13.10.05 – By Greg Smith: The heavyweight division is at one of the strangest inflection points in boxing history. Vitali Klitschko is considered by most observers to be the top heavyweight in the world right now, but truthfully, nobody is really in charge. The division is fragmented, chaotic, and uninspiring to the casual fan. Political machinations have compounded the issue, and have created unnecessary complexity. Hopefully, the powers that be will come together and create a unification tournament without smoke and mirrors, and the man on the street will once again be able to identify the heavyweight champion of the world.
One fighter trying to climb the ranks in the heavyweight division is Butler, Pennsylvania’s Brian Minto. The former college football player and quintessential western Pennsylvania blue collar worker got off to a late and unheralded start in his pro career. Brian’s first professional fight occurred in Pittsburgh just a few months before his twenty-eighth birthday in November 2002.
In less than three years, Brian has been inordinately active by contemporary standards, compiling a record 21-1 (12 KOs). Brian impressed many fans and members of the boxing cognoscenti with his brutal seventh round technical knockout of former nemesis Vinny Maddalone on the undercard of Tarver – Jones 3. Brian showed marked improvement from his previous performances, and many are now wondering exactly where Brian fits in the heavyweight division.
How far Brian is able to go in the heavyweight division remains to be seen. Brian is blessed with fast hands, natural athletic ability, and excellent footwork. On the other side of the coin, he is listed at 5’11” and 212 pounds in an age of mammoth heavyweights, and is relatively inexperienced. To be sure, Brian is acutely aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and is studying how to maximize his potential. In the end, unlike many of today’s fighters who get sidetracked by the street life and the trappings of ostentation, we’ll find out just how good Brian Minto is because he has a throwback mentality. In short, he wants to use his mind and body to the fullest extent in a quest to find out how well he stacks up against the best.
Earlier this week, I was able to conduct a one-hour telephone interview with Brian. Brian provided cogent and authoritative insight about his background, training, what he’s learned in his pro career thus far, how he views the heavyweight division, and what portends for the future.
GS: You started your pro career relatively late a few months before your twenty-eighth birthday. Give us some background on how you initially became interested in boxing, and what got you into the sport?
BM: Well, I was actually involved in boxing when I was twelve years old. I never had any fights; I was just sparring in the gyms. I was also involved in basketball, baseball, and football. I was juggling all of the sports, and I decided to just stick with baseball and football. I was in and out of the gym here and there.
When I got done with football at the collegiate level (Slippery Rock College in western Pennsylvania), I ended up getting back in the gym to get back in shape. It was the best way to lose weight. I was weighing 250 pounds. I ended up getting down to 230 pounds, and started competing in the amateurs. I got into the amateurs when I was 22. I had like ten fights. I got out of it again after we had our daughter. It was tough because I would get home from work, and instead of helping out, I’d go to the gym and try to train for a couple of hours every night.
What happened then was that I ended up working for a local cable company. I was a lineman for Armstrong Cable. I was tired of traveling. They had me traveling all of the time.
I then had an opportunity to get into the labor union, which was carrying block. I was laboring for the bricklayers. It was actually a lot better money, so I took the job. I had kind of an idea that I would get laid off a little bit in the winter because it would be slow, but that gave me the opportunity to train. So I trained full time in the winter.
After about four years of being out of boxing, I got back into it. I was gaining weight again, and I wanted to get back in shape. I competed in the Golden Gloves, and then I turned pro.
GS: What was your complete amateur record?
BM: It was 15-3. I lost to Jason Gavern, who is with the Goosens. He was ranked number three in the United States. I was getting to that level. Actually, I got robbed in my fight with him in Baltimore. I fought a few more amateurs fights after that.
After that, I got a call for a pro fight. It was a 4 rounder for $400. I said I’d take it. It was right around Thanksgiving of 2002. That was my first pro fight. As soon as I turned pro, my career went fast. Pat Nelson, my manager, he was a matchmaker for a lot of cards, and he put me on a lot of cards. From my first few pro fights, you wouldn’t believe the improvements I’ve made.
