Interview with Pawel “Raging Bull” Wolak on Yuri Foreman, Miguel Cotto, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Much More By Les Dowgier (March 8, 2011) Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with New Jersey’s own Pawel “Raging Bull” Wolak, 28-1 (18), at Global Boxing Gym in North Bergen, NJ as he prepared for his big showdown with Yuri Foreman, 28-1 (8). The two will square off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on March 12th, 2011 on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto vs Ricardo Mayorga fight.
Les Dowgier: First, I think you should introduce yourself to those boxing fans that have not gotten a chance to see you. How do you personally describe your style?
Pawel Wolak: My style is not pretty, it’s kind of a rugged style. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of coming forward, out-fighting the guy, out willing the guy. There really is nothing special just a lot of hard work and a lot of punches.
LD: Yeah, that’s more or less your style. There’s a reason you’re the “Raging Bull.”
PW: That’s right.
LD: What about your amateur background?
PW: I had a small amateur career. I had maybe 50 fights. My amateur career was basically all getting fights on my own. I was really doing all the sparring on my own. I had a trainer here and there but it was really me fighting. It was really me getting myself ready for those fights. I liked boxing, I was going to go into MMA, I used boxing as a way to get experience so eventually I could go on and fight in a different sport.
LD: So you intended to use boxing as a springboard at first, but then you decided to stop at boxing?
PW: Yeah. I had a very good, although short, about 5 years, of a wrestling background. It was short but I did well, I did very well. I even went to the super regions and New Jersey is one of the toughest wrestling states in the country. Especially where I’m from, I’m from northwest Jersey and wrestling up there is unbelievable. To me the wrestling was there, I was doing very well, but I knew I needed to add the striking to it, so I started the kickboxing, at first I had a couple of kick boxing fights then I went over to strictly boxing. But that was my whole point, I was going to get as much wrestling as I possibly could under my belt, as much experience, do the kickboxing, learn how to kick, learn how to fight then do strictly boxing, and then I was going to go MMA. But then boxing started going so well I started winning so I stayed with it.
LD: You’ve fought quite a few good fighters, but who would you say has been your toughest fight so far?
PW: My toughest fight so far, I think I would have to say Julio Jean probably. It was my 7th professional fight, it was early in my career, he hit me with a good body shot and he hurt me and it was a tough fight. Anytime you’re hurt you start questioning yourself. Not questioning yourself, but telling yourself, “This is getting really hard, can I push through this?” That was one of my toughest fights, also, my fight with Sammy Sparkman, which was a fight in Poland that I had. Sammy Sparkman was just very well prepared, came to fight. That was a tough, tough 10 rounder. It was my first 10 rounder as well. I wasn’t hurt, but I was like “Wow, this kid is really coming, he’s throwing a lot of punches.” That was also one of my toughest fights.
LD: You would think a lot of fans would expect you to say someone like James Moore, because that was a more high profile fight, but it’s the fight that people don’t really expect.
PW: Exactly. You don’t see it. James Moore, I’m not going to lie, that was a tough fight. I thought James Moore was very well prepared, he just fought a very smart fight. I personally think, maybe the weather, the humidity, maybe I wasn’t as fresh, but, he was fighting in the same humidity as well. You probably expected me to say Pinzon, my last fight, when I got knocked down, but I gotta say, yes I got knocked down, of course, it was something new, but that didn’t faze me. I just knew that I had to walk right through him and the third round on he wasn’t hurting me at all. He only really hurt me with that one left hook. It was a great knockdown, it was a legitimate knockdown, I went down, I got up. I was hurt, I’m not going to lie. But besides being hurt for that one round, I don’t think it was a hard fight.
LD: I’m actually glad you brought up your last fight because I know there was a lot of drama and confusion leading up to that last fight.
PW: A lot.
LD: Can you tell us a little bit about that? And how frustrating that is?
