ESB Exclusive Interview: Shadeed Suluki Speaks on Lamon Brewster
01.12.05 - By Geoff McKay: Author’s note: Recently, I conducted an interview with WBO world heavyweight Champion, Lamon Brewster.
Article posted on 01.12.2005
Mr. Brewster was upset about some comments that had been made about him after an earlier nterview he conducted with East Side Boxing.
This second interview was supposed to clear the air, and set right any misunderstandings that might have arisen from the first interview. What was that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men? Anyway, during the second interview with Lamon, we touched on, among other things, his performance against Kali Meehan, and some of the things he felt had contributed to a less than perfect showing.
One of the factors he mentioned was infighting in his training camp, and that perhaps his trainer at the time, Shadeed Suluki, had let his "ego get in the way."
Shortly after the second interview was run, East Side Boxing was contacted by Mr. Suluki. He had a different version of events and wanted to be interviewed, so that he could share his side of the story. I contacted Mr. Suluki and spoke to him at length about Lamon’s preparation for Brewster.
After that conversation I again contacted Mr. Brewster and discussed the situation with him. I suggested to both men that perhaps it would be better to settle this between themselves, without going public. However, they both agreed that this was most likely not going to happen, and that it was only fair that both sides of the story be heard. So, without further adieu, here is my conversation with Shadeed Suluki, Lamon Brewster’s trainer for both the Wladimir Klitschko, and the Kali Meehan fights;
ESB: Hello Mr. Suluki. You read an interview I conducted with Lamon Brewster here on East Side Boxing, and did not like some of the comments that he made. Can you elaborate for us?
SS: Actually, you know, about what happened in camp. There was some statements made, that there were a lot of problems, which there was, a lot of problems. What really caught my attention is that it appeared to…, the way I read the article is that I had a problem with my ego, you know, and that wasn’t correct. I’ve been in boxing for quite some time, and I’ve been around camps, I’ve been involved in other camps, and they were successful camps. There is a way to run a camp and there is a way not to run a camp, and our camp going into that fight with Kali Meehan was pretty much a disaster because we had too many chiefs and not enough Indians. I wasn’t allowed to do my job; I had too many people interfering in the training. Going into the camp we had boxed with Kali Meehan, we had him as a sparring partner. Right there we knew how to deal with him. Lamon is a strong puncher and has good technique, but you don’t stand on the outside with a guy 6’6” and try to box him, you aggressively box him, and that was my strategy going into camp, but others thought that he should box him and stay away from him.
ESB: Who were the “others” that disagreed with you?
SS: It wasn’t really the camp, it was just certain members in the camp, and I’m going to say it, one was his father, another was a close friend of his that had been with him for quite some time, which neither one had ever fought before, never really had anything to do with boxing until Lamon got involved with boxing. I guess his father felt that since it was his son he could sit there and dictate how things should be run, and how people should do their jobs.
ESB: What was Lamon’s reaction to this situation?
SS: I think he was caught up in the middle of an emotional standpoint of, you know, this is my dad, and you’re my coach, you know, trying to please his father, and it became a problem, I saw it. When the problem really started, is you know, I tried to tolerate his father, I tried to tolerate and get along with Mark, and his father, but, one evening, his father pulled me to the side, after I had stopped over to the house, and wanted to sit down and talk to me, which we did, but I think he went a little to far to tell me what I should be teaching his son.
I politely told him, you know his father was very good with dealing with guns, he knew everything you could know about a gun and how to make bullets, so I told him, if I wanted to know anything about making bullets or guns, then I would come to him, but when it came to boxing would he please step aside and let me do my job.
That seem to have offended him, and that’s when the problem came in when Lamon speaks of people wasn’t speaking to one another in camp, it was really his father wasn’t speaking to me because whenever I came to the gym or I would see him I would speak. You know, I’m a man, he’s a man, and, you know, I’m not going to kiss anyone’s ass.
ESB: Did you face the same issues when you prepared for Wladimir Klitschko?
SS: That was not our first training camp actually, when we fought Klitschko, that was our second training camp. I was in training camp with Lamon when we were scheduled to fight Corrie Sanders, and then two weeks before we were scheduled to go to Germany the fight fell through. So we pulled camp and went home, and then the fight came up with Klitschko. So I had not just come to camp, like he said I was new, no I had been there, and then I had been around Lamon for quite some time, because Bill Slayton was my trainer in the 70’s. I was with Bill when he first opened the Broadway Gym in 1977-78, so I was no stranger to Lamon, you know, as the way he put it, was like, I was new coming in.
