Catching up with Emanuel Steward Part One
INTERVIEW By Gabriel Montoya (Oct 23, 2007) Doghouse Boxing        
It has been a couple weeks since I had a chance to sit down and talk with Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. Good things come to those who wait. In this conversation Steward and I discuss topics ranging from the Taylor/Pavlik fight, his future as Taylor’s trainer, as well the debate over Evander Holyfield.

Gabriel Montoya: So we haven’t spoken since before the Taylor fight. I haven’t read anywhere your assessment of it. I was curious if you would break it down, what you thought happened and what went wrong.

Emanuel Steward: I have to give Kelly credit. He fought a perfect fight. His punches were crisper than I had ever seen them. He fought a perfect fight. He did his homework. Even his defense was better. He was picking punches. He wasn’t very sloppy like before. And then he got up off the canvas. Jermain tried to get him out of there. That’s what happens when you gamble. He had him hurt. He tried to finish and ended up throwing too many punches and was too tired after that.

GM: Taylor looked really tense to me coming into the fight. Do you think some of that tension and pressure to knockout Pavlik tired him out?

No. I’m going to tell you what and you can chalk it up to these little intangibles that nobody talks about or wants to talk about but make a big difference. And these intangibles are very simple. This was the first time that Jermain was without the support of the crowd in his whole career. In his fights in Memphis, Little Rock, even in Las Vegas, Arkansas was there, you know? Not just Little Rock. I’m talking Arkansas. This was his first fight where [he] come in the ring and [he] had nobody there to support [him]. His whole town had, like, turned their back on him. And I think psychologically, and I was telling him before hand to be prepared for that, it’s going to be a different thing. And he was saying, ”okay I understand. I understand.” But there’s nothing like it til it happens. I went through the same thing with Lennox when he
fought Golota. And the fighters don’t understand that because all through training camp, everyone is telling you how great you are. Even in your dressing room, everyone is coming in. All your fans. Back when Lennox was fighting you had Charles Barkley, everyone coming in to wish you good luck. Then you get out there and the crowd gets to booing and it’s emotional shock. And I told Jermain to be prepared for it but being prepared for it is one thing but still going through is another. I personally think that the crowd affected him and created that tension. But I give Kelly credit. They fought. [Jermain] almost had his man out of there but he got so excited that afterwards he was just tired. And Kelly is not the kind of fighter that was going to let you rest. A lot of fighters get tired. But with other fighters you can get away it. Winky Wright stays in one place and plays it safe. And the fight we just had with Spinks, he dances away, throws a few shots and plays it safe. But [with Pavlik] that was not the case. Kelly fought a consistent, steady fight and he won the fight. He did a great job. Jermain and I conceded without an excuse, congratulated him and we’ll hold him to a rematch. That’s all you can do. Give him his credit.

GM: So you are going to stay as [Taylor’s] trainer and you are both looking for the rematch?

I think Jermain has had it tough with the type of fighters that he has faced, and I‘m not trying to blame anyone. A loss comes up and everybody starts pointing the finger and they start looking for somebody to point the finger at, okay?

GM: Yeah.

Jermain and I are in this together. We are in this business. To me, his mother said it best. We’re winning a lot of fights. We hadn’t had a loss since [the amateurs]. So we lost a fight. Let’s get ready to go and try to win another fight in this life. Don’t start doing ‘ I didn’t do this or I didn’t do that.’ We lost a fight.

GM: Yeah. It happens.

Kelly put up a good fight and you know, Jermain just has to look forward. I have to go back and do what I did with Lennox, Tommy Hearns, Evander Holyfield and that rematch [with Riddick Bowe] the second fight at least. Just go back and start working. Give the fighter credit. He won exciting. Never would I have thought that of Kelly Pavlik. He surprised me. He fought a great fight. I think [Jermain] is going to have to make a different commitment. He is going to have to spend more time in the gym and not just come into a training camp. He needs to spend more time learning to do things where it will become instinctive naturally.

GM: Do you think he is still stuck in that mode of thinking about things he has to correct as opposed to things being instinctive to him like staying out of the corners?

Well, you know before this fight my daughter told me ”Daddy, I really don’t want to see you on TV embarrassing yourself hollering and cursing at Jermain which you always do. It’s the only fighter you consistently do it with. It’s the same thing: get off the ropes, get off the ropes, don’t do this.” And that made sense. You just tell him once or twice and then you just have to let it fall. I told him a few times, stay off the ropes, keep your hands up. The guy is only throwing right hands. But then Pavlik was landing jabs, too. We have to get it where he is instinctive.

GM: Right.

During this camp I spent a lot more personal time talking with him than I did before. A lot of personal time and he told me something which I never knew. He said during his training for the last two Bernard Hopkins fights his trainer had him going 15 rounds. I said “ What!?” He said they went 15 rounds sometimes with 5 different sparring partners. So what happened, that’s where he got the bad habits. He’d go five rounds hard and the bell would ring and he’d be like ”oh goddamn. I got 10 more rounds to go and 4 more sparring partners.” He’s tired. So you know what happens? You’re looking at the clock. You fight in spots. You go to the corners you rest. You understand?

GM: Yeah.

He said that’s where he got into the habit. I said, I never understood. I always wondered how he started out such a consistent, move forward fighter. And then all of sudden, you fight t in spurts and then you rest. Not on the ropes but in the corners where it is more comfortable.

GM: I noticed during the [Pavlik] fight. He’d get in the corner and then you could almost see him hear your voice and he’d start punching and fight his way out of the corner.

He couldn’t get a constant flow going; steady boxing, doing something consistently. If you watch him there’s just explosions as I call them. But Kelly, when he was hurt, Jermain, had he settled down he said afterwards, if he had landed one clean uppercut or brought shots from underneath that probably would have stopped the fight. But’ I didn’t think, I didn’t bring anything from underneath, I didn’t take the time to throw a straight punch.’ And that is a lot of that tension. I think a lot of it was because of the crowd. Not so much Kelly’s crowd but he had always been the favorite, the darling of the crowd his whole career. And his people didn’t come out from Arkansas. It’s a different feeling when you are not used to that.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow where Emanuel and Gabriel continue their conversation about Taylor/Pavlik, Holyfield, and the current negotiations between Kermit Cintron and Paul Williams.

Gabriel at:
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