McGirt on historical mission at crossroads of career
VERO BEACH, Fla. (October 22, 2009) – At the tender age of 26, super middleweight James McGirt Jr. already finds himself at the crossroads of his professional boxing career, but is still prepared to make a strong run at becoming the first son of a world champion father/head trainer (James “Buddy” McGirt) to also capture a major world title.
“We’re going to make history together,” McGirt recently said between training sessions at his father’s well-known gym in Vero Beach. “Everything is cool. I’m definitely the new James — more serious about boxing and willing to work even harder, in and out of the gym. I have only one more chance. I have to do what I need to do in order to be world champion.”
How serious? The former junior college basketball star with the 21-2-1 (15 KOs) ring record, who often played pick-up games to stay in shape, hasn’t “balled” in six months.
“He’s finally matured and understands what it takes,” his father, former 2-time world champion and Trainer of the Year, “Buddy” McGirt, explained. “We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but since the (Patrick) Perez fight (6-round win by majority decision on May 22, 2009, in Lincoln, R.I.), he’s found himself. He showed a lot in his last fight (WTKO4 vs. Anthony Pietrantonio on Sept. 2, 2009 in Syracuse, N.Y.). James has a new attitude. He was never comfortable fighting at middleweight. He wanted that, so we had him fighting at 162 to 163, but it took too much out of him making weight. Now, he’s back at super middleweight and comfortable.
“James was training and sparring with Antonio Tarver and now Glenn Johnson. He saw how other guys did against them. I was away for a few weeks and Antonio called to say how much of a difference he saw in James. Tarver can really put it all together and Glenn puts heat on you. It was a great experience for James. He’s really come a long
way. What a difference a year has made. He understands what it means to have the McGirt name; his opponents work harder to try and beat him and me. You can feel James’ attitude change by just being around him.”
McGirt, a southpaw from Brentwood, N.Y., who lives in Vero Beach, was riding high since making his successful pro debut in January of 2004, winning his first 18 pro fights until April 11, 2008, when he took on the son of another former world champion, Carlos De Leon, Jr., on ShowBox. McGirt had De Leon out on his feet at the end of the sixth round, but he didn’t listen to his father’s advice about being patient and was caught by a punch in the seventh. His first pro loss was devastating, but he came back 3 ½ months later against former IBO middleweight champion Raymond Joval (37-4) in the main event on an ESPN Friday Night Fights show in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. James won a unanimous 10-round decision and moved into the No. 8 spot in The Ring magazine’s ratings.
But James didn’t take his next opponent, Marcus Upshaw (8-3), seriously in what was supposed to be a “stay busy” fight. Instead, it ended in a disappointing 10-round majority draw. In his next bout, McGirt lost a career-changing unanimous 10-round decision to battled-tested Angel Hernandez (28-7) on ESPN. It was a controversial decision that many felt McGirt deserved, yet James didn’t follow his game plan and dropped a decision in a fight that never really should have been close. It was a redemption fight, at least going in. Immediately following the loss, his promoter, Lou DiBella, released him.
McGirt signed a few months later with Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment and Sports, Inc., but in his listless fight against the aforementioned Perez, it appeared that McGirt didn’t have any fire left in his belly. He suddenly grew up, however, and came back with a strong performance against Pietrantonio. Now James is ready to make his mark in the super middleweight division against one of top fighters not tied up in the World Boxing Classic tournament.
“This is the new James McGirt,” Burchfield claimed. “I thought he looked fabulous in Syracuse and I believe he’s ready for anybody in the top 10. We’d really like a title shot at the new WBO champ, Robert Stieglitz. James has a quality team (manager Dennis Witherow and ‘Buddy’) and he knows what he has to do – crisp punching, combinations and always be mentally ready.”
“James does have a new focus at 168 and he’s changed his lifestyle, too. We had a very serious discussion after the Perez fight and it all hit home for him,” his manager, Dennis Witherow noted. “He went right back to the gym after his last fight and he’s improving everyday working with some of the great fighters in Buddy’s gym. We want Stieglitz.”
James was born to box, even though his father wouldn’t let him when he was young. He grew up going to the gym with his father and watching fighters such as George
Foreman, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Terry Norris and so many more. He always wanted to be like his dad, who didn’t train his son until he turned pro in 2004.
His training and sparring sessions with the likes of Tarver and Johnson are invaluable. “I’ve picked up a lot of experience just being in the ring with them,” James admitted. “I’ve been smart. Fighting veterans like that, you have to prove yourself. I’m not playing in there. If I see an opening, I punch. Few young fighters have opportunities to work with champions like them and learn something new every day. Now it’s my time.”