Status: Former IBF Light Heavyweight title challenger. Current trainer. ESPN Classic TV commentator.
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 175
DOB: July 28, 1967 In: Hartford, Connecticut USA
Childhood Hero’s: Lynn Swann (Most graceful WR in the NFL), Fred Lynn and Muhammad Ali
Nicknames: Iceman, Jon-Jon, Superman.
Hobbies/Interests: Writing, reading, working with amateur boxers, traveling. Playing with my daughter, Sarita.
Favorite Movies: Shawshank Redemption, Remember The Titans, Mississippi Burning, Top Gun, the original Rocky, Seven, Stripes. Meatballs. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the original Miami Vice movie (back in the early 80’s, the one when Crockett and Tubbs first met). “Notebook” (that’s right, the girly movie).
Childhood Dreams: To play center field for the Boston Red Sox like my favorite player, Fred Lynn.
Musical Tastes: R&B, some classic rock, little bit of rap. Elvis Presley, Sinatra, Bob Seger, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Lionel Richie, Chubby Checker, Jackie Wilson, Brian McKnight, Michael Jackson (You do, too. Stop lying!), Phil Collins, Teddy Pendergrass. All kinds. R.E.M. (“Everybody Hurts” and “Man On The Moon”).
Favorite TV shows: TAXI, Cheers, Hill St. Blues, Miami Vice, MASH, In Living Color, MAD-TV, Saturday Night Live (in the early 80’s
Early Boxing Memory: Boxing other kids in town in Jr. High School in a little boxing league we set up. We called it the WBC (Windsor Boxing Council).
First Job: Working at a well known hot dog stand in Windsor called The Ranch House. Rick Mahorn used to come in sometimes when he was still in the NBA.
First Car: 1976 Red Chevy Nova that I bought from my aunt in 1985 for $500. Made the money cutting lawns in the summer and selling decorative holiday candles door to door at Christmas.
Favorite Meal: Steak, garlic mashed potatoes and cheesecake for dessert. At one time it used to be a whole cheese pizza from the Pizza Palace in Windsor.
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: Lucky Charms and Honey Nut Cheerios. Special K when I am training. Pre-fight Feeling: Depends on how training camp went. If it went great and I am ready… I feel like I can fight anybody in the world. If there were problems and there is doubt… THAT is a tough spot to be in, like walking into a dark room and you don’t know what’s in there and your not so sure you want to find out, either.
Greatest Career Moments: Defeating World Amateur Champion Darin Allen to qualify for the 1988 Olympic Trials. Losing a close and controversial 12 rounder to Michael Nunn. That fight proved to me that I could hang with the guys at that level.
Most Painful Moment: At the moment when I tore the rotator cuff against Sam Ahmad. My whole shoulder, at the core, felt like it came out of its socket.
Worst Injury: In my 1999 fight against Ahmad, in the first round, I tore the rotator cuff in my left arm. I fought the whole fight with one arm and still only lost by majority decision. It was bad to me because I know I would have defeated him soundly with two good arms.
Funny Boxing Memories: I was fighting a guy one time later in my career and he got me on the ropes at one point and threw a huge flurry of punches at me, maybe twenty punches, and I blocked them with my gloves and arms. I was real good at blocking shots like that and it was often a thing where an opponent wouldn’t even realize he wasn’t landing all those shots on me until it was too late. When he was done throwing I got real close to him and whispered in his ear “You’re gonna’ be tired NOW” and right away he said “I know!”
The other funny thing that stands out at me was the day after Tito and Hopkins fought. I trained at a gym called the San Juan Center so you know there was a whole lot of die-hard Tito fans there every day. One of the kids I trained at the time, Greg Cuyler, used to argue with certain guys in that gym every day about who was going to win that fight. Our gym at that time, let’s just say that all the Puerto Rican guys were very dedicated to Tito and supported him fiercely and some of the arguments got ugly. You couldn’t say anything about Tito without somebody getting irate over it. I went at it verbally with this one kid in particular one day when he not only told me that Tito could beat John Ruiz but he also said he would bet me his car that Tito could even beat Roy Jones, Stuff like that. After Hopkins threw down the flag that time in Puerto Rico all these guys came in the gym and they were convinced more than ever that Tito was going to demolish Hops after that.
The day after the fight it was a subdued scene in the gym to say the least. Greg and I got these miniature American flags and met in the parking lot before walking into the gym together. We walked in and everybody knew something was coming from us. We came in without speaking a word, walked the forty yards all the way back to where the ring was. Everybody stopped what they were doing to watch as we climbed the steps to the ring apron. We ended up looking down at all these guys, like we were about to make a speech or something. Then we both put our arms up high over our heads, with the American flags in our hands, in the “X” pose that Hopkins loved to do.
Lucky for us that all these humbled guys could take a joke
Favorite Boxers To Watch: Muhammad Ali, Tommy Hearns, Nino LaRocca, Aaron Pryor. LaRocca was called “The Italian Ali.” He was a welterweight back in the 80’s that boxed a lot like Cassius Clay did against Sonny Liston. I also liked watching Tommy Hearns because not only did he put sharp, strong punches together extremely well but he was also a guy who, in his prime, could change a fight with one shot, just like that, in the blink of an eye. I admire him because he always, always came to fight as hard as he could but it did it with great skill.
Weird Fan Encounter: I guess the one that stands out is when I was in Berlin, Germany in 1997 for the Roccigianni fight there was this German woman that showed up at the hotel who didn’t speak English. She wanted me to kiss her baby or take a picture with it or something like that. She had pictures of me from the newspaper that she wanted signed. Every day she would be there at the hotel, it was like she knew where I would be and when. She showed up at the fight. She was in the dressing room hallway after the fight. She got into the post fight press conference and while I am talking to the media she is sitting right there in the crowd among them. She somehow got into our van after the fight and made it into the club/restaurant with us for the post fight party. The whole time we were there she just hung out, didn’t really say too much or show any emotion and it was like she just wanted to be there around me. She even managed to get in our van afterwards to get a ride home and she even made it back to my hotel early in the morning to see me off when we were leaving for the airport! She was waving goodbye and all that and, the thing is, she spent all that time there with me, wherever I was, and I probably didn’t speak more than ten words to her the whole time.
Favorite Fights: Ali-Frazier 3, in Manila. Arguello-Pryor in Miami. The first Leonard-Hearns fight back in 1981 out in Las Vegas. I also actually loved my fight with Alphonso Bailey on USA Tuesday Night Fights, it’s the only one of my fights that I have watched more than a few times because there was some very good back and forth action in it.
Favorite Vacation Spot: Pensacola, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada (I LOVE that Vegas atmosphere). Disneyworld, too. I always like Disney (and the ride where you end up going down a drop and getting wet. I look forward to bringing my daughter Sarita there one day). Miami, too. Anywhere in Florida, really. I would definitely go back to Lake Tahoe, as well, if the chance came up.
People Qualities Most Admired: Strong character and the ability to NOT follow the crowd. Honesty and people (kids especially) that can resist peer pressure, like kids that don’t do drugs, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol for example.