By Ray Wheatley — World of Boxing
You are about to fight in South Africa – the land of your birth against former world title challenger Phillip Ndou. What are your thoughts in boxing in South Africa where your boxing career began?
I am very excited about it. It is something that I have always wanted to do. In fact to be going back home and fighting for a world title (IBO welterweight title) makes it more exciting. All thanks to the promoter, Rodney Berman, of Golden Gloves Promotions. Rodney is a hard working and astute businessman who always thrives to give South African fighters opportunities to fight for world titles and help them make money. I have nothing but respect for the man. It’s been 14 years since I last fought in South Africa.
I know however that I got a lot of fans back there who had continued to support me since I left South Africa. One of them is the local Mayor from my town of birth (Musina) whom I spoke to a couple of days ago and she told me she will be sitting ringside and cheering me up on July 11th. She has even arranged two bus loads of fans who will be traveling for about 5 hours to come cheer me up. What does that tell you? That my people still love me and can’t wait to see me live in action. And I appreciate that. The best way to put it is, the King is going back home to get his throne. From the root to the fruit. The King is going back home to intertwine, intermingle, interact and continue to form an entity with his people.
Phillip Ndou is a distant cousin of yours and you boxed with him in the gym as an amateur when you were captain of the South African amateur boxing team. What are your thoughts on boxing your cousin? What year was that, and what memories have you gotten of those sparring sessions with him?
I need to clarify this first. There is no blood relation between Phillip and I. We just happened to come from the same tribe (Venda tribe) and share the same surname. It is however a norm in our culture and tribe to refer to each other as cousins since we share the same last name. ‘Ndou’ actually means elephant and this means we are actually the kings of the jungle. Now when elephants clash anything can happen. So you can expect fireworks on July 11th. Somebody is gonna get hurt. Not that I wouldn’t fight Phillip if there was any blood relation between us. For the right money I would still whup him. In fact, for the right prize and with this bad recession today I would fight my own grandmother. I would knock her dentures out. Just kidding. I wouldn’t mess with my granny. She is a good old lady and has a good left hook. In Phillip’s case I would make an exception though. He has a loud mouth. He reckons he is gonna knock me out. Who does he think he is fighting? Pinnochio? Many have tried before and failed. The boy has even got the nerve to question my credentials as a South African. Somebody needs to tell this fool that I might be based in Australia but my roots are still in South Africa. And I don’t regret making that move to Australia. Australia has made me who I am today and am very grateful to be part of this beautiful nation. My kids were born here and are true Aussies. On the other hand I am an Afro-Aussie. That’s why on fight night I am gonna be carrying both countries’ flags.
I think what it is is that Phillip envies me so much he wishes he could be in my shoes. He wishes he could achieve everything I have achieved so far. That’s the only reason he is mouthing off like that. Well, I have two words to describe him, dementia and delusional.
I never sparred with Phillip in the past. We were in the same team as amateurs as we both represented the Northern Province. He was just a skinny little junior then. In fact I remember I used to refer to him as a “Walking Skeleton”. I was the Team Captain for both Seniors and Juniors. Although I never sparred him I was always there to advise him and everybody else. So somebody needs to remind this fool that half of what he knows about boxing I taught him. I am his master and I shall remind him on July 11th.
Phillip challenged the great Floyd Mayweather in a WBC 130 pound title bout. You were a sparring partner to Mayweather. Please give your opinion of Phillip’s performance against Mayweather?
Phillip gave it his best on the night but he was coming up against one of the baddest and most talented fighters that ever set foot on planet earth. And he paid a price for that. He got one of the worst beatings I have ever witnessed in boxing. No wonder the kid is double-D now (dementia and delusional).
You have been based in Australia for many years and won the world IBF light welterweight title by stopping Noufell Ben Rabah in 2007. Your fight with Phillip will be at welterweight poundage. Will this weight suit you better than it will Phillip, who had most of his fights at 130 pounds?
I am a natural 140 pounder but I am comfortable fighting at 147. In fact right now I am about 142 pounds. It has always been my dream to become a two times world champion in two weight classes. And this is an opportunity for me to make that dream come true. Although Phillip has had most of his fights at 130 pounds he is naturally a big boy. He is almost about 6 feet tall and thus he shouldn’t have any problems at 147 pounds. In fact he has a bigger frame than mine but that will make no difference on the night because it is my speed and experience that will beat him.
