“The Preacherman” Cometh Back: Interview with former world cruiserweight champion Robert Daniels
By: Ron Scarfone
The World Boxing Council (WBC) was the first sanctioning body to recognize the cruiserweight division in 1979 with a vacant world title fight in that weight class. Originally, the weight limit for cruiserweights was 190 pounds. This was later changed to 195 pounds. Currently, the division has a weight limit of 200 pounds. Rocky Marciano weighed between 184-189 pounds when he was the world heavyweight champion in the 1950s. In the 1970s, boxers such as Muhammad Ali usually weighed in the 220-230 pound range. Throughout the years that the cruiserweight division has existed, there has usually been a dearth of talent in that division. Light heavyweight champions such as Virgil Hill and Zsolt Erdei eventually moved up to cruiserweight and were able to win world cruiserweight titles even though they were both past their prime. Talented cruiserweight champions such as Evander Holyfield and David Haye became heavyweights for the money and prestige that the heavyweight division can provide. Holyfield and Haye were able to make a successful transition from cruiserweight to heavyweight and both became world heavyweight champions. There are other cruiserweight champions who have had more success at cruiserweight than in the heavyweight division such as Robert “The Preacherman” Daniels.
Daniels made his pro debut in 1984. Daniels received his first world title shot about five years later. With a record of 17-1, Daniels won the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) cruiserweight title in 1989 after he defeated Dwight Muhammad Qawi by a split decision. Daniels made two successful title defenses in 1990, but lost the WBA cruiserweight title to Bobby Czyz by a split decision in 1991. Daniels would have to wait six more years to become a world champion again. In 1997, Daniels defeated Kenny Keene by a split decision to win the International Boxing Council (IBC) cruiserweight title. In 1998, Daniels defeated Don Poeder by KO in the tenth round to win the International Boxing Organization (IBO) cruiserweight title. In 2000, Daniels moved up to the heavyweight division and faced world-class opposition. Daniels lost to heavyweight contenders Lawrence Clay-Bey and David Tua that year. Daniels later won two titles in the super cruiserweight division: one from the World Boxing Federation (WBF) in 2001 and the other from the International Boxing Association (IBA) in 2003. This division is no longer recognized. In 2003, Daniels lost to Jermell Barnes by unanimous decision in a North American Boxing Organization (NABO) cruiserweight title fight. The NABO is part of the World Boxing Organization (WBO). In 2004, Daniels lost to Dale Brown by a split decision in a North American Boxing Federation (NABF) cruiserweight title fight. The NABF is affiliated with the WBC. In 2005, Daniels won four consecutive fights. In 2007, Daniels fought twice in Sweden against Aldo Colliander. Daniels lost to Colliander by majority decision and unanimous decision. Daniels would not fight again until 2012. Daniels lost by TKO in the third round against Victor Bisbal in Puerto Rico. Four years later, Daniels is making another comeback. Daniels is scheduled to fight 39-year-old Carlos Reyes (7-9-1, 5 KOs) on September 17th in Fort Myers, Florida. Daniels’ official record is 49-10-1, 41 KOs.
At 48 years of age, Daniels’ fight against Reyes will be at an agreed upon weight of 205 pounds. Daniels currently teaches boxing classes at the Fight Fit gym in Pembroke Pines, Florida. This gym was previously known as South Florida Boxing. Former welterweight contender David Estrada used to train for his fights as well as teach classes at South Florida Boxing. Angelo Dundee was one of Estrada’s trainers and was frequently at the gym during that time. I was a member of the gym when it was South Florida Boxing, but was not there during the change to Fight Fit. I knew Daniels had been a trainer at Fight Fit for at least a few years, but never met him until recently. In spite of Daniels’ accomplishments and his victory over Qawi who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Daniels has been overlooked. His win over Qawi does not get much recognition because Qawi was considered to be past his prime. Even in his hometown of Miami, Florida, Daniels has not been popular. I have a KO Magazine from March 1991 which has an article about Daniels. The title of the article: Unknown…Even in His Own Neighborhood. It seems like that has not changed despite the fact that he has won world titles at cruiserweight and will have 50 wins if he is victorious over Reyes. Daniels agreed to be interviewed and I met him at Fight Fit gym.
