By Johnny Walker
Boxing Insider recently caught up with Canadian heavyweight champion Neven Pajkic (16-0-0, 5 KOs), who fights Britain’s Tyson Fury (16-0-0, 11 KOs) on November 12 in Manchester, England, on the phone. The Toronto-based Pajkic, 34, is a laid back guy with a great sense of humor who doesn’t take himself too seriously: the kind of guy you’d love to knock back a few brews with in your neighborhood bar. Yes, he isn’t crazy about Fury’s personality, but he is man enough to give him props for his win over Dereck Chisora. And he doesn’t try to hide the fact that personal issues have gotten in his way at times as he strives for the top of the heavyweight division. But Pajkic knows that with a possible shot at a Klitschko brother riding on this fight, he now has to focus like never before.
Read on to discover what the Canadian champ thinks of American boxers, of David Haye’s retirement, of Tomasz Adamek as a heavyweight, and of Tyson Fury’s naming his son “Jesus.” No matter the topic, Neven Pajkic doesn’t pull any punches!
BOXING INSIDER: Neven, Johnny Walker here from Boxing Insider.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Hey buddy, how you doin’?
BOXING INSIDER: Great. I’m a Canadian living in Brooklyn, New York – back when I lived in Toronto, I was always frustrated by the lack of a boxing scene there. I’ve been gone for almost ten years, and it seems things have really changed for Canadian boxing.
NEVEN PAJKIC: The Canadian is definitely a better fighter than the American. If you take the average Canadian fighter and the average American fighter, the Canadian guy will beat him, nine out of ten times, you know what I mean? There are more fighters in Canada, better quality fighters.
BOXING INSIDER: Bute, fighting out of Quebec…
NEVEN PAJKIC: Bute, you got Pascal….
BOXING INSIDER: And there’s you…
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah, I don’t wanna blow my own horn, you know [laughter].
BOXING INSIDER: You must be a Canadian if you’re getting modest…
NEVEN PAJKIC: [laughs] That’s one of the [Canadian] qualities, yes.
BOXING INSIDER: So you and Tyson Fury, you both fought Nicolai Firtha, who almost knocked Fury out in his last fight.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Hey man, Nicolai Firtha is a tough cookie, let me tell you man. He’s a tough fucking guy. He doesn’t look like much, but he’s a tough cookie man.
BOXING INSIDER: So what about this “feud” I read about with you and Tyson Fury?
NEVEN PAJKIC: It’s not really a feud, the guy’s a classless piece of shit, you know? [laughter]
BOXING INSIDER: I didn’t mind Fury at first, but I’m starting to wonder about him lately. I just read the other day his wife gave birth and he named his son Jesus!
NEVEN PAJKIC: [incredulous] What?
BOXING INSIDER: Is that supposed to mean that he’s God the Father?
NEVEN PAJKIC: Wow, no I hope not, fuck. Man, that’s just wrong. It’s one of the biggest sins, you know.
BOXING INSIDER: I just wonder what’s up with this guy.
NEVEN PAJKIC: I don’t know, last fight and the fight before, he said, “I found Jesus,” you know, which I truly doubt.
BOXING INSIDER: I always get queasy when an athlete implies that a supernatural power is on his side in a sporting event.
NEVEN PAJKIC: I’m a religious kind of guy, I believe in Jesus and all, and I do my prayer. I’d like to have him on my side, but what if the other guy does the same thing and he’s a good guy, then the best man wins, you know. Naming your kid Jesus, I don’t know. [Fury’s] just a dumb kid, what the fuck he knows? Maybe he was just overwhelmed by religion in the moment, five years from now he’ll look back and say…
BOXING INSIDER: “Why did I do that?” [laughter].
BOXING INSIDER: Fury does come across as kind of naive. So he’s 6′ 9″ tall and you’re 6′ 3″. Is this going to be another Vitali Klitschko-Tomasz Adamek scenario where all we hear about is the “size” difference?
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah, but I’m a real heavyweight man, you know? I really have to struggle to get down to 230. Other guys have to get juiced up to get to 220, 215, whatever. I walk around 245, 240. When fight time comes I’ll be trimming the weight, I’ll go under 240, between 235 and 240. I’m a true heavyweight, not like Adamek, who is a light heavyweight.
BOXING INSIDER: Adamek has to struggle to get over 200 pounds, it seems.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah, I don’t know what he was doing in heavyweight division.
BOXING INSIDER: Making a lot of money against Vitali!
NEVEN PAJKIC: I like the guy, you know, but the beating he took, I don’t know, man. Money is good, but come on, you gotta draw a line somewhere. You got kids, man, what the fuck are you doing with Vitali? Did you really think you’re gonna beat him? NO!
BOXING INSIDER: He never looked confident in that fight, not at all.
