NEW YORK (June 28, 2012) – WBA/WBO/IBF/IBO heavyweight champion WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, his opponent, top-rated contender TONY THOMPSON, Tom Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions, Barry Hunter, Thompson’s trainer, and Travis Pomposello, EPIX CCO and executive producer of EPIX Sports, hosted an international Media Conference Call discussing the upcoming Klitschko-Thompson II world heavyweight championship rematch, which will take place Saturday, July 7, at the Stade de Suisse in Bern, Switzerland, and will be televised live in the U.S. exclusively on EPIX, the multiplatform premium entertainment service. EpixHD.com will stream the fight live as part of a special free trial offer for boxing fans. The telecast and the live stream will begin at 5:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. PT.
As has become the custom, EPIX will once again present the closed-captioned simulcast of this world championship rumble on its jumbotron in Times Square in New York City (Broadway between 44th and 45th Sts.)
Fred Sternburg: It’s very exciting for EPIX before we head into the July 4 holiday to talk about a very special event on July 7 it’ll be the unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko defending his titles against the top rated contender, Tony Thompson of Washington, D.C.
It’s been quite some time since an American has held a heavyweight title belt [Shannon Briggs, WBO champion, 2006-2007] and Tony is going to try to reverse a trend that’s been going the European way for quite some time, and as most of you remember, this is a rematch of a fight they had nearly four years ago that was very exciting for as long as it went. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, Tony had an injury going into the fight, fought very valiantly in his first world title fight and has since worked his way back up into the mandatory challenger position again.
Travis Pomposello: Thanks Tony and Wladimir for coming on the call with us and everybody else who’s listening. I’m excited to have another heavyweight championship fight on EPIX which has certainly become Heavyweight Central over the past 14, 15 months. This is the second time we have Wladimir on the air, just a mere few months ago we had Wladimir defend his title against Jean-Marc Mormeck. And it’s exciting for us that we have a heavyweight champion who fights every few months and that’s able to bring an exciting fight to our U.S. audience.
EPIX has been keeping up its multi-platform positioning. We’re going to be available on all EPIX enabled platforms again like we were for Froch-Bute in May, along with Xbox, which was a first for us and a first for Xbox, and we’re excited to do that again as well as for the liv simulcast on our jumbotron in Times Square once again which has become one of our hallmarks which is exciting. And we’re starting to look forward to seeing American Tony Thompson fight a few days after the Fourth of July, larger than life, in Times Square.
I’m sure all the tourists who come to New York for the Fourth of July fireworks and weekend will be excited to see that fight.
EPIX is looking forward to great broadcast and you know giving our fans another great fight, and seeing what happens.
Tom Loeffler: We’re really excited about this fight — going back to Switzerland.
The press conference, we had inside the stadium — and Tony saw the stadium there for the first time — it’s a great arena – I believe it’s Switzerland’s second-largest soccer stadium. It’ll hold just over 30,000 people. It’s an outdoor venue.
And the way the production will work — the Klitschko fights are just huge events in Europe, and we’re really happy that we have EPIX as our television partner in the United States so that the fans in the U.S. can see the fight live and as Travis mentioned — on the jumbotron in Times Square. This is the sixth stadium fight in a row that Wladimir’s had and nobody sells more tickets here in Europe than the Klitschkos. They’re really big events.
So we’re happy that the American fans will also be able to see this fight.
And Tony is the mandatory challenger right now for Wladimir’s titles. And he gave Wladimir a great fight in 2008, and we know he’s definitely motivated for this rematch. So I think it’ll be a terrific fight coming up on July 7th.
Tony Thompson: Well, camp is good and obviously our expectations are to reverse the outcome of our last match that we had in ’08. I think we prepared well. My body’s strength and conditioning are coming around at the right time, and it’s going to be interesting to see what we look like against Wladimir this time.
Q What is different about this time around? Why would fans or anyone believe that this fight’s going to end any differently than the first one did?
