The trainers and promoters for undefeated 140-pound world champions Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley squareed-off against each other on an international media conference call earlier this week. Team Alexander was represented by Hall of Fame promoter Don King and trainer/manager Kevin Cunningham. Team Bradley will be represented by co-promoters Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson and trainer Joel Diaz.
Here’s what they had to say…
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: I want to thank Don King and Gary Shaw. They are showing the boxing world that the best fights should be made whether it is all in-house or not. The people want to see Pacquiao and Mayweather and they can’t get it. They want to see Klitscho-Haye and they can’t get it. The next biggest on out there is Alexander vs. Bradley. Don and Gary stepped up to the plate and HBO has done a tremendous job in promoting this fight. The winner of this fight will be the next American superstar in this sport.
This has been one of the best training camps I have ever had. Everything is running smoothly. It is calm. Everything is running on point. We have had great sparring. Two of the sparring partners have recently had fights. “Lightning” Lonnie Smith fought on an ESPN undercard two weeks ago in a first round KO. Adrien Broner, one of ESPN.com’s top prospects of 2010 won a first round knockout on Saturday night. We are over here smoking and not joking. Come Saturday, January 29, it’s going to be a problem for Timothy Bradley.
I agree it is a big fight, but I have heard sales are slow in Detroit – can they draw a big crowd?
DON KING: The site is where the fight will take place. What you have here, the Silverdome has the capability to set up the arena to 15,000 seats, which is what the plan was at the beginning. They are very happy about what they have done because it brings significant note to the building which has been suffering hard knocks and broken dreams. It is a great boost to them. This fight will be seen by millions of people world-wide and that’s what it is really all about – the fight. There is no bone of contention to what it is. Boxing around the world has been the big walk-up and the sales on the final days before the fight and nothing has changed in the tradition of the sport. The ticket sales will not determine the greatness of this fight. The fight is on and we’ve got Alexander meeting Bradley. That’s what you should be writing about, in my humble opinion, the greatness of this fight. We can spotlight this hard-hit economy with the Big 3, the GM’s, the Ford’s and the Chrysler’s and all the suffering. We are going to the people that need us. Gary is the lead promoter and he ended up getting there because of my misfortune at the time and what he has done is a wonderful job because he is going to the needy. This will be an infomercial for one of the most dire economies in the country. To bring back a resurgence of energy and excitement, to create jobs and say that Motown is alive and ready. If we bring a fight of this stature, it will more than pay for itself. Everyone will be there, from GM to Motown to Hitsville – all of them will be a part of greatness that will take place. To have a great paper like the USA Today, writing that this a great fight and Detroit is alive and living and bringing people back together and we are the catalyst. It is provocatively beautiful.
GARY SHAW: First, let’s wait until January 29 and find out how many people are in there. No. 2, I put on the greatest fight of the decade, Corrales vs. Castillo and we didn’t sell even 2000 tickets – I never heard anyone say that it wasn’t a fight that was extraordinary. We have two great undefeated American fighters and we went to a place we thought was befitting. We never set if for 70,000 – the set-up was always going to be between 10,000 and 15,000. Those that came to the press conference saw how it would be mapped out. The Silverdome was well-prepared and did a great job. There should be compliments to the new owner of the stadium who wants to do more boxing and is willing to take the risk to bring big-time boxing back to the Detroit area. I think it’s a terrific place to do the fight. I’m not sorry and Don’s not sorry. We are doing something for that economy – we are bringing HBO which is going to shine a big spotlight on that economy. Everybody claimed a couple years ago the U.S. automobile industry was dead – if you’d all bought stock in those companies, you would be rich today.
I understand there is a rematch clause – was there any consideration to a home-and-home series?
GARY SHAW: You are not exactly correct on the rematch clause. The rematch clause is HBO’s decision – if they want to rematch these two fighters, so it is not a true rematch clause.
Do the opponents remind you of any past opponents?
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: Tim Bradley has his own style and none of Devon’s previous opponents remind me on Tim Bradley. So, no. It doesn’t make it more difficult to train for – we prepare for what Tim Bradley brings to the table. You have to do your due diligence – break down footage and develop a strategy and have a fighter that has the ability to execute that game plan and I have that fighter.
