Interview: Alex Steedman
BN: Explain what you’ve gone through since the sudden collapse of your fight against Conor Benn.
You can’t have a more frustrating experience than going through a whole camp, cutting weight, and then have the fight fall through 48 hours before you’re supposed to get in the ring. What’s even more crazy about it is that it’s still not resolved. There are still so many unanswered questions. For me, I had to get back out as soon as possible. I tried to make this fight with Liam [Smith] happen in December but we couldn’t do it, so January it is. The plan is to then fight in the summer and again at the end of the year. I want to be active. I [i]have[i] to be active.
BN: You made weight for Benn, even after the fight was called off. How did it feel?
It was gruesome because you know you’re cutting the weight and then not fighting. It made it harder, but I said was going to do it, so I did it. It felt terrible – I doubt any fighter has cut weight while knowing they didn’t have a fight at the end of it. It was tough because you know you don’t have to. You’re sitting there dying of starvation and all the time thinking, ‘You don’t actually have to do this. You can eat and drink as much you want.’
That will never happen again. If and when that fight does happen with Conor, he’s lost all his privileges. I will not be coming down to 157lbs, he doesn’t deserve that anymore.
BN: And Roy Jones is part of your team again.
Yes, he was here for a week [before Christmas] and then went back to be with his family. I always said I wanted to be with Roy for the rest of my career, it was that one fight [versus Benn] when I wanted my old man there and Ronnie [Davies] in the corner. There was history there but outside of that, I want Roy. He’s a genius and we work well together.
BN: How is your dad?
We’re staying off the dad stuff, but he’s okay.
BN: What are your memories of sparring Liam Smith?
It was, I don’t know, six or seven years ago. I sparred him and his brother, Paul. I don’t remember the spars. He told me in the face-off that he hit me with a body shot that nearly crumbled me. So I said, ‘Well, I guess I need to do more sit ups because I’m vulnerable to the body. Thank you for telling me.’
BN: Do you pay any attention to that stuff?
Well, the guy is talking so I listen to him. But does it affect my thought process or confidence? No. I’d say all sorts of crazy stuff too if the guy said he didn’t remember the spar, why not? You put me down with a body shot? Sure, go for it.
BN: There is always ‘needle’ in your fights. How much of that comes from you?
It’s on both sides. My opponents always have a lot of negative things to say about me. That’s always how it’s been, I don’t know why. I get a lot of flak from my opponents and the ‘haters’ in the boxing world who still don’t believe in me and the things I say. Obviously I’ve never been the type to just lie down and take it so I became good at the comebacks, at poking the bear. The difference between me and a lot of fighters is that I know how to talk. I have a vocabulary, I’m not an idiot. A lot of these guys are uneducated. All they have is, ‘you’re an arsehole’, ‘you’re a tit’, ‘I’m going to knock you out’. What did Liam say? ‘You think you’re a superstar but you’re far from it.’ It’s all basic schoolboy stuff, it’s embarrassing. I am able to articulate a lot better so it’s gets under their skin and it gets under the skin of people.
BN: What motivates you? Money, putting on a performance or becoming world champion?
None are more important than the other, they all come hand in hand. I put myself in a position to fight whenever I’m called to fight. I should have fought for world titles more than I have but that’s a promoter thing, all I can do is beat the guys that are put in front of me. I want the world titles but I also want to make a living, absolutely. Sometimes they come hand in hand but a lot of the time, especially these days, you don’t need a world title to earn a lot of money in boxing. We’re seeing this with the YouTubers and other fights. If you have two names that people want to see fight each other, you don’t have to have a world title to be financially rewarded. This fight with Smith proves that.
It’s about pinning these guys down, which is hard. I was an interim champion and in position but the world title fights didn’t then happen. Now, I’m 33 years old, so have to force this, I have to push it hard. Fights with people like [Gennadiy] Golovkin have to happen.
BN: What about Benn?
That fight will still happen, 100 per cent. We now have our own story, our own beef. It’s not about our fathers, it’s about us. The fight will always be of interest to me. I wouldn’t take it over a fight with Golovkin but the fight [with Benn] will happen soon enough.
BN: How does the failed test look to the outside world?
It was a very bad look when it came out. I don’t think he’ll be able to say or do anything to make that look go away. He’s always going to have that black mark to his name, that will never go, it doesn’t matter what his lawyers and scientists say. He will always be seen as a cheat. That’s just how it is when you fail two drug tests. If it does happen down the line, it will be the most tested boxing match of all time because we can never have anything happen like this again. The question is, does he deserve the fight and the payday? If you’re innocent you don’t go missing for three months. He should man up, apologise, and beg for forgiveness.
BN: What sort of performance can we expect from you against Liam Smith?
I haven’t decided. Whereas Liam can only fight one way, I can fight in five or six different ways. One thing I do know it’s going to be a lot of fun, I know that from the way he fights. It can’t be boring and it will be as exciting as I want to make it.