Tony Thompson: Well I don’t know why the fans would, but I know why me and my team — you know everybody in my team knew I had an injury in the first fight, it’s hard enough to fight Klitschko with two legs, but I really was on one leg.
I had a torn meniscus in my knee. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to train throughout training camp or you know prepare for the heavyweight championship of the world. I think this time, we were able to prepare.
And, you know, with a healthy body we actually have a legitimate shot – I can’t help what anybody else thinks if I have a legitimate shot — but we know and so that’s all that matters to me.
Q: What do you think you bring the table that you know one (inaudible) your height,you’re one of two people who are going to be able to look eye to eye to Wladimir and have a similar height and reach.
But in addition to that, what makes you believe that you can do what no one’s been able to do in a very long time and overcome his abilities?
Tony Thompson: Well, first of all, (inaudible) fight his ass. You know a lot of people they sit back and they just accept the inevitable, that’s not — that’s not what we are coming over to do.
This is going to be a fight, I can guarantee – I’m not going to say to you that I’m going to guarantee victory and all that, and yes I’m going in to this to win but one thing I can guarantee is that I’m going to fight.
I’m going to come forward. I’m going to press the fight. I’m going to try to take the lead in every round. So I’m not going to sit back and let him jab me, right hand me to death.
And he’s going to have to do something that he did — he did really well in ’08. He did a lot of different things well, and he was able to overcome. But, you know, again I’m going to be the one to press the fight, I’m going to be the one throwing a lot of punches, I’m going to be the one landing most of the punches. So my willingness to fight I think is the biggest reason I will win.
Q: Tony, if you win the fight you become the first American heavyweight champion in quite a long time, since Shannon Briggs had the title of — briefly.
Is that in your mind? Does it matter to you? How proud would you be if you could be the one to accomplish that?
Can you talk to us about that aspect since it’s basically on July 4th weekend.
Tony Thompson: Obviously it’s going to be big for me — for my family — for the United States. You know I’m hoping — I realize I don’t have the support of a lot of the United States fans — they haven’t been given somebody they can get behind wholeheartedly for a long time I am hoping after this fight they will.
You know, they going to see that I’m going to be a guy — I might not have, you know, the biggest punch of fighters out there, I don’t have the greatest Holyfield body.
Matter of fact, I’ve got the early 1990s Larry Holmes body
So, you know, I got the radio face — not the pretty face. I understand their unwillingness not to come to this right now. But, you know, when they see my honest effort what they will see is a guy who is going to give an honest effort up in there every time. I’m coming in there to win every time, you know, make no mistake of that.
And — and for the United States to see a guy like that willing to go into the heat of the battle and actually fight this guy who’s been a great champ for so long, I think that’s going to convince a lot of ’em to come on inside, especially after they see — they see the great victory I’m going to pull off.
Q: Tony, you had your opportunity in ’08. You’re getting a second opportunity, against the same fighter — which does not happen all the time when the first fight ends the way the first one does. And you’re also a 40-year-old guy now.
Is there a little bit of a sense of desperation for you with the idea that there’s a very good chance that if you don’t get it this time this is probably your last shot?
Tony Thompson: It’s not a little bit of chance, it’s my last chance. To me my age is not really playing a big part. Yes, I’m (inaudible) guy being 40 years old you deal with some type of issues.
As far as boxing I feel good, man. You know, once I get healthy, totally healthy — which I think I am close to — my body feels good. I haven’t been in a lot of wars (ph). Obviously, everybody knows I started fighting at 27 so I haven’t been, you know, beat up on. I still can hold a good conversation. My head’s still intact.
I realize not a lot of TV channels want to put me on — on every channel for whatever reason. Doesn’t matter why. It’s just a reality of the situation.
The only way I can change that is to win.
Obviously, I’ve beaten the guys that are B talents. I’ve beaten those guys. And it’s up to me to prove that I belong on an A talent level. And that’s what this fight is about. I want to know and be on that level myself. I don’t want to continue to be known as the best American heavyweight or a good B challenger, or anything like that. I want to take the next step to the championship level.
