Barry Michael speaks on Ramadan-Rivas, Hatton-Katsidis, Green-Cameron and more

Barry Michael speaks on Ramadan-Rivas, Hatton-Katsidis, Green-Cameron and more
By Daniel Smart, Doghouse Boxing (Oct 5, 2012)

Barry Michael
Former world champion Barry Michael is perhaps best known for his bruising 15 round battle against crosstown hero Lester Ellis when, as the underdog, Michael annexed the IBF super featherweight title in 1985. In the 25 years that have elapsed since Michael hung up the gloves after a loss to Rocky Lockridge, he has remained active in the fight game as a manager, trainer, promoter and commentator. In this wide-ranging interview, Michael speaks at length about the cancelled rematch between newly-minted world champion Susie “Q” Ramadan and Yasmin Rivas, rates Danny Green’s chances against fearsome Kiwi Shane Cameron, and considers how a potential match-up between England’s Ricky Hatton and Australia’s Michael Katsidis would play out.

DANIEL SMART: Hi guys, it’s Daniel Smart from I’m here with former IBF super featherweight champion, Barry Michael. Barry, how are you today, mate?

BARRY MICHAEL: Good thanks, Daniel; how are you?

DANIEL SMART: I’m good, I’m going very well. It’s a windy old day in Melbourne town, but anyway, we’ll get over it. Okay mate, look, we’ll just get started, just to tell us a bit about yourself, Baz, and, obviously, just for our American audiences, you’re the former IBF super featherweight champion of the world, now obviously the biggest fight promoter and trainer in Australia. Can you tell us a bit about the transition from actually competing inside the ring and going into promotions with Brian Amatruda and how it came about.

BARRY MICHAEL: Daniel, even when I was fighting back probably as early as about 1978-79 when I won the Australian title, I started promoting my own shows back then. I’d actually, with my father, we would promote a show at Williamstown Town Hall or even Melbourne Town Hall, and at different venues, because basically, the fight game was relatively dead and there wasn’t much money. TV Ringside had died because of a couple of, you know, bad injuries, et cetera. So, went out and did our own shows. And then right throughout my career I actually promoted or co-promoted some of my shows, and then when I retired, I got into various businesses, but you know, the love of boxing always sort of drawn me back there. And about, I don’t know, five, six years ago now, Brian Amatruda, who’s a big developer, approached me to go into partnership with him. And to be honest, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

DANIEL SMART: Oh, that’s fantastic, Baz. And I know you’ve had a number of cards this year and I’ve been to a couple of them, and I really must say from a boxing fan’s point of view, they were first-class shows, mate, and I’ve been to several shows in the States as well and I’ve got to say, mate, you put on a hell of a show there with your promotional outfit. So, well done to you and Brian and we look forward to many more upcoming here in Melbourne. Now Baz, I’ve just got to ask you, I know you’re involved with Susie Q Ramadan, who is the current WBC featherweight women’s champion, and I...

BARRY MICHAEL: Featherweight champion now.

DANIEL SMART: Featherweight champion, sorry. And she’s firing on all cylinders, obviously, under your tutorage. Can you clear up the confusion about the cancelled world title fight with Yasmin Rivas of Mexico that was scheduled for 6 October over there?

BARRY MICHAEL: Yeah, well, you know, dealing with Canelo Promotions, I know they had Saul Alvarez in Vegas and they - you know, like after the original, you know, contact and the offers that were made, we accepted with, you know, certain terms and conditions, because we felt as though Susie was unlucky not to win over there last time against Rivas and we wanted to make sure we had neutral judges and a fair shake, and to be acclimatised. Well, we prepared Susie, and they agreed to everything. They came back and agreed to all the conditions we asked for, and it all looked fantastic. The WBC, I was in contact with Mauricio Sulaiman, who was very happy about it all, and I was, sort of, assured we were going to get a real good deal. And then the contact just went cold, basically, and I fired off email after email. We never received a contract. And then, like, within two weeks, we still hadn’t received a contract. And then finally I basically went back and said, listen, if you don’t give us a contract within 24 hours, we’ll assume this fight’s not happening. And then, one of the Canelo Promotions guys came back and said, no, no, it’s all happening and gave us a bit of a brief, said have a look at these airfares and tell us if they’re okay. Well, they were all seriously stuffed up. They didn’t even have Susie Ramadan on the plane. They had Mr Sunduz because Susie’s a Sunduz, and they had a Mr Stephen Ramadan, which is Steve Stenborg.

