Scott Pemberton: “God willing, with a little luck, I’m gonna be the world champion.”
INTERVIEW By Coyote Duran (November 4, 2005)
Scott Pemberton needs a break. No, smartasses. I’m not talkin’ about a piece of your Kit Kat bar, but a genuine break. A respite from the day-to-day worry and the frustration that the blue-collar, lunchbox-carrying everyman knows all too well.
Photo: Tom Casino/SHOWTIME
I know what you’re thinking, Howlers. Why does Scott Pemberton, 29-3-1 (24), need a break? Why, isn’t he getting the opportunity of a lifetime by challenging IBF/IBO 168-pound titleholder Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy, 20-0 (16), on Showtime Championship Boxing (televised on Sat, November 5 at 9:00 PM ET/PT, live from Caesars Lake Tahoe)? Well, yeah. But the road to the big dance seems to be pock-marked more often than not these days with potholes and detours galore and Pemberton has to do what he can to live prosperously (or not so prosperously at times, if you ask him) while evading all of these obstacles on his own personal road to fame adoration and championship gold.
But he’s finally there, now. And I reckon he’ll do what he can to make the most of it. Seen by many as a regionally belted clubfighter, Pemberton has taken the few great opportunities he’s been afforded and, indeed, made the most of them, defeating the likes of Omar Sheika in two breathtaking barnburners as well as solid gatekeeper James Crawford en route to finally realizing the ultimate dream.
And isn’t that what Sandmen do? Insure a night of restful sleep complete with all of your wildest dreams? Yeah. I kinda figured so. At least that’s what The Chordettes were wailing and carrying on about.
So where do these dreams of success in Our Sport lead one particular man? Reno, Nevada, where he awaits his most serious battle and luckily, Pemberton dished the details to Yours Truly about Saturday while discussing what it feels like to fight away from home, how new trainer ‘Iceman’ John Scully is changing up the game plan and why it’s harder than most people think to try to keep the rent paid when all you really wanna do is make a living. Read on, Howlers, and you’ll find that Scott Pemberton’s not some bitter pug who’s casting the blame but a man who lives with the hopes and dreams of his family on his shoulders, still optimistically looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.
A man you could root for.
Coyote Duran: Scott, it's only a couple of days away from your big Showtime debut against Jeff Lacy. How's training been rounding out this last week?
Scott Pemberton: It's been rounding out good, you know? When a fighter gets to this point before a fight, you always hear ‘Did I train hard enough?’ You always have doubts. That's just your mind playing tricks on you because I did train hard enough for this fight.
Coyote Duran: This is your first time fighting outside your familiar environment of New England, as in Connecticut, Rhode Island, etc. How does it feel to finally be on that main stage in Reno come Saturday night?
Scott Pemberton: Well, you know, I haven't really gotten there yet but it's no problem to me or anything. I'm excited about comin' out here and everything. I took a drive out to Lake Tahoe today and the place is absolutely beautiful!
Coyote Duran: Scott, you've got ‘Iceman’ John Scully, renowned former light heavyweight contender and New England staple in your corner now. What's John introduced to your repertoire?
Scott Pemberton: Well, Shawn Raysor, who is my old trainer, well he was actually my third trainer. My first trainer was a guy named Bucky Vincent, God rest his soul because he passed away. Then I had Libby Medeiros from the Fall River Police Athletic League and then I went to Shawn Raysor. I thought Shawn had me battling in the trenches too much, you know? He taught me how to be a better inside fighter but that's not where I need to be. I need to be on the outside, poppin' that long, pole-like jab out and droppin' the big donkey right hand in there, y' know what I'm sayin'?
Coyote Duran: Absolutely. You've got a helluva reach, Scott, so I can see why you'd wanna make it more effective.
Scott Pemberton: Yes. And John Scully has the same game plan that I wanted to have goin' into the fight. He's a very knowledgeable man. He's been there. He's fought for the championship of the world against (then-IBF light heavyweight titlist) Henry Maske in Germany and there were a lot of things goin' on in his life at that time. So hopefully, we're gonna get it right this time.