Q: I know that going into this fight there is a legal issue between your camp and — and the promoter, Dan Goossen.
I’m wondering is it at all a problem in your mind or in your team’s mind that while this fight is happening that he’s suing you?
Tony Thompson: Dan can do what he wants. I don’t even think about stuff like that. Dan’s supposed to be a buddy of mine (inaudible) they tell you what they want you to hear. Soon as they don’t get their way they want to bring strife to your life in the terms of suing you (inaudible) like that.
But I’m not going to let that get in the way of what I have to accomplish. I have a job to accomplish. I’ll let the lawyers work out the lawyers’ stuff; I’ll work out the boxing.
Q: Yes, Tony, I was just wondering if you could kind of detail, what was wrong — what the specific injury was going into the first Klitschko fight and when it started to hamper you and kind of how it hindered your training and all that, and — and specifically how it injured you in the fight, as well?
Tony Thompson: Well, I had a torn meniscus in my right knee. So, you know, it hampered me in terms of I couldn’t do all the road work and all the extra work you have to do to prepare for a guy like a Wladimir Klitschko.
I’ve always told people if you cannot master a (conditioning) you have no chance. And that just proves to be (inaudible) be the truth.
I mean, obviously going in the fight I was so hyped up about fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world I ignored the (knee) pain. You know, I tried to do my best in terms of training. I sparred hard. My team knew I sparred hard. But when it came down to it, you know, my leg got tired early in the fight. I wasn’t able to push off.
Anybody that saw the punch stats knew I outlanded Wladimir. I kept going up in punches landed. I was the only guy that consecutively in three different rounds, you know, went higher and higher in terms of the punches that I landed on him. And that has never been done in his career.
But the problem that happened to me (inaudible) didn’t have the power to drive through those punches. I didn’t have the two legs to stand on to actually sit down on those punches and deliver them with heavyweight-type force.
You know, you put me in better conditioning, with more strength on my legs and still being able to touch him as often as I did. And I’d like to see, you know, how the results could be different. You know, nobody going to be able to convince, you know, yes, I’m a light-hitting heavyweight, but I’m still 240-plus pounds. And I don’t care if you’ve got a guy hitting you 240-plus pounds multi — multi times in any round, you know, anything could happen.
And (inaudible) to see me with two legs up under me the difference.
Q: Tony, how did you hurt your leg initially? How did you suffer the knee injury, do you remember?
Tony Thompson: Couldn’t tell you. All I know is I was working out and I realized I couldn’t run too well (inaudible) on my leg. I could not tell you.
Q: Obviously, Barry, this is a different fighter, different situation. You’re going overseas. But having been in that underdog situation and accomplished it, does that — number one, does that give you more motivation, more confidence? And also how much of that do you bring into this situation as a parallel to — with Tony?
Barry Hunter: Anytime I step in that ring and anytime I bring any of my guys to that square circle, you know, I’m very, very confident in what they can do because I know the preparation that goes into us getting ready for fights.
Definitely, I think this is a different Tony Thompson than the last one four years — or about four years ago. He’s feeling better, you know, as far as his body’s concerned, healthier. And, you know, he’s faced this man before, so therefore, you know, what (we) see in the ring come July the 7th is nothing different than four years ago.
So, you know, we’re definitely looking forward to the challenge for the title. I know how we felt after the last fight. And that was a long plane ride home, and neither one of us want to experience that again.
So I’m looking forward to it. I know Tony is. And definitely, hopefully, at the end of that night we bring that world title back to United States.
Q: One of the things that struck me most when I — when I first saw you is that you certainly appeared to have trimmed down nicely and to be fight ready. And I was wondering what you did to prepare yourself in terms of overall strength and conditioning for this particular fight.