They had us arriving six day before, which the agreement was 10 days before. We had to be out the next day, they had us leaving three days afterwards. At the last minute, they changed the venue from Mexico City. The original agreement was an hour and a half drive from Mexico City to a place called - I don’t know how you pronounce it, but Ciudad, Juarez, which I Googled it and it turned out that - it basically says on Google, go there risk your life, because it’s the murder capital of the world. And so, we basically went back and we still hadn’t received a contract. And to this day I still haven’t received a contract with the conditions and rematch clause if we got a dubious decision or the option, because Susie can fight at super fly and the bantamweight champion now. So we asked them to put it in the contract - because on the under card, Ana Maria Torres is one of the great Mexican female fighters. She’s pregnant, and her vacant super fly weight title was being fought. We asked for the option to fight the winner of that as well. And everything was agreed to but nothing ever came back in contractual form. So, with the change of venue, which was like three hours fly flight away, and I’d actually booked to go in and out of Mexico, which would have been an absolute stuff-up.

I just went back and said, look, you know, you seem not to be able to get this together. If you can’t do something - anyway, we still, to this day, haven’t had a contract and, basically, told Mauricio Sulaiman we were going to pull out. And then he came back and said, oh, he would try and help, and then he came back and said, well, there’s no danger there, but you can have a bullet-proof car and 24 hours - 24/7 security.

DANIEL SMART: Oh, my god. Yeah, look, it certainly makes you wonder how any other fight promotions or outfits that are behind a fight actually deal with these people. Certainly, if I was Rivas, I’d be looking around for another promotional outfit, that’s for damn sure. But look, just on that, Baz, we were talking about her last fight with Yasmin Rivas, and, obviously, the dubious decision that was handed down there when, clearly, Susie won the fight and pretty much won 11 out of - well, nine out of the 10 rounds, or however it went for. Now, was there any trepidation about actually going back to Mexico to fight her again in her own backyard, given what happened last time?

BARRY MICHAEL: Well, Susie was a little bit nervous about it, but I said to Susie, look - you know, because last time she was with Robbie [Peden] and, you know, when they didn’t - obviously, I’ve seen the tape a couple of times and I’ve convinced Susie certainly deserved the decision, she outboxed Rivas. But Rivas, to her credit, she’s a warrior and a very good fighter. It would have made a great re-match. But this time - see, when Robbie took her over, you know, no disrespect to Robbie, but he probably didn’t realise it was going to be at altitude in Mexico City, and we this time we prepared for altitude. We’ve done altitude training in an altitude chamber. Steve Stenborg has really put in really long hours with her. And, you know, she was prepared and then they changed the venue. I haven’t even checked the altitude of the changed venue, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as high as Mexico City.

So yeah, there was a bit of trepidation. But I assured Susie - I said, if they agreed and do all the things that they did agree to do, which none of it ever happened - none of it every happened by contract and, you know, none of it came to fruition. If they had have done everything they said they were going to do, well, I think we would have gone over there and had a pretty fair shake, because the WBC promised us three neutral officials from America, not out of Mexico. So no Mexicans, just three neutral American officials, which I mean, you know, I think we would have got a fair shake. And look, it would have been a great re-match, but it’s unfortunate. And I’ve now asked Mauricio Sulaiman and the WBC to see if they can find a promotional team. I mean, because Canelo Promotions promoted or fought at Vegas recently. You know, we have asked to put on United States soil in the near future, because we want to fight, we desperately want to fight.

DANIEL SMART: Oh absolutely. And look, just for our American audiences, if you haven’t heard of Susie Ramadan, please, go to Google and Google some of her fights. Look, I’ve been following boxing for a hell of a long time, and I’ve really got to say she’s the best women’s fighter I’ve ever seen. She would probably mix it with a lot of blokes in her weight division. She is remarkable. So, for our American followers, please Google her and get behind Susie Q Ramadan. She’s an absolute beauty. Now look, Baz, moving on. Your former pupil, Shane Cameron, he is scheduled to fight former three-time Australian world - well, former three-time world champion, Aussie Danny Green in November in Melbourne. What does he need to do to win the fight and how do you think the fight will play out?

BARRY MICHAEL: I think it’s a cracking fight. It’s a match up that I’ve been trying to put together for about three years, and for a while I worked with the Cameron camp. But basically, it didn’t look as though it was going to happen, and, basically, the Cameron camp moved back up to heavyweight, and it was only his sensational knockout over Monte Barrett that’s secured this. And I think Danny Green is looking for one last big pay day.

DANIEL SMART: I think so, yeah.