Boxing Insider: Hello, Robert. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you. I remember when you were WBA cruiserweight champion, but I never saw when you won the title against Dwight Muhammad Qawi by split decision. I also could not find any video of the fight on the Internet. What do you recall about Qawi’s abilities and how you were able to defeat him?
Robert Daniels: Qawi was a very tough, cagey veteran. Of course, he had over 35 fights at that time when I fought Qawi. I had 18 fights at that time, so he definitely had more experience than me. Very cagey, very wise, very crafty, and very slick guy.
Boxing Insider: Regarding his abilities, some people say that he may have been past his prime. How do you feel about that?
Robert Daniels: If you beat someone with a good name, of course some people are going to say he’s past his prime, he’s washed up, or he shouldn’t be fighting. You’re always going to have critics. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is, whether it be good or whether it be bad.
Boxing Insider: I didn’t see the fight. I was a fan in those days, but not every fight was televised. The fight was in France, so maybe it wasn’t televised in America. Qawi was a little older than when he fought Evander Holyfield, but he wasn’t that much older. He was only a couple of years older, so I don’t believe that about his prime. Maybe he was a little bit past his prime, but I don’t think a lot. I think it was still a significant win for you. You won the WBA cruiserweight title and then when you lost the title to Bobby Czyz, it seemed like you were not throwing as much as Czyz and that enabled Czyz to win by a split decision. What are your thoughts on that fight?
Robert Daniels: Going into the Czyz fight, I had a lot of things on my mind. I was in the process of buying my home. I was also in the process of doing other things to get into business. I really let that fight go. I let that fight slip. That’s something that I would never do again. He won the fight. They say he won. I believe I won the fight. That’s neither here nor there. I’m still here.
Boxing Insider: Right. There are not many people fighting at your age and continuing to be active. I think everybody, the champions at that time, are probably retired by now.
Robert Daniels: Of course.
Boxing Insider: I think the oldest one was probably Holyfield and he was 48 years old in his last fight. You won the IBC cruiserweight title from Kenny Keene who had a 38-1 record at the time. That was a grueling and action-packed fight which you won by split decision. That was your third split decision in a world title fight. What do you recall about that fight and why do you think you received split decisions so often in your career?
Robert Daniels: I think basically because I come on at the last part of the fight. Honestly, I’m a 15 round fighter. I prefer 15 rounds. If I fight fewer rounds, it is very hard for me to get started. I have to learn how to start faster and that’s something that I’m doing now.
Boxing Insider: (Writer’s Note: The last 15-round world title fight happened in Bangkok, Thailand on August 29, 1988. Samuth Sithnaruepol defended his IBF minimumweight title against In-Kyu Hwang. Sithnaruepol won by unanimous decision. After this fight, 12-round world title fights have been the standard for men.) Is it because you’re not warmed up enough or do you prefer to come on later in the fight?
Robert Daniels: That’s half of my strategy. Going into this fight here, knowing that it is a 6 round fight, I know that I cannot sit back and wait for 3 or 4 rounds to go by and then try to come on. That’s definitely not going to happen.
Boxing Insider: Yeah. More than half of the fight would be over. What do you recall about that fight against Keene?
Robert Daniels: Kenny Keene, that was a very tough fight. Very grueling. It took a lot of energy out of me. Thank God that, by the grace of God, God allowed me to be victorious.
Boxing Insider: You were both 28 years of age, both in your primes. It was a good match. When you were a heavyweight, you did not have as much success in the ring. In this comeback, are you intending to be a cruiserweight and are you seeking to be a world champion again?
Robert Daniels: I’m seeking not to just come back to make money. That’s not my goal. Of course, I want to make money. My goal is to come back and win a world title again. I feel within myself that I was robbed of some years of my life.
Boxing Insider: Due to what?
Robert Daniels: Due to my former job and things of that nature. I feel that I was robbed of 10 years of my life. It might sound crazy, but I just want to see.
