Exclusive Interview with Manny Steward
04.08.09 - by Geoffrey Ciani - I recently was afforded the opportunity to have a nice chat with legendary trainer Emanuel Steward. Here’s what he had to say:
Article posted on 05.08.2009
Q: Under your tutelage, Wladimir Klitschko has made noticeable improvements inside the ring. However, in your first outing working together he lost to Lamon Brewster. What are some of the most important things you have been able to teach Wlad since that time?
Well, he lost that night, but physically he wasn’t right. At the end of the first round, he couldn’t even focus, so I will leave it at that. And that is why I have never doubted him from that loss. I did not take that loss seriously.
But basically, what I did with Wladimir was teach him basics, which is what I did with Lennox (Lewis) and most of my fighters.. As a matter of fact, what was so strange is after we had been training for about a week, he was laughing one day, and I said, “Why are you laughing?” He said, “You know what you’re teaching me? When I started boxing when I was fourteen—you’re having me do exactly what I did then. With my feet spread apart at a certain distance and moving back and forth and making sure I maintained the same distance between my feet. That’s what we had to do in the program that I was in. You’re teaching me basic stuff.” We laughed, and I said “Well, that’s what I teach—basics, which is the most important thing starting with balance.” We spent a lot of time just moving back and forth, back and forth, and improved his balance in a certain way, because that’s really the foundation of everything.
The next thing was just to work on executing his punches with the shortest distance and the least amount of movement. Then a third thing we started doing, which he didn’t do so much in the beginning, was to spar a lot. Basically, with his program, they did not do a lot of boxing. They did a lot of exercises, like gymnastics stuff and everything—and that’s what they (the Klitschkos) said their program largely consisted of. So I said, “I believe you need to spar a lot.”, because before that, the exercise routine they had involved a lot of running, they would throw a ball up against the wall the turn around, catch it, and throw it again—it was a lot of conditioning things, and not so much sparring. I said, “I want you to spar more and more and more, and you will feel more comfortable after spending more time in the ring because this is your work shop.” You almost develop a certain sense of when your back will touch the ropes, and that’s why you never saw him with his back on the ropes, if you notice, in all of his fights. Even though he’s a power guy and most power men have to go back to the ropes in order to force opponents back in or in order to set them up to the body or something—you never, never see him (or Lennox or my fighters) with their backs to the ropes.
I also showed him to clinch guys properly, how to tie them up, and how to always break from clinches with the other guy’s back to the ropes/your back to the center of the ring, those types of things. So he began to spar a lot, and he is so comfortable now. So even in the morning, instead of running, we’re going to happily spend maybe about 45 minutes of him moving and dancing and things to improve his balance and his ring conditioning where he can feel things. As we say, when you spar enough and you box enough, you develop a sixth sense or a feeling where you know what’s about to happen. You have an instinct where you sense a certain punch coming and you can move out of the way almost automatically. That’s why I made him spar a lot. The more you spar, the more relaxed you become, and the more you can see or feel what is about to happen.
But the foundation of everything—everything—with any fighter I teach, is a good solid left jab. If the jab is working good, sooner or later, it opens up holes for the other punches, because the jab starts hitting the guy and he starts blocking and trying to focus on the jab, and that’s when the right hand comes the opponent isn’t even aware of it.
Q: Klitschko has been a very dominant champion under your guidance. He does not lose too many rounds these days and many of his detractors have criticized his level of opposition. However, in the past there have been other great heavyweights who have emerged in so-called “weak divisions” who have been able to prove their greatness by remaining dominant over a long period of time. In your opinion, what must Wladimir Klitschko accomplish in order to become a genuine part of the discussion pertaining to the being amongst the best heavyweights of all time?
I think you just hit on a summary of everything there in your long, complicated question. In history it shows. With Joe Louis, it was actually the same way with the “bum of the month club” as they say, and Larry Holmes also had to deal with the same kind of thing. Most heavyweights have a situation where some super fight arises. Lennox (Lewis) was having the same problem. Riddick Bowe refused to fight him, and all of a sudden, he was able to land a fight with (Evander) Holyfield and the fight with Mike Tyson, which has been his signature fight so to say.
