Lamon Brewster: I Don't Want To Be A Heavyweight Champion, I Want to Be "THE" Heavyweight Champion
INTERVIEW By Aladdin Freeman, BRC (November 27, 2005)
Lamon Brewster, the WBO heavyweight champion, walks a different path than most boxers. While he is a very bright man, he’s not an outspoken person, and while he has a very good record and is on a hot streak of sorts, winning 9 fights in a row, 8 by knock out, he doesn’t get caught up in the moment or in the hype. That’s why it was important for me to see what he is really about. Today we took the time to chat about his past, his present and the future...
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BRC: There has been a lot of talk about the heavyweight division, particularly as far as the winner of the Hasim Rahman vs. Vitali Klitschko being crowned the new heavyweight champion; all the while if you look at the body of work since 2000 you’ve had not only the best record but fought the most. How did it make you feel for the public and media to leave you out of that discussion?
BREWSTER: I think it comes down to two real reasons. First I don’t have the marketing and skin complexion that Vitali Klitschko has and second I don’t open my mouth and sound off or give these great sound bytes like Hasim Rahman does. All I do is put in the work and go out and give my best to win.
BRC: Well, you have done the work since late 2000. Anyone that Don King has put in front of you, you’ve found a way to beat, and so do you feel shunned at all?
BREWSTER: A little, but let’s give them a little time. I would love to unify the titles. My goal when I got into boxing wasn’t to be “a” heavyweight champion; it was to be “the” heavyweight champion. In my mind and heart, my work is far from done. In this next year I’d like to fight John Ruiz or the winner of Rahman vs. James Toney. Actually, I’m not so sure Rahman is going to get by James Toney, who is fighting better than most other heavyweights in the world right now. If the real James Toney shows up, you can forget about it. To me he is one of the best fighters that have ever laced up the gloves. He’s like a throwback to the days of Ezra Charles. You have to know how to really fight to beat James Toney and I don’t think, and I haven’t seen the skills out of Rahman, to beat James Toney.
BRC: The best break for you is for James Toney to win vs. Rahman, because James will fight anyone except John Ruiz. (Toney isn’t allowed to fight Ruiz because of the “steroid test” which is laughing out loud funny considering the shape James Toney was in for that fight). They’d both be looking for you, that’s not a bad situation to be in. Let’s go back to the year 2000; you lose two pretty tough decisions, one to Etienne and the other to Charles Shufford. What’s your state of mind after that year and how did you get back on the right path?
BREWSTER: Not to make any excuses because I did lose those fights, no question, but I still to this day feel I lost on circumstances. Against Etienne I had a torn ACL which happened in the 1st round, which is why I fought off the ropes so much in that fight because I was in such pain and then the fight vs. Charles Shufford, it was a lack of being fully prepared for that fight due to coming down from upwards of 280 lbs. I’ll take that one because I did what the doctors told me to do which was rest but then I came back too fast and just flat out wasn’t ready. I dropped the weight but I didn’t have the fire that I usually do.
I’ve come along way since then because now I have a nutritionist to tell me what to eat as far as proteins, carbs and so on. After saying all that, I was lost and doubtful that I could go on in boxing, my career at that point wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but through all of that I never gave up hope. I never felt like those guys beat me on my best day, I felt like I had beat myself and I wasn’t ready to go out like that, so I stayed the path and the rest is history.
BRC: You strike me as a very humble but spiritual person. How much has your relationship with God and your faith helped you in you career?
BREWSTER: Honestly, it’s only my faith that has carried me this far. I can sit here and give you several excuses why I lost like I did, but the bottom line that people care about is that I lost. The only thing I had was God saying, “If you believe in me I’ll have faith in you,” sometimes in life you have to go down to come up. You know the saying 'be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.' Well, if you ask God for knowledge and wisdom you have to be careful because sometimes He’ll bring it to you in the form of a storm. Once the storm washes away all the impurities then you’ll be able to see and use the strength and wisdom He gave you by overcoming the storm, and that’s what happened with me. I lost 2 out of 3 fights in the year 2000 and was fortunate because if I had to lose at any point in my career that was the best time. Had it happened too early I’d have probably had my confidence broken and had it happen too late I’d have never been able to come back and then would have been considered a journeymen fighter.
BRC: I can remember you saying the only way you were going to lose a fight to Wladimir Klitschko was that he was going to have to kill you. I know at the time you were dealing with the death of your trainer Bill Slayton. That’s when it seemed pretty apparent you were fighting for more than just a family, but more for a belief and promise.
BREWSTER: You know something? I learned a lot in the Etienne fight which in my heart has helped me lately. When I was in the trenches with him and it seemed like all hope was lost, my knee was killing me, he was landing some solid clean shots, but I never gave up or gave up hope and I actually hurt him late. So when the fight came around with Klitschko it was the same scenario for me, I knew I was going to have to deal with a lot of adversity but I was able to get through it. Another big factor to me was that Klitschko didn’t have the heart that Etienne had. I never felt like he really wanted to beat me or make the final sacrifice to do so. I also felt like Klitschko was pretty limited. There is no question he’s a great athlete, but he’s not a natural fighter. You can take a great athlete and teach them and they’ll be good at any sport, but in order to be a great fighter it has to come from the heart. To me his heart wasn’t in that fight like mine was. I wasn’t going to quit vs. Klitschko and that’s what won the fight.
