New England In The Boxing Ring: Interviews With Matt Remillard, Mike Oliver, and Jason LeHoullier
by Pavel Yakovlev - (November 22, 2010) Unlike certain American areas, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and South Florida, New England is not known as a breeding ground for professional boxers. But New England does indeed produce its share of seasoned fighters. In this article, ESB interviews three New England born and bred boxers Ė Matt Remillard, Mike Oliver, and Jason LeHoullier -- about their careers and perspectives on life in the ring.
Aside from Chad Dawson, the most advanced New Englander boxing today is featherweight contender Matt Remillard. Currently rated sixth by the WBC, sixth by the WBA, and fifth by the WBO, Remillard holds the NABF and WBO NABO featherweight titles. Since turning professional in 2005, Remillard has acquired a record of 22-0 (13 KOís). Nicknamed ďThe SharpshooterĒ because of his slashing combination punching ability, the 24-year-old Remillard will likely fight for a world championship in the next year or two..
ESB: TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY LIFE BACKGROUND, AND HOW THAT LED TO YOUR BOXING CAREER.
REMILLARD: As a kid I grew up watching boxing with my grandfather on ESPN Classic and just fell in love with the sport. I started doing some community service at a local gym in Manchester because I was hanging out with the wrong crowd during middle school years. The coach at the gym, Paul Cichon, made me clean all the spit buckets, clean the windows, empty the trash, basically all of the dirty work before I could start training or working out. I just enjoyed being in the gym so much that when the community service ended I just continued going to the gym. It became a ritual to me, something that I could look forward to instead of hanging out and getting into trouble.
ESB: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR AMATEUR BACKGROUND?
REMILLARD: I had about 150 fights, maybe a little more. I went to just about every national tournament in the amateurs and placed well. I won the ďUnder 19Ē national tournament twice and went on the fight in the Worlds in Korea and England before turning pro. I always had a pro style so it kind of hurt me with the short rounds. I'm definitely a distance fighter and get better as the rounds go on and don't like to waste punches, which is more of the amateur style with punches in bunches. But I do owe a lot to the amateurs because it allowed me to see and get comfortable with all the different styles here and overseas. It definitely groomed me for the pro game and made the transition a lot easier.
ESB: DESCRIBE YOUR BOXING STYLE.
REMILLARD: I would say that my style is more of a boxer-puncher. I do like to mix it up but boxing is something that I have been working on and something I don't think many people realize I can do. The longer the fight goes, the more comfortable I get because I take my conditioning so seriously. I'm ready for that call (to fight) at any time and thatís something I take pride in.
ESB: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST PROFESSIONAL FIGHT TO DATE, AND WHY?
REMILLARD: My toughest fight to date would probably have to be against Mauricio Pastrana, even though I wish it would have went a little longer than six rounds. I feel that I boxed to perfection and something I wish could have been seen on television. I basically won the fight with my jab and controlled every moment of the fight. It was more of a mental strain trying to follow the game plan rather than a tough fight physically. Anyone can go in there and throw punches and brawl but the way I boxed was more impressive to me than going in there and knocking him out.
ESB: YOU ARE NOW HIGHLY RATED BY THE WBC, WBA, AND WBO. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A TOP-TEN CONTENDER?
REMILLARD: It feels great. It is something I have looked forward to for a very long time. I'm in no rush at all but if the right opportunity presents itself I wouldn't turn it down. I'm still learning with every fight but feel I am in the right place at the right time. There are a lot of exciting fighters in the featherweight division and something I look forward to being involved in. I hope to give boxing and the fans great fights in the near future.
ESB: IDEALLY, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO FIGHT IN ORDER TO SHOWCASE YOUR ABILITIES TO THE WORLD?
REMILLARD: I'm very big on doing my job and love doing it. I'm not the type of person to call other fighters out; I just do my job. I am very comfortable with my team and trust them with my career. I let my manager manage, and I let my promoter promote. My job is to be in the best possible shape -- mentally and physically -- when the opportunities arise.
Once rated among the best super bantamweights in the world, Mike Oliver is currently on the comeback trail. Oliver has won three consecutive fights since suffering back-to-back losses to Reynaldo Lopez and Antonio Escalante in 2008. Several months ago Oliver easily defeated former world champion Mauricio Pastrana, and is now ready to challenge world-class opposition. Currently 24-2 (eight KOís), the 30-year-old Oliver is known for his lightning-quick reflexes and may prove to be a force in the super bantamweight division again.
ESB: TELL US ABOUT THE PASTRANA FIGHT; REPORTS INDICATE THAT YOU EASILY WON EVERY ROUND.
OLIVER: That was a good win. I knew he was good, a former world champ. I was glad to fight someone like him. In the fight, I was in total control. He couldnít handle my speed. My trainer Scully kept telling me I was doing real good. I had him hurt a few times too and could have knocked him out, but I held back. I stayed relaxed, kept my focus, and didnít let him sucker me into getting hit. Pastrana knows a lot of dirty tactics, and I didnít want to give him a chance to use them. He fouled me deliberately, and even bit my arm. He knew he was going to get knocked out, and he went to the DQ to take the easy way out.
ESB: ANOTHER FORMER WORLD CHAMPION YOU RECENTLY BEAT IS KERMIN GUARDIA. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT FIGHT?
