Danny 'Little Mac' McDermott: From Hell's Kitchen and Beyond
INTERVIEW By Jason Petock (February 20, 2006)
Irish American fighters have long been an essential part of boxing’s rich heritage and tradition. Ever since the first Irish immigrants made their brave journey across the oceans for a better life and sanctuary in America, Irish Americans have been there every step of the way and carving out their respective notch in boxing’s landscape. Revered for being a tough people and resilient, there have been scores of renowned Irish American fighters in the past who have captured the hearts of fans everywhere and brought honor and dignity to their people over the years. The most famous of all of the historically significant Irish American fighters was Jack ‘The Manassa Mauler’ Dempsey (William Harrison Dempsey), who interestingly enough took his name from another prominent Irish fighter named ‘Nonpariel’ Jack Dempsey (John Edward Kelly) who was born in Curran, County Kildare, Ireland on December 15, 1862. There’s been fan favorite ‘Irish’ Micky Ward, ‘Irish’ John Duddy most recently, and Mike ‘The St. Paul Phantom’ Gibbons back in the day. Anyone who’s a fan of the sport also has to include Irish countrymen Clones’ very own legend Barry ‘The Clones Cyclone’ McGuigan as a given and Belfast’s Wayne ‘Pocket Rocket’ McCullough who were both amazing Irish fighters and contributed so much to the sport. McCullough is still enduring and continues to strive to further his career.
Photo © Al Bello/ Getty Images
There is another up and coming Irish American fighter though that should be on everyone’s lips because he is the genuine article Ladies and Gentlemen. Make no mistake about it, Jersey City, New Jersey’s Danny ‘Little Mac’ McDermott, 3-0-1 (1), has arrived and it is just a matter of time before he steps into the spotlight and takes his rightful place among the sports elite. A second generation Irish American born in Teaneck, New Jersey on June 10, 1979, Danny’s grandparents settled in New York City’s West Side neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen in the 1930’s. His grandfather was a hard working man, working as a longshoreman at the time on the docks of the Hudson River and helped build the Lincoln Tunnel which connects New York City to New Jersey. Danny’s father was also a solid worker who served his country proudly as a Marine and later worked in a highly regarded New York telephone company as a Field Technician. Danny also proudly served his country in the Army National Guard and enlisted while he was still in high school at the age of 17. With this type of pedigree it is no wonder that Danny McDermott is such a committed and focused fighter. Not one to shy away from hard work or intensive training, Danny is currently a member of Team Gatti and has established a close personal friendship with Arturo ‘Thunder’ Gatti for two years now, having been Arturo’s sparring partner in preparation for both his Leija and Mayweather bouts.
As you read this, Super Featherweight prospect Danny McDermott is currently in training camp at Vero Beach, Florida with his trainer Buddy McGirt getting ready for his rematch on March 10, 2006 at Schuetzen Park, North Bergen, New Jersey with Edward Valdez, 2-3-1 (1), of New York who he fought to a draw on November 30, 2005 when they first met at that very same venue. Danny gave me the rare and exceptional opportunity to interview him during his training camp and I would like to share with you readers what this personable, insightful and genuine fighter had to say. Hopefully you will appreciate his honesty as much as I did. Mark my words people; this is one fighter that you want to keep an eye on because he is going to do big things in the future.
JP: How did you get started in boxing and what do you feel was your key motivator to become a professional fighter?
DM: I just grew up around it. My father made a big deal of boxing, he was a big fan. He boxed in the Marines. I remember growing up he would have everyone over for the fights whether it would be HBO or Wide World of Sports. It was fun. My aunt and uncle bought me my first pair of gloves when I was 5. I just became obsessed with the sport, constantly reading Ring Magazine. I have a few key motivators that made me want to be a pro. My cousin Jerry who passed away is a big motivator for me; you never know when your time will be up so follow your dream and go for it. I want to do it for my family, my father, my uncle, everyone in my family. I would like to someday take care of my family’s problems. I’d like to move my aunt and uncle out of their small apartment in a rough neighborhood in Jersey. I’d like to move my mother out of the projects in NYC. Help my dad with some of the financial burdens he has had. I just want to make an easier life for the people that mean the most to me. Plus I love the sport, the history of it. I want to be a part of that history.
JP: Growing up who were some of your boxing idols that you looked up to?
DM: Wow, my earliest memories would have to be cheering on Barry McGuigan as a young child with my dad. I wound up becoming a huge McGuigan fan because of him. Then of course 85-91 was the Mike Tyson era. He was a huge role model for me. I still have a great respect for him, so many people like to judge others but I’m sure those who judge have skeletons in their closets too. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s life and in life we learn from mistakes. Mike Tyson is a hero of mine and will always be. Throughout the 90’s I was a huge, huge fan of former Heavyweight prospect Jeremy Williams. I don’t care what people say, his first 25 fights, not including his losses were great. He was a power house. My first pair of trunks I got made to look like his, and I shaved my head (laughs). Of course Arturo was a hero of mine because he was from the same neighborhood I was from, and after the Wilson Rodriguez fight how could you not love him? I liked De La Hoya too.
