit of sparring over there but most of the hard work will already be done here.

ESB: What’s next after November 13?

Kali Meehan: I don’t want to look to far ahead. I have to get past Rahman first. The winner of our fight will fight the winner of Ruiz-Golota.

ESB: This time last year it looked like you might never fight again.

Kali Meehan: If it wasn’t for Mark Janssen I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be fighting. I was disillusioned, I’d been fighting the same guys and I was just tired of it. No disrespect to Colin Wilson who is one of the bravest fighters in this country but when you fight the same guy four times it’s hard to get up and show your best. I took a break. Then one day I told my friend Danny Leigh up in Brisbane that I didn’t care if I ever boxed again. He told me Mark had said to him that he wanted to train a heavyweight fighter. Danny then told Mark about me and we met up. I went to Brisbane and we did some work together. Mark said something that I have never heard of before in boxing. He said he wasn’t going to ask me if he could train me and he didn’t expect me to move to Brisbane. He didn’t want me to train with him if he couldn’t get me sponsorship. It would be a waste of time otherwise. He got me with Ted Allen who managed him and Greg Nelson and here we are. I don’t have to work, I’m a full time fighter.

ESB: Mark has obviously done a great job.

Kali Meehan: I will tell you, Mark Janssen is a great trainer. I notice in America some of the guys ask Mark to take them on the pads. Trainer’s over there love to do twenty punch combinations which might look flashy while we just go thru one or two punches at a time and get our technique right. When I’m in the ring fighting I want to have confidence in the guy in my corner. Mark has been there himself. He was a very technical boxer, unbeaten, 23-0, and knows what he is talking about. He has told me things he picked up just from watching me fight a few years ago and we are correcting. The team we have together, we all have our jobs. Ted’s the manager, Mark’s the trainer and I’m the fighter.

ESB: How did your career start in Australia?

Kali Meehan: I came over here as an opponent on a day’s notice and knocked out James Grima in four rounds on the Gold Coast in 1998 (Feb 26). They brought me back here to stay and I trained with Tony Schwalger until he had a heart attack before I fought in Japan (KO 3 Peter Okhello, Nov 3 ’99). He would have kept training me but I didn’t think it was right because there is a lot of stress involved.

ESB: Having known you since you first came to Australia it’s great to see what you are now accomplishing.

Kali Meehan: Thanks. It’s great to know I have support from all the fans and the people around me. My wife and family are great. Like on Saturdays we go and run the sand hills they come with me. On the roads during the week my son will stand at the telegraph poles and push me thru sprints.

ESB: Finally, what are your thoughts on the state of Australian boxing?

Kali Meehan: To me, Australian boxing right now is recognised throughout the world. We have guys all thru the weight divisions. People are now respecting Australian fighters. It’s like when you fight an Aussie fighter, “man you got a tough fight”. We are making a lot of noise.