GS: Did you have any role models that you initially patterned yourself after?
BM: Truthfully, not that much. When I was in the amateurs I watched a lot of the old classics. I like Ali a little bit, but he was kind of arrogant, and I’m not an arrogant person. Right now, this morning I watched Roberto Duran and Hagler. But in terms of role models, I really didn’t have any role models. I was really into the Rocky movies when I was younger. That was a motivator that would push me.
I was involved in sports, and I guess I learned from all of the mistakes that I made as far as not being a success at anything I had done. I always had a bad attitude about things when I was younger. For example, when I was at Slippery Rock, I quit. The coaches got me discouraged because they weren’t starting me and weren’t playing me. I started not doing well in school, so I quit football.
Now, I’m involved in boxing, and I told myself that I’m not going to give myself an excuse to quit. I’m always going to try to do the best I can. That’s my mindset right now—to keep pushing myself.
When I was a kid, I used to be a hyper kid —a temper kid. I had a bad temper. When things got tough for me, that was time for me—the easy way– to quit. Now, it’s a test that’s put there for me to get through it.
GS: You train under the tutelage of Tom Yankello. Tom isn’t as well known as other trainers, but he trained Paul Spadafora. He is building a nice stable of fighters in western Pennsylvania. Explain your relationship with Tom, and how is he different than other trainers?
BM: Tom and I are like friends. I can talk to him about anything. He’s just as hungry as the fighters to make it in this game. He was shut out by Paul and Paul’s manager. They really did him wrong when they brought in other trainers.
As far as comparing him to other trainers, I’ve been with Tommy Brooks and went down (to Florida) and worked with Buddy McGirt. I’ve been around these guys, and I’m not cutting on their training ability, but I just gel with Tom because he is so hands-on. He’ll get in the ring and do 10-12 rounds of mitts with you, and he’s one of the best hand pad guys in the business.
He teaches the old school stuff. You see a lot of guys today without great defensive skills. Tom teaches defense and countering. He’s a great teacher. He’s in as good of shape as the fighters are, too. Some trainers will go outside and smoke a cigarette and then watch you hit the heavy bag. Tommy is in the ring and moving around with you and showing the proper techniques, and the right way you’re supposed to fight.
GS: When you’re in training camp, give us a day in the life, so to speak. How much roadwork do you do? How much gym work? Sparring? Tell us about diet and strength and conditioning?
BM: When we’re in training camp, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are running days. The training camp we go to is in California, Pennsylvania (Author’s Note: California, Pennsylvania is about one hour south of Pittsburgh). It’s on a mountain. It’s Buzz Garnic’s place. That run is four miles on mountainous hills.
On Wednesday’s we’ll do an interval sprint. On Friday’s, we’ll do a tempo run, which is your best time in a three mile run. I was averaging 19:58. I run three miles in about twenty minutes.
It’s really good conditioning. When I first got to Tom, I wasn’t in any kind of shape. He was making me do a lot of running, and I was thinking, “This guy is nuts.” I just sucked it up and did everything he asked me to do.
In the afternoons on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, we do our boxing workout. That consists of mitt work, heavy bag, defensive drills, and a lot of shadow boxing.
On Saturday’s, we do sprints. Tom also incorporates some strength training into our training. We use kettlebells that the Russians use (http://kettlebell-training.com/). We do a lot of explosive training with that.
Sparring is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
I see a nutritionist. I eat five meals a day, and I weigh my food like Evander Holyfield did. I noticed that I got my body in a lot better shape when I did that. I lost a lot of body fat.
When I fought Maddalone for the first time last year, I was like 175 of muscle and 30 pounds of fat. For the second fight with Maddalone, my body fat was like at 7%. I was 198 pounds of lean muscle, and the rest was fat. I’ve really turned my body composition around.