JP: How long have you been fighting and do you feel that your successful amateur background has made you that much better of a fighter now?
DM: I started boxing when I was 14 or 15. I wish I took my amateur career a little more serious, my problem was I’d be in and out of the gym too much. I would take too much time off between fights and it just got to the point where a few days would wind up becoming a few months. I don’t even know my amateur record. I’d have to look back at my book. It was maybe a total of 45 fights. I know I lost maybe 7-10 fights. I think I’m learning fight by fight here in the pros. I’m learning a lot with Buddy working with me.
JP: Who would you want to fight if given the opportunity?
DM: I’ll fight anyone, anywhere. But I’m not at the level yet where I can start calling guys out, I have to earn that. I only had 4 pro fights so far. My main concern is facing Edward Valdez on March 10. I had a draw with him in November and I plan on redeeming myself.
JP: Describe your close relationship with Arturo ‘Thunder’ Gatti and what his friendship has meant to you?
DM: First off, I would have never met Arturo if it wasn’t for my manager Mickey Skowronski. I thank him for bringing me into this world and having the opportunity to meet and become friends with Arturo. Arturo is a great guy that gives great advice. He’s a 3 time World Champ. So whatever he says it must work. He has helped me out a lot in my career. I’ve learned a lot from him and I’m sure I will keep learning. His friendship is indescribable. As an amateur I used to pretend I was him, making fights exciting and coming from behind in fights to win. He made his pro debut on my birthday back in 90. I was a kid when I saw him win his first title at the Garden. He’s from the same neighborhood as me. It’s an amazing feeling to say that he is my friend. He is truly one of my hero’s in the ring.
JP: How does it feel to be working with such a legend as Buddy McGirt?
DM: There’s no words to describe working with Coach Buddy. You said it yourself, he’s a legend. I was somewhat star struck when I first worked with him. I didn’t mention him as one of my role models growing up; I learned to appreciate him later on when I was a little older. He was such a technician in the ring. The Simon Brown fight…classic. That’s text book boxing at its finest. I know I will become something working with Coach. If I can one day look that great like he did in the Brown fight then I can die happy. What he’s done as a trainer is phenomenal. He’s like Rod Tidwell in Jerry McGuire, he makes miracles happen! Every ‘boxing expert’ thought Arturo was a finished fighter after Oscar. Coach did an amazing job with Arturo helping him win 2 more titles in 3 years time.
JP: What do you think are your biggest strengths in the ring right now?
DM: Well I learned that so far my biggest strength in the ring is my chin (laughs). I was hit with some big, clean shots in my last fight and people made a big deal of how I stood up to it. To me they weren’t that hard. I guess some people are blessed with a chin. My jab, when I use it is fast, sharp and accurate. I think I move well in the ring, and when I concentrate on using my defense I’m untouchable. My hand speed. Definitely my heart. I had some wars in the amateurs and people always talked about my heart. I have a big one; you’re going to have to kill me in that ring to stop me from coming. I will never quit.
JP: Where do you feel you have room for improvement?
DM: There’s always room for improvement and development in anything. You have to practice new things and you also practice with what worked for you in the past or otherwise you will become an off balance machine. I’m working on my distance with Coach and I’m working on my defensive head movement and explosive combination punching.
JP: If you could use two words to describe your style and what you bring to the table what would they be?
DM: Boxer/puncher. I know I have punching power. It will come out more in future fights. I hurt each one of my opponents in all 4 fights. I may not have that one punch KO power, but I know when I put my punches together I can hurt someone. I have a boxing style, I like to use my lateral movement and foot work and I know I can frustrate people because I can use the ring.
JP: Ten years down the road what do you think people out there will remember most about Danny McDermott if you asked them?
DM: That I was a tough, talented fighter and I was entertaining and gave the fans their money’s worth. I want to be remembered as a ‘blood and guts’ warrior that doesn’t give up and comes to fight and I wouldn’t mind being remembered as a World Champion…that would be nice. I just have to make it happen.
JP: Thank you very much D. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule and training camp to give me the opportunity to interview you. Good luck against Valdez. Do you have anything else you would like to say to the readers or your fans out there?
DM: I just want to let the readers and fans know that I am coming into the ring 100% from here on out. I want to bring excitement to everyone that comes to see one of my fights. I will be ready for this rematch and it’s not going to be a draw this time and it’s not going to be pretty for Valdez either. This isn’t a competition or a sporting event. To me this is war. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’m going to get my first ‘W’ for 06’ on March 10. ‘Nuff said. Thanks a lot Jason.
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