Coyote Duran: Your last opponent was a solid, contentious opponent in James Crawford. But that fight took place in October of last year. Although you did beat him handily in three via TKO, I believe, does the victory matter as much a year later?
Scott Pemberton: No, not really. I was in training for a fight with Omar Sheika, a third bout with him, but that fight fell through. Then I was in training again for a fight with Danny Green but that fight fell through because he fabricated some back injury or something. But he's in a multi-million dollar fight with Anthony Mundine in Australia so I mean, why take a chance in jeopardizing that?
Coyote Duran: So you think Sheika and Green feared they could've blemished their records further by facing Scott Pemberton?
Scott Pemberton: Well, I don't think Sheika backed out because Sheika wanted to fight me and they offered me a decent amount of money to fight him for a third time and that was with Guilty Boxing. But for whatever reason, Jimmy Burchfield did not trust them or whatever. I don’t know. Whatever. Anyway, the ball got fumbled and the fight never went through. Then the Danny Green fight… Actually, that fight falling through was a blessing in disguise, well, it wasn’t even in disguise. It was a blessing because, I don’t like flying and I did not wanna fly for 20-something hours all the way to Australia to fight this guy. So that fight fell through and (WBO titlist Joe) Calzaghe broke his hand fighting that guy (Evans) Ashira and then I had mentioned, that if Lacy didn’t have a mandatory (lined up), I said I’ll make an offer to fight Jeff Lacy on November 5th and I did a little sparring with Jeff Lacy up in Big Bear, California and he told me that if I ever grabbed the championship he wanted, he would make sure I would get paid well to fight him. Unfortunately, he grabbed the title before I did but he still gave me the opportunity to fight for the world championship and I very much appreciate that. It kinda just fell into my lap.
Coyote Duran: With all of those previously planned fights falling through, were there other options that you could’ve taken to fight or was it just an unfortunate series of events, one after another?
Scott Pemberton: It was kind of an unfortunate series of events. I just… it just didn’t happen, y’ know? I mean, I’ve been rated #1 by the WBC for a year and I never got a fight, y’ know what I’m sayin’? Let’s face it: I’m into this sport to make money, OK? That’s the reason why I do it. It’s like, why do you go to work? Why does everybody go to work? They go to work so they can make money to pay their bills. I have not made a lot of money boxing. I’ve been barely paying my bills. I’ve had to borrow money off of people. I’m still paying rent and everything. This is a great opportunity for me. A better position for myself, financially.
Coyote Duran: That’s another thing I needed to touch on with you, Scott. It’s no secret at all how much you’ve had to struggle with, even as a professional. That’s not an alien feeling to many fighters. It’s also well-known that one of your greatest goals has been to finally buy that home someday for your family. Should you defeat Lacy on Saturday, will that dream be fulfilled or will it at least give you the head start you need?
Scott Pemberton: Yeah, I would imagine so, I mean, the next fight, the rematch would be, uh… I would get paid a lot more money. So, I imagine that would be very much true. I mean the money that we have for this would be a down payment but I still need to get a full-time job to pay the mortgage so I don’t get the house foreclosed on.
Coyote Duran: Scott, you’re a blue-collar guy. Many fighters are. Is it a tough situation or an issue where you need an employer who’s understanding about your training needs? Is that part of the dilemma that you’re in the middle of?
Scott Pemberton: Oh yeah. Very much so, y’ know? If I get a job working someplace somewhere else and say, ‘Hey, I need to take six weeks off to go to training camp,’ they’re gonna say, ‘Take as much time as you want off. You’re fired.’ (Laughing) So, it’s like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place, y’know?
Coyote Duran: One thing that really disturbed the hell outta me was seeing Omar Sheika get that shot that he got against Jeff Lacy. You defeated him (Sheika) in your first match and then you TKO’ed him in the tenth round of your rematch in one of the most exciting fights I ever saw on ESPN2 and then Sheika gets the title shot against Jeff Lacy. Is that a little discouraging at all? How did you feel about that?
