“Brothers by Choice” Buster Drayton & Earl Hargrove
By: Ken Hissner
They were closer than brothers and until this day are still best friends. South Philly’s Buster Drayton would get his title fight at age 32 defeating Carlos Santos for the vacant IBF light middleweight title in June of 1986. He was co-managed by Ivan Cohen and Gary Hegyi. Earl “The Pearl” Hargrove was 7-1-1 (6) in prison and straight out of prison he ended up in South Philadelphia.
His only loss in prison was to Artie McCloud the uncle of Bernard Hopkins. Both McCloud and Hopkins were champions at Camp Hill Prison. He landed at the Mike Rossman Gym in South Philly at 9th & Percy. “Bill Savage was the first trainer to work with me. I got spanked one day by Buster Drayton,” said Hargrove.
Hargrove won his first twenty-four fights by knockout under trainer Bill Savage and co-manager Gary Hegyi and at the age of 27 got his title shot for the vacant IBF Super welterweight title losing by stoppage.
“They were sparring one day and being best of friends were holding back with their punching. I told them never again,” said Ivan Cohen. Both fighters would go their separate way when Hegyi and Cohen split with Hargrove going with Hegyi and Drayton with Cohen.
“I was in the Marine Corp with Leon Spinks and Roger Stafford and had about ten amateur fights and turned pro in Virginia Beach in November of 1978,” said Drayton. He was 7-0-2 when he entered the ESPN tournament before losing to Philly’s Kevin Perry, 5-0, in Atlantic City in 1980. “Not to make excuses for him but he had the flu but insisted on fighting anyway. Abner had him in the corner and I told Buster to hit him with an uppercut. Abner hit him with an uppercut and thanked me. I stopped yelling instructions,” said Cohen.
“Earl and I grew up in the same neighborhood. He was a quiet guy. When he came out of prison he thought he was something. I invited to spar and show him a thing or two. Once he went to North Philly from South we didn’t hang out,” said Drayton.
Hargrove was told if he wanted to advance he should go to the Joe Frazier’s Gym in North Philly and speak to George Benton about train him. Gary Hegyi was one of the boxing managers at the gym who worked with Benton. Hargrove was signed by Hegyi and trained by Benton and he was on his way.
“Earl was very crude when he came to us and got better with George gaining more confidence. He would always hit but had to work on his accuracy,” said Hegyi. Having plenty of boxers at Frazier’s Gym like “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, Hargrove improved quickly. “I did all I could to get him to the title. George and I discussed opponents and it worked well,” said Hegyi.
Drayton’s career would take him to 15 states and 5 countries, with only 4 of his fights being in Philly were he went 2-2. Drayton found himself on French soil in a non-title bout stopping Benito Fernandez, 14-2, in 6 rounds in Paris.
The stage was set for Hargrove to make his Philadelphia debut in September of 1981 against Henry Hightower, 4-0 at the MLK Arena. Hargrove stopped him in 4 rounds and was well on his way. Several fights later he fought at the Villanova University Field House. Mike Hyman, 4-3, from SC was brought in. “He hurt me in the 8th round and I knew I had to take him out,” said Hargrove. This he did in the 10th. It was back to Atlantic City against the former NABF champion Greg Stephens. Hargrove would put him into retirement in 2 rounds.
In May of 1983 promoter J Russell Peltz put Hargrove in a TV bout against Donald King, 15-2. “George told me not to go for the knockout but to pace myself but I was upset about something King said at the weigh-in when King said “you beat a bunch of kids.” Hargrove came back with “yes, and I gave them respect. Now I’m going to knock you out”. Benton had to calm him down and Hargrove would stop King in the 9th round.
After the fight Ferdie Pacheco came up to Hargrove and said he could fight on NBC-TV anytime. “I wasn’t even trying to prove anything to my fans. I was just trying to prove something to King,” said Hargrove. He would run his knockout streak to 24 when he signed to meet Medal for the vacant IBF light middleweight title. “If you don’t follow instructions you will only beat yourself,” said Benton. “I was partying and doing things I should not have been doing. George was like a prophet,” said Hargrove. The fight in itself was a war with both fighters forgetting boxing and slugging it out. I was cut and got caught with a good right,” said Hargrove. He was stopped in the 5th round on a cut.