JOEL DIAZ: Every fight has a different strategy because styles make fights. Preparation for Devon is just watching footage. We never fought a fighter like Devon – a southpaw with speed and angles and that’s why we as trainers have to set up a plan and here we are. I just think it’s going to be a great fight. We will have to execute the strategy and so will he and that’s what makes the fight exciting. You don’t know what’s going to happen. As long as the fans are happy, and they should be – I think Timothy is going to bring it up and I think Devon’s going to bring it up. It’s going to be a great event.
Has boxing gone down because of the lack of world class trainers?
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: I think you have two world class trainers here on the phone today and the reason I say that is Joel and myself have taken kids off the streets, taken through the professional ranks to the world title. I don’t get champions brought to me already made then claim to be the best trainer in the world. If you have the ability to take a kid from nowhere to the top in this business then there is no one that can say we don’t know what we are doing. Joel and I can say we are some of the best trainers in this business.
JOEL DIAZ: Kevin is right. It is very hard to grab a kid from ground zero and build him up to this level. There are a lot of trainers out there that put in their time with kids, not only in the gym but outside the gym and bring them up to a championship level. You have to give those trainers respect. There are trainers out there that don’t have to put in that time but take the credit. Kevin and I have paid our dues – we came from ground zero with our fighters. I know he got Devon when he was a kid and Timothy came to me from scratch and we started building them up little by little and here we are. But we don’t get the credit that other trainers get.
Can this fight bring boxing back to the forefront?
DON KING: You have two undefeated America fighters and both of them are champions. The trainers, as they so eloquently put it, have taken fighters from scratch to a championship level. You need heroes in the business. HBO, undertaking the task of giving a full-fledged back-up, promoting in the spirit of yesteryear and bringing it to the forefront of the public awareness and these two fighters, not just undefeated fighters, but champions going in there to unify, no matter what sanction bodies are in or out, there has already been a claim and they carry titles as they meet. It is going to do a tremendous job of public awareness and they are going to continuously see these guys go out there and win and give inspiration to the kids in the gym. When people say ‘no, you can’t,’ they say, ‘yes, I can.’ On the 29th in the Silverdome you will see this transpire in living color. The people in Detroit will see this and go out and work together for the benefit of the community unity. It does the same thing in boxing where you see these two undefeated American world champions going into the high-risk zone – the greater the risk the greater the reward. They both have something to lose but they both have something to gain, showing in this sport that the best fight the best. That’s how you get the acclaim of a Muhammad Ali, a Joe Frazier, a Roberto Duran, a Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Leonard – those are the ones that come in there and fight the best. We have an opportunity to establish the heroes in boxing by claiming ‘I am the best.’ Saying and going. Talking the talk and walking the walk. We then need to put these fighters on, and you know we lost terrestrial television, the ABC Wide World of Sports and CBS Sports and NBC color – where the community could be involved in whatever area of the country that fighter was in. To be able to see them every Saturday or Sunday and then the Superfight is an extravaganza. Here you have an extravaganza of the two top junior welterweights in the world, undefeated, fighting each other. It plants the seed and restores boxing to its rightful place but here must be a continuation and Gary and I will continue to fight and demonstrate to the world excitement is in the air. There really is no loser. The writers will be prognosticating and speculating and the people will be reading and discussing and debate will be at the coffee station and the pub, in the church class and the barber shop – everywhere you go they will be talking about great fighters. That’s why I think this fight is super-sensational and this is the best place to have it. You kill two birds with one stone by bringing awareness to Detroit. They have both been knocked down but not out – we are keeping the spirit alive. Everyone will be happy and it will all come together on the 29th.
GARY SHAW: The main thing is you have the two best 140-pounders in the world. Boxing will always survive if we can put the best against the best all the time. It should be the end of an era where a fighter fights one tough fight then two easy fights. If you have a tough day at work you have to come back tomorrow and work again – you can’t tell the boss you want an easy day. Credit to Don and Joel and Kevin and Ken Thompson. This is more than just a fight. This is two young, undefeated American world champions willing to step up. I think he last time two guys that were somewhat young and got together was Tyson and Spinks or Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas and we all know how big those were. The fight is bigger than the site. It should be about Kevin Cunningham and Joel Diaz, Devon Alexander and Tim Bradley – that’s what it should be about.
DON KING: That’s what it is about – the fight. Wherever they fight. It used to be out on barges or towns that would let them fight, fighting in front of small crowds until they became known. In this division we picked the creme de la crème, the undefeated so the awareness and the build-up are done and on the 29th will be the crescendo. The fat lady will sing.
