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Media Interview w/ Arturo Gatti & Jesse Leija

Posted on 04/15/2008


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Kofi Jantuah, Las Vegas, NV
My plan is to take the fight to him.

I train for 12-rounds, but if you go in there and see an opportunity to take him out, you go for it.

My prediction is that the fight is not going 12-rounds and I will be the champion.

Every fighter can have a weakness. It depends how the punch lands. Every fighter can be knocked out. The past is the past. I look at what I do right now.

I learned my boxing from Azumah. I trained with him for thee years before I came here. We haven’t been able to get a title, so the people are looking up to me and it is a big challenge.

There have been wars in Uganda for some time. Africa is Africa. Growing up in Africa is tough. As a kid, I grew up in the streets and fighting is nothing new to me. There is no advantage for him. War is war and boxing is boxing. We know each other, we met just once and we spoke on the phone. I saw him before Winky and Shane in Vegas. We spoke about this fight. It’s all about business – that’s what we do. If we fight we fight.

It is a big deal. We want to make a name for Africa. Azumah and Ike went out and there is no great African fighter right now. This will open the door and people will look up to us and it will be a big thing.

It’s been a tough road. I came to US in ’98 and at that time I had no promoter and I was fighting – I had eight fights. In June ’99, it took a year to get a fight. In 2001 in Feb. then the test came out in June that I had hepititus. Then I lost the fight. It was tough, but I have faith and that kept me going. I can’t look at it in a negative way. I keep going and keep trying and the right time will come. This is the right time.

From right or left-hander it is the same punch. I won’t wait to see what he will do. I will fight.

I think Winky is overrated. He beat Shane twice, but he is not a real middleweight. If I have to make middleweight I could. I have the power to back it up. After I win the title, I will see what happens.

Kassim will be right there. I want him to be there and I will be there. I come forward, he comes forward and we will give the public a fight.

Kassim Ouma, Philadelphia, PA
His biggest is to endure punishment and throw a lot of punches.

I’ve been in camp for about 6 weeks. If I do what I am supposed to do and I do it good, I just feel right.

How many times did you face death as a child?

So many times. I was on the front line. Everything I do now is driven by God. Whatever happens to me is supposed to be.

This fight means a lot to me, when was the last time two African fighters met for the world title. In the 50’s was the last time two African fighters met each other. So it does mean something.

Are you ready to see me in AC? I’m coming and do you know what I’m doing? I’m going to steal your whole city and your whole show. By the time I leave Atlantic City, the whole city will be mine. They may have to give me the key after the fight.

I came to the SU whe I just turned 19. When I got here I wanted to fight De La Hoya right away and go back home. I would take $400 and go back home. But then I enjoyed the lifer over here.

This guy is from Ghana and I spoke to him on the phone for 5 minutes. We don’t have a relationship – we just spoke and that is it.

The people and the fans, they love me. If I ever go back I will go back as an America citizen. They tell me that I am a hero. All of the kids at school. Everybody. They haven’t written me yet but they like me.

When you got shot, did you think your career was over?

I thought that was it. I don’t know what happened. The doctor said after 3 months I could get back in the gym. The feeling was if it didn’t kill me, let me get stronger. Then I got a tryout fight. If I couldn’t do it then I couldn’t do it. I did it and I was all right. So I’m going to continue my boxing career then go to Hollywood. Then you will see me on the movie screen. I’m going to be a movie star.

He’s from Ghana, I’m from Uganda and that’s it.

Jesse James Leija, Houston, TX
I’m in Houston and I’ve been here training for 7 weeks. I can’t control anything except the fight that I’m in. So I don’t worry about stuff like that. I control what is in front of me and that is me fighting Gatti and that’s that. Hopefully I will just put a damper on all of their plans.

If he gets cut during the fight, it will be on everybody’s minds – how bad is the cut and how the cut-man will control it. I’ve know Joe Souza since I was two years old. He is family. He trained my father in the late 60’s, early 70’s. But I was going to let him make that decision. He thought it would be wise if he went with me. Plus he’s from San Antonio and people would hold that against him if he went with Gatti.

I am a determined person and think I get better with age. I have faith in myself and God and I think he wants this for me. He wants to do well in life and I just work hard and I never believe anyone when they tell me I can’t do anything. I go up there and I prove them wrong.

For the last 6 or 7 years, I’ve always said that I would get out. The I’ve never lost a fight. The fights that I lost were to Hall of Famer guys that were just great fighters. I’ve never lost to an average fighter. I never lost a non-world title fight. I didn’t lose the fight, I just lost the decision.

Lester Bedford
To be honest with you, after the Tszyu fight, I thought that was a pretty good exit for him. I saw James sitting on the bench after the fight and he said you know I could have won that fight. He fought a helluva fight for 6 rounds and I thought that would be a good exit point for him. I didn’t hink he would want to continue on, have to go through the grind of fighting 2 or 3 non-title fights (on a lower level) to get his feet back underneath him. He was never in a fight where you thought, he can’t fight anymore. But he had get a world class trainer in his corner (Ronnie Shields). Now he’s paying a huge price – to train in San Antonio away from his kids.

