LaFarrell “Memphis Fairway” Bunting: Knocking on Fame’s Front Door
INTERVIEW By Jason Petock (May 3, 2006)
I got the exceptional opportunity recently to witness Cruiserweight powerhouse sensation LaFarrell ‘Memphis Fairway’ Bunting, 14-1-1 (14), in action in the ring sparring and working the mitts with his trainer Manuel Sepeda who is the owner and operator of Tough Enough Gym in San Marcos, Texas. Any true boxing fan will remember Manuel Sepeda, 16-7-3 (5), as an exciting Texas Featherweight who fought solid fights during his career and won the IBA America’s Featherweight Title in 2001. As I watched LaFarrell spar with one of the other fighters in the ring, it was clear at how adept and skillful he really is. Being a natural southpaw yet fighting orthodox, Bunting showed his often perplexed sparring partner all kinds of angles and a sharp, crisp and powerful jab that just stuck in his opponent’s face like a jackhammer the entire time. With an unorthodox style and lots of lateral movement, LaFarrell showcased why he is the real deal when it comes to boxing and that he should not only be taken very seriously but offered some fights as well. Most boxers have forgotten all about the uppercut these days. Not LaFarrell, he’s perfected it. Along with an armory of power punches, one of his finest tools is his left uppercut. And trust me people, the opponent who gets on the receiving end of that devastating punch is going to be asking for the license plate of the bus that just hit him. He’s that powerful and he has the record to prove it.
After sparring, LaFarrell (who is also trained by Danny Smith) worked the mitts with his manager/trainer Manuel Sepeda and exhibited power in his punching and brilliant technical ability. He has a sound foundation and can really offer up some tricky angles to keep a fighter guessing. That’s a deadly combination when you mix in angles, power and skill, and LaFarrell is the total package. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes a household name. And that won’t take long because once anyone sees what a crafty and concrete boxer that LaFarrell Bunting truly is, they won’t forget it. Keep your eyes open because ‘Memphis Fairway’ is on the rise and ready to fight.
I’d like to make sure to thank Manuel Sepeda here for arranging this interview and just being a stand up guy and really open and honest and allowing me to come into his gym. I have nothing but respect and admiration for what he has done in his career and continues to do. I’d also like to thank LaFarrell Bunting and his beautiful girlfriend Manquel Brownlee (who sat by his side during the interview) for their time and patience with the interview process and for giving me this opportunity to talk with him and let the rest of the world hear about him because this is a boxer that people are going to be hearing a lot more about in the future.
LaFarrell Bunting was born in Memphis, Tennessee on January 10, 1980 and started out at 1222 Greenwood living with his Grandmother and Grandfather who raised him. His mother had him when she was 15 years old and his Grandmother gave him the nickname that stuck with him to this day, “Fairway”. LaFarrell told me that when he moved to Texas he had to put ‘Furway’ on his plates because they only have 6 spaces available on the plate, not 7, like his native Tennessee. His story is a compelling one and he started boxing at the very young age of 8 years old. LaFarrell recalled that when he was 8 his first fight was against a 13 year old boy and he held his own in there. Ever since he fought that older boy it felt natural for him to fight, and he knew that boxing was for him and there was no turning back. LaFarrell is an exceptional boxer and he reminded me of a throwback fighter in the sense that his only concern is winning and doing the best he can do in that squared circle. He revealed to me a strong sense of family and obligation and his charisma and honesty really shined in our interview. Just sitting with him there I saw the making of someone great right before my eyes. Friendly and personable in our interview, he answered my questions with truthfulness and had his loyal and loving girlfriend Manquel by his side. And like I said earlier, once you see him spar and put in work in the gym you’ll be a believer too, he’s that good.
As well as being a hard worker and focused in the gym, LaFarrell also showed that he is a dedicated family man who cherishes his girlfriend and has a lot of love for his children. He has a daughter, Lateie Dieonne Bunting, 7, and a son LaFarrell Deshun Bunting Jr., who is 5. His girlfriend Manquel joked that their puppy “Tigerette” is their first child as his other children are from a previous relationship. The openness and sincerity between these two really showed and LaFarrell went into detail about the importance of having a good woman by your side. He told me, “This is a boxer’s girlfriend. She has a lot of belief in me. She worked as a Hooter’s girl for 7 months and quit her job to move with me to Texas.” Manquel sat in the gym as her boyfriend worked out and showed a genuine care and interest in the life of the man who she spends her life with and sat faithfully at his side when he was interviewed as well. And LaFarrell also gave me some more into his personal life when he told me that he told Manquel two things when he met her. “I told her”, said LaFarrell, “One I want to make you my woman, and Two I want to take you back to Texas.” And the rest is history. Here’s how it went down when I talked with ‘Memphis Fairway’. Check it out.
