Exclusive interview with Esham Pickering
Interview by Adam Williamson (January 12, 2005)
The ‘frustrating year’. Most boxers get at least one of these during their ring career. The 12-month period when hardly anything goes right through little or no fault of the boxer himself. Postponements, cancellations, injuries, illness and pure bad luck are all ingredients of the ‘frustrating year’, as Esham Pickering knows all too well.
2004 started well enough for Pickering as he won the prestigious European Super-Bantamweight title in January. But he has only had one fight since, a straightforward defence of his European crown against Spain’s Juan Garcia Martin, who was clearly out of his depth. Since that fight in May Esham has been down to fight on three or four separate occasions but due to unfortunate circumstances nothing has materialised.
For the past couple of months Esham has been preparing for his second title defence against another Spaniard, this time in the form of the unbeaten Miguel Mallon. Mallon’s promoter won the right to stage the fight - expected to take place in Madrid - but so far the pencilled-in March 4th date has yet to be confirmed.
Read on as Pickering vents his frustrations and reveals the sacrifice he may have to make as a result of his ring inactivity. Pickering talks of his hopes for 2005 and a possible world title eliminator against a young Mexican hot-shot. Plus find out how Esham rates stable-mate Junior Witter’s chances against Lovemore Ndou... and much more.
Adam Williamson: Can you tell me what the latest situation is regarding your European title defence against Miguel Mallon?
Esham Pickering: For three weeks I have been told March the 4th. Every Friday and every Monday I have been told that I am getting confirmation for the fight. It feels like I’ve been led down a path. ‘You’re going to get confirmation Friday, You’re going to get confirmation Monday’. I’ve been in training all the time, trying to keep my head right and keep training but I’ve never got the confirmation.
AW: When was the last time they told you it would still take place March 4th?
EP: Last Friday it was still, ‘Just waiting for the confirmation’. According to Jess (Harding, Pickering’s promoter), he was dealing with the Spanish promoter who was waiting for confirmation about the TV deal.
AW: So it’s still a possibility that the fight could go ahead on March 4th?
EP: It could but it looks very doubtful because they can’t give us the confirmation. It’s going out to a purse bid in three weeks unless he comes up with the confirmation.
AW: How late would you let them leave it?
EP: I’ll have to talk to my team. I’m still training…
AW: So you would be ready for that date?
EP: I’d be ready, yeah. I think he’s leaving it to the last minute, the promoter, doing it clever, and expect me not to be prepared and then just chuck it on me.
AW: If the fight does go to purse bids again, is there any chance of you defending the title back in Britain?
EP: It’s down to TV and promoters. I was up against it going to Spain anyway, I’ve already got robbed out there (Pickering lost a split decision against Alejandro Monzon in 2002), but I was still very keyed up and very hungry for the fight. There was nothing in my mind that was negative. It gives me the inspiration to knock him out because last time I got robbed. I would have done it in style, it would have been a different Esham Pickering that night. I wouldn’t have been a ‘fancy Dan’, it would have been an explosive Mike Tyson style job. A lot of things have happened in the last two months and I’m very hungry.
AW: Have you seen much of Mallon in case the fight does happen?
EP: I haven’t seen any tapes of him, but I know he’s 24-0. I’ve looked through his record there is no big names, nothing of note. I’m not going to underestimate anybody but I’ll get a tape once the fight’s confirmed and I’ll have a look at him then. But he’ll get knocked out because I’m too hungry and too determined at this point for anybody to go the distance. There is no way he’s going the distance.
AW: How frustrated are you generally? You haven’t fought since May.
EP: I was supposed to fight in July. The whole show fell through - Nicky Cook got injured. I got shingles in September and then December was supposed to be a possibility and then something happened there and now this one. So it’s just been a nightmare. I put all my time into my boxing and I’m relying on my boxing but what I’m going to have to do now, because there is no money coming in, and I never wanted to look at it like this because I do enjoy boxing, the training becomes a bit monotonous, but I do enjoy it, but I’m going to have to get a proper steady job now. I’ve done all kinds of different jobs before but I more or less done part-time work but this time I’m going to have to get a proper job.
AW: So what’s happening to the boxing?
EP: I’ll just wait for a date and when I get that date…
AW: …start training?
EP: I’ll always be training but coming up to a fight I’ll just get more stuck in.