I knew Lamon when he was in amateurs. The Klitschko camp went pretty smooth. I was allowed to do my job. And another thing that bothers me with Lamon, he doesn’t give credit where credit is due. It was a team; it wasn’t just “I”. He used the word “I” a lot, and I thing that is so unfair to everyone around him, especially to myself. I’m the head coach, and I had a big input in the way that he fought Klitschko. It was my strategy to make him gunned, not to let him rest, to keep scooting up in his face, and I felt that the first five rounds was going to be hard, but then we would get him in the stretch.
ESB: As you watched the fight unfold, did you feel your plan was working?
SS: I was alarmed when he got knocked down, when he got hurt, but then if you notice, if you look at the tape, he looked in the corner and winked at us and nodded like, “I’m okay”. I still was alarmed, because I know that Klitschko is a good puncher and he’s a sharpshooter. I knew we were going to be under the gun for the first five rounds, but watching tapes on Klitschko, I noticed that when he fought at his pace, he still got tired past four rounds.
I figured that we were going to keep the pressure on him, and keep gunning, and we would probably get him in the later rounds. If you watch the tape, Lamon hit him with a couple of good body shots that helped him to get tired, and that was our plan. The plan that we came up with, we were going to make him fight hard, harder than he ever had, and back him up because European fighter they had a problem a lot of times with backing up, they would always sit back on that right leg, so that’s what I came up with. We sat down, we watched tapes, and put the plan together, and we worked it, so it went according to plan really.
ESB: If there was a rematch, do you feel the result would be the same?
SS: I think we put together a formula then, it was a really how to beat Klitschko. I feel that if Lamon used the same formula, even in that fight there were some things that I wanted him to do that he didn’t do, but he hadn’t fought in a long time, so he was a little rusty, but now that he has been fighting regularly, and if he would go in there with the same plan that we put together, I see him destroying him (Klitschko).
ESB: How did you and Lamon part ways after the Meehan fight?
SS: Let me tell you what I did. The last two and a half weeks of camp, it was fine, everything was fine, he was executing, he was doing some of the thing that I really was wrestling with him to do, he was doing it. And so going to the fight, we were fine. In the fight I was shocked when he started trying to box, because if you review the fight you will hear me say at one point, that, okay, you have established the man can hit you now let’s go to work. I was really shocked and disappointed at the way he fought.
After the fight I was just really down because he had such a poor showing, and it wasn’t the way that I wanted him to fight. I felt that he should have been a lot more aggressive, and went after Kali, and I feel that he would have showed, he would have shined. But there we go having the problem that we were having in camp, so I’m saying, hey, you got to sit on the outside of Kali, stay away from his right hand, box him, and I’m like, stay away from him? How do you stay away from a 6’6” guy that going to stay on the outside and your 6’1”, so you’ve got to go get him.
Lamon is very good and going and getting a person, but he just shuts down sometimes. After the fight, I went directly home and I called a friend, and I got the tape, and I said, "Let me see what went wrong." I just wanted to see, you know, sit back and watch it, and I did, by myself, I watched it. He didn’t listen. I heard the commentators saying “Suluki is giving him the right instructions, but he’s not listening”. That made me feel a lot better, so that Monday, I decided, I talked it over with the family, that I was going to resign. They felt it was the best thing because I was having so many problems in camp.
So I called Simon, his manager that Monday evening, and got in touch with him and told him that, “hey, I think I’m going to resign.” We talked about it and he said he understood. He said to call Lamon.
So I called Lamon the next day and I told him I would no longer be with him, and he was disappointed, and he didn’t want to hear that. He said “man, I thought you were with me”, and I said, “Man, we need to sit down and talk, so why don’t we sit down and talk over dinner, just you and me.
So we met, at a little café, you know, and we sat down and talked, and I told him how I felt, and he disagreed. He said, “You know what, it’s not your fault. You had a good night, I had a bad night.” And he said, “I’m going to do something that I should have done with Bill Slayton, because when I lost to Etienne, that wasn’t Bill’s strategy the way I fought, and Bill felt the same as you and Bill kind of pulled away, but I didn’t speak up for Bill. I just let my career go on and my career just went crazy. But you had a good night, I had a bad night, and you said you would be with me, you know, so man, you can’t just leave.”
