Mike Michael: “John Duddy’s Gonna Be A Step-Up For Donovan George!”
INTERVIEW By Coyote Duran (Feb 14, 2007) Doghouse Boxing (All Photos © Cestus Management)
The weather might be cold and super-snowy here in The Windy City but the action is gonna be hot at the Cicero Stadium (1909 S. Laramie, Cicero, Illinois) when ‘February Fury’ (also brought to you by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions and Top Rank Inc.) heats up the Chi-Town suburbs tonight with an exciting card featuring Giovanni Segura, 16-0-1 (12), challenging Jesus Martinez, 17-4 (11), and in a co-feature, Mike Alvarado, 15-0 (10), facing Carlos Molina, 8-3-1 (4) (both fights to be featured on Telefutura, 8 PM ET/10 PM PT/ 7 PM CT). Deep into the undercard, however, local favorite super middleweight, Donovan ‘Da Bomb’ George, 11-0-1 (9), takes on Kendall Gould, 8-11-1 (5) while making his debut as a Top Rank Promotions prospect.

I had originally planned on interviewing Donovan but due to some late gym work and concentrating on last minute prep, He wasn’t quite available to speak so Cestus Management’s very own ‘Emperor’/Special Advisor Mike Michael stepped in to fill us
all in on what’s going on with Donovan George, the latest with ‘Mighty’ Mike Arnaoutis, 17-1-2 (9), and his upcoming fight against Kendall Holt, 21-1 (12) on March 17.

As per usual, Michael was at his enthusiastic, proud and opinionated best in giving us the lowdown on the throwdown as well as what to expect from Donovan George’s new relationship with Top Rank and what to look forward to with Cestus Management in 2007. Read on and enjoy, kids!

Coyote Duran: Donovan George is taking on Kendall Gould on Friday night at the Cicero Stadium in suburban Chicago, yes?

Mike Michael:
He’s taking on Kendall Gould.

Coyote Duran: And this fight against Gould is Donovan’s official debut for Top Rank.

Mike Michael:
This is our Top Rank debut. It’s our coming-out party, you know what I mean? As far as Top Rank, you know what I mean?

Coyote Duran: What stood out with Donovan that made Bob Arum and Todd deBoef take notice?

Mike Michael:
Well, basically, you know, we negotiated for Donovan to fight on the undercard of the Kelly Pavlik undercard which was in Youngstown, Ohio back in November. A friend of mine, Dean Chance from the IBA, who’s a very good friend of mine, helped me get an introduction with Donovan to get him on that card. Now, I knew that once Top Rank sees the flair, the adjure and the punching power of the kid, and so forth. He knocked out a pretty respectable fighter in Julio Jean who went ten rounds with John Duddy, you know what I mean? He took him out in five rounds! I knew that once they seen the kid, they see his ability, they know what the right thing to do is and that’s sign him because
that’s what they do, Coyote! They’re (Top Rank) one of the very few companies that can spot talent, sign it and turn it into a world-beater.

Coyote Duran: Regarding this promotional consideration for Donovan George, how many fights is this promotional agreement for? Is there an option to renew and are larger purses in the future?

Mike Michael:
I mean, you know, due to disclosure agreements, Coyote, I can’t disclose the actual contents of the agreement that we have because it’s a tight agreement. Let’s just put it this way: It’s a long-term agreement.

Coyote Duran: Got it.

Mike Michael:
A long-term agreement is…they know what they wanna do with Donovan, you what I mean?

Coyote Duran: Does this also include consideration for members of management such as you and of course his father, Pete, who also serves as Donovan’s trainer? It’s definitely no secret that many promotional firms tend to enjoy shaking things up in signing talent to a good long time. In your best interests, Mike, I certainly hope Top Rank wasn’t trying to chisel you and Cestus out.

