Buddy McGirt EXCLUSIVE: Janibek Alimkhanuly the next world champ!
An interview never before done by a Greek boxing site.
Buddy McGirt is certainly not one to need introductions, especially by those that follow the sport closely. A two-time world champion and a trainer of many world champions, among them Antonio Tarver, the formidable Arturo Gatti, and nowadays Sergey Kovalev. Buddy was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame last year, the highest honors one can receive. Inthering.gr spoke with him about his years as an athlete, the present as a trainer, and the next world champion he has in store.
Buddy, although we certainly know who you are, tell us a few words about how you started boxing.
I had a cousin who boxed and everytime we went to my uncle's house, my uncle bragged about it. So I had to have something to brad about as well, you know? And I wanted to try other sports but I was too small. I played football for two years but I saw that was not for me because I had a hard time finding a helmet to fit my head as a kid (laughs). I turned pro my last year in high school, when I was 18 years old.
So we suppose it was written for you to be a boxer.
Yeah. The second year I played football, we were in a game and it was freezing, it was raining, and I thought 'I could be inside a warm gym right now, instead of waiting to tackle someone'. So at halftime I went to the coach, gave him the helmet and told him I would give him the rest of the equipment on Monday, and went to the boxing gym.
How old were you when this happened?
I was 13 but I had already started boxing at 12, on my 12th birthday.
And when you went to the gym was it love at first or something you had to get accustomed to?
No, I loved it. I started on January 17th, 1976, on my birthday and had my first fight on February 21st, 1976, not even a month later. And after the fight I walked home with my handwraps still on. I loved it.
29 years ago, on November 29th, 1991, you became the WBC champion and lineal champion at 147 lbs by defeating Simon Brown. What do you remember from that fight?
Honestly? I just remember Lou Rawls singing the national anthem, and my mother loves Lou Rawls, so I saw that as a sign that I was going to beat Simon Brown (laughs).
So you knew it was going to be a good fight.
That morning when I woke up, to be honest, the night before I had seen a dream in my sleep that I was getting knocked out. During the fight though I was so sure that I didn't care; whoever was in front of me would not beat me.
But I don't remember anything from the fight. I was in the 'zone' during the introductions that I don't remember anything. When I knocked him down, I don't remember it, I have a blank. I had to watch the fight after.
Do you remember anything from your fights with Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker?
I remember that the first fight with Pernell was a chess match. In order to beat him you had to turn it into a chess match.
Who do you think would have won in a fantasy fight between Meldrick και Pernell?
Pernell. Better fighter, no doubt about it.
What was it that made him better?
Everything. The question is whose corner would Georgie Benton be in!
What do you remember from your first loss, from Frankie Warren?
I remember that it took me a week to come down. The guy was on me like a cheap suit; hitting constantly, putting pressure, constantly moving. It was a 15 round fight and it took me a few days to calm down.
You knocked him out in the rematch though.
Yeah, but it was a tough fight.
I remember though that in the rematch, I hurt him with a body shot in the 4th or 5th [round] and that's when I thought 'I got you now'. I hadn't trained for the body, it just happened, but that's when I knew that he couldn't take body shots.
With a 73-6 (48 ΚΟ) career, we could devote an entirely separate interview for your great years as a champion! Tell us, though, when did you know it was time to hang them up?
How can I explain it to you...your body tells you. The athlete is the first to know but the last to admit it. I had lost the desire, even my wife had seen it, and had told me to stop long before I retired. She had told me to retire before the second fight with [Pernell] Whitaker because I was not the same, I didn't have the same desire, she said, and she didn't want me to get hurt if I continued.
And she was right. I had lost my desire. The day I fought Pat Coleman, after my win, all my desire was gone after that fight.
Would you say it was physical or mental, the lack of desire?
Both. For some it's physical. They fall into a simple shot and - it's a split second, but they are a split second too slow instead of a split second too fast. And you miss your shots by an inch. For me it was both; my mind was not there anymore, which could have affected me physically, I don't know.
Those inches are the difference between avoiding a shot and allowing the opponent to land.
Exactly, and that's the 'sweet science' of boxing. On that level it's about the details. Everyone can fight on that level. The question is who can do it in greater detail.
Tell us a few things about Arturo Gatti.
I got with Arturo after the [Oscar] De La Hoya fight. He had problems in his life then. He was a hard worker and a good guy. He didn't trust people easily but he had a good heart.
How do you feel today that you are part of the boxing history he created in his trilogy with Mickey Ward;
It's something that no one can take away from me. Back then, of course, I didn't know that it was gonna end up being something so big. Although, after the second fight I knew they were good fights.
Last year you were inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and you are now among the greats of the sport. How do you feel about it?
It's something you dream about and when it happens, it's the same as being a champion, no one can take it away from you.
Was that your goal or it just happened?
I had never thought about it until I visited in 1993. That's when I realized what a big deal it was.
Have you spoken to Maxim Dadashev's family after his tragic death;
I haven't spoken with them.
In regards to Kovalev, you changed his style from the 'Krusher' of the past to working smartly behind his jab. Was that something you saw right away or did you have to experiment with to find it?
What happened was is that I saw some videos from when he was an amateur and that's the way he fought, so I thought 'why don't you do this more'?
Regarding the recent fight with Canelo, although it ended in a knockout, is there something you would have done differently regarding the game plan?
No. He was doing well and exposed Canelo. He caught him with a good shot, and these things happen, but in regards to the game plan, I wouldn't change something.
Have you spoken with Sergey since, is he thinking of retiring?
Yeah, I spoke with him last week, he's doing fine. We had a discussion but nothing specific. He said he wants to return the first quarter of 2020. But he's not thinking of retiring in any way.
What did you think of Ruiz vs Joshua 2;
To be honest, I didn't see it because my daughter had a soccer game and I was there.
What do you think of the heavyweight division right now? Does someone stand out for you?
Wilder, because you never know what he's gonna do. That right. You never know what he's gonna do with that right. He's also improved as a boxer, he's more patient.
Your fighter Adam Lopez also fought recently against Oscar Valdez at super featherweight. What did you think of his performance?
Look, he took the fight a day before, he moved up a division, he fought the featherweight champ and was beating him up until the referee stopped the fight. I told him 'you have everything to gain, nothing to lose'. Considering he was literally a last minute opponent, I'd say he did terrific. He lost the fight but won the war.
Although Valdez is showing something different with the Reynosos it's as if he's lost that 'wild' fighting style he had before.
Look, I'm not saying he is better or worse because it's like that old saying 'it's not what you do, it's how you do it'. So it's not what they're showing him, it's how they're showing it to him. He just needs that little bit extra to understand what he can and cannot do. I think he's gotta find it though because he is in a very dangerous division right now.
Which fighters are you working with right now, any up and coming names?
I have a Kazakh fighter, Janibek Alimkhanuly, 25-26 years old, who will be the next world champion, no doubt about it.
What would you like to say in closing?
Thank you to all the fans for their love and support, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.