PW: It was probably the second or third time that Chavez [Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.] wanted to fight me and you know, we started getting ready, and then he called the fight off. Again, same thing happened in September. This time we were in California, he was playing with the weight, put the weight up, putting the weight lower. And then finally he cancelled the fight completely. It was just very frustrating, I was already down there, I had my heart set on fighting him. I left my house, I left my family. I had to go over to California. I wanted to fight really bad. I knew it was going to be a main event on pay-per-view. It was going to be a huge fight and then that Wednesday, the fight was supposed to be Saturday, I’m on my way to the gym and I find out that the fight was cancelled cause he’s sick. And I’m like, here we go again. So at that point they wanted me to fight somebody else, we didn’t know anything about the guy. We saw like a round or two of one of his fights on YouTube or something. We watched that and we just said, “Alright, let’s just do it.” We’re here in California getting ready for Chavez, let’s just fight anybody. We took the fight and everything worked out semi-good.
LD: Chavez isn’t doing himself any favors by acting like this, I think a lot of boxing fans already look at him skeptically and know he isn’t what he’s made out to be.
PW: That’s what happens with a lot of sports, a lot of boxing, MMA sports. Just the image, everything is the image these days, it’s disgusting. That’s the world we live in. It’s all about the image. Who’s got the craziest color designed shirt. I mean come on, those aren’t real fighters. Fighters that were coming up in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, that were really just tough, real guys. Those are real guys, real fighters. Now, there’s a lot of guys, who are like 30-0, like Chavez, 40-0, they’re not a legit 40-0.
LD: Well you got the win against Pinzon and now you have the Foreman fight.
PW: That’s right. So I’m always stepping up.
LD: As far as this fight, Foreman is obviously a very skilled, talented boxer. Did you do anything special to prepare for this fight?
PW: Oh yeah. We tried to match sparring partners that are similar to him. Spar guys that are similar to him in style. A lot of guys that move well, guys that are quick on their feet. At this point, you have to train for that specific style. I think we did everything we had to.
LD: How do you think your styles match up? I think it should be an interesting fight.
PW: Its 180 degrees, completely different. But that’s what’s good. That’s what’s going to make it exciting.
LD: Yeah, I agree. So who did you spar with?
PW: My main sparring partner obviously is Ossie Duran. I sparred with guys from the gym like E.J. Barthel, he’s a big guy but he’s very quick on his feet, good movement. Glen Tapia, Alejandro Barrios, Pablo Valez. One of the guys from the gym that I can’t think of his name. We sparred at least twice a week, we covered all the rounds that we needed to. It was about 6 weeks of sparring so it was definitely hard and it was a hard, hard camp on top of that. The right kind of running, swimming, the proper weight training, all of that was covered. So I’m definitely ready.
LD: Is swimming something that has been part of your training for a while or is that something you started doing recently?
PW: I started probably for the last 3 fights I guess. I think it adds to my conditioning. I’m not a swimmer, I mean I stay afloat, put it that way. But it betters your conditioning.
LD: So when do you leave for Vegas?
PW: This Tuesday morning. It’s 3 hours difference. It shouldn’t be a problem because I fought in California and it had no impact on me. Actually, I like it better, I like to fight earlier. I want to fight at 6 PM and be done with it. I don’t want to fight at 11, 12 at night. I want to get up, eat something, hang out for a little bit, get ready to fight and I’m done.
LD: So as far as this fight, do you think this fight will do what the J.C. Jr. fight was supposed to do and put you on people’s radar?
PW: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Again, pay-per-view show, major show. And I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think people are going to love this fight. And, like I said, Yuri being an ex-world champion it’s only going to add to my name. So I welcome the fight, I want the fight. I’m ready for it, I’m prepared for the fight so let’s just do it.
LD: Yeah, he’s coming off that Cotto fight which was his big fight. It didn’t come out the way he wanted it to but he’s still a big name for a reason...he had that knee issue.
PW: Yeah, he had that knee problem. He’s a tough fighter, he was doing very well up to that point against Cotto. I’m not overlooking him, I know it’s going to be a tough fight. The guy really hung right there with one of the top guys, Miguel Cotto, it’s going to be a tough fight.
LD: Alright, well I think I’ve taken enough of your time. Thank you for your time and good luck next week.