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Donovan George: I’ll Fight King Kong

Interview by Sam Geraci
Photo: Ed Mulholland

On March 22nd, perennial super middleweight contender Donovan “Da Bomb” George (24-3-1, 21 KOS) makes his middleweight television debut on ESPN FNF when he takes on rugged veteran David “The Destroyer” Lopez (41-13, 23 KOs) in a ten round bout at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL.

Despite coming up short in his most significant matchups, Edwin Rodriguez in March of 2012 and Adonis Stevenson in October of 2012, George’s popularity among fight fans continues to grow and continues to afford him television exposure. In the following interview, George discusses his popularity, his move to middleweight, his matchup with Lopez, his loss to Stevenson, his feelings on the loss of his friend, Emmanuel Steward, and more.

Donovan, in your last televised bout, which was on WealthTV, you came up short in a brutal battle with Adonis “Superman” Stevenson. What happened in that bout?

It was a grueling twelve round war. Both of us were hurt, but in the fifth round he broke my ribs. I broke one and fractured another. I couldn’t breathe the entire fight. In the fifth round when he put me down, I couldn’t even lift my head, but I looked up and saw my fiancé and my mother and I didn’t want to quit. I’m not a quitter. It was actually written up as round of the year.

What is you relationship like now with Stevenson?

It was a great fight and Stevenson and I have a great relationship now. It’s kinda like what happened with Gatti and Ward. After a brutal war like that you grow to appreciate each other. I just spent a couple weeks in Detroit sparring with him to get ready for the fight with Lopez, so that was like rounds 13 to 80 (laughs). There isn’t any better southpaw to get sparring with than Stevenson, and for the last three weeks I realized how good he is and why I’m not at super middleweight anymore (laughs).

Are you saying you would not fight Stevenson again?

I never said that. I’ve never backed down from anyone. I’ll fight King Kong; I don’t care. And, after that fight they love me in Montreal and I love them. They have great fans out there, and I can’t wait to go back. I just got tired of being the little guy who always has to show all that heart. I want to be the bully (laughs).

Was the move to middleweight your idea or your camp’s idea?

It was my idea and my promoter totally supported me. My dad, who is also my trainer, hesitated because he hated seeing me work so hard to make weight. Once I made 164 in my last fight, he was on board. I think I am going to be better at 160. My frame wasn’t really built for these monsters at 168.

Will this bout with Lopez be at 160 or some type of catch weight?

This bout will be at 161 plus one, but I am trying to come in at 160.

You are known for your power, especially in the right hand, but do you think the move will help other aspects of your boxing?

My right hand is my best asset as a fighter. I feel like if I hit anyone right on the chin, they’re going to go to sleep. God blessed me with a great right hand, but I can’t just rely on one punch. I’m never going to be Pernell Whitaker, but I can be a well-rounded fighter and that’s why I am working with all of these trainers.

Besides your father, which trainers have you been working with and what are you working to improve?

I was in Detroit with Sugar Hill and Stevenson and believe or not I also worked with former heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev to get southpaw work and to improve my balance. Basically, I was off balance a lot. I never learned how to do footwork correctly and so it’s been difficult to land the right hand. To put it in layman’s terms, I was flat footed. I wasn’t on the balls of my feet; therefore, I couldn’t always generate the power I needed, and I couldn’t put myself in position to land all shots.

Against southpaws, the straight right is seen as the money punch and Lopez is a southpaw. Is that your plan in this bout?

Everyone knows that my plan is to land the right hand. Now, we are figuring out ways to set it up and to develop my left hook and my jab. My dad has put together a good game plan for me, and I’m ready to rock and roll.

One major criticism of you in your big fights is that you start slow and look like you might be thinking too much. Are those criticisms accurate?

I’m a very slow starter by nature. It takes a few good face shots to realize I’m in a fight. Sometimes, I feel like I am overthinking it because I am trying to be that perfect fighter that I’m just not. My strength is my style; I’m gonna fight my ass off and try to hurt somebody.

That being said, I don’t think you get enough credit for disguising your right hand. Do you think you are underrated as a thinker in the ring?

To some extent. If you look at the Cornelius White fight, the right hand that lead to the stoppage was really well timed and thought out. He was jabbing and I figured out that I would have to eat his jab to give him confidence before I could sneak in a well-timed right hand.

