When Ola “Kryptonite” Afolabi started
out his career back in 2002, he did so with no fanfare whatsoever and for
many years, was more of a sparring partner than a professional prizefighter. For
long stretches of his career, Afolabi was inactive but always stayed in the
gym, believing the call would come. It did when he was matched with fast-moving
prospect Eric Fields. It was an opportunity Afolabi, 31, wasn't going to waste,
stopping the upstart a minute into the final round. It was a win that got
him attention and within a year, he was heading to Britain to fight for the
only time to date in his birthplace, meeting former champion Enzo Maccarinelli
for the vacant WBO cruiserweight title. Behind on two of the cards and level on
the other, Afolabi produced a huge overhand right that ended the contest midway
through the ninth round. Though he lost the title in his maiden defence via
close unanimous decision to Marco Huck, he showed he belonged in the upper
echelons of the cruiserweight division. Afolabi has since worked his way back
into title contention with four wins, three by stoppage including a stirring
one-punch knockout over fellow Brit Terry Dunstan on the undercard of Wladimir
Klitschko-David Haye. Now he's ranked as Huck's mandatory challenger for the WBO title and with a score to settle,
wants his old title back. K2 Promotions’ Managing Director Tom Loeffler
adds, “Ola never really had any type of professional training environment;
he was winning his fights based on raw talent and heart and lost to Huck by
only one round on the judges’ scorecards. After one year of working with Fritz
Sdunek, Vitali Klitschko's trainer, Ola is a completely different fighter and
we expect him to KO Huck in the rematch.”
- Rumor is that you'll be facing Marco
Huck in a rematch for the WBO cruiserweight title. Can you update us on this, dates,
Ola Afolabi – We're just waiting on [Huck’s
promoters] Sauerland and Huck’s people to give us the go-ahead. I don’t know
what they’re doing. Let’s get it over with. They’re talking about the middle of
February or early March. Either way, let’s make it happen. Everything is in their
court now. We’re ready to go.
- Having met Huck before what are his
strengths and weaknesses?
OA - His strengths, he’s very active, very strong. He
keeps coming forward, apart from that, that’s about it. His weakness is he
makes a lot of mistakes that I’m not going to get into right now because if he
reads this, he’s going to work on those weaknesses before the fight and I don’t
want him to work on them. Even if he does think I know his weakness, let him
work on the wrong things and we can capitalize on it.
AW - You're British but have only fought
in Great Britain once. Is that something you'd like to do again?
OA - I'd
love to come back to England, beat Marco Huck and bring the belt back to
AW - Who are the key members of your team?
Also where do you regularly train?
OA - My manager is Victor Martinez and Pedro Rosado. They’re
two Mexican guys I met out here in 2000. They've pretty much been awesome to
me; they've taken care of me since I was 20 years old that's 11 years. My
promotional team is K2, Tom Loeffler. The Klitschkos wanted to sign
me about five years ago but I had a contract, so I got out of that and
eventually, we got together and signed with them and here I am. My
coach is Fritz Sdunek. My conditioner is Harold Parker from Venice Beach,
California, who has worked with Kevin Kelley, Oba Carr, James Toney, Shane
Mosley and Dr. Dre, rapper and NBA athletes. My cutman is Jacob “Stitch” Duran.
When I'm in L.A., I work out three days a week at Wild Card Boxing, Freddie
Roach's (gym). Then I do conditioning three days a week. That's when I go to
Venice Beach. When I'm not in L.A., I’m up in the mountains in Austria with the
AW - Some people look at boxers namely
those who fight at the top of the game and think they make a great living out
of it. That’s hardly the case. Do you also work a day job? If not, have you had
to in the past?
OA - Oh yeah, at first, I made a living being a sparring
partner, training people at the gym and stuff like that. Life isn't as easy as
people think. You have to realise I went three years without a fight and I had
bills to pay and to eat. I had to work to make that money. Fortunately, I was
lucky enough that my managers Pedro Rosado and Victor Martinez helped me out a
little bit but I was hurting. I had to make a living, so that's pretty much
what I did.
When I got the opportunity to fight Eric Fields, he was
11-0, nine knockouts. He was a big up-and-comer. I was 45 pounds overweight and
we had four weeks’ notice to fight him for the NABO title. I had to lose 45 in
four weeks. I got that done. I got paid pennies but it opened the door to fight
Enzo and Marco Huck and now, I’m with the Klitschkos. Things have been looking
up, so I’m not looking back.
AW - The fight that really got you noticed
was in March 2009 in Britain when you came from behind on two of the judges’
scorecards to score a ninth round KO over Enzo Maccarinelli. Can you tell us
about the fight from your point of view, the knockout and what it changed for
you in your life?
OA – Well, pretty much up to that fight, I was off for
three years. I got the fight with Eric Fields, then a few months later, I got
the opportunity to fight Enzo Maccarinelli. I was kind of rusty. They were
saying he only had two rounds with Mathew Ellis and all that stuff. I hadn't
fought in three years, so I was kind of rusty. I wasn't working out. I was
lazy. I won’t even lie and I’ve always had a lazy style. I went out there and I
knew eventually, the guy would tire himself out and I'd get the opportunity to
knock him out, so that's pretty much what I did. I pretty much agree with the
judges. I was losing on the scorecards huge but as you know, there's 12 rounds
in a fight. I don’t care if I lose the first 11 rounds as long as I knock you
out, that’s all that matters but you know, I was rusty. I came in there I did
what I had to to get it done. Since then, my life has changed. I don’t have to
make a living taking punches to the head anymore [as a sparring partner]. I was
getting injured more in training than I was in fights, so that really doesn’t
make any sense. Since then, my sparring partner mentality has totally gone.
