Boxing Insider Interview with Jack Massey
By: Oliver McManus
Thursday night sees cruiserweight contender Jack Massey vie for the vacant British title against Richard Riakporhe. The Chapel-en-le-frith resident is a local legend round Derbyshire and is keen to bring the belt back home. Boxing Insider caught up with him on fight week for a short and snappy interview. Massey began by explaining how the title shot is a perfect end to a somewhat stuttering year; blighted by missed opportunities.
<em> “Yeah it’s been a frustrating year, to be honest, but I feel as though this (the British title) has been a long time coming. Obviously I was supposed to compete in Ultimate Boxxer at the beginning of the year but pulled out of that to face Okolie (scheduled for July) and I ended up injuring my bicep. I’ve been saying for a while now that I was ready for the British title so I’m looking forward to getting in the ring on Thursday.” </em>
Having turned professional in 2013, Massey has patiently developed on the Derbyshire small hall scene and, more recently, with the support of Frank Warren. Initially he had hoped to fight for the British on December 22nd last year; the slight delay could perhaps be a blessing in disguise, as Massey elaborated.
<em> “I was in the gym for six weeks for Okolie, I’ve been in the gym for 10 weeks for this fight so I’m definitely prepared. I’ve never trained for a 12 round fight before but now I’ve sort of had one and a half camps to gear up for this one. Yes it might be six, twelve months later than I was expecting but, at the same time, I’m that many months hungrier and I’m that little bit more prepared, motivated and mature.” </em><em> “It’s a good time for me to be fighting for the British title” </em>, he continued, <em> “it’s the right time, as well. I’ve obviously been professional for six and a bit years and I’ve had a good mix of challenges. It’s been about building momentum, I’ve been learning on the job but I’ve also been keeping the confidence up and trying to stay busy.” </em>
The 26 year old was due to contest the title in July against Lawrence Okolie but a nasty bicep injury curtailed that opportunity; Massey outlined what occurred.
<em> “It happened in sparring with Hughie (Fury) and I went to throw a right hook but he’d stuck his elbow slightly and I hit it. It went straight through to the bicep and I knew straightaway it wasn’t good. It was nasty and, obviously, I was really frustrated at the time but I couldn’t do anything about it and there was no point in getting flustered about it.” </em>
The title remains the same but a new opponent awaits. Richard Riakporhe has been on a mean streak since linking up with Matchroom Boxing and is a heavy betting favourite. Predictably the odds are skewed to the home fighter but Massey insisted they were more alike than many expect:
<em> “We’re fairly similar in height so I don’t think that will be too much of an issue. I’ve had plenty of rounds with Shakan Pitters to try and replicate those long limbs and his speed but heavyweights for their power, too. I’ve been kept on my toes and I am feeling really up for it. I think I’ve prepared for everything possible: there’s been plenty of variety in camp.” </em>
Not only is there the British title on offer, and all the opportunities thereafter, but a place in the history books of Derbyshire boxing. Who knows, they might even let him turn on the Christmas lights this time next year…
<em> “There’s not been many British champions from Derbyshire (Jack Bodell reigned the heavyweight division for one fight in 1969) so that’ll be a great feeling. I had a little open workout (in Chapel-en-le-frith) last week for those that can’t get down to London and the support was incredible. They’ve always been really generous with their support – right from when I was fighting on small shows in Buxton – and it’ll be to go back home as Champion in time for Christmas.” </em>
The Big Bang Attacks: The Return of Zhang Zhilei
By: Kirk Jackson
The heavyweight star from China intends on leaving a “Bang” in his return bout this weekend after a long time stretch of inactivity.
