Exclusive Interview With Jason "Big Six" Estrada - "I Want To Be The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion!"
by James Slater, photo by Peter Mark Heintzelman / ESB: 27-year-old U.S heavyweight Jason Estrada has finally got his act together and is at last showing the talent as a pro many expected him to display a few years back. Estrada, a decorated amateur who won all manner of titles in the early 2000s, was a big disappointment at the 2004 Athens Olympics - losing in only his second bout, and to a man he had previously defeated at that.
Article posted on 09.07.2008
Estrada freely admits he was overweight and not at his best during his Olympic adventure, and it was feared this lackadaisical attitude had followed him into the pro ranks. Beginning his work in the paid ranks in December of 2004, the clearly talented Estrada offended many by weighing-in at or around the 250 pound mark for his initial seven fights.. Eventually scaling a whopping 257 pounds for his biggest test to date in a fight with former amateur victim Travis Walker in November of 2006, "Big Six" was beaten on points over eight disappointing rounds. It seemed to many Estrada's undeniable gifts would be wasted due to a lack of desire.
Just lately, however, the Providence Rhode Island heavyweight who is trained by his father, Dr. Roland Estrada, has got his act firmly together. Winning six bouts in a row since the Walker debacle - and entering the ring at a much more acceptable 238 pounds in doing so - Estrada has at last begun to show his sparkle and superb talent. His last two fights, particularly, have been impressive showings. Winning a wide decision over the huge Lance Whitaker back in April, and then stopping the game Moultrie Witherspoon in seven rounds this past May in his most recent outing, the 27-year-old who stands at 6'1" looked great.
Now being considered a potential heavyweight champion, the fast-handed and slick Estrada, currently 13-1(3) as a pro, just might be the American heavyweight capable of putting an end to the world domination now being enjoyed by Eastern European big men Klitschko and Chagaev. Wanting very much to keep his recent momentum going, the quick-tongued 27-year-old was in training when I called him recently. Estrada had no definite date for his next fight, but he was busy pushing himself in the gym anyway.
Polite, easygoing and intelligent, Jason afforded me the kind of interview that is a writer's dream. Never short of things to say, Estrada gave me enough copy to have filled a couple of articles.
I began by congratulating Jason on his recent fine form. Does he consider his last win, the 7th round TKO over Witherspoon, to be his best pro performance to date?
"Oh, no," Estrada answered, somewhat dismissively. "I mean, Witherspoon was game and he put up a good fight. He took a lot, and he gave me good work. But I feel my best performance so far was the win over Lance Whitaker. He's a real big guy and he was a real challenge - even though he was a veteran. I definitely made a statement in the fight with Moultrie (Witherspoon), though, because I scored a stoppage."
Estrada had been annoyed by the critics' claims he couldn't punch, and he was pleased when his TKO win over Witherspoon proved otherwise.
"I definitely made a statement. I mean, I didn't try and stop the guy in one or two rounds - I didn't go out and try to hurt the guy. But I got him out of there in seven rounds. I wasn't really frustrated by what the critics were saying - they've been saying things about me for years and I'm used to it. I know I can hit. Ask the guys I've faced if I can hit or not!"
It's true Estrada has made a few of his nay Sayers, at least, eat a few of their words. But does he truly feel he's got his act firmly together for good right now?
"I have, but it takes time for the transition from the amateur game to the pro game. Especially boxing the guys I've boxed so early as a pro. I mean, some of my people told me not to take the Lance Whitaker fight. But at times it's not about what people say - I'm a warrior, you know what I'm saying? At the start of my pro career I was making a big fault in that I was coming out real fast in the first one or two rounds and not pacing myself. I was still fighting like a two minute round amateur. But I've learnt so much in my last three fights, and now I'm well adapted as a pro."
As for Jason's weight, he tells me that he now has found his perfect poundage at which to fight effectively at. The 27-year-old is proud of the fact that he has shed the pounds. However, he did try to get even lower than his current 238 pounds.