But as long as you can keep winning and dominating, something is going to happen somewhere through some series of strange events. That’s what he is going through right now, and I told him, this is something that many champions have gone through. Even Mike (Tyson), when Mike was in his prime, he was just knocking out so many people, and then all of a sudden you get knocked out by one of those guys where it was just supposed to be another typical fight when he lost to Buster (Douglas). But it happens all the time in boxing. I told him, all you can do is keep dominating everyone, and it’s a little frustrating sometimes in his case with me because Wladimir has become such terrific boxer.
We spend as much time talking about stuff as we actually do training. A big part of training him is conversation. After we’re done with his training, he and I will hang around and talk for another 45 minutes to an hour just discussing everything we went over in minute detail. We’ll go over things like specific angles on the jab where he could do a little better to knock his opponent off-balance. I have never had someone so detailed. I think I am very detailed, and that’s one of things everyone who trains with me says. I’m even specific about things like the length of the socks come up the legs, the way the hands are wrapped, the waist, and the gloves, and everything. I am very detailed. Lennox Lewis was the only other boxer I knew who was pretty much the same way. A major part of training Wladimir as well as training Lennox was being available to talk, because there is so much to discuss.
I told him (Wladimir) you’re going through a frustrating period in boxing, and the fact that you’re dominating and winning rounds so much that what’s going to happen in the next few months or in the next year, if he continues doing this, is he will land a super fight of some type. Maybe like if David Haye may end up knocking out (Nikolai) Valuev and then he can eventually fight him, or even if Valuev wins, then that becomes a big fight. Or it could happen from some other kind of weird situation, but that opportunity will come if you keep winning and winning. I told him, “Right now, what people are going to start doing if you keep dominating is comparing you, not to fighters of this era, but they are going to start comparing you to other champions. That’s what you’re going to find yourself fighting against.” These hypothetical situations will arise where people are saying he’s so dominant that there’s nobody around to fight him, so the next question will be, what will he have done against Lennox Lewis? What will he have done against a Joe Louis or with a Muhammad Ali? That’s going to be his next opponent, he’s going be fighting fighters from the past in imaginary situations, because of his dominance—until something comes up big.
It’s a really awkward situation because Wladimir is such an intelligent fighter that he doesn’t look that good oftentimes when he fights guys who are defensive-minded. He fights best when guys attack him. When guys just sit back and wait and wait and wait, he’s so perfect that he sometimes does not like to overextend and throw punches that will leave him out of position. He fights so technical that sometimes, like in his fight with (Sultan) Ibragimov, it can be very difficult. He received a lot of bad publicity from his bout with Ibragimov but a lot of that was because of Sultan himself. After about four rounds, Ibragimov realized that Wladimir was really fast. After the fight he said he was very surprised that Wladimir was so fast and that he could not get away from his jab. Every time he tried to go forward, Wladimir would always have made a little move before he got started which had him off balance, and then Wladimir would hit him back with a jab, so he couldn’t get any rhythm. Around the fifth or sixth round, I looked at his face, and he really gave up—he couldn’t deal with Wladimir’s jab, he couldn’t get inside, and every time Wladimir stepped towards him, he would start bending back, and even though he was about six feet, he was making his body about five foot seven. Wladimir knew that if he threw long punches he would be out of position, so he didn’t commit too much. It was just a case of the nature of the fight, because Ibragimov had decided not to fight anymore. It was unfortunate.