Boxing Insider caught up with Zhang Zhilei (20-0, 16 KO’s) to gather his thoughts about his upcoming return bout. After experiencing 14 months of inactivity, Zhilei is slated to face Andriy Rudenko (32-6, 20 KO’s) in a ten round contest at the Casino de Monte-Carlo on Saturday November 30, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
• Nickname – Big Bang
• Date of Birth – May 2, 1983
• Division – Heavyweight
• Stance – Southpaw
• Hometown – Zhengzhou, Henan, China
• Record – 20-0 (16 KO’s)
• Zhilei made his professional debut on August 8, 2014 on ESPN
• Zhilei captured two consecutive gold medals at the China National Games
• To pursue his dream of becoming the first-ever professional Chinese Heavyweight champion, Zhilei forfeited his Chinese national amateur status and broke from government dependency
• Before Zhilei considered boxing, he had dreams of becoming a professional canoe sprinter
Awards and Accomplishments:
• WBO Oriental Heavyweight Title (2017)
• Two-time Olympian
• Gold Medalist – Asian Amateur Boxing Championships (2009)
• Silver Medalist – 2008 Olympic Games (2008)
• Bronze Medalist – World Championships (2007)
• Silver Medalist – Asian Amateur Boxing Championships (2007)
• Bronze Medalist – World Championships (2007)
• Won eight medals in total spanning over the Olympic Championships, World Championships, Asian Games and Asian Championships
The Interview with Boxing Insider:
Boxing Insider (BI): How was your fight camp, how are you feeling?
Zhang Zhilei (ZZ): My camp went well. I trained very hard and I’m dedicated. I have sparring partners flying in to give me solid work. I feel great.
(BI): Entering this fight having last fought in September of 2018, are there things you do differently in training camp to prepare your body after a long lay-off, or is it business as usual?
(ZZ): I have been working out during my long lay-off. This training camp we focus on keeping improving my craft and stamina, just like before.
(BI): Can you talk about your experience living, training in New Jersey and can you talk about your experiences training and living with (Meng) Fanlong?
(ZZ): I got used to Jersey life. It’s really helpful to have someone like Fanlong with me. We learn from and encourage each other in the gym. We were team mates back in 2009 and have become like brother.
(BI): Can you expand on your living situation; are you living full-time in New Jersey? How often do you go back to visit home?
(ZZ): I live full time in New Jersey. My wife and son are in China. I have to stay here to in order to work hard and consistently. I go home once or twice a year to see my family.
(BI): This upcoming fight was supposed to be against Sergey Kuzmin, – were you able to find a replacement?
(ZZ): Yes Andriy Rudenko. He’s a very good boxer and I respect him a lot for taking this fight in such a short notice.
(BI): How does that affect your preparation and state of mind – not knowing to expect?
(ZZ): This doesn’t affect me at all. I have different sparring partners throughout the camp and I’m ready for any situation.
(BI): Your fight is scheduled for Monaco next Saturday, what is your preparation process for acclimation into the environment; weather, food – things of that nature?
(ZZ): I’ll arrive 7 days before the fight so I’ll try to blend in the environment when I get there.
(BI): Can you describe your hometown? What were some of your experiences growing up?
(ZZ): I grew up in Shenqiu City. There’s nothing special about it, as any regular cities in China, but I love my hometown.
(BI): You’re college educated, which isn’t something we normally see with professional fighters. How did boxing affect your pursuit of your education? Did your search of education affect your focus on boxing?
(ZZ): I majored in sport training in university. I think a person should receive good education no matter what kind of identity he has. Boxing is my job and my passion that’s why I searched education related to boxing.
(BI): Do you apply some of the lessons and experiences from higher education to your craft as a professional boxer?
(ZZ): Boxing can’t be learnt behind the desk. It’s done in the gym. But education helps me to think smartly outside of the ring.
(BI): Can you provide greater insight as to how you got into boxing? What attracted you to the sport and was there a specific moment when you realized this is what you want to do?
(ZZ): It’s more of a combination of my love for the sport and the guidance from my then coach. I started boxing just to get in shape. But after winning a national gold medal in 2 years made me want to take this as a career.
(BI): Growing up, you idolized Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Can you expand on their influence and what you like specifically about each fighter?