James Leija
My father will be at the fight, in the corner helping. He’s been in my corner every fight my whole career. Whether it is the lead role or as an assistant. He respects all of the trainers and doesn’t want to stand in the way of making progress and winning the fight. He’s a team player.

After 7 weeks in the gym, you don’t even think. Everything just comes naturally. There are going to be times where there is just a great competition. That’s part of the game plan. That’s what you have to do at times. Every time I step into the ring, everything that I do – there is a purpose behind it. I’m waiting for the next punch. Everything is calculated. That’s wht I train so hard, so when I’m in the ring I know exactly what I am supposed to do at all times.

Winning comes first. The entertainment is going to be there, the fans are going to love the fight. As long as I am doing well and Gatti is doing well, the fight will be exciting. You can’t go into a fight thinking you have to entertain the fans and give them everything they want. Then you are not thinking about the fight game.

He’s a warrior and you will never take that away from Gatti. Sometimes I am in awe when I see him fight. But those types of fights will come back to haunt you later in your career or when it is over. He’s mad a great name for himself.

I didn’t think I would ever get this fight, but after the Bojado fight, there was hope.I wish it happened years ago but I’m glad it is happening now.

Evertime I get cut, Joe does a great job. Against Azumah Nelson in ’94 in Vegas I was cut pretty bad and Joe stopped the bleeding and it was an incredible night. It was on the right side of my eye on the eyeball.

Ring Wars?
I don’t know how much it takes out of you, but it’s not good for your health. I feel that it slows you down and you’re not as sharp as you once were. You take punishment to give punishment. Once you get hit a lot you get used to it and that’s never good. That’s why I’ve always worked on defense because I don’t like getting hit. There are some guys that will take 2 or 3 punches just to get one in. I’m more worried about after my career is over. This is a job and a job that I love. I have a wife and kids and my job is to take care of them. That’s why I have to do everything in the ring to take care of them.

He’s a warrior. When I see him and Micky Ward I said they were crazy. They have huge heart to take that type of punishment. You look and you are awed by it. Micky is still having trouble from those wars with Gatti and it will probably affect him for the rest of his life. They both left it all in the ring and you have to admire them for it.

I work on every aspect of the game. I try to perfect everything that I do. I do the job right and try to do it as well as I can.

I’ve been in camp for 11 weeks. I am now done sparring so I just mix it up with Buddy with the pads.

Joe Souza staying with Leija?
It is out of loyalty so I respect that.. He’s been with James for a long time, since the amateurs and I won’t need a cut man that night. I don’t plan on mixing it up.

Ronnie’s a great trainer. He trained me 10 years ago. And I boxed Jesse James in camp but that was too long of a time ago.

I sparred with him (Leija) when I turned professional in 1991. But that was too long ago and it is no advantage to anyone.

James is a crafty fighter. Very experienced. He takes one round at a time. He is very cautious and I will try to take him off his game plan. I am the younger guy, the stronger guy. I’m not going to worry. I am in great shape and I am ready to fight.

James says he will not be in front of you like others…
A lot go guys say that but how can you change your style that you have fighting all of you r life. There is not much he can do other than to fight back. I will do what I want to do.

I give him (Leija) a lot of credit. He was counted out and here he is fighting me for a world title.

I’ll be honest with you, there are a lot of reasons why Bojado looked like he did and that’s why Leija beat him.

The more he gets more comfortable, the more dangerous it will get for him.

I am very sharp. I trained very hard for that fight and it was a great performance. The fight was only two rounds but I put in a lot of work for the fight with Buddy and the pads. I didn’t get hurt and we got back in the gym and stayed in shape and had a lot of learning time with Buddy.

Was it difficult to get up for this fight?
I am fired up. I’m very tired of being in camp. I’m very excited, Jesse will put up a good fight and I can’t wait until next Saturday. I will show the world what I’m all about. I’m very excited about it. Jesse James will put up a good fight. And I’m looking for bigger and better things.

I let Buddy do all of the studying. I train very hard. He tells me what to do and I just accomplish it. I don’t care what he plans on doing. I am ready for everything now.

I’d love to fight in Montreal, but Atlantic City has been good to me. The fights there have been great.

If I don’t win the fight there isn’t going to be a Mayweather fight. James is coming to take something that I have. I will not go to the fight. I don’t know if I will watch it. I have Jesse James on my mind. That is all.

I never plan anything. My promoters plan it. I don’t like to talk about it. Jesse James is on my mind and it bothers me to talk about it.

Of course I am talented. I know what I have when I step into the ring. I fought with a broken hand. I don’t know what people are watching if they don’t think I am talented.

I don’t know what they are watching.

I will fight like that anytime I have to.

Body shot?
Nobody saw that. I’ll do it again. I was hitting him in the head in the first round and he raised his hands to cover. When I came out for the second round I knew I was going to get the body shot in. But nobody gives me credit for that.

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