OLIVER: He came to fight that day, but I put it to him. I stopped him in the third round. I was in my game that night.
ESB: YOU HAVE BEEN FIGHTING PROFESSIONALLY FOR TEN YEARS, AND HAVE FACED SOME OF THE BEST FIGHTERS IN THE WORLD. YOU MUST HAVE LEARNED MANY TRICKS KNOWN ONLY TO OLDER PROFESSIONALS. AM I CORRECT?
OLIVER: Yeah, I use my jab much better now. I never used my jab before. I sit down with the body punches now. Iím a better counterpuncher now, too. But most of what I know, all that stuff, I got from my trainer John Scully. Any time I do something wrong, Scully corrects me. When Scullyís in my corner, itís a whole different thing. Weíve been training together since I was eight years old. And my other tactics, as far as that goes, I picked up from watching Sugar Ray Leonard. He was my idol. I worked on learning his tactics.
ESB: TELL US WHAT YOU DO FOR CONDITIONING AND TRAINING.
OLIVER: When Scullyís training me, Iíll spar 15 rounds in one day. If not that, then Iím hitting bags or jumping rope. I run a lot; I run five miles every day.
ESB: IDEALLY, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO FIGHT IN ORDER TO BREAK INTO THE WORLD RATINGS AGAIN?
OLIVER: To be honest, I want to fight Steve Molitor. I want to fight him big time. He ducked me when I was the IBF top contender. He owes me one; I should have had a title shot. I want Molitor real bad.
Born and raised in Nottingham, New Hampshire, 32-year-old Jason LeHoullier is a consummate crowd pleaser who rarely takes a backward step in the ring. Heavily muscled and fighting out of a semi-crouch, LeHoullier constantly hooks with both fists and forces his opponents into exchanging blows. Indeed, LeHoullierís style makes him appear more like a stereotypical, brawling Mexican than the small town New Englander he is. Currently 21-4-1 (eight KOís) as a professional, LeHoullier personifies the ďhave gloves, will travelĒ adage, as he has fought throughout the United States and in Mexico. Recently, LeHoullier shifted his base to Sydney, Australia, where he is managed by Matt Clark.
ESB: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR AMATEUR CAREER?
LEHOULLIER: I won my first fight, then lost my next five. Afterward, I bounced around gyms until I met Bob Russo from the Portland Boxing Club. He took me on to win the local novice Golden Gloves, and then I won the New Golden Gloves twice. Next, I went to the National Golden Gloves, but I only won my first fight in that tournament. I also won the ABF New England championships and fought in the ABF regional tournament twice, in New York. I fought in the Eastern Olympic Trials, where I lost to future world champion Luis Callazo. My final amateur record was 40-10.
ESB: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RING STYLE?
LEHOULLIER: For my entire career Iíve been an aggressive fighter, always moving forward, always moving my head. But as of recently, Iíve been working on my lateral movement and footwork. Iím a good inside fighter, I like fighting tall fighters and getting inside. I like getting angles and working the body. Iím known for my marathon training sessions and hard work in the gym. I never come into a fight unprepared.
ESB: WHAT WERE THE LIFE EXPERIENCES THAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME A BOXER?
LEHOULLIER: I grew up in a middle class family in New Hampshire, a family of carpenters who worked really hard and played even harder. I was raised by a very tough father who ruled with his fist. I dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and hitchhiked across the United States for the next two years. By the time I was 18, I was tired of not having anything in life. Thatís when I got into boxing. I chose boxing because of its physical natureÖI was always an excellent athlete in school. I also chose boxing because of the independence it gives the fighter, in the sense that itís not a team sport. Another reason I chose boxing was to regain respect that I had lost for myself, and to gain respect from others. Like I said, I lost five of my first six fights, but I stuck with boxing anyway because I loved it.
ESB: DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE SPARRING WITH TOP FLIGHT FIGHTERS? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?
LEHOULLIER: I havenít boxed with as many big fighters as Iíd like to, but I have sparred with Mickey Ward a lot, and with former WBA champ Jose Rivera, and with Jose Soto Karass a few times. I gained a lot of confidence boxing with them.
ESB: AFTER GOING UNDEFEATED IN YOUR FIRST 22 PRO FIGHTS, YOU SUFFERED SEVERAL LOSSES. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED YOUR OUTLOOK?
As far as the losses go, I definitely learned more from the losses than the win. Before I lost, there was a ton of pressure on me to stay undefeated, and I took the first loss pretty hard. But now the pressureís gone, and itís like Iím starting over again. Iíve got nothing to lose, Iím rebuilding, and thereís nowhere to go but up. Itís always been do or die for me, you or me, one of us has to go and it might be me. But Iíve been working super hard in the gym and Iím going to do my best to make sure itís you. Now Iím trying to have more fun in there, be more relaxed and not so uptight, and its been showing in training.
ESB: RECENTLY YOU RELOCATED TO AUSTRALIA, WHERE YOU ARE CONTINUING YOUR BOXING CAREER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT AUSTRALIA?
LEHOULLIER: Australia is a paradise. The people are amazing, very friendly and willing to step out on a limb to help. They love to see hard working people succeed. You have everything here, the landscape is unbelievableÖthe ocean, the mountains, deserts, rainforest, itís unbelievable. Australiaís a beautiful place.
Article posted on 22.11.2010
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