Exclusive Interview: Actor Michael Jai White Talks Pacquiao, Mayweather, Hollywood!
Freddie Roach can easily find people to emulate Cotto, but Cotto won't find anyone who can effectively emulate the Manny Pacquiao we see now. So, that's the real X-factor. - Michael Jai White...
Editors note: Actor Michael Jai White, (who many know from "The Dark Knight", "Spawn", "Tyson", "Universal Soldier" and more recently, "Why Did I Get Married?"), took a few moments out from his busy schedule to talk about a couple upcoming projects, as well as the fight game. Being an accomplished actor is surely considered to be a huge notch under ones belt, but considering that Mr. White wears 7 of them, (belts), and they're all black, perhaps there's no better source to have weigh in on the latest buzz topics in the fight game today.. In the form of a quick Q&A, join me as we take a trip into the mind of one of the fight games biggest fans, and one of Hollywood's most talented figures whose star is clearly on the rise. With no further ado.....
VW: Good afternoon, Michael. I understand that you have a few movies on the slate. September 15th, was the official straight-to-DVD release date of one of your latest projects, entitled "Blood and Bone"; and on October 16th, a movie which you wrote and produced, "Black Dynamite", hits theaters. For those out there unaware of the plots, tell my readers a little about the movies.
MJW: In "Blood and Bone", I play Isaiah Bone, who's a mysterious character trying to fight in the underground circuit. As the movie evolves, viewers learn that he's basically fighting for more than a purse. I'll leave it at that to avoid spoiling the script. "Black Dynamite" is scheduled to arrive in theaters on October 16th. It's an action comedy. It's a movie that I personally wrote, produced, and starred in under my co-production company, Goliath Entertainment. There's a lot of things under consideration right now that we're working on. Basically I'm looking to fill the whole chasm in the action genre which has been out of sync, really since the late 80's or so. Things are looking pretty good though.
VW: Now, those out there who have followed your career know that you have a deep background in martial arts, etc. How did you convert your fighting skills into what we now see as solid acting skills?
MJW: Actually, I tried to do it in reverse. I was offered a martial-arts movie contract at first, but I didn't want to do the action movies and be known for that primarily, so I declined. I only wanted to do those type of roles once I was established as a full-scale actor. I was actually doing broadway theater before coming to Hollywood. As a matter of fact, "Tyson" was a dramatic role, well beyond the fighting, so doing it the way I did played into me actually landing that role. They thought they would have to get a double to do the fighting, but then they realized that I was actually an accomplished fighter, beyond being an accomplished actor. So "Universal Soldier" was the first time I started doing martial-arts in films, and it came well after I had created the identity of being an actual actor, as opposed to being a fighter.
VW: We've all seen you do a highly credible job in front of the camera, but I heard you briefly mention earlier about writing and directing as well. How involved are you behind the scenes? From a writing and production angle?
MJW: You know, Vivek, from day one, I've always had a producer/director mindset. Even in "Tyson", I actually wrote 3 full scenes in the film, one in which the director felt was his personal favorite scene in the movie. As a matter of fact, I actually re-wrote every line of dialogue that he [Mike Tyson] speaks in the film because by studying him and being a fan, I understood, perhaps better than the actual writer how to articulate certain points coming from Mike. So, I learned early on that if I came up with something that worked better, it was never an ego thing. It simply gave us all a better product in the end. So, it's something that I've always had a mind and desire to do.
VW: Ok...Shifting gears to the stuff my hardcore fight aficionado's really want to hear about (laughs)....The landscape of fighting sports in America - (and the world for the most part) - has significantly changed. It used to be primarily boxing, but now we're seeing the emergence of MMA/UFC. Talk to me about your interest in fighting sports today?
MJW: I follow boxing like you would not believe! One of my best friends in the world is former super-middleweight champion Frankie Liles (formerly trained by Freddie Roach). We train together a lot, and after introducing him to world of K-1, he started training several MMA fighters. I've trained with 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns; a few weeks ago, I trained at the 'Wild-Card', Freddie Roach's gym. I also trained with Lamon Brewster leading up to his showdown with Klitshcko when he later ended up knocking him out. I've been a fan and around the sport for years and I'll get in the ring to spar with any heavyweight. I really look forward to that!
VW: Being that you have a close affiliation with Freddie Roach and the 'Wild-Card' gym, I'm sure you're no stranger to our favorite fighting Filipino? (laughs). Who do you like in the Pacquiao/Cotto showdown on November 14th?
MJW: Pacquiao's foot speed and physical changes after some hardcore training over the past year - with those two big fights - make him very difficult to prepare and train for because people aren't used to seeing him the way he is now. He's a very different fighter than the guy who stepped in the ring against his opponents prior to this last year or so. You have to look at it like this....Freddie Roach can easily find people to emulate Cotto, but Cotto won't find anyone who can effectively emulate the Pacquiao we see now. So, that's the X-factor.
VW: Pound-for-Pound, who's the better fighter? Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao?
MJW: Floyd Mayweather jr! Anyone who has ever been around Floyd Mayweather knows that guy has an 'encyclopedic' knowledge of boxing. I mean his knowledge of fight strategy is DEEP!!!! He can execute outside fighting, inside fighting, counter-punch fighting, offensive fighting, and his defense goes without saying. I know this is probably the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard, but if Floyd Mayweather jr. had a clone, that clone could teach Pacquiao how to be Floyd, (laughs), because Pacquiao has the attributes to do it, but mentally, it's just that Mayweather has SOOOO much knowledge. Only Floyd would have the knowledge at how to beat a fighter like Floyd, but it's not like he's gonna tell Pacquiao! (laughs). Look at the Zab Judah fight. If you've ever seen these guys fight up close, you know that Judah is actually faster than Floyd, but in the fight when Floyd started making adjustments, despite being a tad slower, it was Judah that couldn't keep up. It's the 'chess game' that Floyd has on everyone. He doesn't have to get into a war unless he wants to. Many fighters have had Floyd in trouble, but he just knew the proper adjustments to make and that's what separates him. His ring knowledge is amazing. If he comes in shape, there's no one beating that guy.
VW: In my experience around Floyd, I have to say that I agree. Totally! The guy is very much a fundamentalist, a true student of the game, and very old-school in his approach. In closing, I just want to ask you to say a few words to those out there who have supported you, as well as those who hadn't, yet will after reading this piece.
MJW: You know, my hero's were never actors. My hero's people trying to be good people, good Fathers, and good friends. When I look at the people who have to work 9-5's, who deal with stress far beyond mine, yet still pay their hard earned dollars to watch me act......the least I can do is busy my ass to make sure that I've done my job. I look at acting in a very "blue-collar" fashion, and I have no excuse not to give 100%, especially when I look at the blessings bestowed upon me by the fans. I remember being a fan of an actor who started phoning in performances, and I would never wanna do that to my fans. I work for them (the fans).
(Visit Michael Jai White at MYSPACE , or learn more about him and his upcoming projects at IMDB)
[Eastside Boxing would like to thank Michael Jai White for this enlightening interview
Article posted on 16.09.2009