I said, “Under those terms but we need to talk about what was happening in camp, we can’t have the same type of camp.” He said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s already in the motion of being taken care of, we won’t have that problem again”. And so we left on that, we embraced and hugged and left. And so then he came to the gym a few times, and then I started hearing rumors that he was looking for another trainer.
And then on one occasion I talked with him, I asked him, and he said, “Oh no”, you know, he wasn’t and then I found out he was with Jessie Reid, so it’s like, fine, because I had initially resigned anyway. And then another thing, when he was getting ready to go to Germany, I had not talked to Lamon because I felt that he had made a decision to go with Jessie and I had initially resigned so I wished him well, and a lot of people used to come up to me and ask me if I was angry and I would say no, that I had resigned and they found that funny. They were like, “how could you have the heavyweight champion and you resigned, or you just pulled away like that”, and I said it’s easy for me. It was between Lamon and I, and I felt that it should have just been left alone.
The week before he went to Germany, I got a call from him, when he was in Vegas, and we talked, you know, hey how you doing, I’m fine, how you been, everything’s fine, and then I got a call the next couple of days, he said “We’re breaking camp, I’m coming in on a Friday, I would like to sit down and talk with you”. I said “really?” He said, “Yeah, I’ve got a tape of this guy that I’m fighting, and I would like for you to sit down with me and watch it, and tell me what you think”. I thought that was unusual, you know, okay, you’re with Jessie now, why are you calling me? Then I said, “Okay Lamon, when you get in town, when you have some free time and I have some free time we’ll sit down”.
And so we made contact, we didn’t live that far from one another, and so we sat down and watched the tape and then he started asking me “What should I do Shadeed?” And it was unusual, your getting ready to leave the next day, getting ready to go to Germany and you’re asking me what should I do?
ESB: If Lamon asked you to resume duties as his trainer, what would your response be?
SS: You know, after reading the article that he did with you, I am really surprised because, you know, I felt we had put things behind us and we were friends. I’m not looking to be his trainer, just friends. You know like he used the terms that he has to eat, he has to support his family. I do this for a living as well. Things that people say, if they are not true, it can hurt me.
ESB: How did you hear about the interview?
SS: A friend called me, he said “Hey man, there’s this article, check this out, it’s a long article, but listen to this”, and he read it. He said, “Hey man this is crazy”. After he called there were several other people called me and said, “Hey man what’s wrong with this guy? This guy is all up in your face smiling then he’s trying to tear you down.” Really, I was going to leave it alone, again, but my family and friends said, “No, this dude is throwing mud on you and it shouldn’t be, so you need to speak up.”
ESB: Is there anything you wanted to say in closing Shadeed?
SS: Well, you know what; I wish that I didn’t have to do this. I was pushed in the corner, and you know, I had to come out. I thought it was behind us, whatever happened in camp should have stayed in camp. It was over; he had moved on, I had moved on, why are we still talking about it? When you asked the question about the problem in camp, he should have left it alone. He brought up some old stuff, and then he wasn’t truthful with it. It would have been different if he was telling the truth but he wasn’t telling the truth. I don’t think it left me any choice.
ESB: Thank you for the interview Shadeed.
SS: Thank you.
Final Thought: It is never pleasant to witness a long time friendship being damaged or destroyed. Perhaps part of the blame lies with me for not being more careful in the questions that I asked. I can tell you that I do not enjoy this type of journalism, it is not the reason I got involved in boxing writing, and I struggled for several days with whether or not to release this interview. The last thing I wanted to become was the “Jerry Springer” of boxing writing. In the end it seemed unfair that we should hear one voice, and not the other.
During my subsequent discussion with Lamon, he addressed a few of the issues brought up by Shadeed. On not sharing enough credit for the Wladimir win, he said that the original strategy was not all that effective. On the issue of his father, he stated that his father is very protective of him, and is only trying to act in his best interest. On the differing views of training camp, Lamon said that he accepts the fact that everyone sees things differently.
Shadeed himself said that he didn’t really want to come forward with his story, but in the end felt that he was backed into a corner, and had no choice. I asked him if he felt Lamon’s comments had damaged his reputation and he said they probably hadn’t, but I got a strong impression that Shadeed was worried about what effect comments coming from a world champion might have.
A limitation of written interviews is that it is very difficult to convey the passion in a person’s voice when they are speaking. It was very clear during this interview that Shadeed has a tremendous passion for the sport, and takes a great deal of pride in his work. I hope that both he and Lamon are able to put this episode behind them for good, and continue on with their careers. On a positive note both men sincerely wished each other the best for the future.
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