BN: Who do you see winning this month’s fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence?
It’s definitely a good fight. It’s a great fight. I’ve been flip-flopping [about the winner] if I’m being honest. Some days I feel like Crawford wins and other days I feel like Spence wins. It’s honestly a toss-up. It just depends how they go about it, you know? Spence is clearly the bigger, stronger fighter. Crawford is the smarter fighter. It comes down to who gets hurt first – I think that’s what it comes down to. I don’t think [it’ll go the distance].
I’m happy that it’s finally happening but I think it should have happened a long time ago. Nevertheless I’m just grateful that it’s happening – maybe the welterweight division can start moving again.
BN: Does that mean you agree with those who say that you and Jaron “Boots” Ennis will succeed Spence and Crawford at the top of the welterweight division?
I think so. We have some up-and-coming welterweights – they’re coming up too – me included. We’re just waiting to get our shot.
It could be [a new era]. It definitely could be – we’ll just have to wait and see. I don’t like to hype myself up a lot. I’m not that kind of fighter. I don’t like to call anyone out. I do what I’m supposed to do. I train hard at the gym. I make my statements in the ring – not on Twitter or Instagram or something, or even in interviews. I just do my thing in the ring – that’s just how I am.
It depends if they move up in weight or not. We don’t know what’s in store for them. Errol’s a pretty big 147; he could move to 154 at anytime. Crawford, I don’t know what his plans are – and what their future moves are depends on the outcome as well. There’s a whole lot of options – a whole lot of ways it could play out.
BN: How dangerous is Eimantas Stanionis?
It’s a real dangerous fight. It’s definitely going to be one of my hardest fights to date. It’s very competitive – a very explosive fight. We’ve got two of the top welterweights, undefeated, going at it, and our styles complement each other. It’s going to be violent in there, and it’s going to be exciting.
I never thought of it like that [as make or break]. I do see those fights happen a lot. I treat every fight as though it’s going to be my hardest fight. So, every fight for me is do or die. It’s like that for every fight. So, really, I’m not thinking about it that way – it’s that I always think about it that way. There’s nothing different going on.
He’s undefeated. There’s really nothing I can say that’s not obvious – he’s a good fighter. He’s a come-forward fighter. He brings the action. He’s aggressive.
BN: How good is Jaron “Boots” Ennis?
It’s an interesting fight, for sure, and we’ll just have to wait and see for that to happen, but it’s definitely interesting. I don’t watch him fight a whole lot, but I can’t say nothing bad against him – he’s a good fighter.
I don’t think his opponent [Roiman Villa] is easy at all. We saw what he did with [Rashidi] Ellis [earning a majority decision in January] – which proved anyone can be dangerous at anytime, so I don’t like doubting fighters. I don’t care about what people think about who’s ahead and who’s not. I’m the best welterweight – that’s the bottom line.
BN: How frustrating is it that you’re fighting on the same night on separate promotions, and therefore dividing your potential audience?
It’s conflicting. It really is conflicting – especially when you see fighters coming out of the same weight class as well. “Which one am I gonna watch?” I’m not necessarily worried about it, because I have something else to worry about that night, but if I had a say so, then yes, we should have fought on different nights.
BN: How are you recovering from long Covid?
I’ve never felt better. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’m just ready to rock and roll.
I hope [it’s not going to recur]. Of course, we don’t know everything about it, but as far as we know now, and how I feel, about my health right now, this is the best I’ve felt for a long time. So we’re going off of what I feel, and I feel great.
The last time [I struggled with it] is pretty much when the fight got cancelled [it had been scheduled for April 29], ‘cause that’s when I started my whole recovery process, and we’ve been sticking to it.
BN: How does it make you feel when people play down Covid’s severity?
I don’t really think anything of it. It’s just like boxing – people are going to have their own opinions, and a lot of opinions are wrong, so the best thing to do for yourself is just to let it go through one ear and out the other ear. Don’t worry about it. They just keep on saying stupid stuff all the time. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be Covid; it could be sports; it could be politics. That’s just how people are. I honestly just do my best to not care about things.
When I was struggling with it, the only thing I was worried about was getting better. I didn’t care about any outside noise or anything, it was just, “How was I going to get better? How are we going to make this work?” That’s all I was worried about.
It got to the point where I was just going up a flight of stairs – we’re talking seven, eight steps – and I was getting tired, and my body would hurt. I had a lot of brain fog. It wasn’t just physical; it was mental, too. I had brain fog; my reflexes were gone; reactions not there. I would just say, overall, my physical abilities – not just strength – but reflexes and even technique were just going downhill. It’s definitely not a good thing. We’ve had to work our way around it. I don’t want to say this in a bad way but we definitely did the best we could to make it better, and I’m happy at how well we’ve done.
BN: Did it make you fear for your future as a fighter?
I’m not going to lie and say that I wasn’t worried about it. I was definitely worried about it. But, to me, it was another obstacle. “How are we going to get over this? How are we going to deal with it, and solve it?” And I feel like we did.
BN: As one of Golden Boy Promotions’ leading fighters at a difficult time for them, how much additional pressure do you feel under to win on Saturday?
I don’t feel any pressure to win. I feel like I’m supposed to win at all times. I’ve never felt any pressure to win, ever – it’s just what I was made to do. It was just – it’s just inside me. When you feel pressure, you feel, “I have to win – I have to win”. I don’t think like that. I think, “I’m going to win. I’m training for this fight – I’m training hard. I’m going to win.” It’s not, “I’ve got to win”. It’s, “I’m going to win”.
BN: What’s your relationship like with Oscar De La Hoya?
We haven’t talked in a while. We don’t text or call each other every day – it’s not a bad relationship. It’s just, I’m doing my thing and he does his thing. I just talk to my manager, and talk to my dad who also talks to my manager. My job is just to train. I don’t really deal with all the promoting and all that stuff. Unless we need to do some promoting – they need to come to the gym and do some photography – other than that I just do my job in the gym. My miles; conditioning; recovery. That’s my job right there.
BN: How does it make you feel when he and Ryan Garcia argue in the public eye?
I’d rather not talk about it ‘cause that’s not my – that’s not my situation. I’d rather stay out of that.
BN: Golden Boy were once as influential as they were because of the reputations of De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and more as great fighters among the fighters they sought to promote. How relevant are those reputations to young fighters in 2023?
I definitely see where you’re coming from. Growing up I watched [Manny] Pacquiao; [Miguel] Cotto; [Oscar] De La Hoya; Sergio Martinez. Even [Floyd] Mayweather; Shane Mosley; Kermit Cintron. It was that era right there – those are the fighters I was familiar with. So of course I’m going to feel excited just working with one of those guys – one of the people I used to watch on HBO. HBO was the biggest boxing programme at the time.
All those fighters like that – Oscar has retired since then – I see what you’re talking about. How these newer fighters don’t – understand? – who they’re working with, is how I want to put it. That’s just how it is. They just don’t understand the magnitude, I guess.They don’t know how good these guys were.
When I first met Oscar I think it was for a press conference for [Saul] Canelo [Alvarez]-[Liam] Smith in Arlington, Texas, at the Cowboys Stadium [in 2016], and I was happy to meet him. Bernard Hopkins wasn’t there. I think I first met Bernard when I made my pro debut, in Indio California [also in 2016, against Julio Rodas], and of course I was happy to meet him. Just being in that scenery – it was almost not real, because it was living legends right in front of me. Just there. Just, conversation and working – depending on what they’re doing. It’s quite an experience to be a part of that world. I remember them as a great fighters.