BARRY MICHAEL: He’s got to be coming to the end of his tether at 39. But I think he’s chosen a pretty tough day at the office with Shane Cameron. I reckon there’s two ways this fight could go. I reckon it’s a fifty-fifty fight. Cameron can be caught early as Tua caught him early, but, you know, Tua is one of the biggest punches in world history. But Shane’s defence can be leaky. If Danny gets off early, I reckon Danny’s a good chance of winning by an early stoppage. If it gets beyond the first three or four, I think Shane bigger, stronger, and I think they underestimate his boxing ability. His defence is a bit leaky, which is what I was brought in to try and tighten up. But he has patches of where he boxes brilliantly, but then seems to lose patience and gets nailed. Look, I think it’s a fifty-fifty fight, but there’s two ways I see it going. One, Danny Green can win it in the first three or four or Shane Cameron will wear him down in a war of attrition and finally, maybe, stop Green later in the fight.

DANIEL SMART: Yeah, look, I’d probably have to agree with that, Baz. I’ve seen Danny’s probably last two fights at 200 lbs, and to be honest mate, and this is just my opinion, but I just don’t think his frame is designed to carry 200 lbs or near to 200 lbs. I think he tires and I think you saw that in the Tarver fight in the fifth round. Even in the fifth he started to look tired. And, obviously against Wlodarczyk, Green was winning up until he got knocked out, but you could see he was starting to tire in the eighth, ninth and tenth. And I just think when you’re carrying that much muscle mass with a guy who’s, you know, six foot one carrying 200 lbs, it makes it for a hard night at the office. So, yeah, look, it’s a tough fight. And I saw both fighters on the Australian football - you American audiences wouldn’t know, we have a football show here in - for Australian Rules Football who has a cult following, it’s called the AFL Footy Show. The two combatants were on the show the other night, and the size difference was unbelievable.

BARRY MICHAEL: Yeah, Shane’s certainly a lot bigger guy, but, you know, there’s two of them. Another thing too, Shane just fought at 95-96 kilos. I mean, he’s fought as high as 107.7, and the cruiserweight limit is 90.7...

DANIEL SMART: That’s right.

BARRY MICHAEL: ...which he’s done on half a dozen occasions. And the first few times he did it, he didn’t look good. Wasn’t really until Dominic Vea, when he stopped Dominic Vea in the twelfth of an absolute war that he put it all together. But the fact that he has gone 12 rounds at cruiserweight means he can do it. But I just think providing Shane doesn’t do the weight too hard, I think you’re right, he’s going to be too big. Danny Green, I don’t think, has ever been a real cruiserweight.

DANIEL SMART: No, he hasn’t, no.

BARRY MICHAEL: Light heavyweight is where he should have stayed at.

DANIEL SMART: Absolutely.

BARRY MICHAEL: I mean, look, against Tarver, let’s take nothing from Tarver. Tarver is one of the greats. And when they actually took Tarver on, I thought - and when I basically did a bit of homework and I spoke to Jimmy Williams, Tarver’s trainer and Buddy McGirt, they told me that they were here to knock out Danny Green, and they told me exactly how they were going to do it. They really knew what they were up to. And I think the Green camp underestimated Tarver. I think they thought they were going to get a tired, old Antonio Tarver, but they got a guy that had was given an opportunity to come to Australia, get a big pay day and show that he still had it, which he certainly did.

DANIEL SMART: Absolutely. Take nothing away from Antonio, as you said, who’s obviously a legend of the game, but probably a little bit clouded in controversy of recent times, given his positive drug test. Now, probably a lot of people and a lot of fans - not only in Australia, but overseas - probably might question that win a little bit against Danny. Probably in the way that he was carrying a lot of weight in the week leading up to the fight, and his weight loss in that week before setting foot inside the ring was pretty remarkable. Given his positive drug test after the Lateef Kayode fight, which, in my opinion, Kayode’s not in the same realm as Danny Green, and he drew with him. Can we read a little bit too much into that or what are your thoughts on that?

BARRY MICHAEL: Well, possibly, but, you know, the question I asked at the press conference was, why wasn’t there a drug test after the Green-Tarver fight. I mean, you know - and Danny said, well, yeah, good question, he said there wasn’t a drug test. Well I had five world title fights and it was drug tested multiple times. So, assume that for all bodies that drug tests are mandatory after a world title fight and should be. So whether it was overlooked or what or - I mean, you know, it’s something you can talk about and make conjecture about, but we’ll never know will we, to be honest. But, you know, if he was on roids, or whatever, he got away with it. We’ll never know.

DANIEL SMART: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the thing, I mean, you can only speculate what happened. But look, at the end of the day, it’s going to have in the history books: Antonio Tarver KO round six. So just lastly, Baz, what I want to do is give your promotional outfit a bit of a plug, and I know you’re doing great things with Brian Amatruda. Do you have any promotions coming up in Melbourne in the near future?

