Two Super Six World Boxing Classic fighters, former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and consensus top-five super middleweight Andre Dirrell, took part in a media teleconference call on Wednesday to discuss their return to the ring on a special edition of ShoBox: The New Generation this Friday, Dec. 30, live on SHOWTIME® (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) from Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif.
The ShoBox main event will spotlight Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KOs), of Little Rock, Ark., in a scheduled 10-round middleweight bout. Taylor’s first start in 26 months represents a return to the division he once dominated. He will face Jessie Nicklow (22-2-3, 8 KOs) of Baltimore, Md.
Long regarded as one of the world’s premier super middleweight contenders, Dirrell will return to the ring for the first time in 21 months when he faces Darryl Cunningham in the co-feature. Dirrell (19-1, 13 KOs), of Flint, Mich., has not fought since winning by 11th-round disqualification over Arthur Abraham in The Super Six World Boxing Classic on March 27, 2010. Cunningham (24-2, 10 KOs), of Detroit, has been victorious in 17 consecutive starts and has not lost since December 2007.
In the opening bout of the telecast, former Cuban amateur standout Luis “El Leon” Garcia (11-0, 9 KOs) of Cork, Ireland, meets southpaw Alexander “The Great” Johnson (12-0, 5 KOs, 1 NC) of Oxon Hill, Md., in an eight-round showdown of undefeated light heavyweights.
Here are what the principals had to say on Wednesday:
“It’s great to be back in boxing. I took a few years off but now I’ve got my focus back. I’ve been boxing for 22 years and I’ve never taken a break from boxing. This just woke me up. I’m just really looking forward to getting back in the ring and I’m happy I got such a great team behind me. Al Haymon has taken care of everything. It’s just a blessing to be back in boxing and to have my focus back.
“All my life I’ve been boxing. I just missed boxing so much. I’m working hard and I want to be world champion. It’s not about the money now or any of that. It’s about being on top. I want to be No. 1 again. That’s the only goal now: to be No. 1 again.
“I had every intention of getting back in the ring. I just missed boxing. I was never worried about what was wrong with me. I know my family was concerned, but this is what I love. This is what I’ve done my whole life. It’s who I am.”
How has it been working again with your trainer Pat Burns?
“Working with Pat, it’s like I never left. The man is the same man that he always was. And I’m the same person. It’s just that I lost my focus. And now I’ve got him back and I have to get back on top.
“Everybody loves a comeback and everybody loves a comeback story. Everybody makes mistakes. That’s why I love boxing so much. You can be down and then come back and win a championship and everything is great.
“The thing I remember most about my biggest fights was being hungry. I didn’t really care who it was, I just wanted to be on top. I feel the same way now. I’m older now but I know how to get there. I’ve been in this position before and I feel the same way. Hard work and dedication pay off.
“I’m returning to boxing to be No. 1 and to win the belts.”
“A lot of people believe I wouldn’t make it as far as I did. I think I showed my world-class talent against both Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham. It showed where I stand in the sport of boxing. I’m looking forward to continuing that ride and getting back in the ring and getting back on top.”
What kept you out of the ring for all this time?
“Well mainly I had to get clearance from the doctor and that took three months. I was finally cleared and then after that I was looking for a TV date and unfortunately a lot of dates were taken, but Gary Shaw was able to get me on this show and I’m really thankful for that. So half and half; half of my problems outside of the ring and half of my problems after what happened in the Abraham fight.”
Is there any question that you’re OK to get back in the ring?
“I’ve thought about it in my workout sessions but for the most part I’ve put it out of my mind. But once I really started to work out hard and spar it really left my mind because I always just believed I would be where I’m at when I left the sport. My only concern now is putting on a good showing for the fans. I’m not too concerned about any of the problems I had after the Arthur Abraham fight.”
Did you watch the Ward-Froch fight and the ones that came after you dropped out?
“I watched them all, and I was excited for them all. I think Froch has improved tremendously since he fought me. Ward has definitely improved. He’s been looking awesome and pretty much pitched a shutout in each of his fights leading up to that championship fight with Froch. I was watching with anticipation and excitement because at the end of the day I still wanted my shot. For the most part it was stressful to watch. At the end of the fights, at like 12 o’clock, I’d be ready to get to the gym because I would be so anxious to get back in there. A lot of the times I would find myself in tears. Just being out for so long and knowing that you’re in your prime and knowing what you can do, so I was stressing for the most part.
“I was excited for every fighter, no lie. Froch was saying a lot, especially after Andre Ward got cut and he was talking about how classless it was and saying how disgraceful it was. That kind of touched me a little bit so I was pretty happy when Andre Ward beat him. I knew Andre would beat him. I wasn’t thinking that I should’ve been in that spot. It was that I could’ve been in that spot that was bothering me. But I’m not going to sit here and say that should have been me and that I regret what happened because I believe everything happens for a reason and my comeback will prove that. I’m just feeling like that could have been me, but I can’t dwell on the past.
“I’ve really enjoyed my career up until the injury and I’m just looking forward to getting in there and showing what I can do. I’m glad the tournament is over and that I can get back in there in 2012. I want to start the rest of my career off with a bang and finish it with a bang. I don’t plan on having any more mishaps for the rest of my career.”
How long will it take to get back to the level you were at before you got injured?
“Well, I think it all depends on the showing that I give on Friday. I want to have a great showing and I want to look good. I want to look excellent and I want to impress the crowd. We’ll move forward from this and hope for no more mishaps.”
