Jameel McCline will finally be getting what he has fought for, for the last nine years: a shot at the IBF heavyweight title and a chance to fight his boxing idol Chris Byrd. The negotiations were tough and seemingly endless at times, with the fight alternating between being on again and off again. But after a lot of hard work and determination from his promoter Cedric Kushner, his manager Alan Wartski and lawyer Mike Borao, the IBF #3 ranked heavyweight will get his say in the ring on November 13th. The 6’6” orthodox New Jersey native has a tough fight ahead of him with Chris Byrd, who is known for frustrating his opponents with his slick southpaw style. But McCline feels that even though Byrd is a much more experienced and seasoned fighter then himself, he will get the victory over Byrd and have the IBF heavyweight title in his possession. Jameel is a man on a mission and the mission is clear. Win the fight and get the heavyweight title away from the grasp of Don King’s hands. McCline, who is a former WBC Continental Americas heavyweight champion, fought for the WBO heavyweight title two years ago against Vladimir Klitschko, but this is by far the biggest step he has taken in his career. What has brought him to this point? It is the three D’s that is on the opening of his website: Determination, Dedication and Discipline. And with all three Jameel McCline believes he will be the new IBF heavyweight champ on November 13th. In the first part of this three-part interview with Jameel we discuss what it means to him to finally get the chance to fight Byrd for the title. In part two, which will take place just prior to his bout with Byrd, we will talk about his training and his thoughts on the fight. Part three will be conducted after his championship bout with Chris Byrd.
Benny Henderson Jr.: You have wanted this fight for so long, how does it feel to finally get it?
Jameel McCline: I’m very grateful that I’m getting another chance at a world title. I’m very grateful that I will be fighting somebody that I truly respect and look up to and admire. I’m thankful that we finally got through this mess with Don King and finally got this fight to hookup.
BH: How does it feel to not only to be fighting for the IBF heavyweight title but to also be stepping in the ring with your boxing idol Chris Byrd?
JM: It’s a wonderful feeling because I have always respected him, looked up to him and admired his will and desire to be who he is. And now I get to fight him. It is sort of like the teacher fighting the student. He is ready so I know that he will have some tricks up his sleeves cause he is more experienced and seasoned than me, but I believe things will work out in my favor.
BH: Have you and Chris talked recently about y’alls up coming bout?
JM: Yes we have and in fact I will probably be talking with him this evening. There has been a lot of things going on with the purse bids. There is no way that I am going to hold up this fight just to get another $10, $20 to $50 out of this fight. I was going to get $100,000 but I ended up getting $300,000 so I’m happy for that, but I am happier for the shot. And as far as Chris is concerned I am sure that we will be going out to dinner afterwards.
BH: When you start training camp for this fight and where?
JM: I will be starting the 26th of August. I’ll be training in either Fort Lauderdale or New Jersey for this fight. We are not sure just yet.
BH: You have fought such fighters as Michael Grant, Vladimir Klitschko and Shannon Briggs. Where do you rank Chris Byrd amongst the opponents that you have fought so far?
JM: I think Chris Byrd is better than any fighter I have ever faced.
BH: Do you feel this bout will be your toughest test to date?
JM: Without a doubt, yes absolutely.
BH: Chris Byrd is in the stable of Don King’s fighters. It is known that King doesn’t want to lose his grasp on the belts. Chris has faced only King fighters in his last couple of title defenses. How hard was it for Team McCline to negotiate this fight and get it with you being a non-King fighter?
JM: It was tremendously hard. It was like pulling teeth from a Polar Bear to get this fight with Chris. Like you said, Don does not want to release the title or even be in the possibility to relinquish the title to another promoter’s fighter. And he did everything in his power to stop it.
BH: In the first interview you and I conducted back in July, you stated that you wanted to sweep King’s champions and take the belts out of his possession. Let’s say that you beat Chris and become the new IBF heavyweight champion, how much harder do you think it would be to negotiate another fight with one of King’s champions being that you have already dethroned one of his champions?
JM: Well, it will never happen unless the public demands it and that wouldn’t happen for another two years. What is going to happen is as follows: I will challenge Vitali Klitschko and beat him. And I will never allow King to promote one of my shows nor will he never again let me fight one of his heavyweights.
BH: Who do you favor in the Golota-Ruiz fight?
BH: Byrd’s last two title defenses had questionable endings; do you feel that Don King had a hand in those decisions?
JM: Listen, I feel that we finally got the shot. Not only will I be fighting a great fighter in Chris Byrd. I will be fighting the judges; I will be fighting the ref the commission. I will be fighting everyone else including Chris Byrd. Being that Don King is involved, he will do everything in his power to make sure that this fight will go the way he will want it to go if I don’t stop Chris within the twelve rounds.
BH: Well in saying that, does that motivate you even more to knock out Chris or would you feel confident enough to let the fight go and be in the hand of the judges?
JM: No, I don’t feel confident in letting the fight go to the judges.
BH: Is there anything that you want to add to this interview?
JM: Yes I do, my lawyer Mike Briao, my promoter Cedric Kushner and my manager Alan Wartski have worked very very hard to make this fight a possibility. And I’ve always said just get me there and I will do the rest. I just want to thank them publicly for the hard work they have done for me and I will do the rest.
I would like to thank Jameel’s wife Tina McCline for setting up this interview and her kindness. I would also like to thank Jameel McCline for his time and honesty. It is always a great pleasure to chat with Jameel. For more information on Jameel visit his website: Official Web Site Of: Jameel McCline.
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