AW - What are your thoughts on the cruiserweight
division? What do you think of the current champions, the WBC’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk,
the WBA’s Guillermo Jones, the IBF’s Yoan Hernandez and Huck?
OA - I think the cruiserweight division has a lot of
excitement with [Antonio] Tarver coming in, with [Danny] Green who just lost.
There's noticeable fights going on. I think with this Marco Huck fight, it’ll
probably be one of the most exciting and biggest cruiserweight fights in a
couple of years. If I can get that, I think I we can go on to bigger names like
[Denis] Lebedev and stuff. Even though Lebedev isn’t the champion, I think he is
a bigger name at cruiserweight than Marco Huck is. The cruiserweight division
is slowly spilling over to America also ‘cause there’s a Nigerian guy over here
named Lateef Kayode and he’s creating a little buzz, so eventually, we’ll come
into play. We’ll take our time; we’re relatively young compared in boxing
OK, I think Marco Huck is really strong and he's been
fighting a couple of guys from Argentina and Europe and they can’t really hang
with him. Training with a European coach now, I see the strength and
conditioning they do over there is ridiculous. I mean the conditioning they
have over there is superb. That’s the problem with America. It has the talent
but not the conditioning. The people are lazy and Europe has the conditioning
but pretty much not the talent. So when it comes to working with a European
coach, I’ve sucked up the talent in America and now I’m sucking up all the
conditioning in Europe, I’ll be unstoppable!
But Marco Huck, technique-wise, is not that good. Lebedev,
technique-wise, he's not that good. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, also technique-wise,
I don't think is good. But they’re all strong. The WBA champion, Guillermo
Jones, he's got talent. You'd never believe it but he's with the wrong guy. Don
King shelved him for years. I think he'll get old before he defends his title
again. Hernandez got lucky getting that title. I think Steve Cunningham is
going to beat him in the rematch and get the title back. I don't think
Hernandez will last as a champion.
AW - You worked with and have been
around Freddie Roach at the Wild Card and have recently with Emanuel
Steward. Both are known as two of the best trainers in the world today. Can you
share your experiences with both?
OA - I don't train with Emanuel Steward. I train with
Fritz Sdunek but there's nothing wrong with picking up advice. You'd be stupid
not to take it from guys like Freddie and Emanuel. But in the last camp, I was
in with Emanuel Steward when they were getting ready for David Haye. I totally
picked up a lot of stuff from Emanuel Steward. It’s eye opening. We go into boxing
and it's kind of an ego thing. We think we know it all and then somebody comes
up to you and gives you a simple piece of advice and you just wonder why you'd
never seen it [before]. Being around boxing and guys like that for years can
give you simple advice and it's priceless. I’m soaking it up like a sponge.
AW - You were born in London. Can you tell
us about your early days and how you first became interested in the sport?
OA - I was born in England and went to school in England
and Nigeria because my parents wanted me to learn the language and stuff. So I
was kind of bouncing back and fore. That's why my British accent never
really stuck. That's why it was easy for me to lose it in America. I lived with
my aunt from home; I got into trouble, ran away from home. I ended up on the
street. I ended up in the hostel system. I was with the wrong crowd. My mum got
sick. I came over to America. When I was over here, she died and I made a
decision not to go back to all the nonsense I was doing, so I ended up in
America. I started boxing. I was winning my fights; I had no amateur fights. I
was training as an amateur at Battersea Boys Club but really didn't have any
[amateur] fights. Boxing was going well and I decided to stick with boxing and
not go back and here I am, 11 years later.
AW - Outside of boxing, what do you like to
do with your spare time?
OA - I like my monster cars and motorcycles. I work on
them and my bikes. Just hang out at the beach. I'm very simple. I don't go out
much. I don't go to clubs much. I don't drink much. I just chill out. I like
American football. The college one is way more exciting than the professional
to me. The NBA, I can't watch baseball ‘cause that makes me fall asleep. Pretty
much any sport ‘cause I’m an athlete.
AW - Who were your boxing heroes growing up
and who do you enjoy watching today?
OA - I'd have to say [Mike] Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Muhammad
Ali, [Joe] Frazier. I liked David Tua ‘cause he was devastating when he got in
there. Oh, and Jack Johnson, he’s way, way older. Some of these boxing guys
today don't know who Jack Johnson is. I enjoy watching [Manny] Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather,
[Juan Manuel] Marquez, James Toney- even though he lost [his last fight]. When
you go to the gym and watch James Toney spar, it's like something you've never
seen. He's commentating, talking, swearing, boxing the crap out of people, so that's
always entertaining. Um, there's this young fighter; he just lost, [Jorge]
Linares from Venezuela but lives in Japan. He's pretty good. When you watch him
spar, it's like something else.
AW – Finally,
do you have a message for Marco Huck?
OA - Marco Huck, man, let’s do this.
There's no way of sugarcoating it or running around anymore. I'm number one.
I’m the mandatory. Let’s give people what they want. The first fight, he beat
me because of a combination of things. I was lazy. We were in Germany. His
promoter did the show and I almost knocked him out. Now I'm training with Fritz
Sdunek and the Klitschkos. We fight on even ground and, you know, let’s make
the fight happen. I know I'm going to beat him. He’s a nice guy. I ran into him
at the WBO convention; we spoke. It’s a job and he’s stopping me making good
money, so I have to take him out.