Exclusive Interview With Milton "The Ice Man" McCrory - "I Don't Think Mayweather Would Have Made It Against Me, Tommy Hearns Or Roberto Duran"
by James Slater - Milton "The Ice Man" McCrory, the WBC welterweight champion from August of 1983 to December of 1985, was one of the large number of great fighters to have emerged from the legendary Kronk boxing gym in the early 1980s. Trained of course, by Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, fine amateur McCrory first fought for the (Sugar Ray Leonard) vacated WBC 147-pound crown in March of 1983, being held to a draw by Colin Jones.
Article posted on 09.10.2009
Becoming champ in the rematch five months later, "The Ice Man" was on top of the world, and a number of further memorable fights followed..
Retiring in 1991 with a fine 35-4-1(25) record, the Detroit warrior had earned himself his place in the sport's history.
Today, a 47-year-old McCrory, sounding in great shape, very kindly gave me the following interview, in which he reminisced on his eleven year pro career.
James Slater: It's a privilege to speak with you, Champ. Going right back, do you still remember your pro debut of September of 1980, when you KO'd Calvin Straughter in one-round in Detroit?
Milton McCrory: Yes, that was my first pro fight, of course I remember it (laughs). My first five pro fights were 1st-round KO's actually.
J.S: Were you nervous for your debut?
M.M: I was a little nervous, because it was a new level. But I was confident because of all that I'd done in the amateurs. I'd seen everything in boxing before and I was properly prepared.
J.S: Were you with Emanuel Steward right from the start?
M.M: I was with Emanuel right from the start, yes.
J.S: The Kronk gym had so many great fighters, like yourself, Tommy Hearns and Hilmer Kenty - I could go on and on. Were the legendary sparring sessions we read about that happened at Kronk really as tough as they say?
M.M: Oh, yes. I sparred all those guys as an amateur. I had loads of experience as a pro because of all that gym practice. The practice was a lot harder than the actual fights! For sure they [the sparring sessions] were as tough as you've read. I sparred much bigger guys, we all did.
J.S: What would you say was your breakthrough fight as a pro?
M.M: My win over Randy Shields got me in the top-ten, and after that I beat Pete Ranzany. The win over Roger Stafford was for the number-one spot.
J.S: And then of course, you fought Welshman Colin Jones, for "Sugar" Ray Leonard's vacated WBC welterweight title.
M.M: Yes, Donald Curry fought for his WBA belt and won it, and Jones and me fought for the WBC version. Both Jones fights were very hard, both of 'em. But the first fight was the hardest. I'd never had anyone stand up to me and push me that hard before, and Colin Jones had a tricky peek-a-boo style as well; he had a very good defence. Both fights were wars, really.
J.S: And did you have hand trouble going into the first fight with Jones in March of 1983?
M.M: I'd hurt my right hand, yes. I was originally going to fight under the Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns fight, but about two or three weeks before I hurt the hand real bad. I broke the right hand in the Roger Stafford fight also. They shot my hand with something for the second fight [with Jones] but I never really had complete confidence in my right - and that's when I pretty much became a left hooker.
J.S: As you were waiting for the verdict after the Jones rematch, were you sure you'd won this time?
M.M: I knew I'd won, but if anything, the second fight should have been scored a draw more than the first fight we had (fight two was scored a split verdict). Other than the knockdown I scored over him in the second fight, it was close. The knockdown stood out for me, but he hurt me in the 7th-round, although he never had me down. Those two fights took a lot out of us both. I was actually a little burnt out after those two wars.
J.S: Then you had four successful defences. It must have felt great being a world champion!
M.M: It felt good. My first defence, over Milton Guest, was the best for me. You don't feel like you're truly the champion until you've defended the title. So I was happy, to feel like a legitimate champion.
J.S: You scored three stoppages in your four defences - were they scored with the left hand or the right?
M.M: Mostly with left hooks, but there were a couple of rights thrown in.
J.S: Then you fought Don Curry in a big unification fight.
M.M: It was a big fight, yeah. I had weight problems before that fight, and I really should have moved up. I was around 12 pounds overweight nine days before that fight. I was so tall at 6'1." I was even 161-pounds when I fought Colin Jones. I should have gone up, but Tommy [Hearns] had just moved up, and I continued to starve to make welterweight. They have day-before weigh-ins now, and if I'd had that I'd definitely have won that fight. I actually had seven fights when I was world champion, with two non-title fights and they were up at 152-pounds.
J.S: And after the Curry loss you got a very good win over Doug DeWitt at middleweight. Did you feel strong at 160?
M.M: Well, even against DeWitt I was still a true junior-middle. I fought DeWitt at 157-pounds. I never really broadened out into a full middleweight like Tommy did. I took the [WBA 154-pound title] fight with Mike McCallum on two weeks notice. I'd broken my nose before but I still took the fight. I was getting tired in fights around that time.
J.S: Talking about Mike McCallum, some people say now that McCallum was an avoided fighter back then - not by you, certainly. But was McCallum avoided, do you think?
M.M: McCallum was a good fighter, but he wasn't a big puncher. Even though they stopped our fight (in the 10th-round), it was on cuts. I went down in the fight simply to get some air. My nose was bleeding and I couldn't breathe properly. But he never hurt me. I'd gotten the better of him in sparring, and I felt I could beat him. I normally had no problems with getting tired, but that fight was scheduled for 15-rounds, and I was getting tired.
J.S: Was that your last great fight, do you think?
M.M: (long pause) Let me see. Yes, probably.
J.S: You made a two-fight winning comeback in 1990/1991 though. Did you decide you'd had enough after those two wins?
M.M: I was by myself and I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. But the money was too slow for me, and also I had kids by then. That was a big role in me retiring. I had reached the top, and was a world champion amateur and pro. So I was chasing what I'd already done.
J.S: What occupies your time today? Are you still a boxing fan?
M.M: I'm back in the Kronk gym today, working with young kids like Andy Lee. I'll always be a boxing fan, of course - as well as a baseball fan (laughs). I'm a gifted athlete. I always was good at football, basketball, baseball and boxing. Baseball was my true dream, but boxing was so much quicker [to make it at]. Also I liked the travelling that came with boxing.
J.S: What do you think of today's top welterweights, like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao?
M.M: I think Mayweather is the best. I'd rate him as the best pound-for-pound right now. But I think Floyd would have been too small for our era. We starved to make welterweight. Back then it was good to be big and come down. Every era is different, but for us it was good to be big and starve to get down. Nobody at home sees the starving part (laughs). But, no, I don't think Floyd would have made it against me and Tommy or Roberto Duran. He's [Floyd] a little like Pernell Whitaker, who was great at lightweight but not when he moved up in weight.
J.S: It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, Milton. How do you see Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao going if they fight next year?
M.M: I like Pac-man, he's a beast. But I favour Floyd. His lateral movement and his speed; they're both very important. It should be a great fight though.
J.S: Thanks again for your time, Champ. I appreciate it.
M.M: Thank you. If you see Colin Jones soon, say hi. He's a real nice fella. We met up about a year ago in Canada. He's a great guy.
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