GS: Calvin Brock is your stablemate, and is also trained by Tom Yankello. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Calvin get a title shot in 2006. Give us an idea of what it’s like to spar with Calvin in the gym. What have you learned from him, and how has the sparring helped in your development?
BM: We’re good friends, and I’ve learned a lot from him by sparring with him. He’s a great fighter. Some guys get paid to spar with him, but I’ll get in there because I take it as a learning experience. When I fought Jermell Barnes in July, Calvin and I sparred the whole camp.
GS: What other top-flight heavyweights have you sparred with?
BM: I’ve sparred with Clifford Etienne, but Calvin is the top heavyweight I’ve sparred with. I heard Emanuel Steward say that I don’t have any top heavyweights to spar with, and I laughed at that. Calvin is one of the best in the heavyweight division.
For the Maddalone fight, I brought in Jeremy Bates (Brian TKO’D Bates in 2004), and I brought in the “African Assassin”, Abraham Okine. He was the same style of fighter as Maddalone.
GS: You’ve fought very often by contemporary standards. You’ve been a pro a little less than 3 years, and you have 22 professional fights under your belt. It’s difficult to keep active in today’s sport. Explain how you’ve worked with your manager, trainer, and promoter to keep fighting so often.
BM: Well, it’s kind of funny because this past year has been kind of slow, but I signed a promotional agreement with the Duvas. It seemed like a lot of things weren’t happening for me, but then things started coming around.
Actually, my manager, Pat Nelson, and I were on the outs. That’s part of the reason things slowed down. Pat and I had a big falling out, but now we’re back together. He’s pretty brilliant as far as moving me, and picking the right fights.
The other guy I have is Felix Dialoiso. He helps me with money so I don’t have to work. It starting to come back together like it was before Pat and I had a falling out. Everything is turning around, and I think we’re all on the same page. Tommy gets along with everyone.
I don’t think Dino (Duva) really believed in me until he saw my last fight. He saw how much I improved. He called and congratulated me. He told me that HBO would like to see me fight on their network again. He spoke highly of me. He’s said, “Man, you’ve gotten so much better.” He told me to just keep it up.
GS: He’s been all over the internet about that in the last few days.
BM: Yeah, he’s been on there. You know, I was on East Side Boxing, and I saw some of the comments. You know, all of these guys who get right in there. They say I’m too small. Well, you know what? That fuels me. I love it when people say that. They can say everything they want. Everyone seems to forget that Evander Holyfield didn’t weigh that much.
For me to get big, it wouldn’t be smart to blow up to 220-230. That slows me down, and it takes away from my game. I need to keep my hand speed and quickness. That’s how I give these guys fits in there.
GS: Earlier this year, you lost a tough and controversial split decision to former WBA heavyweight champion, Tony Tubbs. I watched Tony score a TKO against a .500 fighter a few months ago. Even at age 47, he can give a lot of fighters problems. He’s very crafty and tricky. He sets traps, comes from different angles, and has short-term and long-term strategies. He’s exceptionally ringwise. He’s just one of those guys. When he’s 60, we’ll probably read that he won an exhibition bout somewhere. What did you learn in that fight?
BM: To be patient. I learned that you can’t let those guys lean on you and hold you. That’s what his game plan was. In the first couple of rounds, he tried to fight with me. I almost knocked him out in the second round. His legs went, and then the bell rang.
I needed to get on the inside because he has a long reach. I was getting on the inside, but he’d throw a one-two. A lot of times he wasn’t landing it, but then he’d hold me and walk me around the ring. The referee never warned him or took points, but I learned that you have to win every round. You have to make sure you’re ahead on points.
I was getting tired because he was leaning on me, and I was struggling trying to get out. I learned that you have to relax on the inside; it’s probably the best thing for any fighter. Don’t try to wrestle around; just keep your hands free so you can score. That’s why maybe the two other judges scored it for him.