"I definitely feel great at 238-239 pounds, yes. I got down to around 230 pounds once, but I felt terrible. My legs felt real weak and it just wasn't right for me. My perfect weight is 238 and that's just the way it is. I mean, it can be dangerous getting too low, just look at what happened with Chris Byrd recently."
Jason says he takes absolutely no shortcuts in training and that there are no shortcomings with regards to his stamina or overall fitness either.
"I try to make my workouts as hard as possible. I keep my gym hot, with all the doors closed, and I wear a rubber suit, like a scuba diver's suit, you know? That way, with my training being so hard, the fights themselves seem so much easier."
The 27-year-old has his own way of sparring , too.
" I spar with four or five different guys at a time. I spar non-stop for up to 24 minutes straight in camp. I start off at ten minutes, then go up to twelve, then fifteen and so on - until I do 24 minutes non-stop in my last week in camp. I work extremely hard when I train."
His determination now 100 percent, does Jason feel he is the best U.S prospect out there at heavyweight? Without hesitation, he replies that he is.
"I do, I do. I mean, look at who I've been in the ring with compared to the other so called prospects. Guys like [Chris] Arreola and [Chazz] Witherspoon, who have they fought? I want to get to the top as soon as possible, really. There are so many guys out there that I'd like to fight. But in boxing it can be, how shall I say? Political. I mean, Davis Haye, for example, how can he be ranked 5th in the world at heavyweight!? I just don't think that makes sense at all. I'd fight him. I've been hearing a lot about him lately, but he's nothing too special to me. He's a great cruiserweight and I like him, I like his attitude, but I'm not sure he can compete against heavyweights. His talk of boxing Klitschko is crazy, if you ask me"
In terms of who he'd like to fight next, or soon, one name stands out - Travis Walker, the only man to have beaten Estrada as a pro. Jason brings Walker's name up himself.
"A far as one guy I'd really like to fight, that's Travis Walker. There's no way he can beat me. I beat him three times as an amateur and I don't think he's changed at all since the amateurs. If I got a rematch with him I think I'd stop him. But I don't think he'd take a rematch with me. But it don't really matter if he doesn't. I mean, I'd love that fight, but at the same time I've got bigger fish to fry. I want to be the undisputed heavyweight champion. But it's going to be hard. The way things are in boxing, with promoters trying to get you to sign a contract and them making all kinds of stipulations on you, it's real hard to get the opportunity to fight for all three world titles. But that's what I want, the opportunity."
There is genuine frustration in Jason's voice now. Still, I have to ask him about his experience at the 2004 Olympics - even though this was not the best of times for the man who represented the USA at super-heavyweight. Jason is candid about his less than stellar showing at the games.
"I know I was heavy when I went to the Olympics. But there was a reason for that. I couldn't run. I had an injured metatarsal on the bottom of my foot. But I'm not making any excuses. I wasn't at my best, that's all. I mean, the guy I lost to ( Cuban, Michael Lopez Nunez in his second fight), I know I could have beaten him. I beat him before! ( in capturing a gold at the 2003 Pan Am Games). I just had a bad night, that's all. They (the critics) say I was too heavy at 264 pounds, but I have never been that heavy, and I wasn't as heavy as they said I was. I felt comfortable in my first fight, but after that they started hounding me - saying I was too flashy and stuff like that. It wasn't a good time for me. but I've put it behind me and moved on to the pro game."
Jason feels he has still to reach his physical peak.
"The next two years, that's when I really want to make a splash. I want to keep this momentum of 2008 going and really make it big by 2010. I've been boxing now for twenty-one years and I want to make some money now and enjoy it. I want to win a small belt first, and then work my way up to the bigger titles. Like I say, I want to be the undisputed heavyweight champion. I am the man to end the drought that the American heavyweights have been enduring."
Now fully focused, perhaps for the first time, Jason Estrada may be a fighter who finally lives up to his promise very, very soon.
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