Boxing Insider: I heard from your promoter Ron Rose that you are fighting at a contracted weight of 205 pounds for this fight, but that you will be a cruiserweight after that.
Robert Daniels: Yes. After this fight here, I will be a cruiserweight.
Boxing Insider: What are your thoughts on the cruiserweight division now and what the division was like in the 1990s when you were a cruiserweight champ compared to today?
Robert Daniels: The fighters were definitely a lot better. Not taking anything away from the champion of today because I know he worked very hard to become a world champion. I don’t take that lightly. I don’t take that for granted. My goal is to come back and become a world champion again.
Boxing Insider: Do you follow who the champions are today?
Robert Daniels: To be honest with you, no. I don’t even watch boxing.
Boxing Insider: The best cruiserweight champion today is probably WBO champ Krzysztof Glowacki of Poland. Glowacki defeated Marco Huck and Steve Cunningham who are both top ten cruiserweights. Beibut Shumenov is the current WBA cruiserweight champ which is the title that you held. Do you want to win any world title or is there a certain title that you desire?
Robert Daniels: I basically just want to win a world title whether it is the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO. A world title is a world title to me.
Boxing Insider: I know you won a super cruiserweight title from the World Boxing Federation (WBF). They don’t use that division anymore. The current WBF cruiserweight champion is Zine Benmakhlouf. He is 39 years old and is rated No. 131 in the world, so he probably has the least ability of the world champions. If you were offered a title shot against him, would you be interested?
Robert Daniels: Of course. Of course.
Boxing Insider: You have been an ordained preacher for about twenty years. What do you do in your role as a preacher?
Robert Daniels: Right now, I pretty much backed away from the ministry, but not backed away from God of course. I could never do that. I still attend church. I decided to just get myself some time to focus on what I really want to do.
Boxing Insider: When you were a minister or a preacher, did you do sermons?
Robert Daniels: Yes, I did sermons once every 2 or 3 months. I was an assistant minister to my pastor. Every time my pastor needed someone to stand in his place, he would ask me and I was more than welcome to do it. Right now, I am not in the ministry.
Boxing Insider: Is it because of the time that it takes to make the speeches for the sermons?
Robert Daniels: Putting a sermon together takes a lot of time. People think that a minister can just get up and give a great sermon, but that’s not the case. You have to study. You have to do research. With me, that’s what I do because I don’t want to get up there misleading people and telling people the wrong information.
Boxing Insider: I know from doing speeches that you have to prepare. If you are not prepared, people will know it. How does the spiritual life help with your boxing career?
Robert Daniels: It helps me to basically maintain my humility. Regardless of how many belts I collect, how many belts I win, God always has a way of humbling his servants. Sometimes, we can get out of control. Even us as children of God, we can get out of place and have a big head, so to speak. God always knows how to humble his servants and that’s something that I always ask God to do, just to keep me humble. I could do nothing without the help of God. It is God that is within me who is allowing me and giving me the strength and the ability to do what I do. Without Him, I can’t do anything.
Boxing Insider: You are now 48 years old, but you look at least a decade younger in my opinion. How do you take care of yourself?
Robert Daniels: I go to bed early. I don’t hang out. That was never part of my life even before I got into the ministry, even before I got into the Lord. Hanging out and drinking and smoking and partying, that’s never been a part of my life. Probably about 8 or 9 o’clock the latest, I’m in the bed asleep because I’m normally up by 4 o’clock running every morning. My body has gotten so used to going to bed early that it’s like a clock. When 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock comes, my body shuts right down. Even if I wanted to go out to a club and try to hang out until 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning, my body wouldn’t even allow me to do that because around 9 o’clock, my body already knows it’s time for bed.
Boxing Insider: Yes, sleep is very important. I read an article that you only trained three weeks for your last fight which was a third round knockout loss to Victor Brisbal in 2012. You are scheduled to fight Carlos Reyes who is rated No. 200 on BoxRec at cruiserweight. How is your preparation going for this fight?