(ZZ): They are pure fighters. They are good for the sport and have been, and will always be recognized as idols.
(BI): Are they still your favorite fighters currently and if not who?
(ZZ): Yes they still are.
(BI): Anyone currently fighting that impresses you?
(ZZ): (Vasyl) Lomachenko and (Meng) Fanlong.
(BI): Can you give me a list of your pound-for-pound top five fighters?
(ZZ): Lomachenko, (Deontay) Wilder, (Canelo) Alvarez, (Terence) Crawford and myself.
(BI): Excluding yourself, who is the best heavyweight currently fighting?
(BI): Can you speak on your experiences as an Olympian and the transition from amateur to professional?
(ZZ): Being an Olympian taught me the valuable concept of self-discipline. Transitioning has been hard in the beginning but also a lot of fun. I think I made the transition with my coach Shaun George, who was an outstanding boxer himself, then hired by Chinese national team. He knows both and he’s really good at what he does.
(BI): Can you provide insight on how boxing is received in China? Do you see the sport growing with the success of your National Olympic Teams and with recent success of fighters on the professional level?
(ZZ): It’s the fastest growing sport. You can see movies, TV series, reality shows and commercials about boxing everywhere. You just don’t see a heavyweight champion. That’s why I’m so hungry to be the one.
(BI): Do you have a list of specific goals you want to accomplish before calling it a career?
(ZZ): One goal, the heavyweight champion of the world.
(BI): Can you speak on the importance of achieving your dream of winning a world title, becoming the first Chinese heavyweight champion of the world?
(ZZ): I think everybody knows how massive Chinese market is and how few Chinese boxers are above featherweight. I’m going to change a lot of things of the sport, as well as sport in general, if I become the heavyweight champion of the world.
(BI): Have you discussed a timeframe or mapped out a plan for how long you intend on boxing?
(ZZ): I feel like I’m at my peak right now. I can keep fighting.
(BI): The shelf life of heavyweight fighters usually extends further compared to other weight classes. With your physical attributes and skill set, do you believe you can take your time and wait for the right situation for a world title shot? Or do you have the approach of fighting with a high sense of urgency in regards to a busy schedule?
(ZZ): I think time will come very soon. I have been looking to fight contenders all the years. As long as I stay focused, time will come very soon.
(BI): You faced Anthony Joshua in the 2012 Olympics, can you speak on that experience and your progression as a fighter since then? Can you speak on his progression as a fighter?
(ZZ): I made no excuse for that loss. He was a better man of that night. But thinking back, I went in the fight with wrong strategy as I was told that I had to knock him out to win. I’m happy to see him doing good and contributing to the sport of boxing. I wish him the best for the Ruiz fight.
(BI): Do you have a list of names of who you would like to fight?
(ZZ): (Joe) Joyce, (Dereck) Chisora, (Adam) Kownacki and (Jarrell) Miller. I respect all these guys and I’m friendly with some of them. I want to fight them because of respect. Nothing personal.
(BI): From your experiences, what is the best thing about being a fighter?
(ZZ): It’s fantastic being a fighter. It has taught me so many things I can’t really say what’s the best of it. I encourage all the kids and teenagers out there to try out the sport. It may change your life in a positive way.
(BI): What are your greatest traits as a fighter?
(ZZ): I’m a heavy handed, skilled, smart southpaw.
(BI): What are some of the cons to being a fighter; something that may not necessarily be discussed often enough?
(ZZ): Everything has its cons. I want people to look at boxing as a positive, life-changing sport that will teach people a lot of things you can’t learn from everyday life.
(BI): How did you get the name Big Bang?
(ZZ): It’s the beginning of universe. I’m the first from my country. And I’m big.
(BI): Why is Chinese representation in boxing important to you?
(ZZ): I’m proud to fight for my country. That’s why I have national flag on my truck. China supports me and I want to make my people proud too.
(BI): Can you please speak on the importance of annual Hong Kong Dragon about Festival held in Queens, New York.