How would you describe the boxing style of Lopez?

I’ve watched some tape on Lopez, but it’s been difficult because he’s had a lot of fights in Mexico. He fights very well coming forward but not very well going backward. He’s 6’2″ guy but he fights like a short guy. He likes to get inside in order to trade, which is perfect because he’s gonna come forward and I’m gonna come forward and I’m gonna hit him.

What is going to be your key strategy for this fight?

As long as I can keep him moving backward, I think this is going to be an easy fight.

Does the fact that Lopez has been incredibly inactive in the last few years factor into your strategy?

Of course. He’s been inactive and he’s 35 years old. Not everybody is a freak of nature and Lopez is not a big puncher so he’s had to grind out his fights. That takes a toll. I hope for a good fight, but I hope he gets old overnight (laughs).

Although Lopez has been inactive, he’s only really lost one fight since 2005 and that was a decision to Austin Trout. What do you think of Lopez as a fighter and his record?

Lopez is a tough fighter who likes to get in close, but records can be misleading. If you really look at that streak, a lot of those wins either came in Mexico or against fighters who padded their record. We’re on Friday Night Fights so there won’t be any secrets.

Considering that Lopez went the distance with Trout, where would you rank yourself if you were to win convincingly or stop Lopez?

I think it would put me in the top ten at middleweight.

Who would you want next?

I try to focus on one fight at a time, but my promoter told me that there are big things up next if I can win and that’s all I know. For me, I want anyone ranked in the top ten.

Like you’ve done in all of your televised fights before this matchup, are you willing to continue travelling?

I’ll get on the first flight out to fight anyone. I’d happily go to Mexico City to fight Chavez or travel to fight any of the other top fighters.

In August, boxing will return to White Sox Park for the first time 50 years. Will you be on that card?

I’ll be on that card. It’s looking good.

You’re one of the biggest fans of the sport. What is the best matchup at 160lb that doesn’t involve you?

Golovkin and Sergio Martinez. I’ve sparred with Golovkin, and he’s the best fighter I’ve ever been in the ring with. That’d be a very competitive fight.

This is going to be something like your eighth televised fight in your last ten appearances. How does it feel to be a TV fighter and someone the fans want to see again and again even after a loss?

It’s flattering and I am very grateful. Actually, since the Stevenson fight, I’ve been getting an average of five comments per week from people in Montreal begging me to come back there. Again, it’s flattering and I’m happy to give fans what they want.

You’re only twenty-eight years old and headlining another televised bout, but have you given any thoughts to a career after boxing?

I play a lot of poker and I obviously know boxing, so I’d like to get into commentary and analysis at some point. I think I’d be ready to fill in on a broadcast now if given the opportunity.

My main focus is becoming a champion, though. I know I’m never gonna be in the hall of fame or get signed by HBO or Showtime, but I would be so happy if I could get my hands on one of those belts and then I could retire.

Finally, as someone who was close to Emmanuel Steward, can you touch upon your feelings on his loss?

It was terrible. It came out of nowhere. Me and him became really good friends. You know, I was fighting his fighter and he was calling me while in the hospital wishing me luck. That’s just the kind of guy he was. He really looked out for me and took care of me. I was gonna move into his house and he was gonna take care of me. Luckily, Sugar Hill, his nephew, is taking over some of the training aspects. I love Manny and I love his family. I miss Emmanuel Steward. He was one cool dude.

Thanks, Donovan. See you on Friday.

George vs. Lopez headlines this week’s ESPN2 FNF and is presented by Dominic Pesoli of 8 Count Productions, Frank Mugnolo of Round 3 Productions, and Leon Margules of Warriors Boxing.

The following significant bouts are also featured on the card: 2008 Mexican Olympian Adrian Granados (11-2-1, 7 KOs) faces former welterweight champion Kermit Cintron (33-5-1, 28 KOs) in a welterweight ten rounder, and rising Cuban bantamweight prospect Hairon Socarras (6-0-1, 5 KOs) takes on Chicago’s Sergio Montes de Oca (7-1-1, 2 KOs);

The UIC Pavilion is located at 525 S. Racine, Chicago, IL. Doors open at 7p and the first bell is at 8p. Tickets are available at the UIC Pavilion box office or at Ticketmaster.com (call 1-800-745- 3000 or visit online).

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