But when he fought a guy such as Chris Byrd, that was a different fight. Chris, unlike the first fight, had been totally convinced that by just being aggressive and applying pressure that he could wear out Wladimir, because he and Lamon Brewster are cousins and Brewster told him that. Chirs was totally convinced he can win on pressure and that’s what made Wladimir look so great in that fight. In about the third or fourth round, Wladimir got mad because even though Chris is such a good guy, he could hear guys from his camp saying, “Just keep pressuring him Chris, keep pressuring him and he’ll fall apart.” That’s what made Wladimir very upset, he was very mad because of the lack of respect, but the fact that Chris was coming in and being aggressive made it a lot easier. He fights very well when guys are applying a lot of pressure on him.
Q: You’ve trained a lot of great fighters over the years. What was your proudest moment as a trainer throughout your long and illustrious career?
One of them was Holyfield beating Riddick Bowe. I worked with him only in that one fight. Oliver McCall knocking out Lennox Lewis was another. And Hilmer Kenty was my first world champion, which was a very big surprise. And as far as the Thomas Hearns victories, there were many.
The reason I said when we beat Riddick Bowe, is because when I trained him (Holyfield) for the fight, I told him, “This is going to be tough on you as a fighter. Bowe is bigger than you, younger than you, he has a beautiful left jab on the outside—you got to box him.” And even though Bowe was a big guy, he was a vicious fighter on the inside. He knew how to throw beautiful uppercuts, and he was also more active. In every area he (Bowe) was superior. Evander, when he was not in training, he was only about 204 pounds. In fact, he and I wore the same size pants, I was a 34 inch waist and he was a 34. But Evander convinced me to do this, and I thought this would be one of my roughest fights ever, because Evander was inferior in every way. So I trained him for a style of beating Bowe with speed and rhythm, punching and moving, in and out, in and out, to neutralize all of his (Bowe’s) other advantages and never staying in too long. The fact that Holyfield didn’t like to spar, contrary to what people think (he sparred a total of 36 rounds), meant I had to work on the pads with him and try to simulate Bowe for a lot of rounds each day. I was totally worn down, as I was training a lot myself, but we trained for victory and got it.
Then naturally, training Oliver McCall (against Lennox) when Don King sent him to me, and no one figured he could win. At the time, the knock on Lennox Lewis was he was all about the right hand and we could take advantage of that. So I practiced with him over and over and over again on beating Lennox to the punch and keeping him from throwing his right hand. It worked perfect.
Another one was the second fight with Alexis Arguello and Arron Pryor, when Pryor asked me to train him. He was afraid going into the rematch with Arguello because Panama Lewis had been arrested and put in jail at the time, and he was the guy who trained him for the first fight, and even though he never admitted it in so many words, he told me that they were basically getting by with some kind of things that were not legal. So I said, “Well, I will show you how to beat Alexis, but we will beat him by using technique and then you won’t be hit by all those big punches. You know, you’re not going to come to me at the end of the round and where I’ll have something to give you in the drink. We’re going beat him by using different types of techniques.” In two and a half weeks of training, I was able to get him to the fight where it didn’t get that much notice, but he came in totally different with a haircut and a nice white outfit instead of that regular stuff. So I spent a lot of time with him, not just training, but also mentally and psychologically because I knew him well from the amateurs. I was right here in Michigan, so I used to catch him around a lot. So he knew that I knew his style, and he could box pretty good even though he was only five foot six. That was one of proudest moments I had, too, and I thought he fought a great fight without having to resort to any other things just by using his technique and boxing skills.
But those are some of my proudest moments that I have had. It’s usually about winning fights when you are not expected to win, especially. I have been very fortunate to be training on the top level since 1980, and it’s almost 2010 now, which means almost 30 years of being on the top level in big fights. I’m still with the heavyweight champion of the world, but I’ve been very, very blessed, though.
Q: It’s interesting you mention it, because I just recently saw that Pryor-Arguello rematch on ESPN Classic.
Very smart fight. You know, the first fight was a vicious fight with him going head-to-head, flying back and running to get that bottle and all of that. The rematch, he was totally dressed differently—but nobody noticed a lot of these different things, though. If you noticed, he was slipping, picking punches, and he knocked Arguello down in the first round, and that’s when Arguello said he knew he couldn’t beat him, because he was a different fighter in this fight. Very smart fight, and that was something where no one expected him to fight that type of a fight. He was used to just throwing a lot of punches and wearing someone out, and I told him, “We’re not going to do that this time.”