JP: Where did you first get started in boxing and what’s your earliest memory of the sport?
LB: I started boxing at the age of 8. My mother decided to move from Memphis at 1222 Greenwood, my Grandmother and Grandfather’s house, and decided she wanted a new start and she moved to Finley, Ohio with my Godmother Jeanette Henderson and her daughter Sherise. And we lived in Finley since I was the age of 8. My mother met a young man, he wasn’t that young, but he wasn’t an old guy either. And she got involved with this man who became my stepfather, Gordon Jones, who was from Finley, Ohio. He’s the one who got me involved with boxing. For my first memory of that, Skip, he threw a ball about 200 feet in the air man; he threw it up in the air. Before he threw it he gave me a baseball mitt because he was a baseball player. He was an all around athlete guy, and he said he always wanted a son that was athletic. And he threw that ball about 200 feet man; I jumped out there about 5 or 6 feet, landed on the grass and caught it. Damn, this guy knew right there. He knew right there I was athletic and I had ability. I had flexibility jumping out there and catching that ball. He actually started me off in karate; I did that about two weeks. There wasn’t enough contact and there wasn’t enough going on in that for me.
Glendon Tarris had this little house and there was this garage that when you moved your car out you could hang the boxing bag there, that’s how small it was, you know? There were 15 to 20 guys in there man. That was my first time ever coming to a boxing gym at Glendon Tarris’ house. And I sparred with this guy, man I was 8 years old and he was 13 years old. I felt like I was in a world of trouble, but I held my own. But that’s how I started boxing. I was 8 years old.
JP: Explain to some of the fans out there who aren’t familiar with you about some of your career defining moments or memories?
LB: Actually a fight that stands out in my mind was one of my knockouts. It was a beautiful knockout it stood out to the crowd that night. I fought this guy named Joey Torres. If I’m not mistaken he’s from Houston or Dallas, Texas, I was at the age of 16. He fought the night before, he fought Willie Gibbs. Willie Gibbs is out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Torres beat him to a decision the night before in the quarter finals. I fought Joey Torres after he beat Gibbs and from the first round I went out there with a flying saucer one two. And that stunned him. They gave him an 8 count for that. After the referee gave him an 8 count, 1 to 8 you know, the guy, when the bell rung and the ref said “box” I threw a left uppercut from out of nowhere, and he went down and there he was. He was looking at stars and the lights. It was game over. Yeah, but that was the most beautiful knockout. Brother Nazeem from Philadelphia he mentioned something. He said, “Damn, he’s a hard punching motherfucker!” That was the body snatcher. I’m known as the body snatcher. I have the most beautiful body shots ever.
Also that fight that I was mentioning to you earlier before we started about the Hungarian I fought at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in Mashantucket, Connecticut, that was a fight that people in general and the U.S. Team and even everyone in amateur boxing at the time didn’t think I was going to win. Ryan Griffin turned the fight down, and so did Arthur Pallack. They turned that fight down. See they were going to the Goodwill Games and you know they didn’t want to actually mess that up. Accidentally getting headbutted you know, anything to keep them from participating in the Goodwill Games. So, it’s like okay, he’s a guinea pig. That’s the way I looked at it. I was the number three guy in the U.S. so they gave it to me to go fight in Connecticut. So I went there and I fought the guy, I think it was Ernest something, from Hungaria and he was the ’97 World Champion and it was an interesting fight all the way to the fourth round. At the end of the fourth round, about the last 15 or 20 seconds, I hit the guy with a right hand, left hook and down he went for the count. He was barely able to make it up. And actually that’s what won the fight. I had gained two points on the score; it was a high score like 26 to 24. That’s a high score for an amateur bout, you know.
I had a knockout I remember, when I fought in Cleveland, Ohio. I can’t remember the guy’s name. It was a first round knockout. As a pro all my wins are knockouts. You know some of my knockouts were body shots but mostly they have been left uppercuts. I have my arsenal you know. I’m left handed but I fight right handed. So it’s a comparison to an Oscar De La Hoya because he’s left handed but he fights right handed. So you’re leading with power as well as in with power. So when you think I’m off balance, I am a little off balance. Actually that’s where my strongest points are at. When you see me backing up, those are movements that I like. That’s what makes it fun. Because I know you’re going to make a stupid mistake and it will cost you and you will pay. I’m having fun, I’m serious. Because hey, you just have to move around, I’m not going to sit there. You hurt yourself by making stupid mistakes. I won’t hurt you, unless I mean you hurt yourself. I don’t hurt you. I mean I’m not the strongest man in the world. But you know you run into something it’s like running into a brick wall. You run into a brick wall, what can I say? You go out hurt; the brick wall didn’t hurt you. But as far as those knockouts I’ve fought a lot of good fights.