In June of 1986 Drayton won the IBF title defeating Carlos Santos 34-1 and 16 days later wins a non-title fight and in August he defeated fellow American Davey Moore in France in an IBF super welter title defense. In February of 1987 he wins another non-title fight in France.
Less than a month later he makes another title defense in France stopping Said Skouma, 22-4, a Moroccan who fights out of France. “The people voted me fighter of the year in Europe,” said Drayton. In June of 1987 he goes into French Montreal, Canada and is upset by one of the Hilton brothers, Matthew Hilton, 26-0, losing his title. “I broke my right hand in the third round,” said Drayton. His trainer Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts asked him if he wanted to stop it but he said “no way!”
After this Drayton goes 8-5 after that losing to WBA World Super welterweight champion Julian Jackson in a title fight.
“The Hilton people would never give us a rematch, so we took the one with Jackson,” said Ivan Cohen. Hilton would lose to Philly’s Rob “Bam Bam” Hines who chose to defend against Darren Van Horn instead of Drayton and lost his title. Then in a NABF Super welterweight fight loses to Terry Norris. “Norris ran the whole fight and Buster didn’t know how to cut off the ring,” said Cohen. Six months later he defeated Darryl Fromm, 15-4. “He looked so bad in that fight and I told him he should retire and I dropped out of the picture,” said Cohen. Drayton had a lot of success in France but leaving there it went downhill for him.
Drayton comes out to fights today and is always well welcomed by his many fans. He always has a smile on his face and recently retired from his job at the V.A. in Philadelphia.
After Hargrove lost to Medal he went 8-5 losing to John Mugabi, 23-0, a year after the Medal fight. “He was very strong,” said Hargrove. He fought mostly club fighters and finally retired after dropping his last two fights in 1995. “I knew I was finished after my last loss,” said Hargrove. This writer has seen him several times since he moved to Phoenixville, PA. He is always a very friendly person. Both Drayton and Hargrove made their marks in boxing and would probably be champions today if they were in their prime.
More Boxing History
Boxing Insider Notebook: Guerrero, McGregor, Smith, Shields, Montgomery Brothers, and more
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of July 11th to July 18th covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Photo Credit: Mario Serrano
Robert Guerrero Announces Retirement
After giving fans some of the most thrilling fights in boxing, which spanned over sixteen hard fought years, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero is announcing his retirement.
“First, I want to thank God for allowing me to have a wonderful career. I’m a kid from a small town in Gilroy, California, who made it to the mountain top of the boxing world. When I was a young kid growing up, I always believed in myself, but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a small-town kid like myself, would be fighting in front of millions of fans.”
“I was blessed to win multiple world titles in four-divisions. A boxer’s career is a long and tough road. Many tears were shed, lots of blood, and tons of sweat. Many miles were traveled, thousands of rounds sparred, none were easy and nothing was ever given to me. I earned everything I got the old fashion way. I never ducked anyone and fought the best fighters in the world. I fought my way through every obstacle to make sure my fans enjoyed every second, of every round, of my fights.”
“I competed at super-bantamweight (122 lbs.) and won world titles across multiple weight classes, closing my career at welterweight (147 lbs.), fighting the big guys 25 pounds heavier. A good friend always told me I was God’s warrior, born to fight. I enjoyed every minute of every war. I represented my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with the bible verse Acts 2:38 on my trunks. If I reached one person and brought that person closer to Christ, then it was all worth it.”
“I want to thank some very important people in my career starting with the most important person, my wife Casey, who has been with me every step of the way, my soul mate, my sweetheart, the one and only love of my life. My father/trainer Ruben Guerrero Sr. He’s the one who started it all and made me the man I am today, and the champion I was in the ring. He’s one of the best trainers in the world and I hope to be working side by side with him in the future. My mother Marcy Guerrero for being a great mother and supporter. My co-manager Bob Santos for all the sacrifices he made to get me to the top…I will always remember the early days when we made the most with very liitle. He always had my back and looked out for me like I was his brother. His wife Diane Santos who did a lot of secretarial work for me during my whole career. Both my grandparents on Martinez and Guerrero sides for believing in me. My brother’s Sammy, Ruben Jr., Victor, Randy and especially Eric, who has been with me my whole career, my shadow every step of the way, my right-hand man. My mother and father in-law, Shelly and Cary O’neal.