Tony Thompson: Well, I mean, you know, I got a great strength conditioning coach, (Tony Burton). I mean, he just took me through a lot of things to try to strengthen up my legs, my base, my core — a lot of things, man. I mean, you know, my (longer) left shoulder — to give you specifics on everything. But just to say that he know what my weaknesses was. We worked on those weaknesses extensively.
And, you know, we accentuated what I couldn’t do and made sure that I could do by the end of the camp. And it all — to me it all came together perfectly. Man, Tony, did a great job of just, you know, making sure I had a basis up under me to be able to accomplish the things that Barry wanted me to do when I got to the boxing gym.
So on one hand, you know, I had Tony (setting) my base; on the other I had Barry pushing the pace to make sure the base was still good. So it was a total team effort and it was great.
Q: OK, well, I noticed this particular fight as opposed to four years ago you went to Europe significantly earlier, giving yourself more time onsite, if you will.
I wonder what’s the advantage of showing up there earlier as opposed to following the same schedule you did four years ago?
Tony Thompson: Well, the advantage is — you got to get on that jetlag. Jetlag is a real thing, you know, which is why the Klitschkos bring you over six days before. They know what they doing’. They’re very smart and astute people. You can’t blame ’em for that. It’s up to you and your team to combat that intelligence with your own intelligence.
And my team, we learned from experience. We know that wasn’t enough time. We know jetlag is still on, you know. So we came over a little bit early to get over the initial parts of the jetlag.
And then (inaudible) last week we started rebuilding the body back up now that we’re used to it.
So, I mean, that’s the reason for obviously coming over a little earlier. Smart move.
Tony Thompson: Well, I want to say thank you to EPIX. You know, not a lot of TV channels been willing to put me on. And I want to, you know, I want to love the girl that loves me. So you love me EPIX? Guess what? I love you.
You know, (inaudible) my family back home with (inaudible) fight for the world champion of the world, and I appreciate that. You’re doing a great job and I just want to say keep up the good work because you’re putting on good heavyweight fights, and that’s what boxing needs. The heavyweight division is not dead. It just needs somebody with the — with the foresight like EPIX to know what fight to put on and continue to put them on, and give people the chance to say “we don’t want to (inaudible).”
A lot of networks are making those decisions for the fans, but EPIX is just putting on good heavyweight fights. And I want to thank EPIX for that.
Q: How’s training camp? And what do you think you’ll see that’s new from Tony Thompson in this rematch?
Wladimir Klitschko: Training camp is going along well. I just got back from my workout, and got on this conference call. I think that the coming fight with Tony Thompson is going to be very challenging and very exciting, and I just want to (inaudible) everyone and all the boxing fans to watch this fight because it’s going to be definitely not an easy job for me.
And — and I’m expecting from Tony Thompson to be as aggressive as possible, because that’s his last chance for sure to fight for a championship. And I think Tony Thompson knows it pretty well. I think he knows it better than anyone else. Not as good as (inaudible), but he knows what to do and he has been around for a long time. He has been here at training camp in (Austria) and he was a sparring partner for Vitali’s fight against Juan Carlos Gomes.
He was my sparring partner in the fight that was a long time ago, 2003, in my fight with Corrie Sanders. I’ve fought Tony Thompson. So I think — I think he knows — Tony knows it pretty good and I believe that he’s super-motivated because that’s his last chance.
And it’s always a tough job to get the title, but it’s even tougher to defend the title, or titles in this case. But I’m wanting it, I mean the job that I’m doing, and I — I’m actually looking forward to the challenge. And to be honest with you, I’m really looking forward to the challenge because that’s the man that’s coming up to me. I don’t need to run behind and chase (inaudible) the ring as it was in (inaudible) fight.
So the man is going — going to come up to me, which is (inaudible) great. So I’m definitely looking forward to this opportunity to fight Tony Thompson again.
One more thing that I want to say, I didn’t choose Tony Thompson to fight. I’m forced to fight Tony Thompson because he’s, for all the respect that I want to give him, he has been fighting his way back to the top to become number one challenger in position — number one at the IBF. And so I have to defend my IBF title and fight him.