BRC: I know you grew up in the sport of boxing, but when did you know that it was going to be your way out?
BREWSTER: Well my whole life I was around boxing but there was a guy named Sammy J. Smith who was always at the house, same with Marvin Johnson, Frankie Midden and then my father was into it as well. I always tried not to box, but it just seemed like I was always around it and I figured there is a reason that this keeps happening and then the moment where I knew it was something that I was going to do was when I heard that Sugar Ray Leonard beat Marvin Hagler. It hit me like a ton of bricks, I liked Sugar Ray, but I was in love with Marvin Hagler. To me he epitomizes what a warrior is and should be. In my dictionary when I think of the word warrior I see a picture of Hagler. So when I heard he lost, I said to myself this is what I want to do, I couldn’t explain it but this (boxing) is what I knew I needed to do with my life.
BRC: Now having seen the fight do you think Hagler lost that fight?
BREWSTER: Man, it was a popularity contest same as Ali vs. Ken Norton in the 3rd fight. Ali sold more tickets so there was no way Norton was going to leave with the title. Hagler got ripped off, he fought his butt of and they did him wrong. He’s who I’ve patterned my life after in and out of the ring. He was respectful and you didn’t hear much about him outside the ring and what you did hear was positive and in the ring he didn’t do done of that talking, he just came ready for war every time.
BRC: Ever since the Klitschko fight you’ve seemed to become a smarter fighter whether it be attacking Andrew Golota or Luan Krasniqui, or boxing the giant Kali Meehan. So, has it been a matter of you studying more tape or just being more confident in your abilities?
BREWSTER: I’ll tell you this... What is boxing? It’s the sweet science and to me science means there is more than one way to do everything. With Klitschko, and Meehan I knew they were big trees, so I knew I would need to pace myself and in the end the trees would fall or at least -in Meehan’s case- wear down.
With Golota, he’s more my size, and I saw he wasn’t ready. Didn’t look like he wanted to be in a fast paced fight, so I jumped on him. With Klitschko it was a little different, I never went in with the game plan that I was going to win a bunch of rounds. I went in thinking I was going to need a knockout to beat this guy and I got it. I’ll tell you the fight tape that I really studied was Klitschko’s fight with the old guy...
BRC: Ray Mercer...
BREWSTER: Yes, that’s the fight. Klitschko was: 1) Klitschko was clearly winning but he was being busted up with just a jab, and 2) he was so tired after that fight that I knew if I could just deal with the initial onslaught, I could get to him with pressure. My trainer used to always say to me, anyone can fight when they are punching but not a lot of guys can when they aren’t. Klitschko is one of those guys. Same with Luan, I was behind on all the cards but I knew once I landed some good shots on him that he wasn’t going to be able to deal with the pressure that I would put on him. Kill the body and the head will go, no one ever says kill the body and you’ll win the rounds… My trainer used to say boxing is nothing but a marathon; it’s my job to finish first. That’s why sometimes I feel my fights are they way they are. Klitschko may have thrown 1,000 punches but he got tired, and my body shots were a big reason, and I can’t help if people feel he ran out of gas, but like I said it’s my job to finish first and that night I did.
BRC: How is life without Bill Slayton your trainer?
BREWSTER: I miss Bill Slayton more than I could ever tell you; he was not only a trainer but a father to me. I came to California with nothing, and he’d give me money, support, food or whatever just to make be a better man. I am that man, father, and husband that I am today because of Bill Slayton. I didn’t know right from wrong before I met this man and where I grew up you either ran with the bad crowd or you didn’t run at all, so I did what I had to do to survive; but I really didn’t become a man until I met Bill and had the nurturing relationship that we did. Like I said I could go on and on about Bill. As far as fighting -and most people don’t know this about me- I started out as a boxer but I just kept getting bigger and bigger and had to learn a different style that would work best for me and I’d have never gotten there without Bill.
It’s kind of a shame that he’s not here today to enjoy the fruits of his work. Kind of like Moses leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land but he couldn’t go in.
BRC: I’m sure in your heart and in his sprit he’s with you every step of the way...
BREWSTER: Oh my God, everyday… I still think about our conversations like they are on a record. Man, I love him and the sport of boxing because it gave me a chance to come up out of the life I was in and better myself. I feel a 9 to 5 job wasn’t what God put me here for and where I grew up most people if they didn’t work in the factory didn’t make it. So I thank God everyday that he chose me to make it, so anytime I get a chance to give back to the children, I do. I like to let the children know that you don’t need all that big jewelry, cars, and clothes that you see these rappers and athletes wearing and selling out in. To me that’s not real.
BRC: You seem a little about all that anyways, though...
BREWSTER: In my eyes that’s not God’s plan for me. I’m not here for that. The kids don’t need to see that, a lot of kids see that and have no chance of getting any of that stuff except robbing or selling drugs or something else that isn’t productive, that’s not the message I want to send and I don’t want that on my mind. It might look good on them which it really does, but in the minds of these children and if they can’t have it they’ll sell their souls for something bad. The same example we set for our kids they are going to do for theirs and if you think it’s bad now, wait until we get old and we are unable to run the country and are dependant on some of these children; then you’re going to see some real trouble...
BRC: Lamon it’s been a real pleasure and I hope 2006 is a big one for you as well as the Heavyweight Division as a whole.
BREWSTER: Thanks a lot and you know I’ll do my best and I want to thank you for taking the time to do this, I really enjoyed it.
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