Robert Daniels: My preparation is going well. I am having enough time basically to get prepared for this fight and to lose the weight, to focus, and concentrate on what I really need to do. I’ll be ready. Definitely, I’ll be ready for this fight here with no excuses.
Boxing Insider: Do you think you will be inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame after your career is over?
Robert Daniels: I believe so. If I don’t, as long as I make it into The Big House, I’m happy.
Boxing Insider: Qawi who you defeated is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. What do you think your chances are of getting inducted in there?
Robert Daniels: I really don’t know. I live my life one day at a time. If the powers that be see that I deserve to be inducted, then so be it. Definitely, I’ll accept it.
Boxing Insider: I have this KO Magazine from March 1991. It has an article about you that I want to show you. (The title of the article: Unknown…Even in His Own Neighborhood). Do you feel that you have been overlooked by people in spite of your accomplishments maybe because that you’re not showy or you’re more soft-spoken than other boxers?
Robert Daniels: I believe so and also with me being from South Florida which is basically a Hispanic area, I truly believe that if I was Hispanic, I would have more popularity. It doesn’t really even bother me about popularity. I live a spiritual life. I don’t live a carnal life. If I was seeking to be big, I would do anything. I would go out there and do something crazy, be flashy, be a showboat, but that’s not within my persona. If I did something like that, I would be a hypocrite because that’s not part of who I am. I am not a guy who talks loud saying “Oh, I’m going to knock you out!” That’s what people want to see. I don’t want to make myself look like an idiot. Boxing is a sport where two individuals come together, they compete, and the best man wins, and that’s it. If people want to showboat, they can go to New York. They can go to Broadway. To give the people a good show, a good fight, of course. That’s my job. My job is to put on a great performance. Every time I step in the ring, my job is to perform at top level and to give the people, give the crowd, give the audience what they came to see and that is a good show and, of course, everybody wants to see knockouts and that’s what I like to do.
Boxing Insider: Yeah, and you have a lot of them. (Writer’s Note: Daniels has a new nickname and will be known as “The KO Master” for his fight against Reyes.) You have 41 knockouts in your 49 wins. Now, you’re going for your 50th win later this month. How do you feel about that?
Robert Daniels: That’s a milestone because that’s something that I really want to accomplish: 50 wins.
Boxing Insider: I know BoxRec could be different than the official Fight Fax records, so I actually ordered your Fight Fax record and I saw that it was the same record as on BoxRec. By the way, I wanted to give this (KO Magazine) to you. This is for you because you told me before this interview that you didn’t have that article about you.
Robert Daniels: Thank you.
Boxing Insider: You’re welcome. I read another article about you on the Internet that you were falsely accused of stealing boxing equipment and it was very disturbing. (Writer’s Note: According to the article, Daniels worked for Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation and managed their boxing gyms. He organized events for amateur boxing and helped obtain new equipment. In spite of this, Daniels was fired from his job. Daniels filed a lawsuit for discrimination, unfair dismissal, and loss of earnings. As a result, his former employer made false accusations and stated that Daniels stole boxing equipment. The case went to court, but was dismissed after Daniels was offered only $500 as a settlement. Daniels stated that he lost $100,000 in earnings.) I’m sorry to hear that happened to you and the money that you lost. I have dealt with false accusations a lot in my life and I’m glad that you overcame that.
Robert Daniels: Thank you.
Boxing Insider: You’re welcome. Was that part of the years that you said you were robbed of?
Robert Daniels: Yeah, that was part because working for Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation, I worked for them for 10 years. I helped build up their program. I helped to get them sponsorship and equipment. I’m talking about thousands and thousands of dollars of equipment for free. For them to falsely accuse me saying that I stole boxing equipment, this is no disrespect to anyone else, but they said that I stole TITLE boxing gloves. I said, first of all, I don’t even wear TITLE boxing gloves. I hold no ill feelings against Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation. I don’t hold any ill feelings even though they did me bad. They did me very bad. God teaches you to forgive people when they mistreat you. That’s something that we have to do as Christians, as children of God. It’s very hard to do. It’s very, very hard. When someone lies on you, when someone tries to ruin your reputation, because everyone knows what kind of person I am. If you go around this whole town and ask anyone, you can even go inside there (in Fight Fit gym) and ask anyone what kind of guy is Robert Daniels, they’ll tell you he’s a laid-back guy, he’s quiet, funny. I don’t hold any ill feelings against Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation whatsoever. To be honest with you, if they called me back to go to work for them, I’ll go back to work for them.