Q: Wladimir, when Tony came on and spoke to us just before you got on the call, one of the things he talked about was that in the first fight he claimed that he had a torn meniscus in his knee, hampered his training, and then, of course, hampered him as well in the fight.
I’m wondering, did you notice anything about his knee when you fought him the first time? Do you think it’s an excuse? Or what do you make of that? And now he says he’s healthy and it will be a different fight.
Wladimir Klitschko: So I will suggest to Tony Thompson to fill out application and to tell in advance what kind of injuries he has this time. So we know in advance what is going on. Because in the first fight, he said to me tete-a-tete, even you know, without press, he said, “Wladimir, I’m going to beat you; I know what to do with you; I’m going to win this fight.”
And he was very self-confident. I mean, he was super-confident and there has been nothing spoken about any knee injury.
And I don’t want to mention the kind of injuries I have, but however, whatever was there, I think — I think in anyway he was very tough and he was giving me a good fight. I don’t want to take credit for that, but as I said, my suggestion is just fill out application just say you, you know, what kind of injuries he’s having right now so we’re aware of that.
Q: Did you notice anything about the knee during the course of your almost 11 full rounds with him in the ring in the first fight?
Wladimir Klitschko: I don’t know. To be honest with you, yeah, I mean I (inaudible), but not in medicine. So I can’t really say what was going on and what kind of injuries he’s had. I have to say — I have to say he was actually — he was actually, one of the rounds he went down and he (inaudible) his knee and, you know, he was limping. And (inaudible) Joe Cortez, the referee, you know, let Tony recover, walk around and continue to fight.
Wladimir Klitschko: (inaudible) thing that I — that I remember from that fight, so — and regarding the knee injury he had, as he said.
Q: You know, not that he landed a whole lot of punches against you in that fight, but what kind of punching power did you feel from him, if anything of consequence?
Wladimir Klitschko: I felt — I felt pretty — I felt his headbutts pretty good. I don’t know about the other punches, but headbutts were good. He was (inaudible) and moving forward, and eventually (inaudible) motion (inaudible), so, and also on the faces — his face and my face, we both got cut. That’s actually the most thing that I remember from punching power (inaudible).
Q: You said you did not pick Tony to fight. Would you have considered him if you had your choice?
Wladimir Klitschko: I would consider — I mean, I’m going to be pretty honest and open here. I would rather take some — some fighters that I hadn’t fought. Someone new. But I had no choice. So I have to defend my titles, and I think that to fight Tony Thompson is definitely not an easy job, so it’s not going to be a vacation fight for me.
So it’s going to be challenging and — and tough, and I — and I on one hand. On the other hand, as I said, if you ask me would I choose Tony Thompson or fight someone else, I probably would go for some new names and the fighters that I haven’t fought.
But whatever we have, we have here, and I have to — I have to say something — something good about Tony Thompson. He has been focusing on this fight, on this rematch for a long time — because I’ve been watching all the fights and his comments after the fights. And he was like — he was always mentioning the name of (inaudible) and he’s going to get eventually the rematch.
And that shows that man is determined to make a fight. And now the time — time passed by fast, four years. Now he’s going to be in the ring next week Saturday.
Q: Does having fought you once already give him a little more of an advantage do you think?
Wladimir Klitschko: You know what, whatever I think, whatever Tony Thompson thinks I mean it could be tough speculations, let us fight and they will see who has been improved and who is not.
The thing is that’s the easiest way to find, because otherwise it’s going to be a lot of blah blah as usually is, but at the end of the day, less action.
So — and I think let us fight and after the fight we can exactly say and everyone else can see has there been improvement in any of us or not.
Who gets better, who gets worse.
Q: Manny [Steward] said he expects Tony to be aggressive. What type of fight do you expect from him?