I really felt I won the fight even though it was a bad night for me. I had switched to Tommy Brooks for that fight, and they tried to change me up into a Mike Tyson style puncher. I wasn’t really balanced right that night. My footwork wasn’t right. I had a lot of problems, but I still felt I won the fight.
You are right, though. Tony Tubbs is one of the craftiest guys I’ve ever been in with. He can turn an angle on anybody. He is slick in there. He looks like a fat tub of you know what, but he surprised the hell out of me.
GS: Tony has done a lot of sparring with Klitschko. Remember that his amateur record was 240-13. He knows the ring. It was an education watching him while sitting at ringside at a card near Cincinnati a few months ago. It was fun to watch. You can see him thinking in there.
BM: Oh, he’s something else. It was a great experience for me to fight him. Everyone says, “Why don’t you fight him again?” I think I’d knock him out this time, but what does he do for my career? Just to have it on my resume?
Before I fought him, I watched tape of his fight with Abraham Okine (Okine scored an eighth round TKO over Tubbs in 1998). Tony was abusing his body at the time. Abraham was knocking him down easy. I didn’t think Tony could take a punch.
For me, he came out of prison and they sent him away for a training camp. He was healthy. He had been sparring. He can give anyone problems. He might be able to hang in there with some of the contenders because he’s so smart. Great left hand! He throws an uppercut, a hook, and a jab.
GS: He knows exactly when to do things. You can see how he works his angles. He uses his left hand, then works his right hand in, and then sometimes steps to the side and hits you from the blind side. He’s just very smart.
BM: You know, everyone wrote me off after that loss. However, a lot of people who actually know boxing know that he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve and he still has some potential.
GS: The two fights with Vinny Maddalone are what you’re most known for at this stage of your career. The first fight was a great action fight, and you pulled it out in the last round. In the second fight, you were a more seasoned pro, and dominated the action. What specific adjustments and changes did you make to improve so much in a little over a year?
BM: Being more confident in myself. I learned. In the first fight, I kind of ran from him. I didn’t want to get hit. Little did I know at the time, but when you move that much in the ring, you’re burning up a lot of energy constantly.
From what I’ve learned in the gym, I keep my feet flatter on the ground, and I don’t waste as much energy. That’s what I did this time. I stayed on the inside, and fought him on the outside, too. I didn’t let him push me around the ring and gain confidence. That’s what happened in the first fight. He was throwing a lot of wild, looping shots. I think I was more focused. The adrenaline wasn’t pumping as much, and the nerves weren’t there. It’s getting experience and learning to stay calm in the ring.
GS: You’re listed at 5’11” and 212. How does your size work for you and against you in this age of big heavyweights?
BM: In terms of working against me, it’s the bigger guys leaning on you. The guys that are 6’4” or 6’5” with a good jab are harder to get inside with, too.
I’ve learned to adapt to that though because I’ve always been a shorter fighter. You learn from the fights and in the gym. Guys like Tubbs. Back then, he used the jab, and I was on the outside sometimes. I was getting hit with the jab. You have to learn how to jab with these guys, and get on the inside. If you don’t jab with them, you’re going to get murdered.
In terms of my advantages, when I get on the inside with these guys, my hands are quick. I know how to fight on the inside. I know how to roll with punches. With Maddalone, I kept turning him. I never let him set his feet, or sit down on a punch. If he has his feet planted, he can get power. That’s when he can take a shot at you. I kept bumping him up in the shoulder, pivoting, and turning him to the right.
What I’ve learned now is how to change speeds up. Touch him, and then explode on him. I did that well in the fight.
GS: Did you learn that by watching tape of Duran? He was an expert at changing speeds.
BM: Yes. Changing speeds. His upper body movement. If you notice, it’s all from the waist up. It’s not in the legs —it’s all smooth. The way he slips and everything. Tom (Yankello) is a smart guy because he studies the tapes, too.