You know, the one thing I’ve learned in training with any fighter I worked with is that you don’t try to make drastic changes with him—you can’t do that. I will try to work with him in his own style and make slight adjustments, because something had to be working to get him to where he was already if he was a top fighter. If a guy’s coming in and trying to change these fighters completely, it’s a big mistake. If you have a fighter who’s been successful, you don’t try to come in and change everything about him. I see a lot of guys doing that, but if a guy has a certain style, it may not be the way that I would train my fighters, but his style is his style, and Hearns is a good example.
I still had him being a busy fighter, but just a little bit more defensive and a little bit more slipping and moving, and a little more upper body movement. When a guy comes in and tries to make drastic changes I think is stupid. Wladimir is still a lot like he was, I just refined him, and with Lennox Lewis the same thing. I even trained Alexis Arguello for a couple of fights, and Alexis was a phenomenal puncher with tremendous follow-through. He wasn’t that good on his feet making pivots or whatever, but he was one of the most patient fighters with very good defense and tremendous follow-through power. You cannot take in a fighter and completely change him. Holyfield was the same way when I had him, he still put those beautiful combinations together but I just had him pick up a little more in-and-out movement, and that’s enough. Chavez, when I trained him, I never tried anything drastic. I had him box a little bit more and I was very amazed by his boxing ability. So I asked him one day, “How come you never box like this when you fight?” He did it with a couple of guys, but he said, “Look at who I’m fighting. Camacho and Medric Taylor—these guys are so fast that I have to be aggressive, but I can box when I have to.” And in training him, I was able to pick up a lot of good training techniques from him.
I learn from the fighters, too. Whenever I work with any fighter I’ll have my suggestion, and we’ll sit down and discuss it. I will discuss it and with a lot of these guys, they have been successful before. Like with Chavez, he never really had a real trainer, and I was amazed by this. He was basically a self-trained fighter. So when training him, I helped him become a little more accurate with his punches and improved the balance a little bit where his weight wasn’t so much forward all the time. Other than that, I didn’t want to make any drastic changes because he had already had over 90 something fights, he was a great fighter, and he had only lost that one fight. So whatever I did, I trained him within that same style, and that’s been one of things that’s helped me in so many different situations.
Q: Changing things up a bit Manny, I’m curious, what is your opinion on the upcoming mega bout between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto?
On the fight between Miguel Cotto and Pacquiao, I still think that Cotto is physically a very strong fighter, but I think he should not fight with his defense being the way it has been before. A lot of people are maybe underestimating the physical size of Cotto. What’s been so amazing about Pacquiao that I love so much from the first time I saw him about five years ago, he’s been fighting top notch everything. He’s never dodged anyone and he is what we call a “true pure born fighter”. He has the instincts of a fighter, the balance, the timing, the stamina—everything—and it’s just natural. He’s a fighter! If anyone was ever born to be a fighter, it would be a guy like him or (Roberto) Duran, but he’s better because he has great rhythm, and his defense and timing are a lot better than people think. When you really watch him, he’s got good in-and-out motion where you really can’t time him, but he’s been in there against a lot of good fighters: Morales, Barrera, we can go on and on and on. He’s never dodged anyone.
I think he is still a natural 130-135 pound fighter. That’s his real true weight. The fights are being made now because a lot of the marquee fighters that are attractive—dream fights—are what he wants to make. But he is still a junior lightweight to lightweight fighting guys who are, in this case with Miguel, a true welterweight. So the real natural weight and strength, regardless of what they weigh on those scales, is still a ten to twelve pound difference. That will be negated, though, if Miguel does not fight the right fight because a good big man always beats a good little man, and I believe that, but if the big guy gets hit a lot and doesn’t take advantage of being able to block punches and to move the little guy into a position where you can hurt him, he will have problems.