GARY SHAW: All the writers are saying we should get out of the casinos in local areas. Give Don and me some credit for being willing to go to the Detroit area. Give the owner of the Silverdome some credit for wanting to show off his building and show that he can do boxing. I don’t care if he draws 500 people. Give the credit to the two fighters and two trainers that don’t care where they go.
DON KING: It stands on its own because it’s a great fight. It will become an indelible mark in the sands of time. It will be a fight people will talk about more after than before because people did not know who they were, their tumultuous trouble in rising to the top, yet they did it undefeated. When Devon fought the undefeated Urango they were not expecting Devon to win because the other guy had not ever been knocked down so what you have here is a graduation of greatness and the best is yet to come.
Boxing is life…you can’t call time out or send in a substitute. Can’t stop for gas because there is no gas station. You have to deal with the problem at hand which is right before you. Can’t put it off ‘til tomorrow or sweep it under the rug. This is what makes boxing great and it will never die. We need to bring heroes back to the fore…a great boxing event between two great fighters.
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: In terms of preparation, we prepare for every fight as if it is our last fight. We prepared for Kotelnik but you can do all you can do but you have no control over what happens when that bell rings. In terms of how the fighter mentally or didn’t get the proper rest days before the fight – there are several variations of things that can throw the fighter off. As far as this training camp goes, it is really done for us. We looked and read and seen that all these experts have made Devon a big underdog in this fight, that has done something for us. The negativity from the so-called experts that we didn’t have a chance and Timothy Bradley is going to dominate us and they should already start promoting Khan-Bradley. So that’s done more for us than anything.
Were you surprised Devon is the underdog on the books?
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I was surprised. It’s all working out for us. It’s a beautiful thing.
DON KING: Odds don’t make fight. That’s how they keep their jobs – they speculate. It’s the same as boxing – sometimes the fighter is on and sometimes he is off. It’s like what Red Smith said, “If it is a big fight, you’ve got to be there.” Yesterday’s nobody can become today’s somebody. That’s what makes boxing the greatest sport – the next upset is always hovering.
Why do you think Timothy is a big favorite?
JOEL DIAZ: Timothy has faced a little more of a tougher opposition. Devon has fought good opposition but the fact that Timmy flew to England to win the title and the fight with Kendall Holt, being dropped in the first round and coming back to win the fight – I think that’s what makes Timothy the favorite.
There seems to be talk about the WBC not recognizing Bradley as champion if he wins…
GARY SHAW: Tim Bradley sent a letter to the WBC stating he would not fight for their title. Then Jose Sulaiman told his board not to allow Bradley to fight for the title. Tim Bradley is fighting for the WBO title which is the title he currently owns. These two could fight without titles, that’s how good this fight is. So Devon Alexander can only lose the WBC title if he loses. Timothy could not win that title. But Devon wins the WBO title if he wins.
If Devon wins, will the title be vacant?
DON KING: That is only a matter of record. The man who wins this fight is a unified champion. Devon brings two titles because you don’t lose them by being stripped. The world knows Devon did not lose the IBF title and they also know the WBC title will be at stake whether or not it is being sanctioned. It will be at stake because you’ve got the WBC champion fighting. If Bradley wins he will be the WBC champion but not recognized by the organization. You can’t get around seeing that he has won the WBC championship fighting the guys with the WBO so it is a unification.
Is there a sense of frustration…
DON KING: The winner gets both titles but after the fight he can say I don’t want this title or he won’t be recognized as the champion but the public sees a fight between the champion of the WBC and the champion of the WBO and nothing can change that. At the end of the fight there will be one champion of the two belts.
What did you say to your fighter in the corner during his worst moment?
JOEL DIAZ: Kendall Holt really got under Tim’s skin. That is one of the main factors with Bradley, if you get under his skin he gets real aggressive. After the first round knockdown – he wasn’t really hurt at all – he got up after the count of three. When he came to the corner, I told him, “you’ve got to be smart. Every time you get inside, you’ve got to be smart.” What changed the fight, after we moved on, towards the end of the fight, the second knockdown, after we had started putting rounds in our pocket, now he can box. If we can box, we are going to be good. He decided to go on his own at the point of the last knockdown and when he came to the corner I told him, “Box him. Make him come looking for you. Don’t go looking for him.” But after the fight he just told me, ‘coach, I tried to close the fight so I had to get in there and be aggressive.” We have learned together as a team how to deal with a situation like that, not only inside the ring but outside the ring. It was a tough situation in the first couple rounds of the Lamont Peterson fight until we started moving around.
