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Biofile Mike McCallum Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status:  World champion boxer in three different weight classes. Boxed pro from 1981-1997. Record was 49-5-1 (36 KOs).

DOB: December 7, 1956  In: Kingston, Jamaica

Childhood Heroes:  Muhammad Ali, Ray Robinson, Pele, Bunny Grant – Jamaican boxer.

Early Boxing Memory:  A guy I was fighting for ten years in Jamaica, ten year veteran, Vincent Sutherland. I fought him in the Jamaican National Championships – like the Golden Gloves. I was training for three months. Just started out. I was fifteen, 136 pounds. I beat him. Decision. Nobody could believe it. People were shocked. He couldn’t believe it. And the Foreman-Frazier fight. I was there. That was a big day for me. The biggest thing in my life. I got a lot of inspiration from that fight. I remember thinking: I want to fight for a championship like that. I was thinking that could be me (age 15).

Nicknames:  Body Snatcher – Billy Hearns, Tommy’s kid brother, started it. I was in the gym, punching to the body and he started yelling, ‘Body Snatcher! Body Snatcher! Mellow Mike. Sweet Mike. Mighty Mike – back in Jamaica.

Hobbies/Interests:  Play tennis, swimming, go fishing, watch track and field.

Favorite Movies:  Scarface. Godfather – Al Pacino is my favorite actor. Gangster movies. Once Upon A Time In America. James Cagney movies. Samson & Delilah. Roman movies.

First Job:  Taking inventory at a garment factory (age 15).

First Car:  1980 sky blue Mazda RX-7.

Favorite TV Shows:  Martin. Jeffersons. Fat Albert – funny. Popeye. Roadrunner. Tom & Jerry. I love cartoons. I could spend all Sunday morning watching cartoons, one after the other. Abbott & Costello.

Musical Tastes:  Reggae, Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, all reggae stars, jazz.

Pre-Fight Feeling:  All the hard work is behind me. It’s time to be paid. Feel happy. Moment of truth is here.  Six or seven weeks of training. Time to get it over with. (Do you look at the opponent during ring intros?) Of course, I look at him. Like looking at him. Want to see if there’s any indication that he’s scared. That’s when I get my edge. Look to find out what’s up with him. Look at some and know I’m in for a helluva fight.

Pre-Fight Meal:  Pasta, linguini, with a little cheese, water, iced tea.

Favorite Meal:  Fish, Ackee, white rice dumplings, iced tea or lemonade.

Favorite Breakfast Cereal:  Cheerios with strawberries.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:  Vanilla.

Greatest Sports Moment:  Winning the championship (WBA Junior Middleweight vs. Sean Mannion). At Madison Square Garden in 1984. First world champion from Jamaica. When they announced my name I was on top of the world. Can’t describe it. My mind went back to Foreman vs. Frazier. A dream come true for me. My dream finally came true. For ten years I was saying I was going to win the championship. And here it is. Finally. That was a great moment. To live it. To visualize it too. That moment can run in my mind forever.

Most Painful Moment: Loss to Kalambay (1988 for WBA Middleweight title, first pro loss).

Favorite Athletes To Watch:  Carl Lewis. Sandy Richard – from Jamaica. Bjorn Borg. Patrick Ewing. Reggie Jackson.

Favorite Boxer To Watch: Ray Robinson.

Interesting Fact:  I’m low-key. Cool. Just be me. I’m a practical man. Do everything practical. Not elaborate. Just me. What you see is what you get. I don’t go around saying: McCallum is the world champion. I’m cool. Nice and easy.

People Qualities Most Admired:  Anyone who strives to the top. Progressive people. Always admire guys self made, self-sufficient. I admire those things. People who strive by hard work, determination, dedication, discipline. I admire that.

Future Ambitions:  Boxing gives me a better life. Helps me deal with people better. Discipline, determination – boxing teaches me that. Today I’m a better man from boxing. I’m on a mission. I want to explore all the angles. Maybe four world championships. If that’s possible. One step at a time. See how far I can take it. After boxing, maybe pursue a trainer’s career. Maybe business later on. I’d really like to be a promoter. We need some boxers to become promoters.

Career Accomplishments:  Held world championships in three weight classes, including the WBA super welterweight title from 1984 to 1988, the WBA middleweight title from 1989 to 1991, and the WBC light heavyweight title from 1994 to 1995; Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003; 1976 Jamaican Olympic team member in Montreal.

Note: This interview was done in 1993. You can read more Biofiles like this by Scoop at www.mrbiofile.com

Bonus quote by McCallum on being ducked by Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran from an interview he did with boxing scribe Brad Berkwitt: … So later, at the Boxing Hall of Fame Marvin Hagler leaned over and said he respected me when I was sitting close to him at the ceremony. But respect means to me you give me a chance to feed my family. This is boxing, we are boxers. This how we make a living. I said to him “I heard you say in an interview that you’d cut off your pinky finger for a million.” Why didn’t you fight me so we could make some money to feed my family. This is a hurt business that we’re in. This how we feed our family. You didn’t fight me, Thomas Hearns didn’t fight me. Roberto Duran didn’t fight me. But all of you fought each other. And you want to tell me that you respect me? No, you don’t respect me man. Don’t come here and sit beside me and tell me you respect me. Don’t give me that. I don’t want to hear it.” I said, “Champ, don’t tell me that!” He didn’t say anything. He shut up. He never said anything more to me after that. After when I took the podium, I said “one thing I can tell you guys, Donald Curry I have a lot of respect for because, the Haglers, Durans, Hearns and Leonards, they never fought me. But Donald Curry gave me a chance to feed my family. Donald respected me and he gave me an opportunity to make some money. That’s what I call respect!

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