(ZZ): It’s a great annual event. Dragon Bout is symbolic for Chinese culture and is a lot of fun too.
(BI): Do you have a message for your fans of boxing?
(ZZ): Thank you guys for the support. Please tune in on November 30 on DAZN for my fights. It’s going to be exciting.
Vaughn Alexander Interview: “My overall plan is to be the best middleweight in the world”
Vaughn Alexander Interview: “My overall plan is to be the best middleweight in the world”
By: Matthew N. Becher
Vaughn Alexander is a 9-0 prospect from St. Louis Missouri who will be fighting on the undercard of the June 17th, HBO pay per view between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward. Alexander’s story is a bit different, since he is 31 years old and still a prospect. He was an up and comer on the rise in 2005 when he was sent to prison for armed robbery, 11 years later he is back to where he left off. The brother of 3x world champion Devon Alexander, we spoke with Vaughn about his past, his upcoming fight and what his future in boxing has in store.
Boxing Insider: So could you tell us a little about your background and coming back from an 11 year hiatus to the sport?
Vaughn Alexander: I’ve been fighting since I was 8 years old. I was one of the top amateurs in the world. I turned pro in 2004, I was signed to Don King promotions. I had 5 fights. I was 5-0 before I went to prison. I went to prison in 2005. In the 11 years that I was in prison I learned a lot, mentally, spiritually and I kept myself right physically.
Boxing Insider: How do you stay in fighting shape while incarcerated?
Vaughn Alexander: I ran a lot. Of course they didn’t have any of the things the outside world have, since they stopped boxing in prison a long time ago. I just did any and all things to keep my body strong. I ate right, I didn’t eat any junk or things that keep your body down. I just basically did everything I could, in the 11 years I was in prison.
Boxing Insider: Is it hard mentally to start over as a prospect again, being that you are now 31?
Vaughn Alexander: No. I feel that everybody goes through things. It’s just that I had to go to prison. That was just something in my life that I had to go to. Everybody makes mistakes, but they don’t all have to go to prison. I had to go to prison to become the man I am today. I have lots of patience that I didn’t have before. I have a lot of knowledge that I acquired in those eleven years. I always had a good work ethic, but I feel that I gained a proper work ethic dealing with myself. If it is dealing with people or dealing with my training, or anything I had to deal with, I’m 100% better to deal with because of the man I am today.
Boxing Insider: Your brother became a world champ while you were away. Has he given you any words of advice or wisdom in your comeback?
Vaughn Alexander: No, not really. I mean, you can’t give advice to someone that was doing what he was doing at the same time. It’s just that he became a world champion while I was in prison. The fact of it is, I am so proud of my brother for that. I’m proud of him in that sense, but me and Devan are two different people. I just go by the things I learned from my own mistakes. It’s just some things you have to learn on your own. You can accept peoples advice, but if people haven’t gone through the things you’ve went through. Me and Devan didn’t really talk a lot when I was in prison. That was my time to get myself together.
Boxing Insider: What advantages will you have over Fabiano Pena, who is younger and has more ring experience?
Vaughn Alexander: No one in the middleweight division has more experience than me. I feel that I was gone for 11 years, but I gained so much knowledge. I feel that these guys in 11 years were getting beat on, I wasn’t. I was eating right, working out while they were getting beat on. I’m fresh and I’m just ready to put myself in a position to fight one of these top guys. I’m not looking over this guy, trust me, every fighter has a punchers chance. And the likelihood of this guy beating me is slim to none, because I trained so hard and I’m coming in June 17th to get this guy out of there.
Boxing Insider: What are your overall plans in boxing, now that you are back?
Vaughn Alexander: My overall plan is to be the best middleweight in the world. I don’t just want to be one of the best. You got these people that are politically correct saying they want to be “one of the best”, nah, I’m trying to be the best middleweight in the world. That is my goal and that is what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m taking steps right now, with Main Events behind me to accomplish that.