GS: On the subject of size, prior to the Maddalone fight, did you and your management ever discuss moving down to the cruiserweight division?
BM: Not really. I was actually thinking about it, though. I thought I might be able to get a shot at the cruiserweight title quicker. But then, the opportunity with HBO came up, and I couldn’t pass that up. I think that there’s more money to be made in the heavyweights.
GS: Absolutely. That’s one of the interesting things about your career. Your size can work for you and against you as we’ve talked about. You’re also a fighter who studies the sport and keeps learning. Now that you have the HBO exposure under your belt, the heavyweight opportunities will come, and that is definitely where the money is. The cruiserweights might seem like an option, but it’s a financial wasteland in comparison to the heavyweight division.
So, to clarify, you were thinking about a move to the cruiserweight division, but with the HBO exposure, that’s basically out of the picture now?
BM: Basically. For me, it’s keeping confident that I can compete with these big guys. You know what? There’s so many naysayers out there. If you listen to them, they’ll bring you down. Right now, they’re fueling me to try harder by saying I can’t do this and I can’t do that. If anybody would’ve seen where I came from when I was this brawler without any boxing skills, they have to realize that I always had athletic ability. I’m putting it all together, and it’s just getting better and better. From my last fight to this fight, I’ve probably improved 100%. Things are clicking in there. I’m training and I’m thinking in the ring. I try new things and I’m learning. It’s my desire to learn and keep getting better that keeps me going.
I have a family to feed and I also want to make money. I want to make money. I’ve been out there working the eight hours a day carrying block and climbing poles in the rain and the snow. That’s not the life for me, and I want to make it elsewhere to be successful.
GS: Even though you performed very well against Maddalone, boxing is a sport where a fighter needs to constantly work on things to improve, or something will come up and bite you. What are some of the technical things you need to work on?
BM: Everything! Nothing is great with me. Actually, in the Maddalone fight I thought I used my jab well. I need to throw my right hand more. I’m kind of like a converted southpaw. When I played baseball, I threw with my right hand, but batted left-handed all of my life. I have power in both hands. I also need to work on my defense. I thought I had a good defense against Maddalone, but sometimes I tend to keep my hands down a little bit. Everything can be improved.
The way I look at it is that I beat Maddalone, but skill wise, he’s a C level fighter. I’m just thankful that the opportunity was on that big of a stage. I didn’t struggle with him at all. I dominated the whole fight. I saw Al Cole fight him, and he didn’t beat him up like I did.
GS: What do you consider to be your biggest strength or attribute?
BM: I’ve got good instincts. I have good peripheral vision. I have a great heart. You’re not going to see me quit. I think my hand speed for a heavyweight is great. I think I have the hand speed of a light heavyweight or a middleweight. A lot of people say I don’t have a lot of power, but let me hit you with one of these fast shots. Maddalone has a great chin. We knew that going into the fight.
I think my inside fighting has improved. I can bob and weave on the inside, roll with shots, and come right back. Being short, people don’t understand that you have so much leverage on the inside against big guys. Once you get into their chest, you can control them all day long.
GS: You watch a lot of tape and study the nuances of the sport. Have you ever watched film of Dwight Muhammad Qawi?
BM: No I haven’t, but that’s one I’m putting on the list. I have a good connection who can get me a lot of fights.
GS: That’s one you should study. I think you’d get a lot out of that because you pay close attention to technical things. You and Tom should talk about that. Qawi was about 5’6 ¾” to 5’7” as a light heavyweight (Qawi later won a cruiserweight belt), and with the exception of his fight with Michael Spinks, he was almost always outjabbing his opponent. He was amazing to watch. His ability to slip, counter, and fight on the inside and the outside was tremendous. He started late, too. When he came out of prison, he started his career around the age of 25. He didn’t really have an amateur career. He was a fantastic inside fighter, but he could outjab taller opponents because of how he positioned his body.