My cutman Ruben Gomez. My good friends, Pastor Mark Wilson, Dave Castro, Pastor Chris Avila, John Mersho, and Albert Guarado. My uncle Russel Sr., Russel Jr., Uncle Ricky, Hector Catano and Greg Amundson. I want to thank my co-manager Luis Decubas Jr. for taking my career to the next level. Santos and Decubas Jr. are more than managers, they are family to me. My publicist Mario Serrano, who has also been with me the whole ride, he is also family to me. All the fans and the community who stuck by my side when my wife was battling cancer…I will never forget the love you showed. There are so many people who have helped me, if I leave anyone off, thank you for everything.”
“In closing, I want to thank the most special man I’ve ever met in my boxing career, and possibly lifetime, a man who always does what’s best for the fighter, a man who has changed the sport of boxing, a man who has helped bless me and my family with a great life, and that person is my advisor Al Haymon. Not only is Al Haymon a spectacular advisor, he is a wonderful human being as well, a great man, and someone who cares. In a sport where most managers, promoters, and trainers turn their back on a fighter, when they no longer can perform, or are no longer beneficial to their interest, Haymon stands tall. Love and loyalty is tough to find in the boxing game, but for any boxer looking for it, you don’t have to look far, reach out to Al Haymon. I want to thank everyone, the fans included. I hope you guys appreciated the guts and glory I left in the ring. God bless you all.” ~ Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero
Claressa Shields Named 2017 ‘Biggest Powerhouse’ in Sports by Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Sports Awards
Budding women’s boxing superstar, community activist, role model and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Claressa Shields has been bestowed with another honor, as she has been announced as the winner of the 2017 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Award for “Biggest Powerhouse.”
In winning the prestigious award, which honors the heaviest hitters, strongest sluggers and unstoppable players in sports each year, Shields beat out a field of such well-known stars as Demarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Von Miller (Denver Broncos), David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) and Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels).
“It is a tremendous honor and great thrill to win the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Award because it comes from the kids,” said Claressa Shields. “I work hard every day to show all children that nothing in life is impossible if you believe in yourself. If this kid from Flint can win Olympic gold medals, boxing world championships, and succeed in life, then you can do it too!”
Shields’ promoter, Dmitriy Salita, says she deserves all the incredible accolades and honors she’s received.
“Claressa is a true champion of the people with her incredible story of overcoming adversity through her own self-belief and determination. Her accomplishments, inside and outside the ring, make Claressa a real-life American hero and an inspiration to every young person.”
22-year-old Shields (3-0, 1 KO), from Flint, Michigan, is currently in training for her first world-title shot on August 4 against German star and WBC Super Middleweight World Champion Nikki Adler (16-0, 9 KOs). The 10-round super-middleweight match-up, will be televised live on ShoBox: The New Generation (10 pm ET/PT), and held at MGM Grand Detroit.
The Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards are the only kid-oriented award show focusing on the world’s best athletes and each year’s greatest sports moments. Held at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, this year’s broadcast was once again hosted by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
The winners were chosen predominantly by children’s online voting.
Witness Sports Management Signs Montgomery Brothers
Boxing veterans, Greg Hannely, founder of the Prince Ranch Boxing facility, and Jared Shaw have joined forces, as they are happy to announce the birth of Witness Sports Management (WSM), a boxing management company that will guide the careers of some of the best young fighters in the sport.
The Montgomery Brothers, Maliek, Mikhail, and Michael Jr., out of Macon, Georgia, are WSM’s first signees. The highly touted trio, who were all decorated amateur standouts, are trained by their dad, Michael Montgomery Sr.
“I want to make sure it’s known how excited we are to be signing with Jared and Greg,” said Michael Montgomery Sr. “I’m happy that my boys are going to be represented by some folks that have been involved in boxing for many years. Greg and Jared have been wonderful to work with. My boys and I are very grateful and we are ready to take the boxing world by storm.”
Greg Hannely, is a well-known figure in the sport as he guided the careers of former world champions, Clarence “Bones” Adams and Steven Luevano, back in the 90’s and early 2000’s. His passion for boxing has brought him back to the sport he loves, and he wants nothing more than to build a stable of world champions.
