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Interview with Former Middleweight Champ Doug DeWitt
Here is a great little interview with former WBO Middlweight Champion Doug Dewitt
by James Slater: New York's tough Doug DeWitt, the very first middleweight champion of the WBO, was a fighter known for his super-strong chin. Able to take the blows of men like Thomas Hearns, Milton McCrory and others, DeWitt gave fight fans some memorable battles in the 1980s and early '90s. Exciting in defeat as well as in victory, the fighter known as 'Cobra' also had a very memorable brawl with Britain's big punching Nigel Benn. With a final record of 33-8-5(19) DeWitt certainly made his mark on the world stage..
Just before the new year, this writer had the privilege of speaking with Doug over the phone from Yonkers, N.Y. I am happy to report that despite the number of bruising ring encounters he had over the years, Doug sounds in fine shape - with his speech giving no impression of what he used to do for a living. Here is what the 46-year-old had to say.
James Slater: First of all, Doug, how did it feel when you finally became a world champion after a long career, in 1989, with the win over Robbie Sims?
Doug DeWitt: It felt good, but my goal was always to fight Marvin Hagler, and become the real world champion. I felt good being a champion, but I really wanted a fight with Hagler.
J.S: Tell us why you never got that fight, Doug?
D.D: I blew a fight with Marvin Hagler when I lost to his half-brother, Robbie Sims, in our first fight [in 1985]. I actually had a contract from Bob Arum to face Marvellous Marvin. But I blew it by losing on points in a close fight to his half-brother. I will always regret that.
J.S: How do you think you'd have done in a fight with the great Hagler, had it come off?
D.D: I feel I would have had a great shot at beating him. Hagler was a great champion, no doubt about it, but I sparred him a few times in the gym and I used my hand speed to good effect. Put it this way, I would've given him a hell of a fight. You couldn't KO Hagler, you had to box him. That's where Tommy Hearns went wrong in his fight with Hagler, he just jumped on him and tried to KO him, that was a dumb thing to do, even though it was a great fight.
J.S: Talking of great fights, which performance do you feel was the best of your long career?
D.D: I'd probably say the fight with Matthew Hilton in January of 1990 - that fight was on the under-card of Foreman and Cooney. Hilton was a very dangerous guy, who I had a lot of respect for. Also, my fight with Tommy Hearns. I fought Tommy in 1986, when he was at his absolute best I feel. But I tell you honestly, I think I won that fight [with Hearns] - I swear, I think I won it. The thing was, I should've tried to KO Tommy, but when you're in there with a legend like that you have to be 100 %, and I wasn't. I was catching Hearns with good shots in the late rounds though, and I honestly feel I had a shot at a KO win.
J.S: Weren't you and Iran Barkley supposed to fight at one time?
D.D: Yeah, twice he pulled out of a fight with me. Barkley was a tough guy, but there's no way he'd have beaten me. I'd have been way too fast for him. In fact, if you'd have asked anyone in the New York area back then, who would have won out of me and Barkley, they'd have said you were crazy if you thought Barkley would win.
J.S: What are your memories of your fight with Nigel Benn, when you lost your WBO belt?
D.D: To be honest with you, I think I was already past my best by the time I fought Benn. I had him down early with a left hand, but the punch landed as he was moving back and that took some of the leverage out of it. I should have had more respect for Benn, he was a better fighter than I thought he was.
J.S: You then retired, but came back and fought James Toney, your thoughts?
D.D: To be totally honest with you, I knew I couldn't win that fight. I told my brother I couldn't win. I decided to take the fight because I knew I had enough left so as not to get hurt. I took one last payday, I think I deserved it.
J.S: You were known for your great chin, who hit it the hardest?
D.D: Benn hit me pretty hard, Hearns, of course, and also Hilton. And believe it or not, Lenny LaPaglia, who was not known for a hard shot, he hit me real hard. Those fights and those losses aren't what bothered me the most though. For some reason, I was never given a fair judgement on the scorecards of judges. I got robbed a whole lot. Of my five draws, all of them were really wins. So my record isn't right, in that I won a lot more fights than it says officially. I had kind of a rough ride in my career, really. But, hey, Boxing's a tough sport.
J.S: Do you follow boxing today?
D.D: I'm not such a big fan as I used to, boxing's not as tough today. I saw Kelly Pavlik KO Jermain Taylor, he looks good, but he's too slow. I think I'd have beat him with my hand speed, I'd definitely have at least one of the belts if I was around today. Overall, I don't think boxing is in that good a shape today. It's just not as big as it was back in the 80's and early '90's. I mean, I don't even know who the heavyweight champion of the world is today! Could you have imagined that years ago?
J.S: It's been great speaking with you, Doug. For my final question, how do you look back on your boxing career?
D.D: I have no real regrets about my boxing career, except I could've had things a bit easier - what with the odd bad decision going against me and so forth. I should've also been more self disciplined. And if I had, I think that would have made a whole lot of difference. Also, if I could do it all over again, I would not have socialised with as many people as I did. I would have stayed with the same manager and trainer all along. But at least I was a world champion, and I got a few good paydays along the way, and I was never really badly hurt right through my boxing career.