Boxing Insider: Really? I read that a cop pulled you over because of it.
Robert Daniels: They did. It was really bad. They harassed me for a long time.
Boxing Insider: It’s hard to forgive. I’m dealing with false accusations in my workplace. I’m a librarian, but not in Miami-Dade. I work for another employer. I said to Human Resources that my manager refused to help two African-American women on the reference desk in two separate incidents. She didn’t help these people. Also, she’s done a lot of other things too. In retaliation, she wrote lies against me. Her and her coworker friends are now against me.
Robert Daniels: Is she Hispanic?
Boxing Insider: No. She’s Lebanese. That’s the way she is: the end justifies the means. She will lie to get what she wants and will ruin someone’s reputation. I have had a hostile work environment for a few years. It caused my health to decline. I am trying to get another job and get out of there. It’s hard to forgive. I don’t forgive yet. I haven’t forgiven her. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know if I could be like you to be honest with you.
Robert Daniels: It’s sad because there is so much racism in South Florida. It’s really sad. She’s Lebanese, so she should know how it feels to discriminate or to be racist against another person.
Boxing Insider: Other workers are affected in my library too. When she got promoted from my supervisor to manager, then she was managing the whole library. I warned my coworkers that it is going to be tough for them. She started to criticize people. She just wants to delegate and she wants to find fault with other people. That’s what she does. When she was my supervisor, we only had me, her, and another coworker of mine in our department. She would give me and my coworker almost all of the work. She would hardly do anything. She would read a book in her cubicle and say that she is advising people on what to read. No one else in the library system reads books like she does. They don’t have the time because they’re actually doing work. I complained about the workload and then after I complained, she got the manager against me. The manager retired and then my supervisor became manager. Now, the manager and my new supervisor are against me and it is difficult.
Robert Daniels: Well, you know how you can overcome that?
Boxing Insider: How?
Robert Daniels: The power of prayer. Prayer is powerful.
Boxing Insider: I need to pray more, definitely. I read pastor Joel Osteen’s book Become a Better You. I found 10 grammatical or spelling errors. I sent him a letter and stated the ten errors that were in his book. I wrote that I wasn’t criticizing him and that I just wanted to make him aware of the errors so that maybe he could correct them in a future printing. I stated that even though there are errors in it, the book is still a masterpiece. He sent me a signed copy of the book and he later did a sermon titled You Are God’s Masterpiece. I think he was inspired by my letter. He talked about even though we all have faults, we are still masterpieces in God’s eyes.
Robert Daniels: That’s true. That’s true.
Boxing Insider: Thanks Robert for talking to me.
Robert Daniels: Okay.
Boxing Insider: Good luck in your upcoming fight.
Robert Daniels: Thank you.
Daniels is scheduled to fight on September 17th in Fort Myers, Florida at Six Bends Harley-Davidson. Doors open at 6:00 PM. First bout is at 7:00 PM. The event is titled Return To Macho Time. This is a tribute to Hector “Macho” Camacho. In his heyday, Camacho won world titles at super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight. In 2012, Camacho was shot in San Juan, Puerto Rico and died a few days later. Camacho was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016. Christian Camacho is Camacho’s son and he will also be fighting at this event. Christian Camacho has a 3-1 record and is 24 years of age. After losing his pro debut in Mexico, Camacho has won three consecutive fights in the super featherweight division. Nine bouts in total are scheduled for this event. For ticket information, click on this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/live-return-to-macho-time-professional-boxing-event-to-benefit-blessings-in-a-backpack-charity-tickets-26079466386