James Buddy McGirt on Tyson – Etienne


National Conference Call Transcript
Clifford Etienne Trainer Buddy McGirt,
Thursday, February 13, 2003

Clifford Etienne (24-1-1, 17 KOs) trainer Buddy McGirt discussed his fighter’s upcoming bout against Mike Tyson on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Saturday, Feb. 22, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Etienne will take on former undisputed heavyweight champion Tyson (49-4, 2 NC, 43 KOs) in an important 10-round bout from the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tenn. The Tyson-Etienne match wil be co-promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, LLC, and Bill Kozerski’s Fight Night, Inc.

Question: How did you get together with Clifford Etienne?

McGirt: Les Bonano called and asked me to look at Etienne. ‘The Rhino’ came down and we trained for one week. During the week we trained him, Tyson called me. He asked if I would have a meeting with him to discuss training him in the future. When I flew back to train with Etienne, he picked me up from the airport.

Tyson and I just met, but there was no offer to train him. Rhino and I finished working together during the week, and he asked me if I would train him. I told him I would do it. Two weeks later, I got a call that Tyson wanted me to train him. The problem came when the fight was made between Tyson and Etienne. I had already promised the Rhino I would train him. A lot of people told me I was crazy for sticking with Etienne. People told me to forget my morals, forget my word and go with the money. I am not that type of guy. If I give somebody my word, I have to stick by it. My father told me a man only has two things in this world, his word and his balls, and if he breaks them for anybody, he is no longer a man. People would look at me differently (if I broke my promise to Etienne) and I could not have that. I would love to work with Tyson because I think he has what it takes to become heavyweight champion again. It would have been an honor to work with Tyson, but I gave Etienne my word and I stuck with it. People still tell me I am crazy, but I sleep better at night. I stuck to my word as a man. Buddy McGirt is a man of his word. The money comes and goes, but your word sticks with you forever.

Question: What have you done to rectify Etienne’s defensive problems?

McGirt: If anyone over 200 pounds hits you, it is going to hurt. The key for us when we started training camp was to change Etienne’s style. He said he could outbox Tyson, but that is not his style. He can do it, but he does it in spurts, and with Tyson, you have to be consistent more than anything else. I told Etienne we had to go back to his old style and improve his defense on the inside. His problem is he would overwhelm his opponents with punches and then sit there and wait for them to return fire. You cannot do that against a guy like Tyson. You have to get your punches off and get out of there.

Question: How has Etienne adapted to your training style?

McGirt: I take what a fighter has and enhance it. You see what he can do and what he cannot do. You give him every opportunity to prove what he can and cannot do. Then, you get some guys that just cannot box. After you see what they can and cannot do, you enhance it and work on it and improve what he has and try to add on to that.

Question: What has impressed you most about Etienne?

McGirt: The thing that has impressed me most about Etienne is his work ethic. He has a very good work ethic. He is like any other fighter. He will complain about stuff, but still comes to work.

Question: Are you trying to temper Etienne’s style of throwing a high volume of punches?

McGirt: You try to temper it to a certain degree, but the key is to let him do that because that is what he is comfortable with. After he gets off his combinations, he has to work on some type of defense on the inside if he is going to stay in there.

Question: Is there any truth to the rumor that Etienne got knocked out by his sparring partner?

McGirt: No, there is no truth to that.

Question: When you were a fighter, did you ever think you would be a trainer?

McGirt: Yes, I did think I would become a trainer. When I was fighting, I also was training fighters at the time. I would go to the gym in my hometown and work with the amateurs. I just love sharing my knowledge with the kids. It was something I always wanted to do, and this is what God meant for me to do. When I was fighting, every time I would be one step away from making the big money, something would happen.

Question: Do you think Tyson lost something after his defeat to Lennox Lewis?

McGirt: You have to do something to leave it in the ring. Tyson did not do anything in the fight, so he did not leave it in the ring. I believe Mike still has what it takes to become champion of the world.

Question: Do you think Etienne has what it takes to become heavyweight champion of the world?

McGirt: Yes, I believe Etienne has what it takes to become champion. I know people are looking at Etienne as a stepping-stone, but I am a firm believer that if Etienne puts his mind to it, he can win this fight.

Question: Are you concerned about Tyson’s unpredictability in the ring?

McGirt: No, I am not at all concerned about Tyson’s unpredictability. I told Etienne to fight fire with fire.

Question: What have you seen in Tyson that makes you think he could become champion again?

McGirt: I came to that conclusion (of Tyson becoming champion) just by talking to him. Tyson is a very intelligent man. He is not a fool. I do not believe he is crazy. I am not going to say it is an act. Behind all that, he is a very intelligent person. The championship is something that he wants.