“I’m very thrilled to be back in boxing, especially after signing the Montgomery Brothers.” Greg Hannely said, “Their father, Michael Sr., has been grooming all three boys to fight like professionals. They all have very exciting styles and I believe they will be well received to everyone who witnesses them fight. The Prince Ranch Boxing gym in Las Vegas will be available for the entire Montgomery family. These are good kids with strong family values. Their future is bright.”
Jared Shaw, son of world renowned boxing promoter Gary Shaw, has been around the sport since he was a young child. After spending many years learning from his father, Jared, developed a knack for spotting talent.
“If you like pressure fighters with knockout power, then you’ll love the Montgomery Brothers.” stated Jared Shaw. “Maliek, Mikhail, and Michael Jr., were all great amateurs with over 400 fights combined, but their styles are suited for the pros. All three of them have heavy hands and the ring intelligence to make adjustments on the fly. Greg and I are ecstatic to be working with the entire Montgomery family. This is a fantastic start to our new management company.”
“As co-managers, Greg and I started WSM with the idea of cultivating our fighters,” Shaw continued. “We want to be looked at as more than just a financial asset. We will provide are stable with the needed resources that will help them become better fighters. We will house are guys at “The Prince Ranch” in Las Vegas, getting them the best sparring in boxing. Our goal is to make sure they have no distractions that will hinder their development.”
About Mikhail Montgomery
Nickname – 50Khail
Height – 5’7
Weight – 122 (Super-Bantamweight)
DOB: – December 24, 1996 (Age 20)
Hometown – Macon, Georgia
Amateur Record – (120-12)
Pro Record – TBA
“Jared came to us a few years back and told us he was interested in signing us. The bond started back then and now that we are older, it’s good to look back and see that he’s still with us. He’s a man of his word and kept his promise. I’m excited that WSM is going to take me and my brothers under their wing.”
About Maliek Montgomery
Nickname – Mayhem
Height – 5’8
Weight – 130 (Super-Featherweight)
DOB: – September 17, 1995 (Age 22)
Hometown – Macon, Georgia
Amateur Record – (149-12)
Pro Record – (1-0, 1 KO)
“Signing with WSM has been a blessing to me and my family. Jared has been around for a few years now and we trust that he and Greg will take us to the top. My dad talked about this day for many years, signing with a good management team. Now that it’s here, I’m ready to start knocking out folks.”
About Michael Jr. Montgomery
Nickname – NA
Height – 5’11
Weight – 147 (Welterweight)
DOB: – March 11, 1994 (Age 23)
Hometown – Macon, Georgia
Amateur Record – (150-20)
Pro Record – (1-0, 1 KO)
“I believe everything is going to work out great with Jared and Greg. Fighting in the pros is new to me but I think I’m going to make an immediate impact. I got my first knockout in my pro debut earlier this year and I can’t wait to get back in the ring.”
Petition Demands Budweiser Drop Conor McGregor Over Bigoted Remarks
A Care2 petition is asking Budweiser to drop professional mixed martial artist and boxer Conor McGregor over his history of bigoted comments ahead of his August match against Floyd Mayweather. The petition has gathered over 6,700 signatures.
VIEW THE CARE2 PETITION HERE: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/391/537/851/
McGregor is projected to make $100 million in a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August, in what could be the most viewed, highest grossing pay-per-view fight of all time.
But Care2 members are calling him out for his bigoted comments.
Leading up to his 2015 match against Brazilian fighter Jose Aldo, McGregor said:
“If this was a different time, I would invade his favela on horseback and kill anyone that was not fit to work.”
“What I really want to do is turn his favela into a Reebok sweatshop.”
“I think I’m going to have him come and clean up my airplane.”
“These remarks should have caused major brands to drop any association with McGregor long ago. Now that he’s gearing up to cash in on his history of bigoted comments, the time has come,” the Care2 petition reads. “Please sign this petition to ask Budweiser to drop Conor McGregor over his history of bigoted remarks!”