Mike Michael:
No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We at Cestus Management, OK, we have very tight contracts with all of our fighters, not just Donovan, but whoever we sign up. We have our standard agreement which is pretty tough to protect us against all of this kind of stuff. I mean, that’s not gonna happen and, at the same time, companies like Top Rank, they like management groups like ourselves because they like management groups like ourselves because they feel actually more confident because they know that they’re with a competent group of people that’re gonna deliver the kid how he should be delivered every time he fights.

Coyote Duran: So it’s safe to say that Top Rank perceives Cestus Management as the small, family business as opposed to a corporation.

Mike Michael:
Yeah! I mean, we’re not as big as Top Rank but our experience in the full team in Cestus in working with (promoter) Panos Eliades, who used to be with Lennox Lewis. We know all the promoters in the country. We know all the networks. We’ve already taken one fighter (Mike Arnaoutis), single-handedly, to the world (WBO junior lightweight) title without anybody. So, I mean, I think that Top Rank appreciates to some degree that we’re pretty competent in taking care of our fighters and if we do a deal with somebody, we’ll deliver what should be delivered. And, Coyote, honestly, a company like Cestus is a promoter’s dream because he (the promoter) doesn’t have too worry if the fighter’s ready, has had his diapers changed, if this is done, if that’s done. They just wanna promote the kid, get him out there, put him on TV, get the right opponents and the rest is the management’s job to take care of. But I think we fit like a glove with that company, you know what I mean?

Coyote Duran: With Donovan being from the Windy City, thankfully, the bulk of his fights have been in Chicago.

Mike Michael:

Coyote Duran: Is Top Rank looking to build Donovan for bigger and better in order to bring Chicago further into the mainstream once more? We’ve seen Chicago spotlighted over the past two years thanks to Don King Productions and Main Events, thrice and once, respectively. We’ve got a wealth of great, smaller promotions here but to have a fighter who’s looked at as adoringly as he is as a name to represent the Chicago area and have a big future is very intriguing, Mike. It promotes good things for the geography.

Mike Michael:
I think that Chicago is starving for a boxing star. No disrespect to the other fighters here, Coyote. They’re competent but they’re starving for a star that’s gonna put Chicago on the map as a boxing town again! Chicago is a historic boxing town! It’s got a good history for fights. I think that with Donovan, because of the frequent shows that Top Rank does in Chicago, I think the understanding of the talent of the kid and how young he is, the starvation of that the town has (for boxing), I think they’re gonna see a major opportunity to really build Don up and I’m envisioning that, and read between the lines here, I’m envisioning that there’s gonna be a big movement taking place here in Chicago. Having said that, Donovan, because of his heritage, because he’s an Irish-Greek kid, he can be promoted not only in Chicago; he can be promoted in New York; he can be promoted in Las Vegas; he can be promoted in Atlantic City. The four major fight venues in the U.S., Donovan can be promoted in because of the ethnic communities exist there. Let’s just use this: In the 18 months time, he could have a big showdown with John Duddy at Madison Square Garden or the Allstate Arena.

Coyote Duran: IS this assuming that Duddy goes up to super middleweight or………

Mike Michael:
Well, Duddy’s gonna go eventually up to super middleweight. He’s not gonna be able to keep down that 160 pounds. He’s just too big! So, I mean, eventually, he’s gonna step up! It’s like we say in England: It’s gonna be like a ‘Darby Fight.’ It’s gonna be like two Irish heritage kids getting together and the best man wins. Donovan can beat Duddy! There’s no question in my mind! Donovan will absolutely give Duddy a beating because styles make fights, Coyote, you know? And our promoter in Top Rank, they see these things. They properly saw this quicker than we did because it’s their job to see this. They can take Donovan, put him on an undercard of Miguel Cotto or a (Antonio) Margarito or somebody like that, you know, at the Garden or Las Vegas and the kid still pull a crowd in because Don is a crossover fighter. He’s not only liked by the Chi-Town people, he’s liked in Vegas. He’s liked in New York. And this is a true fact! I took him to New York and the kid was getting mobbed down there! He’s just got that star potential; I can’t explain it, Coyote, you know? So, I think that Top Rank has seen the skills of Don and I think we’re gonna have great fun with them because they’re an aggressive promoter like Cestus Management is an aggressive management company.