Scott Pemberton: Well, it was a little bit discouraging but another thing with it was, for my understanding, was that Sheika didn’t make very much money for that fight. Now if they would’ve offered me that same amount of money, I probably would’ve turned it down. I’m fighting for one of the most prestigious titles in the world for that type of money, y’know what I’m saying? And that’s ridiculous.
Coyote Duran: Jeff Lacy’s last fight was against Robin Reid so Lacy’s still warmed up and fresh. He’s gotten some more rounds in, etc. Do you think there’s any disappointment for you having such a long layoff or is this kinda giving you time to study him?
Scott Pemberton: Well, I mean, I really can’t say. I’ve had this long of a lay-off one other time. But, I mean, I’m 38 years old and maybe the lay-off was good for me. Maybe it’ll give my body a little rest or something. I’ve been in two training camps prior to this. At that was the one for Sheika and then that fight fell through. Then I started training for Danny Green and that fight fell through. So, it wasn’t like I was completely out of the gym.
Coyote Duran: Scott, would you say that with as much frustration as you’ve gone through, would you say that you have a love/hate relationship with the fight-game?
Scott Pemberton: Yeah, y’ know, I love boxing. Y’ know? I really, really do but sometimes I feel like the sport hasn’t loved me back, you know? I mean, I’ve had two years in ‘Fights of the Year’, I’ve had a Ring Magazine honorable mention for a ‘Fight of the Year’ against Charles Brewer. It’s just like, I go out there and I do my best. I try my hardest, every single time, you know and I haven’t made any money ‘cause that’s what it’s about. Let’s not forget about it. This is about money, y’ know? I haven’t really made any money, y’ know?
Coyote Duran: You’ve campaigned at super middleweight for pretty much most of your career, Scott. Have you ever thought about moving to a different weight class or is 168 still a good performing weight for you?
Scott Pemberton: Well, in all actuality, I could never move down to… I could NEVER get down to 160. That’s an impossibility. I could move up to light heavyweight, try it out up there, but I think I’m a pretty good-sized super middleweight. ‘Cause most guys who are fighting light heavyweight, they can’t make super middleweight, y’know?
Coyote Duran: Win or lose, Scotty, how long do you see yourself in this game and beyond competing, is there a possibility that we’ll see you working in other boxing-related facets?
Scott Pemberton: (Sighs) I don’t know. When’s the retirement age, 65? (Both laugh) I mean, as long as I’m not getting injured or getting hurt fighting, I’ll continue to fight, ‘cause I enjoy it, y’know? But when I get to the point where I can’t fight any longer and I need to hang up my gloves, I’m sure my fiancée or somebody that’s very close to me or loves me will come to me and tell me that because I tell my friends all the time “If I ever get to the point where you think I need to hang ‘em up, please let me know.”
Coyote Duran: Scott, do you have anything you’d like to say to everyone back in New England, your hometown and anybody who’ll be watching on Saturday before we go?
Scott Pemberton: I just wanted to tell all my friends and my fans that I’m gonna go out there and do the best I can and God willing, with a little luck, I’m gonna be the world champion.
Coyote Duran: And that’s all anyone could ever ask for, buddy. Hey, Scott, I’d like to thank you on behalf of all your fans, our readers and DoghouseBoxing.com. Good luck on Saturday against Jeff Lacy, Scott!
Scott Pemberton: Alright! Thank you! DOGHOUSE RULES!
Mad blue-collar Coyote-style thanks to Scott ‘The Sandman’ Pemberton for obliging Doghouse Boxing and our readers during his last week of prep for Saturday’s engagement against Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy. Cats like ‘The Sandman’ only deserve the best wishes and hope for success. Also, major thanks to ‘Iceman’ John Scully and Jimmy Burchfield for arranging a fantastic sit-down.
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