Last week, during a four-day promotional tour for the Mayweather-McGregor match, which takes place in Las Vegas on August 26, Mayweather made a quip using stereotypes about Black men: “A lot of media are saying I’m racist against black people. That’s absolutely f****** ridiculous. Do they not know I’m half-black? Yeeeeeah. I’m half-black from the belly button down.”
McGregor is reportedly worth $35 million.
Joe Smith Jr. Fights Nine Rounds with a Broken Jaw
Popular Long Island light heavyweight contender JOE SMITH JR. (23-2-0, 19 KO’S), gritted his way through Saturday’s ten round battle with SULLIVAN BARRERA (20-1-0, 14 KO’s), after suffering a broken jaw early in the 2nd round. Even with a broken jaw, Smith Jr. dug deep to fire away at the skilled Barrera until the final bell, in which he ultimately fell short by scores of 96-93 and 97-92 twice.
In a fight that had the cheering crowd on their feet throughout, Smith and Barrera went to war from the opening bell. Prior to breaking his jaw, Smith wasted no time showing his sheer power as he drilled Barrera with a hard left hook to the forehead in the opening round sending Barrera sprawling to the canvas. Barrera, hurt from the knockdown, showed his proven grit and determination by rising and finishing the round.
Although having his jaw broken in the second round, Smith continued to fight hard throughout the fight which featured excellent two-way action. Smith showed a great chin and tons of heart as he tried his best to fight through a debilitating injury. Smith landed some heavy blows stunning Barrera on occasion but Sullivan outworked him to grab the decision on the judges scorecards.
“Joe knocked down Barrera hard in the first round but in the second round he sustained a broken jaw,” said JOE DEGUARDIA, CEO and President of STAR BOXING. “It’s a similar injury to the one he suffered five years ago and frankly it’s amazing that he continued to valiantly fight over the next eight rounds and finish the fight.”
In his only other previous loss, Smith also suffered a broken jaw against Eddie Caminero five years ago.
Continued DeGuardia, “After spending part of Saturday night at the UCLA Medical Center, Joe will have surgery later this week in New York and we’ll know more then about a time frame for his full recovery. We congratulate Sullivan Barrera on his victory.”
We at Star Boxing are extremely proud of Joe for fighting this fight under such extreme conditions as are all his fans who came to the fight last night from Long Island and those who watched on HBO. Joe Smith is a true warrior and epitomizes what a real fighter is supposed to be.
Interview with Derrick James, Trainer to Errol Spence Jr.
Boxing Insider Interview with Derrick James
By: Marley Malenfant
Derrick James is busy man.
When he’s not training his stable of boxers, like current IBF Welterweight champion Errol Spence jr or Jermell Charlo, he hosts private and group boxing sessions at the Cooper Aerobics Institute in Dallas.
Photo Credit: Sky Sports
James has trained professionally for over ten years. His career as a professional boxer is 27-7-1 and he’s a former two-time Golden Gloves champion in Texas.
Not one to really hype himself up, James said the formula to his success is to never stop working.
“All of our strength and conditioning work is done at Cooper and our boxing work is done at R&R [Boxing Club in Dallas].”
In a Q&A, James discussed his working relationship with Spence, consideration for trainer of the year, plans to finish out the year and brief talks with the indecipherable Al Haymon.
BI: Do you think boxing media was ignoring you and Errol Spence’s rise prior to a championship because you’re both from Texas?
DJ: I don’t think they ignored Errol as much as they did myself. A couple years ago he was prospect of the year. He was an ESPN prospect of the year and Premier Boxing Champions named him prospect of the year. The boxing media and the boxing world have not ignored him. I think myself, yes. A little bit but not much.
BI: Why do you think that is?
DJ: It’s like a small, small community. I think they like the same ol’ guys. Errol is not my first world champion. It’s Jermell Charlo, who’s from Texas as well. But I don’t know, man. But they almost don’t have a choice now [but to respect it]. I have 23 guys and three champions. So my third guy, Robert Brant, he’s fighting for the world title sometime in August or September for the WBA belt that Danny Jacobs gave up to fight [Gennady Golovkin] GGG. I have three world champions. So there’s no way the public can deny.
BI: Are there things that you do as a trainer that other trainers should be doing?
DJ: Well, I’m happy that they’re not doing what we’re doing. And they don’t need to do it because what works for me does not mean that works for them. They need to stick to what they do and let us stick to what we do. That’s how I’ll say that.