JP: What do you hope to achieve during your career?
LB: What’s most important to me in my boxing career is that I like to win. That’s all that matters to me is that I win. Not only when you say win, you know, yeah we all want to achieve the big belts, the WBC the IBF, all those big titles and whatnot. But you have guys that have those belts and have nothing, you know? Meaning that when you leave this game you really haven’t won. Why? Because. This is an opportunity for you to provide for your family. And when you’re able to provide for your family then that’s winning. That’s what it’s all about is winning. Winning to the point to where I have enough to take from this game to set aside for my family. And so that my family can live, you know, happily ever after. That’s what it’s about with me. So as long as I’m winning I know my family is taken care of.
JP: Describe your style in the ring and what you see as your greatest strengths?
LB: Actually I don’t have a style. Basically I box off of what you give me. I think I have a great jab. I have a very unique left hand which is the jab. I can turn it into a left hook, I can turn it into a left uppercut, you know? I can probably throw an overhand left at you. It varies. Do you know Prince Haseem Ahmed? Okay, I like a lot of his arsenal. He’s a guy who is a little off balance as well. But he’s not real rangy like me, he’s rangy, but he’s not real long like me. So as far as the comparison I think I have a style like him. A little something with a little Bob Foster as well in there, you know?
As far as favorite fighters that I like, you know Bob Foster. I like things that Roy Jones does. There’s things that Bernard Hopkins does. With his sneaky right hand. You know how he crowds you with the right hand and bumps you off with the right shoulder? Then he turns back into the right handed stance. There’s things Holyfield does. He’s a dog in there, you know? There’s quite a few things that a lot of those guys do that is put into what makes “Memphis Fairway”. And that makes me a complete fighter.
As far as my style, favorite shots, you know, I don’t like my right hand. But I have a nice right hand uppercut. My right hand is pretty crafty. There’s a lot of things that I can do that makes me a complete fighter. I just basically work off of what you do. I mean I don’t have no certain style or specific style that I do. Whatever you give me, I’ll take it, you know? So whatever you give me, that means whatever mistakes you have made, I will make you pay for it. And you’re going to pay for it in the worst way, you know? And it will cost you. It will only take one time, because I am a devastating, hard punching machine. Trainer Danny Smith showed me a lot about the game, you know? About defense, being able to move your head, being a sharpshooter. And how to place your shots and stuff. And being able to do all that I think that those are the basic things, that brought out these other unique things which I’ve seen in other guys. I’ve just tried them and they just made “Memphis Fairway”. I put them into my own and made “Memphis Fairway”. But back again, just describing my style I don’t have a specific one, because hey, this is “Fairway”, you know?
Each fight, you know, you’re like, “Damn, he didn’t fight that way, he fought this way. He does something totally different every fight”. Something that you will see every fight is that left uppercut. That left uppercut is very dangerous. It’s very dangerous. Look out.
JP: Who would you like to fight if given the shot?
LB: Well I’d like to give it to my old time friend here. I’ve known him for awhile and I’ve known him since about ’97. It’s Jermain Taylor. Jermain Taylor, I think that would definitely be a good fight. It’d be a fight I’d like to take for the long haul. You know it can be a year or two from now if possible. If it happened you know; it would be great. We’re in different weight divisions and we’re both in two different directions but that is a fight that could possibly be merged together, because the fact that he’s a Little Rock native and I’m a Memphis native and we could meet right there at the river, you know? Rumble on the River. And this would be something real serious. Something big as far as the both of us. And it’s all about the money, you better believe that. But he’s a big puncher, I’m a big puncher. He’s a boxer, he’s a guy that likes to throw a great jab, I have a great jab as well. He has a great right hand. But some things that he doesn’t have I’m going to keep that a secret. (Laughs) That will be someone down the line I would like to fight, Jermain Taylor. And afterwards may the best man win and after hey, let’s go to one of the hot spots and enjoy it. (Laughs)
JP: If a promoter was looking to put you on their card, what would you tell them to expect from you in the ring?