Do you still hope to get that fight with Ward?
“Definitely. I know our time will come. I believe that’s what the fans want to see so we’ll give it to them.’’
(Is it true) you’ve also said you wanted to fight Lucian Bute?
“Yes, that’s accurate. He’s fought in his hometown his whole career and fought the same type of fighters. I’m not taking anything away from him. He’s an excellent fighter. He has a great uppercut and a great jab and he’s quick on his feet. But he’s fought B-minus fighters his whole career and I’m not the first to say that. It’s just my evaluation. Every fan wants to see you fight the big dog, whether it be me or someone else. Lucian Bute has a lot to prove, but everyone has a lot to prove. But he has been protected and he cannot deny it.
“My nerves haven’t hit me yet. Once that weigh-in kicks off and I get to see him (Cunningham) and get in his face then I’ll feel it and I’ll be ready to go. But no nerves right now.
“Flint, Michigan, has been on top of the game (over Detroit) ever since Thomas Hearns. We’ve been on top of every division, even the amateurs. For a guy like Cunningham to get a win against me, or even a close fight, the boxing fans of Detroit would feel awesome about it. But I’ll be ready to shut them up and show them who will come out on top after this fight.
“When I was 25 and 26 I knew there was a short window (to win a world title). But guys aren’t retiring now until 34, 35 years old. Look at (Floyd) Mayweather. So my time is now and I want to take advantage of it.
“There are not any short-range goals for 2012; I’m just looking to get the belts. I want to go out there and I want to prove my worth and myself. I’ve had a lot on my mind since my layoff. So for 2012 I’m really just looking to prove the critics wrong. If I can get all the belts in one year then I’m going to try and get all the belts in one year. That’s how hungry I am to get the belts.”
On his brother Anthony fighting in the same division:
“He’s been right there with me the whole time. We just feed off each other’s energy. I think he should go after all the belts and if I’m in the way I’ll step out of the way; just change to another belt and another dream. There are lots of belts out there and more than one or two out there who have them. We’re both just looking to make a name for ourselves. If he’s winning belts and I’m winning belts then it’s all good and we’ll be like another Klitschko. I’m looking forward to all his success and I’m looking forward to mine as well.”
What is your ultimate goal in boxing?
“I want to have my name mentioned with the (Manny) Pacquiaos and the Mayweathers. Just chasing the titles down. I have a strong, strong desire to become the best that ever did it. As long as I keep my mind set on that I know I can reach a pretty high level. I want to make my grandfather (Leon Lawson) proud. He’s worked so hard and he’s given me so much.”
What do you love most about boxing?
“To just be able to travel the world and to meet new people and to become known all around the world, there’s nothing like it. Unlike MMA, in boxing it takes technique. It takes science and it takes a real will to get in there with a guy for 12 rounds and look good doing it the whole way out. I really love the competition and the adversity and the victory. It all builds your character. From a boxer’s standpoint I love it all. I just love it.”
“I appreciate the opportunity. We’ve had eight weeks of preparation for this fight. I’m feeling really good and I’m on weight. If Jermain is not where he should be than I’ll be the first one to show it. I’d like to thank God for the opportunity and all he’s blessed me with. I just want to show the world on Friday night what I can do.”
LOU DiBELLA, Taylor’s Promoter:
“Jermain has really re-dedicated himself to this sport and gotten himself in great physical shape. He’s changed his entire lifestyle. He has seen a lot of doctors and neurologists and they have determined that he is at no greater risk than anyone else entering the ring. I’m particularly comfortable with the fact and the way he has dedicated himself to the sport of boxing and that his weight has never been an issue.
“He’s fighting a tough fighter in Jessie Nicklow who, to be quite honest, would not have been given much of a chance to beat Jermain Taylor in his prime. But right now Jermain is coming off his last couple fights that he wasn’t at his best. And if he’s not at his best on Friday night, then Jessie Nicklow is exactly the kind of guy that’s going to show it.”
How hard was it to come back to promote Jermain?
“It was a process and a lot of conversations I had with Al Haymon and knowing that Jermain had been going to some top neurologists in Arkansas and had been checking his health and well-being. Then it became clear that that was going to extend to places like the Mayo Clinic and I received a copy of the medical report from a doctor in Germany that was cc’ed to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. I had a conversation with one of the top neurologists in the world where he was asked if Jermain were his own kid, would he let him get in the ring. His response was, no, he would not let his own kid fight under any circumstance but if you’re asking if Jermain Taylor is any different than any other fighter or if there is any risk then I can’t tell you that. Based on that, I believe that Jermain is a fighter and that’s what fighters do, they fight. I am comfortable that he is OK and that we are doing this for the right reasons. We’re not getting rich by fighting Friday night.”
GARY SHAW, Dirrell’s Promoter:
“I always thought that Andre Dirrell was the class of the Super Six. I think he proved that with his fight against Arthur Abraham coming off a controversial loss to Carl Froch. Unfortunately he didn’t get a chance to finish off the tournament due to an injury that occurred during the Abraham fight. We’re happy to be back on SHOWTIME this coming Friday. Andre will show what he’s got and I assure you we will have a victory. Andre will show his class and hopefully after this fight we will move into a big fight on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING.
“There are plenty of belts to go around. The greatest thing is there will be two American brothers holding all the belts.
“I still think Andre Dirrell is the class of the 168-pound division and I think he will prove that in 2012.”
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