NEVEN PAJKIC: I like the guy, he comes to fight, he’s got heart, you know, he’s a modest kind of quiet guy, I like that about him. But actions speak louder than words, and that’s what it’s going to boil down to on November 12.
BOXING INSIDER: Fury’s a big talker, and you…
NEVEN PAJKIC: I can run my mouth too, but I prefer to do my talking inside the ropes, you know. Especially at the time of the fight. Like, if we are out someplace having a drink, sure, I’ll blab around, but, you know.
BOXING INSIDER: Speaking of somebody who likes to run his mouth, what did you think of David Haye’s retirement?
NEVEN PAJKIC: Oh, David Gaye? He retired? Good! Man, I couldn’t stand listening to that guy. It’s like, “Shut the fuck up already,” you know? Yeah, he was a piece of shit too, a real piece of work. I know it’s promotion fueling that, but…
BOXING INSIDER: Actually I never thought it was just promotion — he really is a jerk. And when he came out with his injured toe after he lost to Wladimir….
NEVEN PAJKIC: Oh, cry me a fucking river. Seriously, injured toe! Oh my God. Did you see the YouTube video of Klitschko with the silent treatment?
BOXING INSIDER: Yeah, it was hilarious.
NEVEN PAJKIC: I was laughing all day because of that, he actually made my day. I was laughing so hard, you know?
BOXING INSIDER: I was going to ask you, with your Serbian background, what do you think of the amazing success of Novak Djokovic this year in tennis?
NEVEN PAJKIC: Oh man, the guy is awesome, man!
BOXING INSIDER: I hear they are putting his picture on the money in Serbia.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Really? Holy shit, I never heard that, he must be banging all kinds of girls! [laughter]. Listen, if I had my face on the money, I’d be Hugh Hefner!
BOXING INSIDER: Maybe that’s a goal for you to shoot for?
NEVEN PAJKIC: Ahh, I’m married [laughter]. But he’s 23, he’s got the world ahead of him.
BOXING INSIDER: Well, if you can get on the Serbian money, that would be great.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Or *any* money, as far as that goes [laughter].
BOXING INSIDER: They’d have to take the Queen off the Canadian money, so….
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah man, listen, I go over there and beat up Fury and say, “Listen, it’s time for your lady to go, and put my face on the twenty dollar bill! And the thousand dollar bill.”
BOXING INSIDER: That’s a great quote.
NEVEN PAJKIC: I don’t think they’ll find it funny over there, you know?
BOXING INSIDER: Well, you never know, some of them might. Do you feel any pressure, because if you beat Fury,
NEVEN PAJKIC: When, when, when I beat Fury…
BOXING INSIDER: …you’ll get a lot more worldwide attention.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Well, a little birdie told me I would get a shot at a Klitschko, actually, so that would be great. And you know, a lot of people are motivated by money, they come to fight a Klitschko just to get paid. But I will fight Wladimir to beat him, you know? Yeah, there is going to be money there, but I’m not bending down for it.
BOXING INSIDER: You’re not motivated by money. You’re an actual fighter.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah man, I’ll fight to beat him.
BOXING INSIDER: I always notice that with Serbian athletes, they are motivated by pride more than by money.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah man, I wanna win, right, at the end of the day, I want to win. I know [Fury’s] got eleven knockouts and I’ve got five knockouts, but in reality, I’ve got something going on in my life that is crazy for the last few years. And I haven’t been really, like, in the gym. I know it’s not an excuse.
BOXING INSIDER: Shit happens.
NEVEN PAJKIC: I gotta put all that to the side for the next 3-4 weeks, and do my thing, right?
BOXING INSIDER: Do you get any support there in Canada? Do you know [former Canadian heavyweight champion] George Chuvalo?
NEVEN PAJKIC: Yeah, George is coming to the fight to support me. Listen, I really don’t mind being the underdog, you know. That shit don’t really matter. Once you’re in the ring it doesn’t matter what the bookies say, or what the boxing experts say. All that goes down the tubes once the bell rings, you know.
BOXING INSIDER: Tyson Fury was an underdog until just recently….
NEVEN PAJKIC: I gotta hand it out to him beating Chisora. I thought in a thousand years, he cannot beat Chisora. Even though it wasn’t Chisora at his best, there’s no excuses, you know.
BOXING INSIDER: Fury stuck to a game plan in that fight.
NEVEN PAJKIC: Oh perfectly. Amazing, amazing. I gotta hand it out to him on that one, because I really, really, really didn’t think he can beat Chisora. But he did, and just for that, I do respect him as a fighter. After he beat Chisora, I said, “this guy deserves what he’s got.”
BOXING INSIDER: And now you can beat him!
NEVEN PAJKIC: And now I can beat him. I’d rather fight him than Chisora any day! [laughter].