Question: What is Etienne?s training like right now?

McGirt: Now that it is getting close to the fight, you have to keep training interesting because he has been here since the first week of December. You have to keep it exciting and do something different to keep his mind in it. It cannot be the same thing every day.

Question: How many rounds has Etienne sparred?

McGirt: The most we do at one time is five or six rounds because Etienne’s workouts are at such a high pace. You do not want to do too many because you still have to look forward.

Question: Is Etienne intimidated by the magnitude of this fight?

McGirt: No matter what you do as a trainer, you cannot control intimidation. You never know what goes through a fighter?s mind. We are not fighting until Feb. 22, so why worry about it now? The best thing I can do is keep Etienne relaxed. I try to keep him from thinking about the fight. As far as freezing up in the ring, that is something I cannot control. I cannot control a person’s emotions.

Question: Does Etienne have the mental makeup to stay calm?

McGirt: If Etienne does not come right out and jump on Tyson, then we know something is wrong.

Question: Was a reason you stayed with Etienne because you are in this for the long haul?

McGirt: Not really. As far as my reputation goes, the real boxing people will not judge me. I am not worried about my reputation. You do the best with the fighter. I was not worried about my reputation. I had given the man (Etienne) my word, and I wanted to stick with it.

Question: Are you looking forward to matching wits with Freddie Roach?

McGirt: No, I do not get into that. We (Roach and McGirt) are not fighting with each other. By the time they (Etienne and Tyson) walk up the stairs, our training might go out the window. I hope and pray Etienne does what he did in the gym. You cannot control what your fighter is going to do. If he does what you tell him, the trainer looks good. If he does not, you look bad. Then again, it is like a basketball team that has a losing season, they want to fire the coach, but it is not always the coach’s fault. Sometimes it is the player’s fault. If you have players that do not listen, it does not matter who the coach is.

Question: What have you told Etienne to look out for from Tyson?

McGirt: Tyson is a dangerous puncher with both hands. That is no secret. Tyson has knocked some guys out without throwing a punch. That is how strong he is. We cannot worry about that. We have to worry about what we need to do.

Question: What do you do to take Etienne’s mind off the fight?

McGirt: Etienne likes going to the movies or shopping. We sit down and talk about everything except boxing.

Question: Could you compare the difference between going into the ring as a fighter, against going in as a trainer?

McGirt: It is a great feeling going into the ring as trainer because you take three steps down. The fighter has to take those three steps into the ring. As a trainer now, I am the one on the outside. It gets kind of nerve racking. I am more nervous until the end of the first round because after the first round, I can pretty much tell how the fight is going to go.

Question: Did you always know you would go into training once your boxing career was over?

McGirt: I knew I would become a trainer. I always used to pick fighter’s and trainer’s brains. After picking their brains, I would work with amateurs and try those things with them. Then I would put it in my memory bank.

Question: In a lot of other sports, great players have trouble becoming coaches because the players cannot do things as well as they could. What do you think about that?

McGirt: That is a mistake a lot of ex-fighters make. I made that mistake when I first started training, but I learned that I could not train everyone to fight like me. I just took what the fighters had and worked on that ability and tried to enhance it.

Question: What was your initial assessment of Etienne when you started training him?

McGirt: I thought Etienne’s biggest strength was his work ethic, which he always has. His weakness is that he has a good left hook, but does not use it enough. His conditioning is very good. He could go into the later rounds, but I do not see this fight going more than five rounds.

Question: What is Etienne’s style going to be against Tyson?

McGirt: We cannot box Tyson early. We cannot go out and try to outbox him. We have to go out there and take it to him early. Etienne’s arms are not as long as Lewis?, so we cannot go out there and try to outbox him.

Question: Do you think Etienne has a weak chin or do you think his problem is balance?

McGirt: Balance is a problem. That is why we cannot box Tyson. I cannot change Etienne’s balance in six or seven weeks. He will go back to what he knows best and I will try to enhance that.

Question: You are training so many fighters. Do you worry that you may be spreading yourself too thin?

McGirt: I do not train all of the Main Events fighters. They just give me certain fighters to train. If they have a fighter they feel needs extra work, then I help them out.

Question: How come you do not seem very confident with your prediction for the fight?

McGirt: We know what we have to do with Tyson. We will have to take it to him. To say we are going to be on our toes for 10 rounds, or we are going to knock him out in the seventh or eighth round is crazy. I am going to tell you the truth. We are going to come out in the first round, and it is going to be gunfight at the OK Corral.

Question: Do you think Rhino’s power matches up to Tyson’s?

McGirt: I think Etienne’s power matches up to Tyson’s. Anyone over 200 pounds can hurt you.

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