Leo ‘Paco’ Nolan: “Boytsov is a strong opponent, but my boxing skills are too much for him!”
Interview by Bob Carroll, DoghouseBoxing (May 6, 2009) Photo © Doghouse Boxing  
American heavyweights have gotten a bad name in recent years and the division has been ruled by European fighters for most of the past 6-7 years. When you ask the typical American fight fan who the heavyweight champion is, they will most likely say either Klitschko (not first names) or "some Russian guy". It seems that the American heavyweights have been shoved to the back burner and not given the same opportunities their Russian counterparts have been given.

One American heavyweight has a plan to change that mind set and wants to start by taking down a Russian heavyweight prospect to begin his plan. Detroit native Leo "Paco" Nolan, 27-1 (10), is a solid American fighter who is set to take on his biggest opponent to date, Denis Boytsov 24-0 (19), on June 6th in Germany. This bout will be for the WBA Intercontinental Heavyweight title. Nolan, plans on letting the world know who he is after he beats Boytsov on the sixth of June.

Recently Leo Nolan sat down with Doghouse Boxing to discuss his past and his upcoming fight.

Bob Carroll: You were born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, known for it's history in automobile making and of course the home of some of the greatest music ever made at Motown Records. To boxing fans, Detroit also has a long history in boxing, being the hometown of Kronk Gym and Emmanuel Steward. Did this history add any weight to your decision to become a boxer?

Leo Nolan:
Yes and my decision was also based on the fact that my uncle was a boxer. My uncle was the person who introduced me to boxing. He would always talk about boxing, so I got into it. I used to box for Kronk in the amateurs, so I would go down to the gym and watch the guys spar. So yes, that helped my decision.

BC: When you were a young man in Detroit, you were able to go to a gym and spar former world title challenger Oba Carr. That must have been a great, albeit painful, time. How were you able to hook up with Oba and is he still involved with you?

I met Oba when I was 10 years old. My uncle would take me over to his gym in Herman Gardens and I've got to tell you Bob, he used to whoop up on me every day. They used to call me "Bloody Mary" at the end of the sessions. I give a lot of credit to Oba because that's who really showed me different things in boxing and really got my heart to pumping. That made me the good boxer I am today. I really don't see much of Oba anymore. I don't know if he is still in Detroit, the last I heard, he was out in Cali.

BC: You mentioned that you boxed for Kronk Gym in the amateurs. What type of amateur career did you have?

Amateurs? I fought from age 10-15 in the juniors. Then I boxed for Kronk for about three years, and went to the PAL's (boxing tournament). I met the mayor of Detroit with Kronk and he gave us keys to the city of Detroit. It was a really nice time.

BC: How do you feel your amateur career has helped you in the pros?

Oh, a lot, a whole lot. I suggest that anyone who wants to be a boxer should have a good amateur background. Amateurs is where you learn your basics and your fundamentals. Without that, you're just slugging, just winging it.

BC: You turned pro in 1992 and went on to win your first five bouts, then you had an incident that almost proved fatal for you. Could you tell our listeners what happened in the 1990's?

In the nineties, you're right, I had my first five pro fights with Jackie Kallen and James Toney. Back then James Toney was the star and had the belts, so they didn't have the time to concentrate on me. I felt that I wasn't getting the respect I wanted, so I turned to hanging out in the streets, BSing around and hanging with the wrong crowd. That almost cost me my life. One night I was hanging with this guy, we were riding and he tried to rob some guy. That guy turned out to be an off-duty police officer and I wound up being shot 5 times. After that I went through the court system and wound up doing 5 years in prison for that night.

BC: How did that incident not only affect your life, but help turn it around?

Well, like I said, I was hanging around the wrong crowd, the wrong atmosphere, just out on the streets. I thought I would be either be going to prison or wind up dead. When I got shot, you know how most people say they saw the white light, well when I survived that, it woke me up. I had another purpose in life, a much bigger picture, you know, something really clicked for me. I was in prison for five years and I was always into God. I always had a lot of family support, so I wanted to come home and prove myself. I had to prove to myself and others that I was a better person, a better man and that I was not a menace to society.

BC: After recovering from that ordeal, you went back to boxing in 2001. With an almost eight year layoff, where you nervous stepping back into the ring?