So right now, I would say everyone is so intrigued over Pacquiao, and thinks that he wins big, but I just don’t see it that way. I think that Miguel is going to have to improve his defense, in particular. His defense right up the middle—he has absolutely no defense for that, because his gloves are so wide, and fighters can punch right between his gloves. If he improves that and boxes, because he has really good boxing ability and a lot of people don’t realize that—as an amateur, and even in certain fights when he’s had to as a professional, he can box. So if he boxes and keeps his defense a little bit tighter, and if he starts banging those hard left hooks to the body on the smaller guy, this fight could be a very, very interesting fight.
It could be a tough fight for Manny, because Manny is not really a welterweight. This is why Freddie Roach, his trainer, has been very concerned. Even though he beat an Oscar, who physically wasn’t where he should have been that night—but still, that’s not Pacquiao’s fault. Manny was trained to be prepared and whatever the opponent’s shortcomings were, that’s on the opponents, not him. But Freddie knows that Manny is really not a true welterweight, and that’s why he’s trying to at least get some kind of equilibrium in those fights by making the opponents come down in weight as close to Manny as they can for balance. I think that Manny is unbelievably solid and consistent with his performances, and he has been consistent for five years and they were all in top notch fights.
Miguel has been a little inconsistent and has been in some rough fights. In the last fight with (Joshua) Clottey, I don’t criticize him the way some of the other people did because Clottey is a fighter I would not want any fighter to fight. He would have been a rough fight for Sugar Ray Leonard, for Tommy Hearns, and for any other welterweights in history. He’s that type of a guy with very tight defense, very strong, very good stamina, and the biggest advantage that you have when you fight him is that the last two rounds, oftentimes, he doesn’t punch. He’s relaxed, and when he does punch, he’s effective. For myself, I think I slightly may have had him (Clottey) ahead on rounds, but if I was a judge, I probably would have been more inclined to give it to Cotto because he won the last two rounds of the fight. I think that corner of Clottey didn’t tell him that he lost the first round. They won the first round, but regardless, because of the knock down it was a two point difference. The inexperience of them not telling him that and his tendency to just cover up caused him to lose. The point is, I respect anyone who fights Clottey. Clottey is a tough, tough guy.
Based on Miguel having such a tough fight there and Manny looking like a million dollars knocking out Ricky Hatton and Oscar, that’s why the odds are totally going out of proportion and I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. I see it as almost a toss-up fight, myself.
Q: Manny, I just have two more quick questions for you. First question, and you touched on this a bit earlier, what do you think of David Haye as a heavyweight and do you think he is going to beat Nikolai Valuev?
David Haye is not a true heavyweight, but based on what we said earlier, the heavyweight division is not loaded with super talent right now. The fact that one of your top guys, Chambers, who may be fighting Wladimir, is only about 210 pounds, and then you look at David, who’s normally around 215-220. I think he has a good chance in the heavyweight division because of his speed and explosiveness. Heavyweights are not that fast and coordinated for the most part. I think Wladimir is probably the most coordinated guy to be both big and coordinated, which is unusual.
This is why I give him a very good chance at beating Valuev. Last fight I saw with Valuev, I thought he lost to Evander. He showed that he could not handle speed or movement. For whatever reason, and I can’t put my hands on it, he is a very big oversized guy who seemingly, to me, has aged about another five years in the last year. I don’t understand it, but for whatever reason I now see a total lack of ability to move and do things, and I think David Haye’s handlers saw that. David has good speed as well as power, so if Evander can give him a hard time, moving and boxing at his age, I think David Haye has a very good chance to win the WBA heavyweight championship of the world. I would actually, in my eyes, even favor him.
Q: Now Manny, I don’t mean to put you on the spot with this last question, but I have to ask: Prime for prime, how do you think a match-up between Wladimir Klitschko and Lennox Lewis would have gone down?
