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Talkin’ Boxing with Oliver McCall

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By Scoop Malinowski

It was a pleasant surprise to see Oliver McCall at the recent Trinidad-Mayorga fight weekend festivities in New York City.

Here the still active former WBC Heavyweight champ, now 39, discusses why he knew he’d KO Lewis in their first fight almost exactly ten years ago on September 24, 1994; Who hit him the hardest; His opinion of who will take over the heavyweight division next, and MORE:

Boxinginsider.com: I always remember your first Lewis fight when you were crying coming to the ring. Why were you crying?

Oliver McCall: “I usually cry when I go to the ring anyway. So I can pump myself up emotionally. So I can really inflict what I need to inflict on my opponent. That’s my only way of really pumping myself up other than him actually hitting me.”

Boxinginsider.com: How did you know you were going to win that fight? When you came out of that dressing room with that fire in your eyes, I thought to myself Wow this guy actually looks like he can win this thing…

Oliver McCall: “Well I felt I was gonna win that fight off the sparring, off the condition I was in. And I was sparring with Tony TNT Tucker who went the distance with Lennox Lewis. And the way I was boxing him, I just knew that Lennox couldn’t last. And so Tony Tucker he came and worked with me. And the boxing that we had, I had the confidence that it was just a matter of time – soon as I hit Lennox – he was gonna go.”

Boxinginsider.com: Are you surprised at how Lennox Lewis went on to great success after that? It seemed like your KO of him kind of helped him become a better fighter…

Oliver McCall: “Somewhat. But Lennox Lewis did become a great fighter. Lennox Lewis still did not – I was not impressed with Lennox for one reason – because with his height, with his ability, he still didn’t put the best that he could have been. He fought a little too cautious. He could have been – not just a great fighter – but he could have been one amongst the greatest of fighters. I really think that he could have been – if he would have put his all into it.”

Boxinginsider.com: He never showed his very best? His full potential?

Oliver McCall: “Well he showed his best of what he’s capable of. But his heart – as far as taking a risk – was nothing like the other great champions like Joe Louis, Ali and those guys. Even Larry Holmes. I will really rate Lennox Lewis a couple of notches less than Larry Holmes. Back when Larry Holmes was reigning as heavyweight champion – for 7 1/2 years – because the guts of Larry Holmes – plus the opposition was about the same – but the guts was just a little bit more than Lennox Lewis. He was good frontrunner. But when he was in trouble, he held a lot and things like that.”

Boxinginsider.com: You are renowned for being able to take a big punch. Who was the hardest puncher you faced?

Oliver McCall: “Bert Cooper. Left hook. That was the hardest punch that I ever felt and that I had to overcome. It felt like a truck had hit me. I never got hit by a truck but it felt like if a truck would have hit me.”

Boxinginsider.com: Who else was up there? Lennox?

Oliver McCall: “No, Lennox wasn’t one of the hardest punchers that I – Buster Douglas hit me harder than Lennox did. Right hand.”

Boxinginsider.com: How about Tyson? He has to be up there?

Oliver McCall: “Tyson’s right there too. Lennox would probably be about fifth.”

Boxinginsider.com: You sparred hundreds of rounds with Tyson, right?

Oliver McCall: “I guess I sparred more than 300 rounds with Tyson and he never knocked me down once. But I put him down once. We had a hell of a battle every time. That’s why he paid me $2,000 a week.”

Boxinginsider.com: You’ve never been knocked down, true?

Oliver McCall: “I’ve never been down sparring or in a fight, amateur or pro. In fact, I’ve never been shook up. I can take a helluva shot.”

Boxinginsider.com: Now who do you see as probably taking over as the next dominant heavyweight champ?

Oliver McCall: “[Smiling] OLIVER McCALL! (at that point Oliver walked away with a smile, wanting to end the interview on that note.)”


(Note: This early 2000s interview is from the Scoop Malinowski archives.)

About Scoop Malinowski

Author of six books including "Muhammad Ali: Portrait of a Champion" and "Heavyweight Armageddon: The Lewis versus Tyson Championship Battle" available at amazon