|Shaun George: “All my frustrations, I'm gonna take out on Jaffa Ballogou!”
Intreview by Bob Carroll, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 25, 2009) DoghouseBoxing.com
Last May, former WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd made his debut in the light heavyweight division. The opponent that was picked for this fight was Brooklyn native Shaun George, 17-2-2 (8). Most in the crowd and watching on ESPN 2 felt that this would be a small test for Chris Byrd, but a test he would win. Shaun George had other plans for this fight. George went in to this fight, full of confidence and it showed. George knocked down the former champion in round one, had him hurt in round two and finally finished Byrd in round nine, shocking most people. Most people, except the
people who know what Shaun George is capable of and believe in him.
This Wednesday night, Shaun steps back into the ring at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in New York City against power punching veteran Jaffa Ballogou 46-7 (40). Shaun recently sat down with Doghouse Boxing to talk about this fight, his past fights and his unique relationship with his legendary trainer.
Bob Carroll: Shaun, in your amateur career you went 51-7 winning, among other titles, the New York Golden Gloves in 1996 and 1997 and the US Nationals. Along the way you defeated 2004 Olympian Devin Vargas once and former IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham twice. How do you feel your amateur background has helped in your pro career?
Shaun George: It really helped. I'm more relaxed when I'm in the ring when I'm fighting. The amateurs gave me the experience of being inside the ring. You know, I adapted to different styles, being more relaxed and not panicking. You know I fought a lot as an amateur. What it all comes down to man, I'm just so relaxed in the ring, that's why I'm not panicked or overwhelmed if I'm in the ring with someone who has more experience then I do or has more fights than I do as a professional. I have a lot of experience in the ring. I've been doing this for almost 19 years as a fighter.
BC: In the early part of your career, you fought at cruiserweight. Then you did the opposite of what most fighters do and went down in weight to light heavyweight. Have you gained any power or speed from this change?
SG: Um, I don't know. I still think I am the same person regardless. I just think that in the cruiserweight division, they moved the limit up to 200lbs. You have guys coming down from 215-220 lbs and they would make the 200 lb weight limit, but come fight time, they would gain 10-15 pounds, but I was still weighing in at 190 lbs. It was just an unfair advantage they had on me. Going back down to light heavyweight is more comfortable for me, I feel that my punches are more effective at light heavyweight then at cruiserweight.
BC: You are trained by legendary trainer Tommy Brooks. He has trained fighters like Evander Holyfield, Charles Murray, Junior Jones and both Klitschko brothers. How has his experienced enhanced you career?
SG: Well, I've learned to trust him, you know I could have been better earlier in my career. I think that Tommy is one of the better trainers in the world because he knows how to get the best out of me, he knows how to get the conditioning I need. Tommy has a lot of experience, as you mentioned. I think pound for pound, Tommy is one of the top three trainers in the world right now and I'm happy that he is in my corner.
BC: Not only is Tommy Brooks your trainer, but he is also your father in-law, so if you come to the gym after a disagreement with your wife, you probably will not have a sympathetic ear. How has that aspect of your relationship worked for you inside and outside the ring?
SG: Believe it or not, we separate our personal life from our professional life. It is like night and day. The way that we act in the gym, he is the boss. When we see each other outside the gym, we are good friends. You know, we can seperate the sides. You know, I don't really talk to him about what is happening between my wife and I, his daughter. We just seperate the success and failures and we both understand that.
BC: You lost in 2006 to a very good Matt Godfrey, but it was your second loss that was the most frustrating. You went over to Russia to take on Alexander Gurov in his home town. After 12 rounds, and despite being knocked down in the 12th, most people thought you had won the fight, but the judges awarded Gurov a hometown decision. After the decision was announced for Gurov, his home town fans loudly booed. How frustrating was that fight and decision for you?
SG: You know it was frustrating to me, more then anything else, just because nobody had seen it in the states. I had no problem going over seas and fighting. In my opinion, when you are in the sport of boxing, you win some, you lose some. I thought I won the fight, the Russian fans thought I won the fight and it was obvious who won the fight, but the judges scoring the fight did not think so. It was more frustrating then anything else, but the thing is, why would any American fighter go overseas? You know why Americans don't want to go overseas, because will get jobbed about 99% of the time. You have that 1% that goes over and is successful, but it is hard to win overseas. It is also frustrating becuase no one has seen it and it happened to be a loss on my record. I know that it may be an excuse, but just to talk about it is just an excuse. No one saw the fight and that is why it is so frustrating to me.
BC: Last May you were brought in to fight former heavyweight champion Chris Byrd, in his light heavyweight debut. Most people thought this would be a win for Chris Byrd, given his experience. You stopped him in the 9th round, possibly ending his career inside the ring. Did you expect that type of outcome?