BM: I watch a lot of film of James Toney. He is slick as slick can be. I watch his fights with McCallum. You can see the chess match with the countering, and the way they’re thinking in there without burning themselves up.
GS: It’s interesting that you say that. A few months ago, I converted the first two Toney – McCallum fights to DVD, and donated them to a local gym in Cincinnati for kids to learn from. Those fights are classics. Toney was only 23 or 24 for those fights, and McCallum was 35.
BM: I watch a lot of film. I watch Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson. You know who I thought was real good on the inside: Jake LaMotta. He catches stuff with his shoulders. He rolls and turns his head. He comes back and counters. He’s another one who I like to watch.
GS: Speaking of Toney, assess the heavyweight division? In your opinion, who are the best 3 or 4 fighters in the division, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
BM: Like I said, I like James. I think he’s one of the most skilled heavyweights. His strengths are his defense, and he’s an all around great fighter. His weaknesses are that he doesn’t get into that great of shape. He’s too heavy at 235-240.
I have to give Calvin credit. Like Toney, he has great offensive and defensive skills and punching power. In terms of weaknesses, I’m not sure he has many. He lives right. He’s a religious guy. Sometimes he slacks off a little in the gym, but everyone does.
Samuel Peter is an exciting fighter. His strengths are his punching power and his toughness. His weaknesses are that he’s limited in his boxing skills. The way he went to Klitschko. He was just walking in. He was never jabbing. He wasn’t moving his head, and he was walking into punches.
Vitali Klitschko: I watched his fight with Danny Williams. I saw an improved Vitali Klitschko. The way he was using his height and his reach. He was boxing real nice, and using his size. People question his heart, but I think he has a lot of heart. Sometimes his brother panics when he gets hit, and he gets real tired. Those guys are big. I don’t think Vitali has a lot of weaknesses. Maybe you can say his inside fighting because he’s so tall, and is used to keeping a guy at bay with his long reach. I think if a guy can get on the inside, maybe you’ll see that weakness.
GS: Who is the best heavyweight in the world?
BM: I think in terms of skill, Toney is up there. I think he’s going to give a lot of guys problems. He’s got the heart. He has punching power. He can pop. He doesn’t give a shit who you are. He’s coming to fight. I think he’s one of the best, or the best. I forgot to mention Chris Byrd. Chris Byrd is slick, but I’ve heard that he hasn’t been fighting well lately.
GS: Your career is now moving forward after getting HBO exposure. Heavyweights seem to peak later than other fighters. You’re going to be 31 in a few months. Dino Duva was recently quoted as saying that you’re “in the mix” in the heavyweight division. After getting this exposure on HBO, when should we expect to see you fight next? Are you planning to make a big jump into top 10 competition in your next fight, or are you going to look for an opponent who is a notch up from Maddalone first?
BM: I’d like to stay busy and get opportunities on HBO, and keep learning and stepping up. Maybe a notch above Maddalone, but if need be, if it’s someone in the top 10, I’ll fight any of those guys.
GS: Whenever someone starts a career, they have preconceived notions about how their career will develop and unfold. It never seems to work out exactly as planned. Sometimes it’s negative, and it sometimes goes well beyond their initial expectations. From the start of your career up until this point, what are some things about the sport of boxing which have surprised you in both positive and negative ways?
BM: The positive part is the opportunity to be successful. The money I’ve made hasn’t been that great so far, but I’ve been able to make a living. To meet good people, and learn from certain people’s successes and failures.
The negative part is the promoters. Sometimes, it seems like they’re a little greedy with money at times. With the Maddalone fight I was supposed to make a lot more money than I did. That got nixed somehow. They came to me with two different offers at first. Then, they came back and said, “Well, we can only pay you this amount.” Well, that’s not what my contract stated. You get put behind the eight ball where you’re not going to make the money, and it’s discouraging. I used it as a chip on my shoulder to fight harder. You see a lot of dirty stuff happen.