BARRY MICHAEL: We haven’t confirmed. We may do one the first week in December. But the fact that Danny Green and Shane Cameron is November 21, that is going to take a great deal of the limelight and suck a lot of the money out of the Melbourne boxing fraternity.

DANIEL SMART: Yeah, true.

BARRY MICHAEL: Worldwide, I know America’s doing it tough. The rest of the world, economically wise, is not that good. And myself personally - because as you know, we basically cater for corporates at our venue, which is pretty up-market. A couple of times we’ve struggled to put on shows month after month, or two months between them with the corporates, because the dollars just don’t appear to be there at the moment. But we there’s a possibility we’ll do a smaller show in December, first week in December after the Danny Green show, but it’s probably most unlikely that it will be televised. It won’t be until the new year that we’ll get back into the televised fights, I would think. In saying that, we have got some great prospects. Qamil Balla, one of the Balla boys, he’s going really well. Ibby Balla is going to be turning professional in the new year. Jake Carr is a name to watch. He’s a super middleweight, I think he’s going to cut a swath through the Australian super middleweights. I don’t think right now there is an Australian super middleweight professional that beats him. All they need to do is get him some rounds under his belt and get him some experience. But some of the things I’ve seen him do in the gym - and, I mean, while a lot of fighters can do it in the gym and can’t transition it into the actual ring, Jake Carr, I believe, is going to do it all. He’s incredibly dedicated. He’s private school educated, speaks well, and he’s got his head on his shoulders. And his father was a very good fighter in his own right.

DANIEL SMART: Oh Rod, yeah, absolutely.

BARRY MICHAEL: Commonwealth middleweight champion, and fought in Vegas, fought in the United Kingdom.

DANIEL SMART: Yeah, absolutely. And just again, for our American audiences, Jake Carr was a very elite Australian Rules footballer. He played with a club called the Western Jets here in Melbourne and was a captain of that club. And basically, the competition he was playing in was an under-age competition, and that was used as a breeding ground for the Australian Football League teams to draft youngsters into their program. And Jake was a very, very real draft prospect. And look, it’s an absolute win for boxing to get him in, Baz.

BARRY MICHAEL: Undoubtedly, when he was captain of the Western Jets, since then - and, I mean, he was then looked at to be a league player then, which, as we know, Aussie Rules league players make, you know, really good money. Not as much as American gridiron players but they, you know - gee, you know, comparatively, they make really big money. And, you know, professional boxing’s a hard, tough road. Right to the very top, you don’t really make the money. But Jake Carr had the option of probably going down the Aussie Rules AFL Football League route and could have made serious money, but decided that he wants to be a boxer instead. That’s one of the reasons I think, you know, he’s going to go on. My tip is, this kid will go on to win a world super middleweight or light heavyweight professional title.

DANIEL SMART: Wow, that’s a big call, Baz. You must see a lot of things in him that for a world champion and an Australian boxing icon to make that call so early in his career you’re obviously confident he’s really going to do big things.

BARRY MICHAEL: Undoubtedly. I mean, let’s go back a bit I mean, I picked Michael Katsidis his second pro fight, I said, this kid will win a world lightweight title and he won the interim lightweight title. I said Paul Briggs could be a world light heavyweight champion. Well, you know, he fought - twice he fought what’s his name...

DANIEL SMART: Tomasz Adamek.

BARRY MICHAEL: Tomasz Adamek, who’s a great, great fighter. Tomasz Adamek, now number one heavyweight in a lot of the divisions in the world. Briggsy had two absolute wars with him and, you know, and actually beat Stipe Drews, who went on to win the WBA light heavyweight title.

DANIEL SMART: That’s right, yeah. Just quickly, I wasn’t going to ask this question, but now that you’ve raised it, Baz, the fight between - or the reported fight - I don’t know whether it’s actually been confirmed yet between Michael Katsidis and Ricky Hatton’s comeback fight, what are your thoughts on that?

BARRY MICHAEL: I reckon, you know, either camp, it’s a relatively - I mean, it’s a potentially good pay day for both - it’ll be a good pay day. But Rick hadn’t been out of the sport for a couple of years - you know, Michael Katsidis has lost, I think, three out of his last four. You know, he needs to re-establish himself. This fight with those two guys, the way they fight, is a career-ending fight for one of them or both. They will do serious damage to each other. From a spectator’s point of view, it could be an absolute classic, but, you know, look, one or both of them could finish up on the scrap heap after it I reckon.