SG: Um, yeah. I respected Chris, a lot. If I respect you, it's very difficult to beat me as a fighter. Like I've been saying, I been doing this for almost 19 years. I've been boxing for a really long time and one thing I do know how to do is fight.So if you put me in the ring with somebody I don't respect, it's easy to look past them. But Chris Byrd, I've been watching him since 1992 when he won the semi-finals in the Olympics to Chris Johnson and lost to Ariel Hernandez in the gold medal round. I saw certain things, you know I've had been watching him, I was a fan of Chris and I respected him a lot. So just to get in the ring to fight him was an honor, but at the same time, I respected him and it's hard to beat me if I respect you. I knew going into the fight, in my opinion, I had to knock him out to win the fight, so that's what I did.
BC: Did this win lead you to even bigger offers, or does it seem people are afraid to step into the ring with you now?
SG: Man, it's a joke man. It made me realize how much of a joke boxing is starting to be. You know, you have guys in this division, guys like Chad Dawson, who beat Eric Harding and got a title shot in his next fight. You have Antonio Taver, he beat Eric Harding, then got a title shot against Montell Griffin and then went on to beat Roy Jones, whatever. People made names off of fighting the other names. It seems like with me, it has been the total opposite. It's like I'm pulling out of the divsion. It feels like I got demoted. I feel like...it's almost embarassing to go into the ring after a big win like against Chris Byrd. It feels like I took a loss and have had to start all over again. I feel like I am starting all over again, fighting on this show. But I've got to do what I've got to do. I've got to fight one fight at a time, stay focused and stay busy. I'm ashamed at this point that nobody stepped up. It's not like I was calling out the world champions, I was calling out other contenders, just to fight on Showtime or HBO. It's frustrating when you can't get those kind of dates. I'm not asking for big money. I'm not asking for millions of dollars. I'm not asking for a crazy amount of dollars. I just want to get on a premium network and fight a top ten contender, and that's all!
BC: This Wednesday night you step back into the ring for the first time since stopping Chris Byrd. You are facing Jaffa Ballogou in New York City. How much do you know about Ballogou?
SG: I don't know him at all. Um, I've never seen him before, I've never seen him fight. My people are telling me that he is an aggressive southpaw. He's tall, he's six foot, and he can bang. He has 46 wins and out of those 46 wins he has 40 knockouts. I'm focused, I'm in great shape, I'm in condition, I'm ready to go the ten rounds if I have to go that far. When it all comes down to it, he's in my way of making money, he's in my way of being world champion, he's in my way for me fighting the bigger names in my division, so I have to take him very seriously, and I am.
BC: Ballogou has been around a long time and has fights against guys like Daniel Judah (loss by MD), Syd Vanderpool (TKO loss in 2), Henry Porras (TKO win 11) and Joseph Kiwanuka (KO win 2). Does his experience and the fact that he has power, worry you at all, or is it business as usual?
SG: It's like, my mind frame right now is different now than it has ever been before. I mean like, you put me in the ring with whoever my promoter Lou Dibella or my advisor Donna Brooks, puts in front of me, and that is who I am going to fight. It's a fight to me, it doesn't matter who it is, I'm here to hurt somebody. I'm bringing it back to when I first started out boxing and I had a lot of pent-up stress, a lot of anger. I needed a way to get it out and I used boxing to do relive all of those feelings. So all my frustrations now, I'm gonna take out on Jaffa Ballogou on Wednesday night.
BC: After this bout, what do you see the future holding for Shaun George?
SG: Good question (Laughing), I don't know. I really don't know. Like after my last fight, I was assuming that I would get a big name, but that didn't happen. I have no idea, I'm going to try to stay as busy as possible. I'm going to fight as much as possible this year. After this fight is over with, I'm willing to fight in March and April. I want to bring it back to the old school. If I can't get a fight I want, I want to stay as busy as possible. That's what it all comes down to Bob. I have a family to feed, I have people to look out for, you know and I have do what I have to do. I want to stay as busy as possible. I am going to be dedicated this year, this year is my fourth quarter. People don't realize, I'm going to be thirty this year and I don't want to be in the game much longer, if I am not landing the fights I want to fight.
BC: Shaun, now that you have this platform, is there anything you would like to tell your fans and the readers of Doghouse Boxing?
SG: I just want to say thank you for the support. Keep on supporting boxing, it's the best sport alive. It's the most competitive sport in skills and everything else. I thank you for your support in reading this article and I hope to do it again some time.
I would like to thank Shaun George for taking time out of his schedule to speak with Doghouse Boxing. For more on Shaun and his upcoming fight, listen to Bob Carroll, Butch and "THE Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. every Wednesday night from 8-9pm EST on Fightin' Words Radio Show. To listen live via the internet, go to http://1490wwpr.com and look for the "listen here" tab. Don't forget to check out the Fightin' Words Radio Show website, fightinwordsonline.com
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