AW: So you are going to have more or less a full-time job and do your training on top of that?
EP: Yeah, I have to. For the last year I’ve had a decent sponsor and I’ve got a decent monthly wage where I haven’t had to work and I’ve been concentrating fully on my boxing. That sponsor is going to expire in March and I won’t have enough money coming in and it will be too much of a struggle. It’s part of life, it’s not really getting me down, but I’ve been a bit fed up. I’ve just got to prove myself and look good doing it because that’s important for TV.
AW: 2004 was a frustrating year for you Esham, but you did pick up top 10 rankings with the WBC and IBF. Do you feel the big fights are getting any nearer?
EP: It comes down to TV and promoters again. I’m willing to travel and do anything to get my opportunity. If I get a chance against Larios, Guzman, or whoever, if I have to travel it’s not even a problem. If the opportunity comes you’ve got to grab it with both hands. I’m not too far away, but there are also other guys who aren’t too far away.
AW: Is Jess Harding speaking to anyone, trying to secure a big fight?
EP: This is what I’m being told, now whether it’s the truth or not I don’t know. Jess has got no TV deal so he’s ‘ducking and diving’, but he’s said he has been offered an IBF eliminator. It’s all talk, but he’s been offered an IBF eliminator against a guy called Daniel Ponce De Leon. He’s 24-0 with 23 knockouts. He’s supposed to be dangerous but if it’s good money I’ll box him. I’ve got faith something will come up and I’ll probably have to travel but like I say that’s not a problem.
AW: Do you get the feeling that fight is a realistic possibility?
EP: To me it’s just talk, just hype at the minute. Nothing concrete.
AW: What are your hopes for 2005?
EP: Just to get the opportunities and keep winning. Ideally I’d like to defend my European title two more times and then get a chance at the world title. That’s in my dreams really, I don’t think it will work out like that. What will probably happen because I’ve got no TV deal is I’ll either get a straight shot at a title or I’ll have a hard fight with some eliminator guy. Whatever happens I’m up for a challenge, I never duck anybody, I never have done and I never will.
AW: A match between arguably the best two super-bantamweights Oscar Larios and Joan Guzman is being talked about for April. If that one happens who do you fancy in that?
EP: Guzman is an animal, he’s really heavy handed, but 9st 2lb (128lbs) he came in for his last fight and he was supposed to be defending his world title.
AW: Yeah he was supposed to be fighting at super-bantamweight and instead fought at super-feather…
EP: Yeah and I think Larios is one of those guys who is always fully prepared. He’s always in great condition and he’ll take some knocking over. If I have to put my money on it I’d go for Oscar Larios to win on points.
AW: Your stable-mate and good friend Junior Witter will fight Lovemore Ndou on the Bernard Hopkins - Howard Eastman undercard. Is he as confident as ever?
EP: Junior is thriving on the challenge he’s very motivated. Lovemore Ndou is one tough hombre. He fought Miguel Cotto and he was chasing him around in the last round. He was unlucky against Sharmba Mitchell. He is one tough hombre who comes to fight, who can hit and who is in great condition. But he’s not going to beat Junior Witter.
AW: I was wondering about what Witter’s tactics will be. Obviously he’s been more aggressive recently but in this fight are we going to see more movement like the ‘old’ Junior Witter?
EP: I asked Junior this, ‘how are you going to come out? What are your tactics?’ And he said that he’s going to have a look at the tapes, and that was a couple of days ago and I haven’t spoken to him since. I know he’s really up for the fight. I think what he’ll do is come out in the first round, have a look at him and see what the guy has to offer as he normally does. I think he might jump on him and see how it goes and maybe if he doesn’t get rid of him he’ll settle down.
AW: But you are confident in your boy though?
EP: I think Junior will win on points. I am confident for him, but this guy is tough and strong. If he stops Lovemore Ndou I think people have to rate Junior Witter. He’s a tough guy, he’s stretched all the top quality fighters and if Junior stops him he’s got to go down as a favourite to win one of the main world titles. There is no two ways about it.
AW: Are you going over to L.A. to support him?
EP: I was going to go but with my career on the ropes at the minute, I’ve got to concentrate on my own career and there are a lot of other things going on in my personal life. So I’ve got to concentrate and think about my own life.
Doghouse Boxing would like to thank Esham for taking the time and effort to make this interview possible. We wish him the best of luck for the future.
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