(laughs)To me, that’s the most talked about match out there. That, and a match between Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko, are the most talked about. A lot of people don’t want to say it, but those are the two biggest questions in heavyweight boxing for probably the last ten years. It’s true, and I will give you the honest truth.
To me, having been involved throughout my career with three signature fighters—which I’m very fortunate, because not too many people have that—and those were Tommy Hearns, and Lennox and Wladimir. And I would say, knowing both of those guys, I could tell you the strong points of each and you’ll have to decide who will win, because I really don’t know.
Lennox was the type of a guy that, he was considerably a much stronger man then people realized. I did have the privilege of training guys who had fought him. I trained Shannon Briggs, and the first thing he told me was, “I was just amazed at how physically strong Lennox was. I mean, when you punch him he blocks punches like he’s a big tree trunk.” He’s physically strong, and people don’t realize that. I also trained Henry Akinwande, and he told me the same thing. He said, “Lennox’s strength is what you don’t see or realize until you’re in the ring with him and he’s an extremely strong man.” Lennox, I thought, had a pretty good jab and a right hand, but his biggest advantage was that Lennox was a very physical guy, and when he had to, he could resort to being extremely physical and do what he had to do win. If he had to, he would rough you up.
I remember in the fight with Riddick Bowe in the Olympics. He realized that he had lost in the 1984 Olympics and he waited four years, and he was losing again. He actually lost the first round, and he just came storming out in that second round and just crushed Bowe. He just overpowered him. That’s one of the things about Lennox is that he could find a way to win when he had to. Then he also had the fight with Vitali. After he came back after the third or fourth round, I said, “We’re losing the fight. You’re used to being the tall guy, backing up and being out of range, but this guy is so awkward he’s hitting you with punches that you don’t see coming.” I said, “We got to go to the streets. When you jab, don’t just snap the jab—push all the way through so you can push him off balance. Throw the left hook, and if you miss with the hook, bang him to the shoulders. Just start doggin’ him now.” And Lennox was the type of guy who would look at you and say, “Okay.” We also had to do that in the (Ray) Mercer fight. Going into the last two rounds, I said the same type of thing, and Lennox was able to do a variety of things. He could become very physical when he had to and he had a variety of punches, too. He developed a good uppercut, which we used a lot, especially with guys like Vitali and Michael Grant.
Wladimir didn’t possess all those things. Some guys, they just have one or two things that they can do so well. Like Ali, for example, would just basically move and throw a one-two. He didn’t throw punches to the body, and he didn’t throw the left hook to the body, but he did things so well that just those one or two things could offset everything else. Wladimir has balance that is unlike anybody I have ever seen. His balance and positioning is great. The man is six foot six, but he has the ability to move in-and-out, in-and-out, keep his balance, and he throws straight simple punches very effectively.
Even guys who have fought him, like Chris Byrd. He said, “After the first time I lost to Wladimir I thought it was because he was bigger than me. He was bigger physically and just threw me around. After the second time we fought, I think he could have weighed 210 pounds and he would have beaten me because I could not see his punches, particularly his right hand.” He said, “He was hitting me with the jab, and his jab was so accurate that every time I tried to get set, he moved back and broke my rhythm and even though I was watching his right hand, ya know, when I got knocked down the first time, I asked my dad what he hit me with and he said ‘the right hand’. And I said but I was watching the right hand, and he never threw it.” That’s how accurate he is with his punches. Byrd couldn’t see the punches. Even though he was watching, he still never saw them when they came.
Just based on his physical size, he’s about 240 pounds, six foot six and the ability to move in and out, punch accurately, and develop good stamina and the ability to think—against Lennox? Honestly, myself, I don’t know. I really don’t know. That’s a fight that as a fan, I would have loved to have seen. It would have been a very interesting fight.
Q: Thank you, Manny. Now do you have anything else you would like to say to all of your fans out at East Side Boxing?
Well first off, I think that’s an unbelievable website and I have it programmed in everything.
