DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK: BOXING INSIDER INTERVIEW WITH YUANDALE ‘MONEY SHOT’ EVANS
By: John Freund
Yuandale Evans has fought 20 pro fights and maintains an impressive 19-1 record, but his toughest fight came outside of the ring as he battled his own promoters for years in what has sadly become an all-too-common storyline in professional boxing: The never-ending contractual dispute. Evans fought only twice in 5 years during the prime of his career, yet somehow maintained the mental and emotional fortitude necessary to remain in peak fighting condition. And just when he was about to call it quits, the Boxing Gods came calling in the form of a short-notice fight against former World Champion, Billel Dib… on a Lou DiBella card, no less! Evans made the most of his opportunity, scoring a hard-fought unanimous decision upset. We talked with Evans about his trials and tribulations, the long hard road to success, and what lies ahead for the man they call ‘Money Shot.’
Tell me about your background. Why did you get into boxing?
When I got into boxing, I was only 10. I have a younger brother who started boxing a year before the age amateur boxers are supposed to start fighting. So I was supporting him and traveling with him a lot, and I took a liking to it. Before that I was a straight-A student. I was into arts, drawing, coloring, computers – definitely computers – that’s one of the things I went to college for, computer engineering. I was always a laid-back, people-person. I didn’t know I could fight, because I never got into fights.
So what was that 1st fight like? A lot of butterflies?
Without the head gear and with the smaller gloves, I felt like a bird let out of a cage – like I could do anything I wanted – that I could hit, that I couldn’t be touched. And it was a lot easier for me, being that I have a pro-style, I’m a big puncher. I definitely was nervous – my debut was on HBO in Biloxi, Mississippi, on a Roy Jones Jr. undercard. So I was definitely nervous being that it was going to be televised.
After a promising start to your career, you suffered a 1st round KO in your only loss to a very tough opponent, Javier Fortuna. What happened in that fight?
Both of us being southpaws, I went up and he went over. He landed with a lot of power, and my gloves touched the mat, but the ref didn’t say anything! He didn’t call it a knockdown. I was a little confused by that, and I was hurt too. I had never been hurt before in my entire life! But oh man, I was hurt… and he rushed me with a bunch of punches and he pinned me on the ropes. My corner didn’t tell me to hold, and I had never had that experience before, so instead of grabbing and holding, or moving out of there, I continued to fight. It was just a case of me never being in that type of situation before, and not really knowing what to do.
After that fight, you had a 39-month layoff between 2012 and 2015 due to contractual issues with various promoters. What was that time like for you?
It was one of the worst times of my life. I had started going back to college, so I started getting in debt with student loans. And my team stopped believe in me. I actually left my trainer that I had been with since I was 10. I was really upset because I felt like I couldn’t get to where I should go or where I should be, but at the same time, I feel like I had to go through all that to become the man I am today.
How do you stay mentally motivated during those lean years?
I’ve always been mentally motivated. I’ve never had male role models, so I’ve always motivated myself to do better. I just decided to put in the work. I started getting back in the gym, getting in tip-top shape. I was at training camps, I was sparring everybody who was winning and fighting – every top guy. And everyone was promising me things, saying, “hey, we didn’t know you were still in the game, we’re going to get you signed.” It was basically all just to keep me in training camp, to get their guys more work.
Did you ever think of quitting?
Oh definitely (laughs). Right before DiBella called me, I was telling my fiancé, “I’m done with this.” I was at a point where I’m either going to work a job and go back to school, or I’m going to box. And being a boxer wasn’t paying the bills. I kept leaving jobs to go to training camp and to go to the gym and train for fights that I was getting called for.
Were you still getting a lot of calls?
Oh yeah, we were getting calls. It could be a guy that’s 100-0, and we’d say, “yeah, we’ll fight him.” They’d say ‘okay,’ and they’d give us a BS purse. We’d say, “yeah, we’ll take it anyway, we just want to get on TV.” And then a week or two down the line, they’d call and say, ‘Ohhh, Evans is too tough. We don’t want that type of fighter, we’re looking for a lower caliber fighter.’
Your last fight was your first in 1.5 years, and you took it on short notice – 1 month after you proposed to your fiancé – to face an extremely tough Billel Dib. Going into that fight, Dib was ranked #6 by the WBO. Not to mention he is the bigger guy, and you were jumping up in weight. How did you prepare for all of that?
I had 5 sparring partners. I sparred 2 junior welterweights, and 1 middleweight. I was doing resistance sparring with those guys – what that is, is no break/no bell, 4/4/4. I started swimming. I was dieting. I started running like 7 miles every other day. And I was doing the sprint-and-run workout that Adrian Broner taught me when I was in training camp with him. This was also the first time I actually watched one of my opponent’s fight videos. He fights tall, so I actually thought he was a lot taller (laughs)… I had a 6-foot sparring partner!
You scored a tough UD win, which has given you a lot of attention. What are your hopes for the future now that you have a spotlight on you?
I’m looking for titles, man. I’m back down at 126, and I’m looking for title fights at 126 – I’m looking to take that division over. I want to at least fight 2 more times this year, before the year is out. I’m looking for those big names.
What advice do you have for young fighters looking to sign with promoters? What should they look out for and be aware of?
My advice, for one: never give up. Even when it gets bad, even when it gets rough, even when you lose your first fight – never give up. Adversity should fuel your fire, it should make you want to go harder. Keep your focus, be level-headed, and just keep going and keep driving. As far as with the promoters and managers, it’s political. If you’re a money-maker, they’re gonna deal with you. If you’re not a money-maker, you have to become one… you have to become TV material. My approach is: be polite, be a gentleman, and be somebody that can kick ass too.
You were successful after two very long layoffs in your career. What advice do you have to any fighter looking to make a comeback after a long layoff?
My advice would be to stay in the gym. Stay mentally and physically in shape. Make sure your body can go those rounds. Dieting – I’m a small guy, I’m not a big eater anyway, so I can’t really give a dieting suggestion. I just stayed ready and I did a lot of sparring. I did 12 or 15 rounds just to be prepared. I sparred with junior welterweights and a middleweight to make sure I could take their punches. Just keep going hard and keep in shape and keep training.
Besides Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, who’s the greatest boxer of all time?
Roberto Duran. I met him when I fought out in Vegas on B-hop and Roy Jones’ card. I got a pic too. He’s a great guy. He looks like a giant Super Mario brother (laughs).
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, and congrats on getting engaged – when’s the big day?
We’ve got the month – not the official date. September of next year, Cancun.
Great. Hopefully you’ll be a champion by then…
Hopefully I’ll be more than 1 by then!
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