Wladimir Klitschko: That’s actually what I’m expecting. So I need to go forward and just (inaudible) like throw 80 to 100 punches a round and — and break me down and make me tired and not be standing in the line and actually (inaudible) they were few of mentioning — he was mentioning to come to Europe two and a half weeks before to get ready for you know get ready fro the fight and have no issues with the jetlag.
And so that and a lot of things that — that has been said from when it comes from (inaudible) and — and also what Manny said. And I think Manny is totally 100 percent right about it. Tony Thompson — I mean this former chance he’s — he — he (inaudible) whatever contributions he wants to take I will definitely would take it (inaudible) don’t have a choice. But I’m expecting it to be super aggressive.
Q: Wladimir, you know you’ve had a great career. And I know it’s not over and you’ve got a ways to go, but I see…
Wladimir Klitschko: You said I had.
Q: OK, OK, OK. No you’re still — that’s why I say it’s not over, you’re still having it.
But I think since you’ve had such a great career so far, I think it’s time for people to start wondering where you rank among all time great heavyweights.
How would you rank yourself?
Wladimir Klitschko: That’s not my business. I’m enjoying myself to be in sport and you guys — I mean as an insider I’m standing in the ring and I’m facing the challenge and as I said before it’s — it’s a tough job to get on the top but it’s even tougher to stay on the top. And we’re two different fighters, different styles, different attitudes, different cultures, different promotions and everything else.
But I’m not putting myself — I mean I — it’s going to be wrong if I would say I don’t care about legacy, I mean they should be something about legacy but I’m not really thinking of it and not putting myself in a line with other boxers and names. That’s not my job, that’s your job guys.
So you can — one of — one of (inaudible) I spoke recently and you know he was telling the numbers of title defenses and (inaudible) in history, and to be honest with you I care about the history, but I don’t care about it right now for myself, how many title defense I’ve done and how many rounds and — and everything like that. So I’m actually enjoying the time and enjoying the challenge and — and I love the job and profession that I’m in — that I do. And everything else that’s no (inaudible) for now.
Q: Tom, I asked Wladimir where he thinks he ranks among — you know because he’s already had such a great career where we should be ranking him among all time great heavyweights. Maybe I can ask you that, but maybe a little differently. I mean, do you think that he belongs in the same class as those great heavyweights, you know, from the ’70s that people always talk about — you know, the Alis, the Frasiers, the Foremans, all those — that crop?
Do you think Wladimir belongs in that company?
Tom Loeffler: Well, it’s hard to judge Wladimir. I mean, right now, the thing that I was really impressed with is the way he — his training camp went to the last fight with (inaudible) and it was the best that I’ve seen him in his training camp as far as just being explosive and his speed and his power and now the training camp for this fight is the same thing. I just see him get better.
I mean, he’s 36 years old right now. But I don’t really think that you’ve seen — that you’ll see his peak yet.
And so it’s really hard to judge compared to obviously the greats. With Ali it’s really hard to compare any current you know fighters against someone like that who’s considered the greatest of all time, but certainly you know I would put Wladimir in the top five of heavyweights just with what he’s accomplished in all the — all the — you know how he’s looked in — in knocking opponents out and just dominating opponents.
And I think you’ll see his legacy — he doesn’t like to talk about it, but I think if you see you know a — a bigger name challenge or somebody who’s perceived as a very dangerous fight and if Wladimir looks impressive against you know other opponents then he’ll cement his — his place in history.
Q: Now, Wladimir, during different interviews Manny has suggested that of your opponents, Tony Thompson poses potentially the most difficult style. He said at one point that you use four different strategies until you found the correct method I guess to chop him down because of his size and because he’s a southpaw.
Do you recall that?
And if so, can you shed some light on what he might be talking about?
Wladimir Klitschko: Definitely. Before the first fight we always have a strategy before every fight. And we turn it up some — it was kind of difficult to find it out because he was not getting hit in all the fights. And that means man has great anticipation for punches coming and in this — it was tough job for me to land punches during the fight — during the first fight because starting with covering he has long arms and — and I think maybe (inaudible) find a way.