The following interview was conducted by Eric Rineer, exclusively for boxinginsider.com:
Vero Beach, Fla. — Jameel McCline had just finished training on Wednesday when he sat on the gym floor to do some crunches.
“I would do some sit-ups with you, but I left my shorts at home,” joked McCline’s trainer Buddy McGirt, who sported a pair of jeans and Oakland Raiders jersey.
McGirt, a little fatigued from moving around the ring for an hour while McCline pounded his punch mitts, is prepping his fighter for a March 1 bout against heavyweight Gabe Brown, 15-2-1 (9 KOs).
McCline, 28-3-3 (16 KOs), says he sees the Brown fight as a stepping stone to get back to a world title shot. “Two more fights,” he says, until he’s back in the mix of things. McCline, who comes off a Dec. 7 loss to Wladimir Klitschko, arrived in town on Monday, along with his head trainer Jimmy Glenn.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with McCline at the gym.
– How did you meet Buddy? Can you talk about the addition of him to your camp?
Buddy and I worked together back in ’98, back in New York. We had maybe six, seven fights together. Fortunately, I won them all.
– This was right after (McGirt) retired, then.
That was right after he retired. I was one of his first fighters. He had another fighter who had a world title and, business is business, he was getting more money there and we talked about it and we understood. He went his way and I went mine, and here we are back here meeting in Florida at a very high level. I think it’s a good match.
– Where in New York had the two of you trained?
We were (actually) training in Rocky Marciano Gym in Jersey City.
– What can Buddy do to help you now at this level?
Buddy’s important because he’s very technical on the pads. He’s very technical, period. He’s going to bring that technicality to my team. Jimmy Glenn, the legendary Jimmy Glenn, is an awesome trainer, but I felt that I was missing something. I felt that I was missing a component. And I feel that Buddy McGirt is that missing component.
– What are your thoughts on your upcoming fight with Gabe Brown? What do you know about him?
I don’t know anything about him, but we’re taking the fight. You know how it works: We’re taking a fight to work our way back to the marquee. I’m going to take the fight and just do my job and get him out of there.
– Do you have anything lined up after the Brown fight?
I’m going again April 12 in Tahoe against who I don’t know. But, at this point, it’s not very important because we still have Gabe Brown in front of us. We have to get past him first. But, then when I’m done with Gabe Brown, we’ll move on and we’ll look to see who’s going to be next. But, right now, we’re focusing our attention on getting past Gabe Brown in stunning fashion, I might add.
– Why would you take a fight like this if you don’t know a lot about your opponent?
Well, because I’m a great fighter. As long as I train hard to get in shape, it doesn’t really matter who’s in front of me. I should know by now how to keep a guy like Gabe Brown off of me.
– If you fight again in April, that’s really soon, especially for a heavyweight to fight in back-to-back months.
That’s OK because back in ’98, like I said, when Buddy and I trained we would go every six weeks. So, after the loss to Wladimir Klitschko, we as a team just felt that what we should do is get back on the back-to-back circuit and work on our conditioning and our skills and come back. There is always room for improvement, especially with me, with Jameel McCline, being that I only started seven years ago. So, I’m still on a learning curve.
– You got a late start to boxing. Then, you come out of nowhere, beat (Michael) Grant (July 2001, TKO1), beat (Shannon) Briggs (April 2002, W10), take Klitschko (Dec. 2002, TKO’d 10) a long way! So, you’ve accomplished a lot in a short time.
Well, a lot of it has to do with pure athletic talent. A lot of it has to do with my desire to win. And, a lot of it has to do with my history. I’m from a very rugged background. I feel that makes the person I am today. I’m very hard: Mentally, physically, spiritually I’m very hard. So, it was very easy for me to all of a sudden find myself competing with the best in the world. And to go a little bit further, now that I’m competing with the best in the world, I’m no longer concerned with being among the best in the world. For a long time, I spoke about being among the best in the world. Now, you know, you got to find a new dream. I want to be the best because I have it: I’m big, I’m strong, I’m good. In the Klitschko fight — you know I never make excuses — In the Klitschko fight I was so overtrained. I was bad that day. So, the reason why I need to come down to Florida — adding Buddy McGirt, getting rid of three people on my team, adding a new person to my team for strength conditioning — all this is part of my plan to make sure what happened in the Klitschko fight never happens again. See, that’s part of being a champion: knowing when enough is enough. I was faced with not really knowing when enough was enough in my last camp. I did too much; not enough of this; not enough of that; too much of that, you know.
– When did you first know you wanted to box?
Before I got out (of prison) I knew I wanted to fight. I had some friends who introduced me to it who were going to promote me.
– You had surgery on your hand recently; how’s the hand now?
Well, you saw me hitting! (training)
– Yes, it didn’t look like it was affecting you at all out there.
No, everything’s fine. My fingers are a little stiff, but I work them out before I get to the gym, loosen them up nice and I’m ready to go.
– What happened (to your hand)?
I had some tendon damage and needed surgery. I had tendon damage in the index finger. It was just wear and tear over time.
– Shifting gears, what did you learn from the Klitschko fight?
Ah man, I learned so much. First off, watching the fight I learned that I’m truly here because I was so flat in that fight, yet this guy could not get me out of there. When he did get me out of there, I didn’t go down because he hurt me. I just went down because I was flat. I had nothing. I went back to the corner and Jimmy (Glenn) was like, ‘you know what Jameel? This is it for you. You’ve got nothing. I’ve never seen you like this, I’m pulling you.’ I didn’t want to fight him because I had nothing. But, I learned so much in that fight. I learned, second, that I learned how to deal with the magnitude of the situation. It was very good for me.
– You’ve got to feel real confident after that fight, then.
I feel really good about my chances to getting back to a world title shot and winning the title shot. Like, you said, in that fight, I learned so much about myself. I’m really here. I was so flat that night, but I don’t want to take anything away from Wladimir. I’m almost reluctant to talk about what happened in that fight because, first off, I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses because I never made excuses before. Second, I don’t want to take anything away from him. He’s a good fighter. So, I’m very reluctant to talk about it. But, the fact is, I was very, very overtrained. He did a good job of exploiting the fact that I was overtrained by staying away, hitting me with the jab, and he wasn’t really dropping bombs on me. As scared, and as tired and fatigued as I was to attack, he was as scared as me.
– You did well today snapping your jab.
I’ve always had the jab. I’m just trying to come back with the right hand. I’ve been lacking with my right hand. I have a great hook and a great jab because I’m left handed. I’m really a turned-around southpaw, which is why my left hook is so good. But, I’m trying very hard to work on my right hand, my right uppercut, my right hook to the body and everything else. I have great movement for a big man. The one thing I learned about this fight (Klitschko) is that I have to, and I will, take more confidence in my chin. I have a great chin. Wladimir Klitschko is a very powerful man, and he’s very accurate. He hit me with tough, tough, clean shots and never once did he hurt me. Like I said, when I went down – not to make — (he interrupts himself) I just hate talking about it, man (laughing).
I know you do. My advice to you is to jab. You have got a good jab. A lot of heavyweights don’t have that.
That was the thing, I couldn’t get my jab off that night.
– Well, just two more questions: Can you get Brown out of there?
I don’t really know much about him but, the truth is, I’m going after him with a vengeance. I’m sure I’ll get him out of there.
– And then who would be next for you?
The next show is April 12; it’s an “Explosion.” But, whoever they bring is fine with me. I just got to get these next two guys out of there so I can go ahead and get back to my championship run.
Sounds good! I appreciate your time.