Jameel McCline: “Don King Underestimated My Desire to Become Heavyweight Champion”
Interview with Jameel McCline

By Benny Henderson Jr. (July 20, 2004) 
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There is no measuring Jameel McCline’s desire to become the heavyweight champion of the world. He’ll fight anybody, anywhere, at anytime. The only problem for him is getting the fights that he wants, as it seems like the big ones always fall through. So when Don King threw out a rather small offer to the IBF mandatory challenger, McCline didn’t think twice. McCline just wants to fight, even if that means facing his idol and good friend Chris Byrd and taking a pay cut in the process. McCline comes from a troubled past and to make it this far hasn’t been easy. But it is a road that Jameel has taken and will continue to travel. He doesn’t let the past control his future, and his future is destined to be nothing less than his desire to be heavyweight champion of the world. McCline is a straight talker and very honest with his beliefs and where he stands in life. And in this Doghouse interview Jameel talks about what drives him, what the future holds, his thoughts on the state of boxing, a possible shot at the IBF heavyweight title, and the journey it took him to get here.

Benny Henderson Jr.: What have you been up to lately?

Jameel McCline: Pretty much just trying to get this fight with Chris Byrd.

BH: Let’s say you finally get the chance to fight Chris Byrd, how will you handle his style?

JM: Like any other style, nothing more, nothing special. Just go out and be aggressive and use my conditioning to stay ahead.

BH: You started your career at 2-2 and now you are ranked #3 by the IBF and #6 by the WBC if I am correct. How has the journey been?

JM: [Laughing] How has the journey been? Ah man, just hard but worth it.

BH: Shannon Briggs said that he went into the April 2002 bout against you with an injury. And then even at that point you didn’t show him much. What are your thoughts on his comments, and would you give him a rematch to prove him wrong?

JM: There’s no reason for me to fight him in a rematch because I shut him out 9 to 1. There for there’s no need for me to give him a rematch. Maybe when I have the title unified I’ll maybe give him a shot, but that all depends. But listen, as far as him being 30% is like me being 50% against [Vladimir] Klitschko. I did what I had to do to exploit him being at 30% just as Klitschko did what he had to do to exploit me being at 50%.

BH: What would you do differently against Vladimir in a rematch?

JM: I wouldn’t use the hypoxic tent or any oxygen deprivation.

BH: I read that you have had a rough life. You have admitted your bad mistakes and wrong doings and now you help inner city kids to use your path to teach them and guide them in the right direction. How important is it for you to be a positive role model to these kids?

JM: I don’t do it on purpose it isn’t something that I seek to do or something that I don’t seek to do. You know if I’m in a situation where someone approaches me and asks me to show up at a school or a youth center I will do it immediately. Because a lot of those kids are on the same path that I was on and if I can get them off of it that is what I want.

BH: You knocked out Michael Grant in the first round. Can you explain how it felt to win in such a spectacular fashion and to show the boxing world that you were for real?

JM: It was and it wasn’t all that spectacular, because it was over so quickly I really didn’t get as chance to do anything or show anything.

BH: Is there any fighter in the heavyweight division that you would like to face more than anybody, and why?

Any champion. And why? Because my desire to become champion is just tremendous at this point.

BH: So far what has been your greatest accomplishment?

JM: My greatest accomplishment is just being here period. With nobody believing in me but my manager Alan Wartski. Him helping me out has been my greatest accomplishment so far.

BH: How do you keep yourself on the right track?

JM: Well, it is very easy. Coming from where I’m from and ending up where I am now, the last I want to do is go back. You just stay focused and keep your eye on the prize and follow your dream. My desire to be a winner just continues to grow.

BH: What are your hobbies out of the ring?

My hobbies are just to stay in shape. Working out in the gym, running and having a good time. And mostly hanging out with my family.

BH: In your opinion, who was or is the greatest heavyweight?

JM: There’s a few of them. One being Riddick Bowe, one being Larry Holmes, and one being Lennox Lewis. And even guys like Chris Byrd. I admire him so much because he is a little guy in a big man’s game. He has done so much. I mean look at him, he is heavyweight champ of the world and a little guy.

BH: Ah, he is one of my favorites man. I mean you to now man. [Laughing]

JM: That’s okay brother, he’s one of my idols man.

BH: Is it true that you and he are very good friends?

JM: It is very true.

BH: How would it feel to step in the ring with you close friend and idol? Because you know you have to win.

Let’s separate the two. You always want to beat your idol because it is like he is your teacher and mentor so to speak. You look up to him and follow in his steps and do what he does and try to think how he thinks, and of course you want to take it to the next level. And taking it to the next level is obviously beating him. As an idol I would love to just destroy him. But as a friend we understand that business is business and we are going to get in there and do what we have to do. We are not going to play around and act like it is a sparring session, we are going to work hard.

BH: You will be taking less pay to fight Byrd. Why is that?

JM: Well, I’m doing it for one reason and it is for the game that has done so much for me. This sport has given me a great lifestyle and a chance to be the superstar that I am. But I’m also doing it because this is what Don King put on the table and it was either take it or leave it. I feel that he underestimated my desire to be champion so I took it. I also took it because we can’t allow Don King to have any of the belts anymore. So my plan is to sweep all of his champions.

BH: That is going to be one hell of a job getting into the fights.

JM: I agree. King is just destroying our sport he is just making it very unpleasant game and people wonder why we are losing so many fans. Everybody kisses his ass and everybody is afraid if him, but you know what? God gave me the strength to be the individual that I am and I am going to continue to be the individual that I am. I don’t care who threatens me, the most powerful man in America or the most powerful man in boxing. I am just going to stand up for what I believe in and do the best I can to overcome.

BH: Do you see any new heavyweights out there making any noise in the division?

JM: I like this kid Dominick Guinn and I also like a few others.

BH: In closing would you like to say anything to the fans and the heavyweight division?

JM: I said it many time before I’m just sitting here waiting for my chance to get a shot. Because before the Klitschko loss I was on a roll I was fighting every four or five months and every thing was great. Now I’m fighting twice a year and it’s just a mess. I’m just waiting for my chance and the heavyweight division knows that I am one of the major threats out there if not the major threat. I’m not really a big talker or arrogant in that sense. I really don’t have to send a message because they know I’m here. They are just hoping my chances are kept to a minimum as far as the negotiations and my title shots. To the fans I want to say thank you for everything, it means a lot.

BH: I just want to thank you for taking out the time for Doghouse Boxing and the fans. It is greatly appreciated and it has been a pleasure talking to you. God Bless and stay safe Jameel.

McCline: Hey, thank you and God Bless.

I would like to thank Tina McCline for her help and kindness. I would also like to give a BIG TIME thank-you to Jameel McCline. He is a straight shooter and very honest with his answers, and we all can appreciate that in a person. For more information on Jameel check out his website: Official Web Site Of: Jameel McCline.
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