But I would like to say this: A lot of people are saying that this boxing thing is dead and that it’s not the same, and that’s not true. It’s not the same, but it’s changing. It’s like so many things, like the evolution of music and everything else. I think boxing is healthy, but different. We have to realize it’s a new generation with different styles and different everything. I think the reason boxing is healthy is because we’re making so many dream matches. We don’t have any one superstar fighter who is so dominant, and the reason for that, is because the fighters are stepping up and fighting tough quality fights against each other and that didn’t used to happen.
A dominant guy like Mike Tyson was with guys who pretty much had control of all the same promotions. Now, we have all these dream fights where the networks have gotten together and promoters have put their differences aside and they’re working on sharing their profits, or whatever, and not worried about their main meal ticket. We have so many good competitive fights. Not that we have that one big super fight, but you have much more competitive fights. With guys fighting much more competitive fights, the more competitive fights you make, the chances of you having some losses on your record increases, and that’s what’s happening now. That’s what made Oscar such a big star. Oscar fought lot of the big name fights, and even though he may have lost most of them, he still fought the big fights. The Trinidad fight, the Ike Quartey fight, the Bernard Hopkins, and that’s what made him such a popular guy who reached super-stardom, because he always fought the big fights. He did make a lot of money, but he was still willing to take those risks.
The general public is now more aware of the names of everyday fighters. You mention Pacquiao, you mention Barrera, you mention Shane Mosley, and all of these fighters, Bernard Hopkins, people know these names. It’s not that it’s one or two stars like it used to be with guys like Hagler and Hearns, but the public knows so many of the fighters now. And the fights are, say what they want, unbelievable sellouts. Boxing has become so popular now that as soon as a fight is announced, tickets almost sell out right away. There were plane loads of people coming in when I went to do the Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao fight where people were coming from all over for this big event. Sometimes I’ve had some fights out there in Vegas and LA where there was not even a European fighter and planes were jam-packed with British people. We have gotten so used to going to the big fights and the big events for all of us, that we save our money, we book these tours, and we got our favorite restaurants, and boxing all these crowds are selling out or breaking all kinds of records.
We have to look at that and say, maybe there’s a big disparity between the top level and the bottom level, but the top level is where these dream fights are being made like Pacquiao and Mayweather. I mean that event, if it happens, is going to break all the records. The fact that champions are so international now is another thing. The fact that we (Americans) used to dominate everything, especially in the heavyweight division, and now you look at some of the champions you got out there and you have Nikolai Valuev, and the Klitschkos, and the Ibragimovs, and the Chagaevs….
It’s changing, and a lot of us don’t accept that, but the world is becoming more international. At one time, not having an American heavyweight champion was unheard of, but it’s happening, and maybe we don’t have the champion s that we want here—like when Joe Calzaghe came over here and beat Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones and guys like Ricky Hatton coming over here and dominating. That’s part of the change that’s coming. People are flocking from all over the world to see boxing and they’re breaking records. When Klitschko fought over in Germany, even when they changed the opponent from David Haye, a lot of British people wanted to see David but they still wanted to see a good fight. They still had about 61,000 people there.
Another thing coming up is the super middleweight tournament, and I’m so damn excited about it that if I’m not working some days, I may even fly in to go see the fights. It’s different now, but it’s a world energy that’s getting involved. If enough dream fights keep getting made, even like the Mayweather-Marquez fight is starting to pick up a little bit of buzz now, and like I said, Cotto and Pacquiao, too. These are fights that if you see these fighters fight, win or lose, they are exciting fights. These are dream fights that the public wants, and you get sellout crowds all over. So we’re going into a different era, and nobody is going to be undefeated or invincible because they are making better fights. I think boxing is healthy and is just making a big transition right now.
I would like to thank Manny Steward for his time. For those of you interested in hearing more from him, be sure to tune into the August 10 edition of the “On the Ropes” boxing radio program, where Mr. Steward will be joining us for an exclusive interview. The show starts at 6pm this Monday and every Monday.
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