LB: I would tell the promoters to look out for a young fighter that has a devastating, you know, beautiful jab. I have a beautiful jab. Not only the single, I can double it, I can triple it. I can turn it into an uppercut, you know? I can turn it into a left hook. It can be a three dimensional shot. Leading, following with the right hand. You know, after the right hand coming back with a right uppercut? It varies. Also look for the left uppercut. Yeah, but if a promoter is looking for a great fighter, and an all around fighter, then I’m your guy. Because you know the things that a promoter is looking for will show when they see the great things that I do. Working the body, you know? Left to right and from right to left. Once again, that left uppercut. A beautiful jab. A detrimental jab. A good right hand. You know, turning it over beautifully. And then just coming back around and be back on the jab, you know? Begin with a jab and end with a jab. I think that those are things that a promoter would be looking for. A guy who is rangy who has range and has power with it, you know? A Bob Foster, you’re going to see another Bob Foster. A Tommy Hearns. And that you will see in “Memphis Fairway”.
JP: Do you have any favorite fighters other than who you already mentioned earlier?
LB: Once again, there’s various fighters that I like, not just a specific one. There’s various fighters that have good things that they do. I like Prince Naseem. His lateral movement, you know? Being off balance are some of the things I have picked up. Naseem jumping in with the right uppercuts and left uppercuts. The leapy jab, you know? Lead right hand and then back with a left. Those are good things though with Prince Naseem. A great all around boxer will be able to utilize your range and distance and won’t let anyone smother you and take away your strength and turn it into weakness. What I picked up from Bernard is his right hand, and if he misses he bumps off with his right shoulder, you know, and turns to his left and then back on his jab. There’s things with Roy Jones. He likes to throw lead left hooks. I like those about him. Holyfield, he’s a brutal dog in there, a real rough housing guy. His pressure and his will to win; those are things I like about Holyfield. You know?
You got Chris Byrd. He’s real slippery. I don’t have the most speed in the world, but he’s a guy who puts his punches together, and he puts them in 6 or 7, in combinations, you know? Things like that about him. And I’m not saying I do that very much, but I pretty much throw 3 or 4 shots and they’re the type of shots that you either get hit or get the hell out of the way of. James Toney, his defense. He’s one of the fighters that has one of the greatest defenses in the game. You can’t even point out a guy who has better defense than James Toney. You know, Floyd Mayweather Jr. That guy has good defense. Not as great as James Toney but he does have good defense. He’s a real slippery guy. A lot of guys. You got Diego Corrales. He’s a dog guy; he’s a very doggish guy in the ring. Once again here’s a guy who has that will to win and he puts his punches in bunches, he’s also a guy who is consistent with certain shots. Body, head, body head, that’s what he’s going to do.
A lot of those things that those guys do I’ve picked out certain things from them and put it in to make it “Memphis Fairway”.
JP: Are there any fights lined up for you this year that readers should know about?
LB: We don’t have anything definite at this given time, but we’re looking towards April 27, or the 29th. I think the 27th is California and the 29th is Washington State. Either or. At this given time we’re having problems finding opponents that are willing to fight for the little money that they have dished out. And that’s become a big factor, the money situation. Guys don’t want to put their career on the line if they know they might have the opportunity of having no career, so why should take a chance fighting a guy who has a great record of 14 1 with one draw and 14 KOs. And regardless of who I have fought they know that hey, he still has a great record, and they know that it will put their life on the line for nothing. So that’s the reason why I haven’t been able to fight, but it’s not that these guys have been scared. Once again, it’s a business, so the money is a huge issue of it all, yeah.
JP: Thank you for allowing me to interview you and taking the time out of your training to talk with me, I appreciate it. Is there anything at all that you would like to say to the fans, press, or boxing public out there before we wrap this up?
LB: To all the fighters that are in this business and are trying to be successful, you know it’s hard, I’ve been in the game since I was eight, that’s like 17 or 18 years in the game, you know? And I feel like I should be right there with the Jermain Taylors and the Jeff Lacys, but every dog has his day. But the key is stay positive, stay strong and just be willing to give your all. And just stay focused and keep forward; and one thing don’t quit because you know once a quitter always a quitter. And as long as you don’t quit and stay positive and stay strong. You know it’s tough out there. It’s tough with the business aspect of it more than the fighting part, but just keep in a positive mind and keep moving forward.
Closing Note: LaFarrell Bunting has all the tools of the trade and then some. He’s knocking at the door and it’s time someone let him in already. Because if you don’t he may just break it down on his own. He’s a gifted, honest and unique talent that deserves the same kind of quality opposition, opportunities, and lucrative fights that everyone seems to be willing to give to all the other guys who don’t deserve them. He’s been making his bones since he was 8 years old and someone needs to take notice of this fighter already. Stop doing yourselves and boxing an injustice and acknowledge “Memphis Fairway”. You’ll be glad you did. It’s time to return boxing back to what it used to be and this starts with LaFarrell Bunting and boxers like him.
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