CHILDHOOD HERO: Martin Luther King. He was a great man, a Christian man. Good for the people. He tried to take the people to the Promised Land.
NICKNAMES: The Real Deal, Warrior, Commander Vander, Chubby (as a kid).
HOBBIES/INTERESTS: Bowling, helping people, listening to music, all sports.
EARLY BOXING MEMORY: Well, I started at the Boys Club, eight-years old. My first fight, I became the Boys Club champion. I fought a guy by the name of Premium Raytcher. I hit him one punch (a right cross), he started crying and they stopped the fight [smiles].
PRE-FIGHT FEELING: I feel a strangeness. Kind of nervous. Always visualize a lot before you get there that night. (Once in the ring) I look at my opponent…for weakness. Right in his eyes to see if he’s confident or not. And to let him know he’s in trouble [smiles].
FAVORITE MOVIES: The Ten Commandments, Rocky III.
MUSICAL TASTES: Gospel, love ballads, and a little rap.
FIRST JOB(S): Vendor at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. I was also a lifeguard. And I pumped gas at the airport.
FIRST CAR: 1973 Pontiac LeMans.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT: Perfect attendance in high school.
GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: Making the 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team. Being a representative of the United States. I was doing it for more than myself. I got to represent my country. To do it for all the people in the U.S.
CHILDHOOD DREAM(S): To be a fireman, football player or boxer.
PEOPLE MOST ADMIRED: People the best at what they do. Being the best, you get a chance to energize people, touch people’s lives. So that if they find something that they can do real well, and they put the time in to develop it, it will bring them to success. Boxing is what I do best. I find myself surrounded by people who are good in other things too. They’ll allow you not to be envious of somebody. Hey, I got something I do well, too. You spend all your time writing. I spend all my time training. So I can respect you and know why you’re good. And not be envious of you because you write better than me and you put words together better. Everybody should have something to hang their hat on. And that allows you to have that joy and love for everybody. What you do best can bring you joy at any time.
FAVORITE MEAL: Black-eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, yams and banana pudding.
FAVORITE BREAKFAST CEREAL: Tony the Tiger [smiles].
FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR(S): Neopolitan. I like chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.
FAVORITE BOXERS TO WATCH: Trinidad, Floyd Mayweather.
TOUGHEST OPPONENT: My first fight with Bowe was the toughest.
FAVORITE FIGHT: Leonard-Hearns I.
STRATEGY TO DEFEAT MIKE TYSON: Tyson might frighten you. But he doesn’t scare me. This is my game, my trade. I’ve been everywhere he has, except prison. You can’t just outbox him. You have got to be prepared to fight. The point is, to beat a guy like that, you’ve got to fight him. To get his respect. And then box him. If he puts you in a corner, you have to fight. If you have space, then you box. You have to do both. And if a guy can’t fight, he’s not going to win. We all know what fear is. And Tyson knows I’ve never been afraid of him. He knows I’ve been through a lot of adversity, same as him. But all big punchers are affected when they get hit. They’re used to doing the hitting. And I don’t think Tyson’s the sort of guy to get up when he goes down.
Interview by Scoop Malinowski.
Oil Painting by John Murawski.