Boxing Manager Roland Jankelson Speaks On His Career Working With Pinklon Thomas, Joe Hipp, and Current Top 10 Heavyweight Chauncy Welliver
Exclusive Interview by Charles C. White - Kindly taking time out of his busy schedule, longtime boxing manager Roland Jankelson answered my questions on his career in management, from past to present. Here is what Roland had to say...
Article posted on 10.09.2010
CW: I want to thank you for this interview sir. How are you doing today Roland?
RJ: I’m doing fine, and at my age it is important to make every day a good one..
CW: How did you first get your start in boxing management?
RJ: It began quite by accident - a conversation with a business associate and friend who dabbled in boxing as an amateur boxing official, who insisted that I should become involved with a local boxer. That boxer had little amateur experience and had not yet had his first pro fight. That young boxer was Pinklon Thomas, who, six years later, would be the Heavyweight Champion of the World. I knew nothing about the boxing business. I agreed to provide a small amount of financial support so that Pinklon could train and turn pro. Soon after, I became his manager, and the rest is history.
CW: Just to clarify for those that don't know, what exactly is entailed in being a boxing manager?
RJ: That depends on who the manager is and who the boxer is. Strictly speaking, a manager represents the financial interests of the boxer, arranging for fights and negotiating with promoters. But of course, a manager can be involved in every facet of shaping and assisting the boxer’s career, as well as providing assistance, guidance, direction and mentorship in shaping his life beyond his boxing career. I like to think that my role is to help the boxer be as successful in life while he is boxing and after his boxing career is over.
CW: You managed the former heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas (43-7-1 with 34 ko's) during his career. What was it like working with a fighter of this caliber, and how did you go about getting him the fights that he needed in order to advance his career?
RJ: Pinklon’s boxing abilities – his natural talent – were extraordinary. His early fights were provided by a local promotional group that I helped form as a vehicle to get his career moving. As Pinklon learned his trade, I learned about the business of boxing – the good and the bad. As much recognition as Pinklon has received, as Heavyweight Champion and for his great career, he is, in my mind, still one of the most underrated champions of all time.
CW: All in all, were you satisfied with the way Pinklon's career turned out?
RJ: Pinklon would probably say that he could have made some decisions differently that might have elevated his career to an even loftier level, but what I am really proud of is that he has gone on to a productive and, I believe, happy life. We’re very good friends, with great respect for each other.
CW: Could you please share a fond memory of working with Thomas that the readers would appreciate?
RJ: I have many fond memories, but my greatest satisfaction is that we have a lasting friendship and a mutual respect. We keep in close contact, and I have derived satisfaction from knowing that he has gone on to be successful in life after boxing. He is a role model for other boxers – some of whom do not do as well after their boxing careers are over.
CW: Another fighter that you managed was Joe "The Boss" Hipp (43-7 with 29 ko's). In fact, you helped get him in the position to become the first and only Native American to ever challenge for the heavyweight title. What was it like working with Joe?
RJ: I’m still working with Joe, as you know, now as a trainer. We (Joe, Chauncy and myself) are a family. I brought Joe into the picture to train Chauncy because I wanted someone who had gone to “Hell and Back” in the ring, and who understood the mental part of a boxer’s performance. Joe was the first Native American to be ranked among the top ten world heavyweights by all major sanctioning bodies, the first Native American to win the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Championship, and the first Native American to fight for the world title. After the WBA Title challenge, Joe fought for, and won, the World Boxing Federation (WBF) World Championship.
One funny story – Joe is so famous that when I made a trip to New Zealand with Chauncy for his fight there in May, one of the first locals we met was a retired heavyweight boxer whose ring name was “The New Zealand Joe Hipp.” Joe had many nationally and internationally televised fights, and his fame spread to the likes of New Zealand. He was a winner by sheer force of will to win. Plus, his boxing abilities were underrated. Today, he works hard as a role model, speaking to Native American communities all over the United States. Joe is a success.
CW: At one point in time, Joe was supposed to fight Michael Moorer for the heavyweight title, but then Moorer instead faced George Foreman. What were the circumstances surrounding the denial of your appeal and how far back did this set Joe's career?
RJ: We appealed the WBA’s decision that approved Foreman for the Moorer Title fight ahead of Joe Hipp because Foreman was not highly ranked, and we believed Foreman did not fit the WBA’s criteria to qualify for the title fight. You’ll have to ask the Las Vegas District Court Judge about his reasons for denying our appeal. The Foreman matchup was a lucrative fight for Las Vegas. I didn’t believe our appeal had much of a chance because of the politics of the situation, but I owed it to Joe to try. Moorer was under contract to fight Joe in his next fight, so it wasn’t the appeal denial that affected Joe’s opportunities, but that one big punch from Foreman! I believe that Moorer was a perfect opponent for Joe, so, yes, it was a big career setback. All respect to Foreman – he had an opportunity, and he certainly made the most of it. Without that one punch, would there have been a Foreman Grill?
CW: As we all know, Foreman went on to win that fight and it looked as though Joe was going to get a shot at him. Again, the title fight didn't materialize. Why do you suppose the Foreman fight never happened? Is it safe to say that Foreman ducked Hipp?
RJ: You’ll have to ask Foreman. We tried.
CW: Eventually, Joe did land that elusive title fight, against Bruce Seldon. Unfortunately, the fight didn't go in Joe's favor. Many have said that Joe didn't come in with the right game plan and wasn't aggressive enough. Would you agree with this?