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: For Devon’s last fight, I think everyone considers that his toughest fight, basically he was wound up and excited by being at home, having a great promotion like that and having a huge crowd showing up for his first time defending his title at home – he was jacked up and wanting to impress. Coming off his last few fights and winning by knockout he really wanted to impress and get Kotelnik out of there. My comment to him was to “Calm down and focus on the game plan.” Execute what we worked on for 8 weeks.
Why will this opponent bring out the best in your fighter?
JOEL DIAZ: By looking at his resume most of all. He is a world champion. He is a great fighter – smart- very slick. Right now we have to put in the extra time and work because we know it’s not going to be an easy fight. I know what Devon and Kevin bring to the table so we have to focus more and pay more attention and step it up another notch.
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: The fact that I know this kid Timothy Bradley and know him very well. We’ve known Tim from the amateurs – Devon and Tim came up through the USA Amateur boxing program and were always in the top two or three in every national tournament and Bradley has even fought Devon’s brother Vaughn. So I know what he does well. He’s an excellent fighter and trains very well. He’s earned everything he’s got and if we want to be considered the No. 1 guy at 140, this is the guy we’ve got to beat. Not the No. 3, 4 or 5 guy, we’ve got to beat the No. 1 guy if we want to be considered the No. 1 guy in this division. Tim Bradley is that guy right now. Just like Auburn had to beat Oregon to win the national championship, Devon has to beat Tim to become the new American superstar in boxing. On January 29th we will seize the opportunity.
Do you think Devon gets the credit?
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: He’s not getting his just due and it doesn’t bother me. It motivates us. We see all the naysayers and the odds and it’s almost a joke because come January 29 they are going to see just how wrong and how off they are judging talent. I can’t spend time trying to tell people how good Devon Alexander is. That’s why we wanted Bradley, the top guy in the division, to prove Devon is the best.
GARY SHAW: 35 sports writers picked Jeff Lacy over Joe Calzaghe – no one picked Calzaghe and the rest was history. The fighters make the fights. The odds-makers don’t know the fighters. We have two great trainers that don’t get their just due who took these kids to the best 140-poundfight in the world. Maidana has lost, Khan has lost – these are two undefeated American fighters. Give credit to these two fighters for not looking for the easy fight. HBO was insisting that the best fight the best and there are no better at 140 lbs. Forget about the weather…come to the Silverdome, set for 10 to 15,000 – never for 70,000 – to see this great fight. These are two great kids outside the ring that dress immaculately at press conferences and represent boxing well.
KEN THOMPSON: This is definitely the fight of the year and we are taking it to Motown and Motown will surprise us with the turnout.
JOEL DIAZ: We are looking forward to winning on the 29th to become the unified champion.
DON KING: I applaud the boxing writers and the speculators. The speculators will not determine the outcome of the fight. When iconic Muhammad Ali fought Leon Spinks there was no one that thought Spinks would win with only eight professional fights. Spinks won the fight. This is what makes boxing so great. The attraction is what is so important – Alexander vs. Bradley – that is really what it’s all about, the two guys in the center of the ring that will be the determining factor. The best fighting the best. These two guys came off the streets, they said “No” to all of the temptations and peer pressure exemplifies what this sport is all about. Will they rise to the occasion? I think so and we can all bear witness. The winner will be a superstar but the loser will be a star too.
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM: I want to thank HBO for presenting the two best 140-pounders and presenting them on a platform where they deserve to be. They are the two best 140-pounders in the world and are the only undefeated, the only two that have unified titles and the winner will determine who the king is in the 140-pound division. I want to thank my promoter, Don King, and Gary Shaw for making it happen and showing the other promoters you need to make the best fights and thank the press. I want to let everybody know not to miss January 29th. Two guys that will be in tremendous shape and the will to die in the ring because neither wants to lose and will lay it all on the line. This is a don’t-miss fight and we will be victorious.
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WBC super lightweight champion Alexander and WBO junior welterweight champion Bradley collide January 29 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.