David Hopper of 8CN caught up with heavyweight contender Tony “The Tiger” Thompson (36-2, 24 KOs). The 40-year-old southpaw will fight WBA/WBO/IBF/IBO champion Wladimir Klitschko July 7 in Berne, Switzerland. The bout will be televised on EPIX and EPIXHD.com will stream it live. Klitschko defeated Thompson by 11th round KO in 2008. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
DH: How’s training camp going?
TT: Training camp has been wonderful. Obviously you get into a fight like this and it’s a lot of things. You’re whiney and you’re hating a lot of things about a lot of stuff. My team did a great job of making sure they guide me through and they’re just making sure my mindset is right for this fight and it is.
DH: How do you prepare for a boxer of Klitschko’s caliber?
TT: You train hard obviously. You get in there and you work your ass off. If you aren’t conditioned you don’t have a shot of winning against these guys. We got in there, and we worked hard. We changed my body around in terms of making me more lean so I’ll be faster and more conditioning. That’s the biggest thing for me. You got to prepare hard and think about your conditioning.
DH: What’s it like working with your trainer, Barry Hunter?
TT: Me and Barry always had a great rapport, a great working relationship. We’re like a big brother little brother relationship outside of the ring. I love working with Barry. I know he’s the man that knows what he’s talking about. I have a lot of confidence in him. That’s just one more reason why you want to do something great like this. You want to make sure you don’t let those type of people down because they’ve invested a lot of time and energy in you. I love working with Barry.
DH: What did you learn from your 2008 loss to Klitschko?
TT: I learned to be in better shape (laughs). To be honest with myself, to not go in there with any kind of handicaps because he will exploit them. He’s not just big, tall and athletic, he’s a very underrated thinker and I saw that firsthand.
DH: Since your fight with Klitsckho you have reeled off five straight wins, all by knockout. What has that string of wins done for your confidence?
TT: Well, I wasn’t fighting a who’s who of heavyweights. Let’s be honest and be real. A lot of those guys I didn’t even think belong in the ring with me. I know I’m past that level of competition. My level I feel should be the championship level. That’s what I’ve got to prove going out into this fight. It’s not about me getting confidence from those guys because those guys aren’t on my level. I’ve got to compete against the highest level of fighters and see if I can be past that B-plus level. Can I get to the A-plus level?
DH: Do you feel like you’re a better fighter now than what you were four years ago?
TT: Most definitely. I’m smarter. I’ve got the experience that you can’t pay for. I’m healthier. Even though I might be a little older, I’m still not beat up. I haven’t been in any wars that would take years off my life, my career. I’m definitely a better fighter mentally and physically.
DH: How will this fight be different from the last meeting with Klitschko?
TT: I’m going to execute my game plan. Again, I have been health, which means I have better conditioning, which means I’ll have better execution. If you’ve got a game plan you’ve got to be able to stick to it. I wasn’t able to stick to my game plan for the whole 11 rounds that it went and that showed. So now I’ll be able to stick to my game plan.
DH: I read that you have been sparring with heavyweights Skipp Scott, Malik Scott and Deontay Wilder, among others, is that right?
TT: Definitely. I try to bring in a bunch of people that are going to push me hard, and I feel that those guys have pushed me hard. They didn’t sit back and try to feed my ego and let me be great. They go in there and push me.
DH: What would it mean to you to become the oldest first-time heavyweight champion of the world?
TT: Obviously it would be a great part of history, a guy that started late and was able to finish off at the pinnacle of his career. He went in there and accomplished something that a lot of people weren’t able to do.
DH: Do you see this as the biggest fight of your career?
TT: Definitely, it’s the heavyweight championship of the world. Anytime you’re in a championship fight it has to be the biggest fight of your career.
DH: How old were you when you started boxing?
TT: I was 27. I had a very brief amateur career, 13-3, and then went on to become a professional.
DH: What attracted you to the sport?
TT: It’s just something I thought I could do as a young guy blooming late in life. I was trying to find my way and take care of my kids the way I want to take care of them, and I just saw boxing as one of those outlets.
DH: When do you leave for Switzerland?
TT: Tomorrow (July 26).
DH: Do you plan on doing more training or sparring while you’re there?
TT: Most definitely, I’m going to complete my training over here. I’m going to get some more work in and let’s have at it.
DH: Anything you want say to add or say to your fans?
TT: Continue to support me and support boxing. Watch out for me we’re going to make history come July 7. If you’re not a Tony Tiger fan, give me a fair shot at making you a fan. I will be heavyweight champion this year.