Coyote Duran: You mentioned John Duddy as a possible future opponent for Donovan, of course. Regarding John Duddy’s performance against Yory Boy Campas (in September of 2006), most observers thought Campas had Duddy beaten. Is that something you can judge a potential performance for in Donovan’s favor or did Duddy have weaknesses along the way, in your opinion?

Mike Michael:
You know, I’m not gonna say that any fighter is not good or any fighter is great, you know what I mean? But what I will say to you, from proof of experience is styles make fights. Duddy is a very hittable fighter. Don is a young kid who’s getting better and better and better with each fight. And he really does hit like a rhino, you know? Now, Duddy, he’s not really a big puncher. If you weigh up the odds and you see a 36-37 year-old Yory Boy Campas who is really a 154-pound fighter, give him (Duddy) the fight of his life and bust him up, because Duddy was busted up after that. You know, in the next 18 months, Don is gonna be an ogre of the ring. He’s gonna be confident. He’s got a promotional company behind him. He’s got a management company behind him. He’s got all the media; he’s improving; he’s hungry; he’s strong, OK? And his boxing skills are far more superior to what Duddy’s are.

Coyote Duran: You mentioned that you see Donovan becoming an ‘ogre in the ring.’ With this in mind, will there be an elevation in the quality of his opponents now? Of course, he’s only had the 12 fights so far with the 11 wins and the one draw…….

Mike Michael:
Well, you’ve seen what Cestus has done with Mike Arnaoutis. How we developed him and groomed him and took him to a world title. Win, lose or draw at the world title, we got him to the world title on one of the biggest platforms in the past five years, Pacquiao-Morales (III), the co-main event. With Top Rank, I think we have the same philosophy in the development of the fighters but you’ve gotta step ‘em up in the right time at the right place and we’re gonna do the same (with Donovan George) what we’ve done with Arnaoutis but better because we’ve got Top Rank now. So, the answer to your question is, yes. He will be stepped up in stages, he will overcome the tests and we will keep stepping him up to where he reaches a point where he’s able to fight practically anybody. And I might get murdered in this interview by saying this but Duddy’s gonna be one of the step-ups!

Coyote Duran: If that isn’t confidence, I don’t know what is. Since the beginning of his career, Donovan has fought at super middleweight. How long does he think he can make the 168-pound limit before possibly moving on to light heavy?

Mike Michael:
Well, let’s not forget he’s 22 years of age, Coyote. So, he’s still into what I call his ‘baby strength’ and he hasn’t quite filled out as a man. I would say that we’ll be at 168 pounds for the next two years.

Coyote Duran: Mike Arnaoutis’ next opponent is Kendall Holt, interestingly enough. In Holt’s last fight, he defeated the highly touted, then-undefeated Isaac Hlatshwayo. What’s Arnaoutis’ mindset going into this fight on March 17, coming off his much disputed loss against Ricardo Torres?

Mike Michael:
Well, Arnaoutis was very disappointed that he didn’t win the world title, first and foremost, right? For some reason, that wasn’t the Mike Arnaoutis that we all know and love and we all get excited over when he fights, OK? That was somebody else in there, OK? But, what I will say to you and I will answer your question because I’m building up to it is that Mike Arnaoutis on his worst night which was against Ricardo Torres still beat Torres and won the title! We didn’t get the decision…this was a big labor of love for a world title. We’ve been at this for five years, you know, and I think he was like, “This was too good to be true. If I fight Torres again, I will knock him out!”, he said. “I screwed up!”, He said.

Coyote Duran: Did Arnaoutis have a feeling he’d lose with that feeling?

