Two time heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon of Philadelphia PA talks about his illustrious boxing career which spanned from 1979 – 2003. Now 58, ‘Terrible’ Tim won his first WBC world title in 1984 vs Greg Page and achieved a final pro record of 55-13-1 (38 KOs). By Scoop Malinowski
Ringobserver: What do you remember from your first pro fight?
Tim Witherspoon: That I was real nervous. REAL nervous. And it was a long wait, a swing-bout. I had to wait and wait. That was rough. It was the last bout. I was 21. (Versus) Joey Adams (in Upper Darby, PA in 1979). I knocked him out in the first round – right hand. He went down a couple of times. One time he went down on his face. Ringobserver: What memory stands out from your first title fight against Larry Holmes in 1983?
Tim Witherspoon: He kept downing me, talking negative about me and my family. That made it worse for him, in my mind. Talkin’ like he was gonna knock me out, put me on welfare, negative things. He shouldn’t have did that. His mistake was he got me upset – (that) was how I heard someone say it. If I didn’t think I was gonna win, I knew I was gonna beat him up. But I knew the judges were gonna give it to him. The fans booing the split decision was cool (16,000 attended this Las Vegas title fight). It did (touch me). I won a lot of fans. They let everyone know that I really won the fight. Ringobserver: What was your first big break-throught fight, where you really first impacted the boxing world?
Tim Witherspoon: The Marvin Stinson fight, my 8th pro fight in 1981 (W10). It was a real confidence builder. I beat a guy that was one of Larry Holmes’ sparring partners. He was getting ready to fight a big CBS fight – against Tex Cobb for $50,000. I stopped that opportunity. He was the first of a line that I was gonna go after. Ringobserver: What were some memorable attempts to intimidate you in your career?
Tim Witherspoon: Only one who did that was Larry Holmes. All the other ones were intimidated by me I think. Holmes belittled me. Like he was gonna kick my butt. Didn’t work though. Ringobserver: How did you first get into boxing? You started very late. Tim Witherspoon: The people at a job – upper class nurses and doctors at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia – treating me like I was nothing. My mom and two brothers worked there too. They treated blacks really unfair. I said I’m not gonna live the rest of my life like this. That started me training (at age 19). Ringobserver: What was your greatest boxing moment?
Tim Witherspoon: There’s two of them. Fighting Holmes (with a 15-0 record in 1983). That was exciting. One of my first fights. Sometimes I was in there – I didn’t realize it was something so big. I didn’t take advantage with my mind. Happened so fast. I turned pro and four years later I was fighting for the world title. And Frank Bruno (KO 11 in ’86). The first time I was in another country. 40,000 people in Wembley Stadium. My goal was to defend the title and bring it home. Ringobserver: Was he intimidated?
Tim Witherspoon: He wasn’t scared. So at the weigh-in I told him he didn’t know what it was to get his ass whupped. I looked him in the eyes: I’m from the city. USA. You don’t know nothing. Scared him street style. It was the first time he showed me a little fear. It was a technical fight. Both of our knowledges came together. In that fight I was like, No way am I gonna lose. Ringobserver: What was your most painful moment?
Tim Witherspoon: Bonecrusher Smith (KO 1 loss in ’86). That was when I was going through the trouble with Don King. Lost the title. It was real miserable. Ringobserver: Did you have any special training secrets you picked up in your travels?
Tim Witherspoon: Chopping wood. Most fighters will do it for a day or two, then stop. ‘Cause it’s so hard. Burns. Me and Alfonzo Ratliff used to chop wood. Did it for a half hour or an hour, every other day. Guess which network got to 10 million registered users first. Started out like 20 of us chopping wood. Then just us. Takes a certain guy to stay out there chopping wood for nothing. But it helps punching power, gets you sharp, more sharp for your punches.