BI: With Spence’s success, has anything changed with the way you two work?
DJ: No not at all, man. Everything thing has been the same. What’s funny is that initially, when I started training him as an amateur, my whole focus was that he would become world champion. Not professional. But it was amateur world champion. I wasn’t thinking that far off because the goal was the amateur world title. And then the Olympic games came. At that point, I never really set a goal except just work hard. For me as a trainer, I don’t feel right pushing my ideas on somebody else. I hope to make him the best he is. We haven’t changed anything. It’s the same pace, same everything since he was an amateur. The only thing we changed is the work we do a little bit. We spar 19 rounds instead of 10 rounds. That’s the difference. We just work a little bit harder and we always work the same pace and the same weight. And that’s why I think it’s getting a little bit harder for everybody to keep up.
BI: What would you like to see for Spence next?
DJ: I really don’t like to interject my personal feelings on who he should fight. I want him to fight whoever he wants to fight. So I listen to him. I go off of whatever he says. He says he wants to fight the best. He wants to fight Keith Thurman. If he can’t fight Keith Thurman because of an injury, then you know whoever the next possible opposition is. It could be Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia. These are the names I’ve heard him say. I’m just repeating what he said. I just get him prepared.
BI: Does he ever mention anyone from Top Rank or Golden Boy? Does he ever say ‘I wouldn’t mind getting at a [Terrance] Crawford or Manny Pacquiao’? Does he mention those guys to you in private?
DJ: Well, Pacquiao… he did say Pacquiao right after the last fight. And really, it’s not about Manny Pacquiao. It’s about that he has that title. So if he didn’t have that WBO belt, he wouldn’t mention his name at all.
BI: What’s it like working with Al Haymon. He’s a mysterious guy and you don’t see him in the media.
DJ: I don’t know, man. I don’t talk to him [laughs]. I’m serious. There’s a liaison that I generally work with and we’ll go from there. I really don’t work with him. I’ve met him before and have talked to him a couple of times. But I really don’t have to talk to him.
Boxing Insider Interview with Tomoki Kameda
Boxing Insider Interview with Tomoki Kameda
By: Kirk Jackson
Questions for former WBO Bantamweight Champion Tomoki Kameda 31-2 (19 KO’s):
“Kameda-ke Saishū Heiki”
BI: Thanks again for your time Mr. Kameda; I hope everything is well with you.
BI: You come from a fighting family; your father is an amazing trainer and your older brothers are world renowned champions. Do you consider yourself the best fighter in your family? If not as of yet, what will it take to be recognized as the best fighter in your family?
TK: I believe that all of us, the 3 brothers are the best. We have achieved several records. The oldest, Koki, was able to get 3 different divisions championship. The first one in Japan to achieve it. Daiki was 2 different divisions champion and then me. I was able to get one championship belt and the first one in Japan to get the Bantam weight championship belt. With that records, we were able to get a Guinness Book of World Records recognition as the most siblings to win world boxing titles. To be the best fighter in the family…our father has that honor. He trained all 3 of us.
BI: Is being the best fighter in your family important to you? Is there a sibling rivalry between you three? Does that provide you with extra incentive to train harder and seek bigger challenges?
TK: As I have mentioned all 3 of us are the best and yes, it is important. It is natural to have sibling rivalries as any siblings would have. In our case, growing up with my brothers has helped me a lot in training. I have learned a lot from them. The moves, their advice and all other stuff. I maybe the youngest, but my older brothers helped me a lot in order to achieve what they have achieved.
BI: Can you describe growing up in the rough environments of Osaka?
TK: Is it really rough? We don’t see it that way. I think it was ordinary. I believe that this is a misconception from the outsiders. If they think it that way, it creates an image that we, from Osaka, are tough. Yes, we are. Osaka has the Kameda brothers.
BI: At age 15 you moved to Mexico in pursuit of dreams and to essentially to search for great challenges. Can you talk about the cultural transition and the difficulties adjusting to a new language, culture and surroundings?
TK: The first time I went to Mexico, it was really difficult. Number one is the language, I didn’t know any Spanish language. Of course, the culture itself. Very different from where I grew up. But Mexican people are very warm and friendly. I was able to adjust and adapt the new environment. They are very kind and helpful.