It would be nice to see fighters actually get more respect, and get a lot more money that they deserve rather than the promoters trying to take it all. I’d like to see boxing be fair to the guys who are out there getting banged around, sweating, and trying to make a living. The bumps and bruises, the broken bones….it’s a brutal sport.
I read on the internet that they want to put safety regulations in. They want to use 20 or 22 ounce sparring mitts. I was laughing at that. I just want it to be fair for boxers. I feel for these guys. Some of these guys don’t have any other skills when they get done with boxing.
I’d like to see a pension plan for fighters, but it would have to come out of our pockets. We go months without a paycheck. It’s our own money that we work months and months for. You might have a manager who is giving you money, but you’re paying that back in his cut. I’d like to see it be more organized than it is instead of the top dogs calling all of the shots.
The top elite fighters make their money, though. People say things about Don King, but if the fighters are making millions, what are they worried about what Don King is making? If everyone is making money, that’s great, but I understand that sometimes promoters don’t always make out. It has to be a two way street. Let everybody make money.
The most important thing is that the people are coming to watch so the fighters make a decent amount of money. We don’t have retirement plans. Right now, I’m thinking about putting money into an IRA for myself so I have something when I retire. You can only do this for so long. I think about the long run. When you get the money, it can be gone if you’re not smart with it. It’s a challenge. You see some guys who get all of this money, and they go out and buy $100,000 cars. That’s basically retarded. I think you have to use your head.
GS: At this moment, what are your short-term and long-term goals for your career? Do you have a timetable on what you want to accomplish?
BM: My short-terms goals are to get back in the ring in the next 2-3 months on HBO or Showtime. I’d like to step it up and shut some of the critics up who say I’m too small and can’t fight.
The long-terms goals are to become champ. I want to fight for a world title. I want to be successful at the game. Make enough money and be able to retire off of boxing. I want to enjoy my children. They’re young right now. When they’re older, I want to be there for them. I might want to get my son into boxing, or whatever he wants to be involved in.
I’ve always thought about starting my own gym, or getting involved in real estate. Make your money work for you; don’t work for your money. There’s so much to think about. I might want to start a restaurant. I have a real good following back home in Butler.
GS: That was actually part of my next question. You beat me to it. Western Pennsylvania has a rich boxing tradition. Harry Greb might be the greatest fighter of all-time. Billy Conn was one of our greatest light heavyweight champions. Fritzie Zivic ended Henry Armstrong’s welterweight reign, and was one of the smartest and dirtiest fighters in history. Charley Burley, who beat Zivic in two out of their three bouts, is considered along with Sam Langford as perhaps the greatest fighter never to win a world championship. Michael Moorer grew up in Monessen in the Mon Valley. Paul Spadafora was a lightweight belt holder, and was developed by your trainer, Tom Yankello. Billy Soose was a college-educated middleweight in the 1940s who beat Tony Zale. Now that Paul is incarcerated and probably won’t get out until next year, is the Pittsburgh metro area starting to embrace you more as their next main attraction/fighter?
BM: I’d like to think so. Out of all of the guys fighting out of the western Pennsylvania area, I’m the second guy to fight on HBO. Paul was the first. Tom called the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and said they should do an article on me. It seems like in my area in Butler (Author’s Note: Butler is about one hour north of Pittsburgh) I am noticed, but not so much down in Pittsburgh. Maybe I could have more PR in Pittsburgh.
I think this opened up the eyes of a lot of people, but some people still say that I’m too small. Let them keep saying that. I’m ready to prove them wrong.
GS: Anything else you’d like to add?
BM: No. I think we covered about everything. I think Dino (Duva) is going to do the right thing by me. I think he sees that I can be marketable. I’m still learning. I learn every day in the gym. Tom wants to show me some stuff that Willie Pep does. I want to learn as many tricks and styles as I possibly can. We’re going to try to incorporate all of this stuff. Different things work against different guys.