Exclusive Interview with Olivier Lontchi – Next for Juan Manuel Lopez

by James Slater – Next in line for WBO super-bantamweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez is Cameroon-born Olivier Lontchi, an unbeaten 25-year-old who now lives in Canada. Currently 18-0-2(8) as a pro, Lontchi says he will shock the odds and upset Lopez next month.

Indeed, the 5’5″ Lontchi told me – as we spoke over the phone from his trainer Howard Grant’s gym in Canada last week – that he can’t wait for the bout that will pit two unbeaten fighters going at it; and that he is sure he will avoid “Juanma’s” awesome punching power and win on points..

Speaking in excellent English, the polite and honest fighter who has been a pro since September of 2004 said he is looking forward to June 27th.

Olivier told me he is sure he is ready for this big step up in class.

“I am definitely ready for this big opportunity,” Lontchi told me with a smile. ‘Juanma’ has a fifty-percent chance of winning, and so do I. This will make a good fight, me and him. If I was unsure of myself I would stay in Montreal and box.”

Lontchi insists he has power of his own, but what is his overall style? The 25-year-old informed me he pays great attention to defence.

“I can punch pretty hard, and I am a smart boxer. I am very good at defending myself. I can’t say which is my best punch, because I have stopped guys with my left, and also with my right.”

As preoccupied as he may seem with not getting hit, Lontchi makes it clear he is coming to win against Lopez. In fact, Lontchi urged me to watch the fight so as to see how well he will perform!

“I know people are saying I have no chance to win, but I say please come to this fight and you will see. If you can’t come live watch it on T.V – I say this to all boxing fans. I am ready to shock the boxing world on June 27th! This is my chance to show how good I am. For many people this will be the first time they have seen me fight, but it won’t be the last.”

Polite and not at all cocky he sure is, but Olivier is also hugely self assured. I asked him about his early days in the sport, and about his boxing heroes as a kid.

“My trainer when I first started out was a big Muhammad Ali fan, and he made me read “The Greatest” biography. I also liked Mike Tyson. When I was growing up he was the king. Everyone wanted to be like Tyson, even in Africa. He was the king of Africa also!”

Lontchi has two draws on his pro resume, yet he maintains the first one – which came in his pro debut – was due to inexperience and nothing more, and that the second tie, against Eduardo Garcia back in August of 2008, was a bad decision.

“The first draw was my pro debut, and I was boxing another guy from Quebec. But he had had three or four fights (actually three – Dave Drouin being the man in question) and I was having my first pro fight. I fought like an amateur in that I hit and moved a lot and wasn’t aggressive enough. The judges saw that and didn’t like it. I learnt after that fight, though.

“The second draw, it was just bad luck. He (Garcia) hit me with a bad shot and I went down to take a knee to recover. I moved around for a while to get myself recovered and that gave him some rounds. But then I got him with a right hook and he spat out his mouth-piece to gain time. Then the fight was over. Everyone said we would have to fight again, and that I would stop him. I was very disheartened by what happened in that fight. That was the first time I’ve ever been down. It won’t happen again.”

Getting back to the man he will be swapping punches with in June, I brought up the southpaw stance of Lopez. Lontchi surprised me by what he had to say.

“I’ve never fought a southpaw in my life! Actually, I fought one as an amateur, and I lost to him. But that was at 48 KG, and I was not strong at that weight. I moved straight up in weight in my very next fight.”

Olivier tells me he will not be studying Lopez on tape, as he never watches an upcoming foe on video.

“I don’t like to watch tapes of a fighter I am going to be fighting. The reason is, they can change from the style they boxed at on the tape. I can adapt in a fight.”

So far, the world title contender has boxed as a pro in Canada only. Olivier tells me he is hugely excited about having his U.S debut next month.

“I am very excited to be having my first world title fight and my first fight in America. I’m very happy. I can’t wait to show my skills.”

When I asked Olivier if super-bantamweight is his ideal weight class I was expecting him to say it was. He didn’t, and displayed real honesty in not doing so.

“(after a long pause) No, super-bantamweight is not my strongest weight. I was the Canadian featherweight champion, but we had a super-bantamweight world champion here in Canada – Steve Molitor. Anyway, my promoter said that if I beat Cruz Carbajal I would get a shot at Molitor afterwards. But he never gave me a shot and he lost his title last year (to Celestino Caballero). I feel strong at 122, but to be honest featherweight is my best weight.”

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