Mike Michael:
I don’t know. If you saw me in the corner, I was trying to get him motivated, you know? Put my foot up his ass? You name it, I was trying to do it, Coyote, OK? But, at the end of the day, he had an off night and it was the wrong time to have an off night. I’m not gonna make any excuses. We should’ve made sure that he won the fight. He’s a much, much better fighter than Ricardo Torres; a much , much better fighter than what he showed. Everybody knows it. Mike will be back and he’ll be back with a bang. To answer the question with Kendall Holt, the reason we’re taking Kendall Holt is because Mike Arnaoutis IS a world-class fighter. Mike Arnaoutis should be the world champion now. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kendall Holt, OK? We’re not worried about he’s this or he’s that. I know Isaac Hlatshwayo. I watched him win a hairline decision against a 130-pound fighter in Nate Campbell, who beat his ass because I had Arnaoutis fighting on the same card. So he (Holt) really didn’t beat anything that was spectacular. I’m not taking the in away from Kendall Holt. I’m not gonna say anything bad about Kendall Holt! He’s a competent fighter. He’s a hungry guy. He does as best as what he can but he’s not gonna beat Arnaoutis because he’s not that good!

Coyote Duran: Is Arnaoutis’ approach gonna change against Holt? Will he be more knockout-minded in this fight in order to change such a minor stigma from Torres-Arnaoutis?

Mike Michael:
It’s not that Arnaoutis is knockout-minded. Arnaoutis is not a knockout-oriented fighter. He’s a very fast, sharp puncher. He’s very deceptively strong and people don’t think he was that strong. He can take you out with one shot or he can take you out with accumulation. It depends where he catches you. But he’s a very fast, sharp puncher. Plus, he’s a southpaw! I don’t know Kendall Holt’s opposition, OK, but I will say this: A very good friend of mine in Chicago who I admire and respect very much is (WBC ‘interim’ lightweight titlist) David Diaz. Now Diaz was very much winning the fight against Kendall but he got careless and he got dropped in that fight. It just goes to show that if you put the correct pressure on Kendall Holt, he will crack. He’s a younger version of Vivian Harris. He has the same mindset of Vivian Harris. These are ‘bully-type’ fighters, which is fine, like I said, I’m not saying anything derogatory against Kendall Holt but, you know, he comes across like a ‘bully-type fighter. We ain’t got not problem with that. But he’s not gonna beat Arnaoutis because he don’t have the tools to beat Arnaoutis. He’s wide open. He tries to open up with right hand. He relies on it so much. And once the correct pressure is installed, he starts to fight the wrong fight!

Coyote Duran: What’s going on with Mike Michael himself and Cestus Management for the near future?

Mike Michael:
Well, I think we’ve evolved since 2001 when we put the company together. We’ve achieved quite a lot from Ground Zero to making it on the undercard of Pacquiao-Morales (III). We’re gonna sign some more fighters but we wanna be selective on the fighters that we sign. We wanna be selective about the fighters that we do sign, Coyote. We don’t wanna be known as a company that signs up every guy just to make numbers and build a stable. We wanna select fighters so we can put our resources behind them and do what we do best, which is what our motto says: ‘Cestus Management: Makers of Champions. We wanna be known for our quality, not our quantity.

Coyote Duran: Best of luck to you as always, Mike, and Cestus Management, and thank you very much for sharing your thoughts!

Mike Michael:
All I’ve got to say is on Friday, lock the doors and run for cover because there’s gonna be a nuclear explosion in Chicago. Coyote, thank you very much again for taking the time to interview us. It’s always a pleasure working with you, bro’. You know that.

As always, I’d like to thank the incomparably gregarious Mike Michael of Cestus Management for taking his time to engage Doghouse Boxing in yet another entertaining discussion. You wanna check out ‘February Fury’ live? Tickets range from $30-$100 and there ain’t a bad seat in the whole house. For info, call 1-312-226-5800.

Questions or comments,
Coyote at: theboxingguy@yahoo.com
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