Former IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron defeated you via points decision in 2008. He is regarded as one of the hardest punchers at 147 pounds. Were you hurt in that bout at any stage?
Apart from a perforated eardrum in the second round he never hurt me at any stage at all. And this can happen to any fighter. My ear was bleeding form the inside. The thing with perforation is that it affects your balance but despite that I was still able to go the full twelve rounds and lose a close points decision. The biggest thing in that fight is that almost everybody expected him to knock me out but he couldn’t. He couldn’t even seriously hurt me despite the size he had on me.
You have been training under the guidance of Marco Furia who worked as a trainer in the USA under New Jersey trainer Al Certo. Please tell me about training with Marco.
Marco is not my trainer. He is a very good friend of mine whom I love dearly. He is a very honest guy and is always there to land me a hand when needed. He does pad work with me and helps me with other things as well. He is very good at what he does. If he chose to be a full time trainer he would definitely make one of the best trainers ever. One thing I love about the guy is that despite all the knowledge he has about boxing he is not big headed like most of the egomaniacs and cutthroats in this industry. I have known Marco since 2003 and every other fight I have had since then he has always been there to lend me a hand. In fact he trained and worked my corner when I fought Sharmba Mitchell and Miguel cotto.
I have actually joined forces with my old trainer, Harold Volbrecht. Harold was my trainer before I moved to Australia. I had about 11 fights under his guidance. It is an honor and pleasure to be working with him again. He is probably one of the best, if not the best trainer in the world. He has produced a number of world champions in his stable. Brian Mitchell, Corrie Sanders, Phillip Holiday to name a few. He was a great fighter in his day. He in fact holds a record for defending his South African title for something like 19 times. As soon as I get to South Africa, Harold will take over as chief trainer. He knows right now that Marco is helping me out with training while I am in Australia. I speak to Harold every week on the phone and he is well aware of how my training is going. I was in fact offered to go to South Africa a month into the fight so I can have more time with Harold, but due to my other commitments I couldn’t do it this time. But in the future I will definitely be doing just that.
Boxing in South Africa at the high altitude will not give you a problem as you have had the luxury of training at the Nepean Valley Fitness gym in St Marys, NSW, Australia which has a high altitude chamber. Please tell me about this chamber and its benefits?
This thing does miracles. I would recommend it to any athlete. I didn’t even know about it until Marco mentioned it to me. As you know Johannesburg has a very high altitude. Ask Lennox Lewis, he will tell you. It cost him his title. We have been setting the altitude higher than that in Johannesburg and training up to about 2 and half hours about four or five times a week. In fact within the first two minutes in this room you can feel the difference. It has just taken my fitness to a different level. Thanks to the team at the Nepean Valley Fitness gym in St. Marys, especially the manager, Matt Grant, who has been very accommodating. Also I would like to thank my other sponsors whom without their support all this wouldn’t be happening. The Wests Leagues club, Lonsdale and Five Fingers.
Who is on your radar if you do defeat Phillip Ndou in July?
After I beat Phillip I will leave it all to Rodney Berman to decide which way we going. I believe Rodney can make any fight happen and in fact he has done it before many times. I would love to have more fights in South Africa. I can tell you though there is one fight I would love to have in Australia. Anthony Mundine. I believe I can beat him at middleweight and that’s why you will never hear him mention my name. He has called and responded to almost any other fighter in Australia but he won’t mention my name despite all the challenges I put on him before. The challenge is genuine and if Mundine is the man like he claims to be, then he should step up and fight me like any other real man would.
The IBF 147 title will be contested between Isaac Hlatswayo and Delvin Rodriguez. Would you be interested in challenging the winner?
Of course I would love to fight the winner. And I know that’s one fight Rodney can make, but right now I have Phillip to deal with.
At 37 years are you in the same mold as the great Bernard Hopkins who still is performing at his best at age 43 years?
Like I tell everybody, my age is my honor and strength. With age comes wisdom, experience and success. I can box till I’m 45yrs old if I want to. I live a good clean life and I take my training very seriously. I don’t mess with drugs or alcohol and on top of that I am blessed with good genes. So yes, I can do what Bernard is doing.