When I started training, Mexican style of boxing training is different from what my father had trained me. It was good for me because it was an added knowledge, an addition to my boxing IQ. I had to ask a lot of questions to my coach while I was training. It is very important to learn everything they taught me and the depth of this kind of training.
BI: Based on your origin, it can be stated you possess traditional elements from the “Japanese” fighting style however, you moved to Mexico to learn from Mexican trainers. It can be said you have the influence of the “Mexican” style fighting as well. Your current trainer Ismael Salas is from Cuba and familiar with the Cuban School of fighting. Is it accurate to say you are a blend of all three styles?
TK: Yes, you can say that. I am a blend of different fighting styles, but not just 3. I believe it is very important to learn different fighting styles to make you a flexible fighter. Also now, I am training in Japan but with Filipino trainers.
BI: In the past you stated you are a mix between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. When watching your fights, I can see elements comparable to Mayweather; your precision, patience, timing and ability to change range. Which elements from each fighter do you feel like you represent?
TK: I want to be a hybrid fighter. From Pacquiao I was able to learn that a big heart is also essential when in the ring. Get his stamina, never lose steam from the beginning of the fight until the very last round. From Mayweather, yes, you are correct that I am learning to be precise, patient and the change of range. It makes me an unpredictable fighter. Opponents will be confused as to what element I’ll use when fighting.
BI: Mayweather and Pacquiao retired last year and were long considered the best fighters pound for pound for the past decade or so. Who is the best fighter pound for pound in your eyes and why?
TK: Yes, both of them are considered the best fighters pound for pound, but nobody broke that mold compared to the late Muhammad Ali, may he rest in peace. Ali has the speed and stamina. He owns every part of the ring. Overall performance is spectacular, that’s why he is the greatest.
BI: You are a world champion; first Japanese fighter to win a WBO title. What is your most rewarding accomplishment as a professional so far?
TK: Winning the title itself is the most rewarding. That is the goal of every boxers. I was able to achieve that goal. Worked hard for it, you can say blood, sweat and tears. When I was able to get that belt I really felt I’m on the top of the world. Plus it helped us, the 3 brothers, to get a Guinness record.
BI: What are your goals for this year and beyond?
TK: I am setting my eyes on a higher division. Most probably the Super Bantam. That will be my next goal and achieve that goal.
BI: Do you plan on staying in the Bantamweight division? Do you plan on moving up to Super Bantamweight and how many weight classes do you feel like you can comfortably move up?
TK: Yes, I have the plan to move up to Super Bantamweight. I have mentioned that it is my next goal. I think I could still be comfortable with Super Featherweight and/or the Lightweight division. We’ll see. I want to achieve it step by step. As they say, “there is nowhere else to go but up.”
BI: Your fights against Jamie McDonnell were extremely competitive and the decisions could have gone either way. Depending on who you ask, some may say you won both if not at least one of the fights. What did you learn from those encounters that you’ll utilize moving forward in your career?
TK: The two fights went the other way, but it is a learning experience. After those fights it made me realize that there is more that I need to learn as a fighter. I am now even more eager to train and love boxing more. It was a big motivation for me. It makes me hungrier to get that belt again and even more up. I am very enthusiastic and highly motivated in training.
BI: What is the toughest thing you had to deal with as a professional?
TK: Being a champion and staying that way is the most difficult thing to deal with. Everyone sees you as a target. They want to bring you down. I should always train in order to be at a higher level. Other fighters are training hard as well. I have to be a step or more ahead.
BI: Aside from your unique life story and background, what is a trait that separates you from other fighters?
TK: Many fighters would claim that they are hybrid fighters, but that is the trait that separates me from them. You know my background and what I have achieved. I trained in many different fighting styles. I am learning continuously and my enthusiasm in fighting is always high. Like a child that is always learning and always want to achieve my goal.
BI: How can the fans get in touch with you and follow what you’re doing? Do you have a message for the fans out there?
TK: My fans can follow me in my Instagram, @tomokikameda and also Twitter, @tomokikameda. To my fans out there, I appreciate that you are continuously supporting me. Now I am training harder to be the world champion again. Your support is giving me more energy and motivation. Thank you for that.