CW: After the Seldon fight, Joe's career had mixed results. He won some and he lost some. Were you with Hipp until the end of his career in 2005?
RJ: I was with Joe through the Jeff Pegues fight in January 1999, that is, for all but his last three fights. As you may remember, Joe lost to Pegues when he blew out a knee. He was easily winning the fight, and about to KO Pegues when his knee gave out. I know Joe wanted to end his career on a winning note, but I thought his health was more important. Still, he went on to finish with a win, and won two of his last three fights after the Pegues fight.
CW: Were you satisfied with the way that Joe's career turned out?
RJ: No. I would have hoped for more for Joe. Near the end of his career, he was battling knee and elbow problems. Considering these limitations, he was still a formidable force in the ring. Joe was always a warrior.
CW: You are currently working with WBO top 10 heavyweight Chauncy "The Hillyard Hammer" Welliver (44-5-5 with 14 ko's). How did this working relationship come about? Had you known Welliver before working with him?
RJ: I knew Chauncy when he was a youngster. I watched his boxing career develop. There were a couple of times that we discussed the possibility of my being involved. However, I have always had a busy life outside of boxing, and it just didn’t seem to be the right time to be able to devote the time which I believe is necessary to do all the things involved in managing a boxer’s career. Finally, in late 2009, Chauncy just talked me into making a commitment. I am enjoying working with Chauncy. He is a great person. Since I started with him he has had four title fights (won the WBC Continental Americas Title and defended it once, and defended his WBO Asia-Pacific Title twice). We are happy with his progress in the world rankings. Most importantly, when I agreed to work with Chauncy I told him that he would be expected to get to a fighting weight of around 230 lbs. He was probably over 260 then. For his August 21st fight in New Zealand, he weighed 240, and we’re doing a lot of weight training. We’d love to fight David Tua in November, and have made it clear to Tua and his people that we’d be happy to take that fight. So far, it appears that Tua is ducking this situation.
CW: What did you see in Chauncy that set him apart from all of the other fighters out there that made you want to work with him?
RJ: I saw a guy who thinks and breathes boxing, and who had decided he could be a champion. A guy who, at this point in his career finally understands that he has the ability to beat the best heavyweights in the world. An iron chin and great natural athletic ability. But, what made me want to work with him was that I admired how he had moved his career by himself, with no professional management. I just felt he deserved some help – besides, he’s just a nice person, as I have said before.
CW: Chauncy is on a nice win streak right now, and is dropping weight like crazy in the gym. To what do you attribute Chauncy's newfound dedication to the sport?
RJ: The new dedication was the result of the Solis fight. He took the Solis fight on short notice, was not in shape, and he lost. But that fight made him a believer that, if he had been in shape, he might have won. It just clicked in his mind that he could compete with elite heavyweights if he really focused on his boxing career. As regards the weight loss, that comes from dedication and imposing a strict nutrition / eating plan (and sixteen lashes from me when he even thinks about departing from the eating plan). And let's give Joe Hipp lots of credit for working Chauncy hard. But most of all, the credit goes to Chauncy and his commitment to do the hard stuff in and out of the gym.
CW: What is the strategy for getting Chauncy in line to fight for the world heavyweight title?
RJ: That’s a secret plan so we can’t talk about that…just kidding. No, in fact, we’ll just have to find a way to beat the top heavyweights one by one if necessary. Chauncy is still young – 27 years old, but I don’t want him boxing beyond a few more years (a couple if I had my way). Please send a message to David Tua that Chauncy’s ready, but Tua better bring better stuff than he did in his last fight. Before I leave the David Tua talk, I want to be clear that David is a friend of Chauncy’s, and Chauncy has great respect for David.
CW: When can we expect to see Chauncy fight on tv again? Any ESPN or other network fights in the works?
RJ: TV exposure is critical to any boxer. We’ll keep fighting top heavyweights until TV recognizes that Chauncy is the real deal, and they give him his chance for TV exposure.
CW: A fight that has been garnering a lot of attention is a clash between Welliver and David Tua. Do you see a good chance of this fight getting made?
RJ: We’re ready. Ask David and his decision makers.
CW: Already a top 10 fighter, about how long or how many more fights before a fight is lined up for Chauncy to challenge for the heavyweight championship of the world?
RJ: That’s part of the secret plan. Again, just kidding!
CW: Are you targeting a specific champion for Welliver, or whichever champion takes the fight first?
RJ: Any boxer must take on any champion when the chance comes. These opportunities are difficult to get to, and are far between. I have my preferences, but I’ll just keep that to myself.
CW: A lot of people are already counting out Welliver at the top. What do you have to say to the doubters?
RJ: Because they only have seen the former Chauncy Welliver. They relate to the Solis fight – a Welliver not in shape, weighing 280 lbs. That’s not the Chauncy Welliver who has won 8 consecutive fights since then, and has learned a lot, and is getting better and better.
CW: Thank you for your time Roland. Would you like to add any final thoughts on other fighters you manage, or just anything in general?
RJ: I have assisted a friend of mine for quite a few years in the management of Alex Bunema. It’s not clear what Alex wants to do with his boxing career now, so, for all practical purposes, my focus is on Chauncy, my business interests, and the Wanda Jankelson Foundation for Health Care and Research. The Foundation provides money for research in the prevention of and cure for ovarian cancer. Anyone wanting to know more about the Foundation is invited to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope getting in a “plug” for this worthy cause is ok with you.
For questions and comments, or to schedule an interview, Charles White can be reached at email@example.com or 360-333-5911.
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