By Christian Chataignier
Former WBA super lightweight world champion Souleymane M’Baye (38-3-1, 21 KOs) is poised and ready for his showdown with unbeaten Canadian Antonin Decarié (23-0, 7 KOs) on Friday night at the Palais des Sport Marcel Cerdan in Levallois-Perret, France for the WBA interim welterweight title. The popular “Souly,” as his fans call him affectionately, is at the gate of his dream: to fight for a world title at home. Here’s what M’Baye had to say just before breaking camp in Florida to head back to his native Levallois.
What’s your frame of mind before your big return?
Really good and really motivated, preparation is going so well in Florida. Competing for a world championship at home in Levallois was a big dream and now it’ll come true. I’ll be at the top both physically and mentally.
How was your preparation?
I am very well trained. I started my preparation in France, initially in Levallois with my trainers, Philippe Marcelat for the physical preparation and Jose N’ Gufulu for all that is technical and tactical. Then I went for three weeks in the mountains (Serre Chevalier) to train at altitude and I finally finished my training in Vero Beach, Florida, where I trained with the renowned coach Buddy McGirt. I’m currently in the phase of sparring and I’ve crossed gloves with quality fighters like IBF champion Cory Spinks, great welters, and other very good boxers. I’m very satisfied and I’m prepared.
Have you prepared for something in particular for this fight?
This is a fight I’ve always wanted, the world championship in Levallois, but I haven’t changed my training habits. I had previously worked with James McGirt in 2002-2003 and it went well and above all it was a success for me. Here, (in Vero Beach) there is only boxing. It’s a small gym that has been frequented by many champions, such as Antonio Tarver and the late Arturo Gatti. I’ve had the chance to face hard sparring, which breaks any bad habits. I need to put myself in danger (to properly prepare).
You’ve always boxed in the super lightweight category. Now you’ll fight at welterweight. Does the weight gain constitute a handicap for you?
No, quite the contrary. I find a new feel. I feel even stronger. I don’t feel weak and I mostly kept my speed. With age, I felt increasingly tired of having to make the super lightweight limit before fighting. Because of this I also had muscle problems. This contributed to my injured left biceps before my European championship against Colin Lynes. Now I can eat regularly, and in fact I haven’t gained weight.
What does this chance to fight for a world championship at home in Levallois mean to you?
I was already world champion. I worked hard to get there but we must know what we want in life. After winning the European (140lb) title at home in Levallois, I found myself at a crossroads. I didn’t know what to do. I was motivated for a world championship and my team did everything to make this fight happen. To box at home in Levallois is a great honor. It’s an opportunity to assert myself in front of my supporters, all the more so because the Palais des Sport Marcel Cerdan has never failed me. Besides I have to win because a victory would inevitably favor the reputation of Levallois. This will allow the city to host other events.
What does this fight mean for you personally?
Many people think that what motivates me is to be champion in a second weight category, as were Fabrice Tiozzo and Bruno Girard. But that’s not it at all. What it motivates me is to restart my career. By winning this fight I can face the Ukrainian WBA champion Vyacheslav Senchenko and compete with the best boxers, of which the welterweight division is not lacking.
What do you know of Decarie?
He is complete. He is a fighter who can adapt to all styles. He can box from the outside and he can put on pressure. He’s also very good in counterattack.
What will you do if you win?
First I would thank the fans of the city of Levallois, Direct8, my family and all those who helped make this event happen. Then I would rest. Finally, I would do the mandatory against Vyacheslav Senchenko
In case of defeat?
Everything would depend on the way I would have fought. If I lose against a Decarie who’s better than me, this is only the law of the jungle. However if I lose because of a failure on my part, it would sound the hour of my withdrawal from competition.
What will be your keys to the fight?
As I’ve already said, Decarie is a complete boxer. He boxes well. But his style suits me perfectly. I’m confident.
What message would you like to give to your fans?
To be here the on the 28th. It’s an event not to miss!