Bobby Czyz Interview: From Triumph to Tragedy and Ultimate Serenity By John J. Raspanti (May 25, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
No boxing fan with a memory has forgotten The Matinee Idol, Bobby Czyz. He burst on the fight scene in 1980 and proceeded to win his first twenty fights. He was immediate ESPN superstar, an extremely likeable kid who talked well and the girls loved. Bobby was a full out rock star at barely twenty years old…but…there were whispers about his ability.
He’s white, bright and polite but could he fight?
Bobby would answer his critics in a career that spanned eighteen years. He fought the most talented fighters of his era, taking on names like Sims, Hamsho, Kacar Edwards, Williams, Hill and the Canadian bomber Donny Lalonde. Though limited by size he moved up and won two titles, the IBF light heavyweight championship in 1986 and the cruiserweight title with a hard fought split decision over Robert Daniels. Bobby was the underdog in both of these fights, but with talent, desire and heart he overcame whatever obstacles his opponents threw at him.
Bobby’s life has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and personal tragedy. Recently I spoke with him about that life and some of the biggest fights of his career including the controversy that still surrounds his rumble with Evander Holyfield.
Oh and yes, without a question…Bobby proved he could fight.
John J. Raspanti: You were injured in a terrible automobile accident in 2007, how are you dong these days?
Bobby Czyz: On Friday, April 13th 2007 I was in a horrible car accident that put me in the hospital for 7 weeks, 4 of those weeks in an induced coma. The doctors originally gave me 3-5 days to live because of how badly burned my lungs were. After an emergency surgery (I somehow pulled the feeding tube out while in the coma) & a multitude of things going wrong, I am doing much better these days. Four weeks in an induced coma, collapsed lungs, a tracheotomy put in, pneumonia & developing Mersa was not pleasant but, I AM A FIGHTER TO THE CORE! Although the hospital stay has put me in debt for more than 1.5 million dollars, I will get back on top before the end of this year. I started broadcasting again & got involved in the commodities business which should get me back on top, very soon.
JR: So the future looks bright?
BC: My future looks as bright as I decide to make it. When I first stepped into the boxing gym in 1972, at the age of 10, there was this poem on the wall that I read everyday: VICTORIES WHICH ARE QUICK & EASY, MUCH LIKE THE MORNING MIST, WILL VANISH JUST AS QUICKLY. BUT, THOSE BORN OF TEARS, HARD WORK & STRUGGLE ARE APT TO LAST A PERSON'S FULL LIFE! This is a big part of my Credo, I work for the things that I want & will do so once more as life goes on. I have an incredible support system of friends & family & together life will yield great things for me in the future.
JR: Let’s go back to the beginning of your career; your first fight was on April 24th, 1980. What do you remember about that fight?
BC: It was a Thursday night & I was still in high school. Dozens of my friends, schoolmates & family were at the fight. The adrenaline was rushing through my body like a river in a raging storm. I wanted to be impressive but, also professional & let the people close to me as well the rest of the boxing fans know, THAT I WAS THE REAL THING! The fight only lasted 1 minute & 40 seconds. I was a very good finisher & as soon as I hurt my opponent, the fight was quickly stopped. An all new high in my young life, as I had my hands raised in victory on national television. ESPN, the cable network, was broadcasting fights back then, every Thursday night. This gave boxing fans a chance to grow with the fighters & follow their careers from the very start & watch them mature or fade away.
JR: You beat Danny Long, Teddy Mann and former junior middleweight champion Oscar Albarado in quick order. Your popularity was growing; they were calling you “The Matinee Idol”. Was it hard to stay grounded?
BC: When I turned pro, there were many articles which talked about my being a straight "A" student & that I was WHITE, BRIGHT & POLITE but, could I really fight. IMAGINE THAT, REVERSE DISCRIMINATION in the sport of boxing (I got used to it). The "MATINEE IDOL" was actually O.K. with me; I got a big kick out of that nickname. I was always taught to "REMEMBER WHERE I CAME FROM" & that helped me to stay focused & grounded. Besides, being very intelligent, I knew I wasn't as talented as some of the other fighters out there so, I had to work harder & beat then with MY WILL TO WIN. Toughness can't be taught or acquired; you have to be born with it or HAVE IT BEAT INTO TOUR BEING! My father accomplished that for me & I will be forever grateful for that (in a strange way).
JR: Your 17th professional fight was a tough one against Robbie Sims, what can you tell me about that fight?
BC: This was my "COMING OF AGE" fight. We were both undefeated & he was the half brother of Marvin Hagler, the Undisputed Middleweight Champion of the World. Many of the so-called fight experts thought I would get beat but, after dropping Sims in the 10th round, I was so pumped up, that when the bell rang to end the fight, I SCREAMED INTO THE CAMERA.....I DID IT! This fight was the highest Nielsen rated NBC Sportsworld fight in history (up to that point in time. Sugar Ray Leonard topped it some years later) & I was an IMMEDIATE STAR on a national level. This fight put me into the world ranking & was a bit of a turning point for me.
JR: I remember watching you against Mustafa Hamsho and thinking “Bobby looks nervous”. Was that true?
BC: I was EXTREMELY NERVOUS going into this fight. Many things weren't right before this fight but the money was so much (compared to what my family had) that there was no turning back. 2 days before the fight I got sick but, and most importantly, I took diuretics for 2 days to make the weight (I was outgrowing the middleweight division). Couple that with the fact that I broke my right hand in the second round, & it was going to be a LONG & TERRIBLE NIGHT! This fight, in many ways, helped to mature me & build the character necessary to become a world champion.
