The date is set and the time has come and when the dust settles there will only be one standing as the International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion of the world. The fists will fly on November 13th at Madison Square Garden when the straight talking 6’6” man-mountain Jameel McCline takes on the fast-hitting slick style of IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd. The two men are gentlemen and close friends but that will not stop these two warriors as they battle it out for supremacy in the ring. The dedicated, hard working, no-nonsense fighter Jameel McCline finally has his date with destiny and he is set to take out his competition with his jab, strength and his never-say-die attitude. Without a doubt this will be the toughest challenge in McCline’s career, but it is a challenge he is more than willing to face and that he feels ready for. He states that this is his title, his time and his world, and on November 13th he will get his chance to prove it. In the second installment of a three-part interview Jameel conducted with the Doghouse, he gets into his training, what he sees as the key to victory and his thoughts on the bout with Byrd.
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Benny Henderson Jr.: Your started training camp on August 26th, how has your training been going?
Jameel McCline: Well, it has been going very well. I don’t want to fall into that cliché and say that I feel that I am in the best shape of my life, but I feel great and have been working hard. Camp has actually been easy, well maybe easy isn’t the word to use but it has just glided on through and is coming on strong. This is the best camp so far for me in my entire career.
BH: You have fought for the WBO heavyweight title and have held the WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title. But clearly this would be the biggest accomplishment in winning the IBF heavyweight title. Are you excited about this opportunity, and how do you keep calm in a pressured situation such as this?
JM: I am very excited to be fighting for the IBF heavyweight title, and to answer your second question I am calm. I have no choice but to be calm, I have been there against Klitschko and being that I over-trained I got vilified, I got vilified by the press and I am still being vilified. Someone in my team read about two or three weeks ago in the USA Today that whoever wrote that article said that I don’t deserve the chance to fight for this heavyweight championship. If I don’t deserve the chance then who does? At this point it is like I just got vilified after losing to Klitschko so I’ve been there before and that is why I am able to remain calm.
BH: This will be your second trip to fight at Madison Square Garden, clearly a huge venue with its rich boxing history. It has to be exciting to be fighting there, but as a fighter is it just another venue to you?
JM: Once the bell rings it is just another venue, but before that and after that it is the most impressive venue in all of boxing. I grew up here in New York City and fighting in Madison Square Garden is a dream come true.
BH: Is there anything special in your training that you are working on to adapt to the fighting style of Chris Byrd?
JM: No, actually we are doing nothing different or anything special. What we are going to do is what we done against Michael Grant, Lance Whitaker and Shannon Briggs. We are going to force him to adapt to us. I am bigger and fast and stronger so he is going to have to adapt to me.
BH: Can you give us your keys to victory without giving too much away?
JM: My key to victory is definitely conditioning and the use of my jab.
BH: You stated to me before that after the bout with Byrd you would like to challenge Vitali Klitschko. Vitali is set to fight Danny Williams in December. What are your thoughts on that upcoming bout? Do you feel there will be an upset just like the Tyson fight and then you would have to challenge Williams or do you feel Klitschko will still be champion?
JM: My thoughts on that bout haven’t been anything. But now I really couldn’t call it because I don’t know much about Williams or Klitschko to make a decision on that. The only thing I am concerned with is Chris Byrd on November 13th.
BH: Do you feel that the boxing world respects you?
JM: At this point in my career I don’t, I don’t feel that they do, but also I don’t care. The bottom line to me is winning and the bottom line is the bottom line. If people doesn’t respect me that is fine as long as I keep winning and providing for my family and me.
BH: Let’s drop the media; how about the fans, you must get respect from the fans right?
JM: The fans give me plenty of respect, the fans just want to know why I have held back and why I haven’t let loose on the media.
BH: You know Hasim Rahman?
JM: Yes I do.
BH: He made a negative comment towards you in a recent interview. Do you and he not get along?
JM: I have always liked him and respected him and have been to several camps with him back in the late 90’s. All this stuff I have been hearing lately has all been started by him. All I know is that he has made some bad comments about me and it is ok. I understand that business is business; he is doing it to generate some noise for himself because he hasn’t beaten anybody since Lennox Lewis.
BH: How would you define your career up to this point?
BH: Will this title here make your career or are you going to go after the rest of them?
JM: Of course I want more titles, if given the opportunity I will unify it. But this will be my first world title and in my heart and soul I am already champion, I am just going in there to put my forty minutes of work to pick up my belt.
BH: You have stated before that you went through hell to get through Don King to finally get this shot at Chris Byrd and his title. And you have also stated before that this may be, well what I am trying to say is
JM: [Cutting me off] I know exactly what you are trying to say. This is it for me, all my chips are in and my cards are on the table. Listen, if I don’t win this fight I am sitting around waiting for them to call me. And I can’t do that, I am not going to be able to pay the bills with what I am making on this fight. So if I am unable to come home with this title, this puts me in a position where I will have to be sitting and waiting for somebody to call me and give me an opportunity, I might as well hang it up at that point. I do look at this fight as a do or die situation for Jameel McCline.
BH: Is there anything you want to add to this or say in closing?
JM: The only thing that I am concerned about is that I have fought so hard to get me here so I am going to give it 100% on fight night, so the only thing I am concerned about is the judging if it goes to the judges. That is a big if and if it goes to the judges I want to be giving a fair shot. Don King has taken away from more important fighters that Jameel McCline. Or should I say whole lot bigger names than Jameel McCline. I have faith in Ron Scott Stevens, the New York State Athletic Commissioner. He knows the game of boxing, as a matter of fact he was a promoter and he worked for a large promoter as Cedric Kushner, so I feel confident that is very competent over there. I feel confident that things will go fair with him but other than that I am worried because they fought so hard and when I say 'they', I mean Don King and the people involved fought so hard for this fight not to happen. Now that it is forced to happen I am afraid that I might be giving a fair shot if it goes to the cards. Things have happened in the past and I will give you a perfect example. November 13th 1999 Lennox Lewis beat the sh*t out of Evander Holyfield and got a draw. Holyfield was a Don King fighter on a King card. So here it is five years to the day. I just don’t want to be a victim of Don King’s treachery. There is a long list of them and like I said there are a lot bigger names than Jameel McCline. That is my only concern. Other than that I am going to get in there and do what I have to do to become heavyweight champion of the world, and if it goes to the cards and if it does I hope I get a fair shot.
BH: Anything to the fans that are rooting for you?
JM: To all my fans come out and watch me claim my championship, just like I said earlier, I feel that I am already champion I am just going there to put my work in and claim my title. It is my title, my time and my world. I want nothing else, I know nothing else and I am nothing else, this is all I am.
I would like to thank Tina McCline for all her time and kindness in helping me get this interview. I would like to give Jameel a personal shout out for taking the time out of his training to talk to the Doghouse. Thanks for all your honesty and shoot-from-the-hip attitude, keep up the good work.
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