I was nervous but I still had something to prove. I knew I was a better man and a better person, and I didn't want to waste my life or throw my life away. With all that boxing had done for me, I wanted to prove myself and I am still trying to prove myself.

BC: At one time you were the team captain in Team Cannon boxing team, along with super middleweight Rubin Williams and heavyweight Rydell Booker. Is that team still together and if not, do you three still stay in touch?

That team is not together anymore. We split up after Rubin lost at Joe Louis Arena. We kind of went our separate ways and then Rydell got into trouble, he is locked up right now. Rubin is still doing his thing but he is on a bit of a losing streak right now, I don't know what is going on. I still am in contact with Rubin here and there. I still try to keep in touch with Rydell, he calls about once a month.

BC: By 2007, you were 26-0, you had won several minor title belts and were on your way towards a title shot. Along the way you beat fighters like Lou Saverese, Andy Sample and Jeremy Bates. Then you ran into an unheralded fighter named Hector Ferreyro and dropped a unanimous decision to him. Was this a case of overlooking a fighter, just a bad night, or was Ferreyro a good fighter?

Um, I'm not going to take anything away from the guy, but it was a bad night for me. I overlooked him and there was a lot going on at that time. I really regret that loss, but everyone will someday have a loss. There is no excuse for that loss, I give him credit for his win, but it was a bad night for me. My mind was just not there that night. I was hoping that fighters that were ducking me due to the 26-0 record, would now step up to me with a loss, but that didn't happen.

BC: When people talk about the heavyweight division today, the only fighters that are spoken of are the Klitschko's and the rest of the Russian Bloc. There are some really good American fighters around like yourself, Brian Minto, Kevin Johnson, Tony Thompson, Kali Meehan, Lamon Brewster and Danny Batchelder to name just a few. Why do you think guys like Oleg Maskaev, John Ruiz, Nicolay Valuev and Ruslan Chagaev are being given the title shots, while much better American fighters are being left out?

Um, I believe that there is a lot of politics in it and they have the belts over there, so they can choose who they want to fight. They use us American guys as sparring partners. Half of the guys that you named, the Klitschko's, Chagaev, Valuev I can box them all. They use me as a sparring partner, but they won't dial my phone line to fight me in the ring for real. I don't know why that is but I hope it will change one day.

BC: On June sixth, you step into the ring against the biggest challenge of your career, Denis Boytsov 24-0 (19). This fight will take place in Germany. As an American fighter, how comfortable are you fighting in Germany, especially seeing how popular Russian heavyweights are over there?

I have no problem fighting over there. If I have to fly across the world to take that belt, then my passport is ready!

BC: How much do you know about Boytsov?

I don't know much about him, but the last time I was in Germany, I was at the camp and he was there. I watched him box with Larry Donald and I was sparring with Chagaev. I saw him spar for a while and I wasn't impressed. He's a strong opponent, but my boxing skills are too much for him.

BC: How has training camp being going and when do you leave for Germany?

The training camp is going slow right now because there are not a lot of heavyweights in Detroit. Trying to get the sparring that I really want, it's not here. I'm just getting the sparring that I can. I'm sparring fighters from super middleweight to cruiserweight, I'm just getting all of the work that I can from what is available. As far as leaving for Germany, I just sent the promoter an e-mail on Thursday, because I have not seen the fight listed on Box Rec. I have asked them to update me and let me know if everything was still set. Normally it would be listed on Box Rec or somewhere. I am still waiting to hear back from them, so I can get my itinerary. Hopefully they will respond sometime this week.

BC: Knowing that Boytsov is a hard puncher and has fast hands, what is your game plan on fighting him?

Boxing the shit out of him (both the writer and Leo Nolan laugh).

BC: Okay, that is short and sweet. Is there a fighter that you would like to fight should you win on June 6th?

Anyone that is holding a title!

BC: Leo, the floor is yours. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and the readers of Doghouse Boxing?

Um, thank you for supporting me. I love you guys and I'm going to get that title and bring it home.

I'd like to thank Leo "Paco" Nolan for taking time out of his schedule to talk to Doghouse Boxing. For more on Leo Nolan and his upcoming fight, listen to Bob Carroll, Butch and "THE Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. every Wednesday night 8-9pm EST, on Fightin' Words Radio Show. Leo will be our guest at 8:30pm this week. 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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