DANIEL SMART: Yeah, absolutely. And look, it is a risky fight for both parties. As you’ve said, they’ve got a lot to lose if they lose this fight. You know, if you look at Mick Katsidis, as you said, he’s lost three of his last four. If he loses to an inactive Ricky Hatton, it’s not going to go well for him trying to get fights in the future. And Ricky Hatton’s got everything to gain here. He’s been out of the fight game for a long time. People can’t actually sit there and say that he’s taken the easy route getting back into the game. He’s taking on a fierce brawler, a guy with an extraordinary chin. So yeah, he’s got everything to gain by it. But look, I can’t see it going the distance, Baz, someone’s going to get knocked out here.

BARRY MICHAEL: Yeah, I agree with you, someone gets knocked out for sure. And, you know, when you look at Michael, he’s been stopped a couple of times, but his chin’s very good. You know, Ricky’s chin, we saw him knocked out cold by Manny Pacquiao, of course, and was stopped late in the fight by a peak Floyd Mayweather. Ricky can’t be what he was after so many years out of the ring and, also, quite a bit of self-abuse which is fairly well documented. And Michael came to see me in Melbourne a few weeks ago, and we’ve spoken, and we’re trying to put something together for him starting promoting - bringing him back to Melbourne, which is the biggest Greek population in the world outside of Athens, where I think we could certainly re-establish him. But I said to him, I’d like to tutor him and take him back to basics and change his style a little bit. It might be too late, I just would like to work on his defence a little bit, because he is prone to cuts and his defence is a bit leaky. But, you know, I think if he’s after one last pay day, by all means, go and grab the Hatton fight. He was saying to me he was after another couple of years. I think he really needs to come back to Melbourne, go back to basics and then get a couple of wins under the belt and then go back to the States. Katsidis is the sort of bloke - I mean, he had Juan Manuel Marquez down with a beautiful left hook and badly, badly hurt. One more shot could have finished Marquez. And Marquez, as we know, is one of the greats.

DANIEL SMART: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree with you more. I guess the biggest criticism of Mick’s in the past has been his over-willingness to brawl. He exchanges and he stands there right in front of his opponent instead of getting in and getting out. I think, if he learned to do that a bit more, or just readjusted his game to get off and then either move back or move to the side so he can’t be counted, I think he could he probably would have had a better chance at beating those top fighters he lost against. Is that a fair assessment?

BARRY MICHAEL: For my money, a very fair assessment. You know, I’ve watched all of Michael Katsidis’s fights and early doors, going back right to the start when I picked him as a future world champion and named him Rocky Katsidis, I actually did a deal with him and Brendon Smith to bring out Hellas Soccer Club, a Greek soccer club, to set up a gym for him at the Albert Park soccer ground and the Greek population get behind him. But unfortunately at that stage he got involved in an altercation and Michael got a custodial sentence. I think it was a couple of years. So basically, that threw a spanner in the works and when he came out he decided to continue his career, basically, in Rockhampton, then went straight to the States. I mean, I really had him at one stage there, and we had an agreement, but unfortunately, you know, things didn’t work out, but I really think that I would have polished Michael’s defence up a little bit.

DANIEL SMART: Absolutely.

BARRY MICHAEL: But early in my career, I was known as a bleeder and I probably copped too much punishment myself, but after I got with Kid Lewis, he got me more into the cross-arm defence, more side-on style. And you know, Johnny Famechon, he used to not quite the same style but more American with a cross-arm. So the shoulder roll and all that, that’s how I teach my fighters. And that’s what I would have liked for Mick to do. I hate seeing fighters that stand square on in front of each other and knock chips off each other because, you know, you end up with a relatively short career and you can end up possibly damaged. It’s a very tough caper.

DANIEL SMART: Yeah, absolutely Baz, absolutely no doubt about it. Well, look, we’ll draw to a close. Now Baz, I know you’ve got some engagements on at the moment. And from my heart, mate, thank you very, very much for your time. You were certainly someone I looked up to as a kid and I’ll never forget when I was 10 or 11 years old, you know, seeing you and Lester Ellis slug it out for that world title, mate. It’s still, to this day, one of the best fights I’ve ever seen. So thank you very much for your time, all the best with your promotional outfit going forward. And for our audiences overseas, if you want to do a bit of a search on Barry Michael, jump onto or a few of those boxing websites, and you’ll see that the man I’m talking to is an absolute legend. So again, Barry, thank you much for your time, mate, and I hope to speak to you soon.

BARRY MICHAEL: Thanks very much, Daniel, much appreciated, mate.

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