JR: Did the loss to Hamsho bother you a lot? Or did you consider it a learning experience?
BC: It didn't bother me that much because of all of the things that went wrong with the fight. He was too experienced for me & I learned how to step up my game after the experience & got to the point that I eventually became a championship caliber contender.
JR: Were you having trouble making weigh at this point?
BC: For me the weight troubles at middleweight were INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. Even at super middleweight they became a struggle. By the time I reached light heavyweight, I was at my VERY BEST!
JR: You won your first title as a light heavyweight in 1986, against the undefeated Slobadan Kacar. Tell me about that fight…
BC: I went to see Kacar fight in Italy, against Eddie Mustafa Muhammad in 1985. This was my first glimpse of Kacar & it was live, which gives one a better perspective. It was a very close fight but I got to look in Kacar's eyes & I saw his fear. By the time we met in the ring, a year later, I was in his head. I knew I would knock him out within 8 rounds FOR SURE! I worked the body & the came up top with heavy blows & got him in trouble in the 5th round & just like that, I AM THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD! This was by far the greatest high there could ever be. NO DRUG could match this. I, for the 1st time, understood why people cry when they are happy. The explosion of emotion within me started my eyes watering but, I COULDN'T LET ANYONE NOTICE! At that moment, when my hands were raised, I realized that I was immortal. I was part of sport's history FOREVER! This was the goal I set out to accomplish at the age of 10 & NOW IT WAS MY DESTINY FULFILLED!
JR: In 1991 you moved up to the cruiserweight division and won your second title by a split decision over Robert Daniels. A number of critics said you couldn’t beat the younger Daniels, was this ultimate redemption for Bobby Czyz?
BC: I was a 3 1/2 to 1 underdog to Daniels; however, the boxing experts did the same thing as many of my opponents, THEY UNDERESTIMATED ME! After the fight, when being interviewed, Robert Daniels said "I had no idea he could box so well". In the very 1st round I realized that my basic strategy could not prevail, Daniels was too strong for me. I had to slip & move, box from the outside, which I was not known for. In doing this, I threw Daniels off & I piled up the rounds chasing my second world title. TWICE THE SATISFACTION, I AM NO FLUKE! This fight took place 20 years to the day that Joe Frazier beat Mohammad Ali at the Garden, a day that I never forgot. That was the last time I cried myself to sleep because I was such an Ali fan as a youngster. Proving that I can attain the level of world champion in more than 1 division was EXTREMELY SATISFYING for the legacy that I hoped to leave behind when boxing was over for me.
JR: There has always been controversy surrounding your fight against Evander Holyfield. What happened that night?
BC: I was never born with the physical gifts of size & talent as Evander but I am smarter than he is. I KNEW IN MY HEART THAT HE WOULD UNDERESTIMATE MY TOUGHNESS & not train for a long fight. I ALSO KNEW THAT I WAS TOUGH ENOUGH TO TAKE HIS BEST SHOTS long enough for him to tire, if he didn't train properly (I WAS COUNTING ON THIS). As the fight unfolded, he used EVERYTHING HE HAD to try & take me out in the 1st round. He threw 87 punches in the 1st round, more than he'd ever thrown in his entire heavyweight career. As the next round ended, I told my trainer that my eyes were on fire. Also, Holyfield had slowed TREMENDOUSLY & by the 4th round I was out throwing him in punches but, my eyes were in trouble. I couldn't see clearly & the pain was significant. Eventually, after the fight, Bert Cooper reached out to me & told me as soon as he dropped Holyfield in their fight, THE VERY NEXT ROUND HIS EYES WERE BURNING LIKE CRAZY & HE COULDN'T SEE PROPERLY! 1 year later, during an interview, Evander said that if I went 1 more round, he was going to quit. The state police told me some years later that they believed that tabasco sauce was what was used on the gloves. My vision after that fight went from 20:15, to 20:35 & I need glasses to see distances. His corner did something but I wasn't able to get the proof of that.
JR: Was the move to the heavyweight division purely driven by money or…opportunity?
BC: The move was strictly a financial decision. Certainly the opportunity to become Heavyweight Champion of the world would be very welcome but, I knew my chances were slim to none. I just didn't have the size to compete at that level.
JR: Who was the best fighter you ever fought?
BC: I guess the consensus on that question would probably be Evander Holyfield but, the hardest person to fight was DEFINITELY Corey Sanders. At 6'5" & over 240 lbs, with great speed & a southpaw, I didn't stand a chance. I could never really compete at the heavyweight level, with my limited size.
JR: You said you were doing boxing commentating again, is that a regular gig?
BC: Yes, it is. Every 2 months or so, I have been doing PPV events for different promoters & most recently (on May 15th) I will be calling a MMA fight with Ricardo Mayorga as the feature bout. It is not where I see myself in 3-5 years but, for right now, while I'm getting back on my feet, it is a nice gig.
JR: Best fighter right now?
BC: If & when they fight, the winner of the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight will get that honor. That fight has the makings of what legends are made of.
JR: How much do you miss boxing?
BC: I miss being able to compete at the championship level MORE THAN THE DESERT MISSES THE RAIN! The GLORY DAYS as the people close to me refer to them as. But, time stands still for no one & it is on to the next good challenge or fight for us all.
JR: Last question…Do you have any regrets regarding your career?
BC: Yes, I regret not sticking it out for another round or two with Holyfield (now that I know he was going to quit) & certainly there are the "MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK" decisions that I can make now with PERFECT RETROSPECTIVE THINKING that, might have been better for me at the time. All in all, I am VERY SATISFIED with the legacy that I leave behind & am PROUD OF WHAT I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED!