Michael Bentt: ''I could Have Died''
This interview has been out for a while now. But for anyone who hasn't read it, here it is:
Interview with Former WBO Heavyweight Champion Michael Bentt: “I Could Have Died”
Part One of a Two Part Interview
By Sean Newman (November 23, 2005)
It has been nearly 12 years since that fateful day in England for former WBO heavyweight champion Michael Bentt. Fresh off his shocking first round knockout upset win over Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison, Bentt was making his first title defense against then-unbeaten Herbie Hide. Bentt could not have known it at the time, but it would be the last time he would enter a boxing ring in a competitive sense. What he also could not have known just a few hours later was that he was one of the lucky ones, and that many new doors were about to be opened to him.
Born in London, England to Jamaican parents as Michael Bent, he later added an extra ‘t’ to his last name. At the time of the Morrison fight, HBO suggested that he did this to distance himself from his father, but Bentt now says that the reason for the change came after visiting England and learning that his ancestors had used two t’s in their last name. Bentt would go on to become one of the most decorated (and you’ll understand the reason for the italic print shortly) amateur heavyweights in United States history. Upon turning pro, he was beaten decisively in his professional debut before going on an eleven fight win streak, capped by the win over Morrison.
Then, in the fight with Hide, Bentt, who had had difficulties in training camp, took a pounding before ultimately being knocked out in the seventh round. Hours later, Bentt would collapse and spend 96 hours in a coma. Miraculously, Bentt pulled through, and would later say of the ordeal: “I nearly paid the ultimate price for a moment that allowed me to realize my potential. If my getting dismantled to the point of near death in my last fight was the price I had to pay to for a victory over Tommy Morrison the night we fought in Tulsa, I'll never question the price of success."
Bentt would later become a writer for Bert Sugar’s now-defunct ‘Fight Game’ magazine, as well as for the HBO boxing website. Lately, however, acting has been his focus. Boxing fans will remember him from the movie Ali, where he played Sonny Liston. He has also performed on stage in the title role of William Shakespeare’s Othello, and has produced a film called Broken.
Here, nearly 12 years following his last fight, Bentt shares all of those experiences with us in this two part interview.
SN: How is everything going, Michael?
MB: Things are going fantastic, Sean. I can’t complain, I really can’t. Getting knocked out almost 12 years ago was the best thing to happen to me. If not for that, I’d still be fighting probably and getting brain damage. I feel great.
SN: That’s great to hear, Mike. Let’s jump right into things by starting at the beginning. As we all learned in the pre-fight buildup to the Tommy Morrison bout, you were a very accomplished amateur fighter...
MB: (interrupting) Well, not to brag, but the word ‘accomplished’ is kind of selling me short there, baby. (laughs)
SN: (laughing) Okay then, a very ‘decorated’ amateur fighter.
MB: Ahhh, there we go, my man.
SN: What was your record as an amateur and what are some of the titles that you won?
MB: 175-8. I remained unbeaten for four years against Americans until I lost to Ray Mercer in the Olympic Trials in 1988. I won the New York Golden Gloves four times which is a record to this day, the Empire State Games, the Kid Gloves. I went 15-4 as a member of the U.S. National Boxing Team in 19 international fights. I won 5 U.S. National Championships, which is also a record.
SN: What are some of your most memorable amateur accomplishments?
MB: I think the crown jewel is probably winning the four New York Golden Gloves championships. Until that point, no heavyweight had won four. Some great heavyweights who were amateurs and went on to be great pros came out in the Golden Gloves. Carl Williams before me, Riddick Bowe, Rocky Marciano, and I was the first guy to win it four times. Second would probably be winning my third ABF championship in 1987, and that feat hasn’t been accomplished in like 102 years in the annals of amateur boxing history.
SN: What other fighters did you meet who later become good heavyweights?
MB: Alex Stewart, who I fought in the 1985 Golden Gloves Finals in front of like 19,000 people in the Garden in New York. Of course Ray Mercer. I fought Felix Savon twice, lost to him twice. The first time we fought in Indianapolis, I lost to him on a 4-1 decision, and the second time we fought a week later in the North American Championship in Toronto, he beat me on a 3-2. He’s a bad boy, man. I don’t think in the annals of amateur boxing there has been a heavyweight that was put together as perfectly as Savon. He was like Teofilo Stevenson.
SN: You turned pro in early February 1989 against Jerry Jones, who would later go on to defeat Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams.
MB: You know what, man? I got 60 grand to turn pro with Emanuel Steward. Coming out of the Olympics, there were like three high profile guys who were heavyweights. Of course Ray Mercer and Riddick Bowe, because they were gold and silver medalists. I take that back. I was the number two guy because Bowe was deemed lazy and lethargic at that time. So he wasn’t being as hotly pursued as I was being pursued. Rock Newman interviewed me extensively after Butch Lewis. Ultimately, Emanuel Steward gave me the best deal. So I moved to Detroit. The bottom line is, if you give a guy 60 grand who had the kind of amateur background I had, do your homework. Sure, I took a shot, but 60 grand is 60 grand and you want to protect your investment, and at that point Emanuel probably had his hands full and was spreading himself too thin. I mean, he still had Tommy Hearns, a bunch of amateur guys who had turned pro with him, Frank Liles, Gerald McClellan.
And this guy in D.C., Jerry Jones knocked me the hell out. I had no idea he was a southpaw. Actually, he switched. He was orthodox initially, and he switched. I was going for a left hook to the body, and he threw a lead left and I never saw it. It was a clean shot, and it blacked me out. I lost all control and went down. I got up, took an eight count, had my hands up but I was out of it. It should have been stopped, because I could have been hurt. I remember sitting on my stool thinking “holy ****, this is a ****ing nightmare.” Pro debut on national television.
Jones was a guy who learned to fight being locked up in prison, and ironically, Jerry and I became very good friends. We were both employed by Evander Holyfield in 1991 and 1992, and we became great friends.
SN: After that fight, you didn’t fight again for 22 months. Why such a long layoff?
MB: I was depressed. Depressed and humiliated, and I was scared about facing the unknown. I had turned pro with Emanuel Steward, the best guy in the business, and I’m thinking he is going to guide me safely and accordingly, he’s going to look after his investment. I was a bit naïve as well, because I honestly thought I would fight like 21 guys who Emanuel would put me in with knowing I could beat them, and then, a shot against a Mike Tyson. That’s how I was thinking, that’s how I thought it worked. But it didn’t work like that. (Laughs) It was quite the opposite. That essentially changed the course of my life. If not for that Jerry Jones knockout loss, which was humiliating and where I was despondent, I was depressed, I was so depressed that I put a gun in my mouth four or five months after the fight, if not for that fight, the Morrison fight would not have been so sweet. I wouldn’t have shed those tears, because after the fight with Morrison I cried like a baby. I thought “okay, now I’ve got redemption.”
SN: You ran off 10 consecutive wins after that fight with Jerry Jones, and you had an ESPN televised fight against Mark Wills, which you won, and then you get the shot against Morrison in Tulsa, Oklahoma, basically his hometown. First, how was that fight brought up to you, and how did you react when you heard of it?
MB: (laughs) Well, interestingly enough, Michael Katz was very instrumental in putting that fight together. Katz was one of the top boxing journalists at the time, and in my estimation, still is. I guess he was on the phone with Seth Abraham one day, and they were discussing an opening prior to Morrison’s fight with Lennox Lewis. Katz suggested Michael Bentt, you know, like ‘he is known in boxing, he’s a good guy, and at the very least, he’ll get some dough out of the 18 years he’s fought.’ Bill Cayton said no. I guess word got back to Morrison, and he okayed it.
Hey Sean, not to be arrogant or egotistical, but as an amateur, all these cats like Morrison, Mercer, they looked up to me. So, as a pro, I think that Tommy still felt that he had something to prove. He didn’t have to take the fight. Bill Cayton was offered the fight by Seth Abraham and HBO, and he said no. But Tommy insisted. I guess he had something to prove. And Stan Hoffman, who was my manager at the time, said ‘Mike, we’re fighting Morrison.’ And I was like ‘Okay, when? Just line it up.’
SN: As for the fight itself, Morrison seemed to land a left hook to the back of your neck…
MB: (interrupting) No, no, no, it landed on my right temple, and I was out.
SN: So you were stunned?
MB: No, I was out. I was out. But once again, the biggest factor in me winning that fight was me being prepared because I was knocked out. I learned a very, very important lesson. Because whenever you fight someone, Sean, and you don’t respect them, or you disregard the fact that they have two hands and the guy weighs 229 pounds, and the guy has experience…I fought for 18 years…so, if I throw a right hand, and I can throw a right hand blindfolded, if it hits you right, it can hurt you. Because there is technique involved, there’s leverage, there’s distance, and timing. Morrison discounted all of that because of his ego. Once again, the most important factor to me was losing to Jerry Jones, because any man that has two hands can hurt me. So, in the back of my mind, I had three things planned. If and when Tommy hurt me, and I figured he would eventually hurt me, and I planned for it, but the first thing I would do if I got hurt is grab him. He was too strong for that ****. The second thing I would do is move around the ring, but the ring was a freakin’ phone booth. So where am I going to move? Two steps and I’m against the ropes. The third option I employed, even in training camp, was parrying, keeping my hands up, and blocking Tommy’s shots. And eventually, an opening would present itself.
Of course, during a fight, it’s automatic, because you work on it during training camp. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, my trainer, had a mantra, and excuse my French, the mantra was: Make this mother****er throw punches! And eventually, he’s going to give you something, and Tommy, I watched this guy’s fights religiously…every time he got someone in trouble, be it Joe Hipp, be it the Russian (Yuri Vaulin), or Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams, he would stop and hold his breath momentarily. By doing that, he became stiff. Do you follow me? It’s like a bamboo tree blowing in the wind. If the tree tries to fight against the wind, it will snap in half. But, if the tree goes with the wind, it can absorb the force of the wind…within reason. Does that make sense to you?
SN: Absolutely, and I’ve never looked at that fight that way.
MB: I did. (Laughs) Let me tell you something. For two months I ate, slept and drank Morrison. Essentially, I had a hard-on for him, you know what I’m saying? I resented the fact, and as a fighter you use everything to motivate you, and I resented the fact that Tommy was like our modern rendition of ‘The Great White Hope’. And I resented that ****. Why play to that ****, you know what I mean? If you’re going to play to that, I’m going to use it. That was giving me ammunition. And no way in the world was he going to beat me. I was willing to die that night. And, we should all be careful what we wish for, because in the next fight I almost died.
SN: Was the counter right you hit Morrison with something you had worked on in training or was it just something instinctual?
MB: It was instinctual, but once again, as an amateur I was known as having a complete arsenal. A guy can become a great pro if he has guidance and someone watching his back as a pro. If you’re a great amateur, you can be a great pro. There’s no difference. It’s just a matter of settling down, pacing yourself and having the proper people to pull the right strings for you. It’s not like Tommy Morrison was the perfect guy for me, but that night, nobody was beating me. If Mike Tyson was in the ring with me that night, October 29, 1993, and I fought the Tyson who just fought Michael Spinks, he’s not beating me, because I would have found a way to win. It’s like a starving lion. I honored my craft. I was scared, because I didn’t want to lose. I didn’t want to just be known as the guy who won five national championships and lost to Ray Mercer in the Trials. I didn’t want to be an asterisk, a sidebar. That fight essentially changed my life. I knew that on paper, they were discounting me, meaning the HBO bigwigs, the boardroom guys, they were overlooking me, as was Tommy and Tommy’s camp. But it served me well. I have to underscore again, that fighting and losing to Jerry Jones was preparation for Morrison, because no way in the world would I have been as aware as I was that night if I didn’t know what it was like to lose. I knew what it was to go into a ring the favorite, and not respect the power and not respect the two hands of my opponent.
SN: What was the aftermath of that fight like for you, having just won the WBO world heavyweight championship?
MB: You know what? About ten minutes after the whole fight, I wouldn’t call the aftermath a celebration, it was more a realization of potential. I wasn’t celebrating anything. For me, it was like okay, I realized my potential, for this moment, I’m joining my peers. No one can take this from me. No one. Larry Merchant basically said that amateur boxing has no realm, like being discussed on HBO. If that’s a fact, why do Shelly Finkel and Bob Arum and Don King send their talent scouts to amateur fights? They’re looking for potential gold mines. A good amateur boxer is, potentially, a future star.
Back to the question, about ten minutes after the fight, I’m sitting there in the corner, by myself, and the press is coming in and interviewing Stan and everyone, and I’m just taking it all in. To say it was anticlimactic is a gross understatement. I was depressed, because I was like ‘Now what?’ If this was what it was like to win the heavyweight championship, or even a portion of it, damn. That’s it? But, maybe, I’m sensitive enough to know that, as a fighter, you’re never really fighting for yourself. Like Roy Jones, he was never really fighting for himself. My dad and I had, have a tumultuous relationship, and he saw me fighting, so I guess indirectly me winning that championship was like me saying to him, and to myself, ‘See, I am good enough.’ But now what?
SN: Was there ever any talk of a rematch with Morrison, following that fight? Because Morrison went on to say in pre-fight pieces after that fight that he looked at tapes of you and thought ‘this is a guy who couldn’t beat me with a ball bat.’ Did you ever hear that?
MB: No…(laughs)…Goddamn. (laughs)
MB: It’s all good. It’s water under the bridge now. But, to get beat that decisively…you know, like Jerry Jones, on paper, wasn’t in my same orbit. Jerry Jones didn’t have the distinguished amateur career that Michael Bentt had, but Jerry Jones knocked Michael Bentt out in one round. And Jones, prior to him fighting me, did you ever hear of him?
SN: No, I hadn’t.
MB: No, exactly. So, I think that Tommy’s problem was that he was in denial, and that is probably the toughest thing for a fighter to admit, that a guy has his number. Now in truth, if we fought again, would I have knocked him out in the first round…who knows? But, I know that the cat who fought Morrison on October 29, wasn’t losing to him. Tommy wasn’t going to outbox me, because I could take his shot. That left hook to the temple…whooo…was a brick. My resolve though, my mojo, if you will, said, “no, **** that.” There were no talks of a rematch to me. Maybe my manager entertained some talks, but my thing was capitalizing and building momentum, and then have a homecoming fight against Herbie Hide. If I was managing a guy in who was in my position, I would go the route that my manager Stan Hoffman initiated, fighting guys overseas. I wouldn’t have fought Herbie Hide at that point, though. Fights are won and lost in training camp.
In my training camp, like three weeks before the fight, I got, essentially knocked out, by a guy named King Ipitan. I was sparring with him for like a week and I was hammering the guy, and he threw a right hand and it blacked me out. I get rushed to the hospital. Well, first of all, I got out of the ring, after finishing the round, and I hit the speed bag and I collapse. I go to Doctor Robert Boyd’s office and got admitted to the hospital for like a week. And Dr. Boyd says, you know, you’re not going to fight. So, I assured him I wouldn’t fight. So we had to devise a plan because we didn’t want to just blow it off like that. We said, look, we’ll travel to England, and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad was going to arrive late to the training camp in London. We were going to go through the paces in England, and I started feeling good. Eddie comes and says, ‘Michael, you can’t fight.’ I said, ‘you know what, Eddie? I’m fighting.’ I’m a fighter, you know? Let’s go. Now I’m not saying Herbie Hide wouldn’t give me problems on my best night. I’m not that arrogant. Riddick Bowe said that the hardest puncher he ever faced was Herbie Hide. The boy can crack, man. He nearly killed me.
SN: Well, it looked like Herbie Hide had Bowe’s number for the first two rounds, but then he almost had an anxiety attack.
MB: No, he had a right hand attack. (Laughs) Riddick Bowe just put that right hand on him, you know what I mean? It seemed like the fact that Herbie’s punches weren’t doing the damage that they did to me or his previous opponents kind of, maybe, unnerved him, coupled with the other right hands that Riddick was bouncing off his head. I’m not saying that if I had fought Herbie at 100%, he wouldn’t have beaten me. I’m saying, I would not have nearly gotten killed. In retrospect, that’s the one thing that I’m really ambivalent about with boxing. Boxers, like Tommy Morrison, he’s a soldier, a warrior. And I love him for that. The fact that he can’t admit defeat, I respect that. But who is going to save the Tommy Morrisons and Michael Bentts from themselves? I shouldn’t have fought against Herbie Hide. You know, King Ipitan is still fighting. When I came out here five years ago, he auditioned for the role of George Foreman in the movie Ali, and the guy was walking on his heels then. About a year and a half ago I’m at a fight, just some rinky-dink fight, some little Hollywood smoker, and the guy comes in walking on his heels and gets knocked out by some creampuff. So who’s going to save the King Ipitans, the Michael Bentts, the Tommy Morrisons, from themselves, man? That night, the guys who were responsible for my welfare, had my blood on their hands. I could have died, man. I could have died.
In part one of this two part interview, Michael Bentt discussed his rise through the amateur and professional heavyweight ranks, including his two WBO heavyweight title fights against Tommy Morrison and Herbie Hide. Here, our discussion continues as Michael talks more about his fight with Hide, the injury he sustained, whether fighters should be retired against their will, his writing and acting, and the current state of the heavyweight division.
SN: Do you remember anything about that fight itself with Hide?
MB: The last thing I remember from the whole experience is eating pasta with my brother and a couple of guys from my group in the hotel lobby. The next thing I recall is seeing a light, like a headlight. I realized that it was Dr. John Sutcliffe, who was my neurosurgeon, and it was his penlight flashing over my eyes. So, there was a period of like 98 hours that is just a blank. I have probably watched the fight twice in ten years. The first time was just prior to coming out here to L.A. It helped me get in touch with a real sensitive place. I was playing Sonny Liston in the Ali film, and you canÆt really play Liston without going through some kind of emotional pain, or thatÆs the way I thought. So I popped the tape in, and I felt liberated, oddly enough. Because, I took a ****ing shellacking. I donÆt know how I survived. The last series of shots that Herbie hits me with, he hits me with two right hands. The first right hand made my right leg come out from under me.
SN: Yes, I recall you went down with your body at what seemed almost a ninety degree angle.
MB: Exactly. The second right hand renders my left leg useless, and I flopped down face first. If you look at the tape, when I fall, my face hits the canvas. I bounced up like an inch or two off the canvas twice. I felt liberated watching that, because that was a nightmare that nearly cost me my life, but I survived.
SN: What injuries did you suffer?
MB: The medical terminology was a subdural hematoma. The British refer to it as æbleeding on the brainÆ. I had minimal bleeding, but my brain was concussed. I had massive swelling. Prior to them going in and doing brain surgery, the swelling went down. I had the same doctor that Gerald McClellan would have later. I had some complications on the plane ride home, and they thought it might be related to some blood deficiency. They though maybe I was anemic. The bottom line is, I was anemic to Herbie HideÆs punches. Herbie Hide may have beaten me, but if you rewind to three weeks prior to that fight, there was no way I should have fought that fight. In retrospect, it changed my life, because had I won that fight IÆd probably still be fighting. I had a relatively young career at that point.
SN: I completely understand that, and I have a question for you on that topic, Michael. Take the case of Evander Holyfield, where the New York State Athletic Commission banned him from fighting. Do you think that was a fair decision?
MB: Absolutely. Absolutely, sure. If IÆm a pilot, for Southwest Airlines, and my reflexes and my coordination is impaired, IÆm going to be asked to step down, no? So, why the hell shouldnÆt a commission that governs the sport have the same kind of power? Of course, Holyfield is going to be in denial. His job, as a fighter, is to deny pain. ****, thatÆs his job. Who is going to safeguard his future brain cells? HeÆs not going to. The people who are now training him arenÆt going to. They want that fast buck, because heÆs still a draw. Unfortunately, this guy is going to end up like frigginÆ Martin Rivera. ItÆs a goddamn shame. ItÆs tragic.
SN: It really is, Michael, but you have people on the other side of the fence saying that you canÆt tell a fighter when to stop, that the fighter is the only one who can make that decision.
MB: ThatÆs bull****. By design, if IÆm fighting Holyfield, my job is to render that man unconscious. At the end of the day, sure people say æheÆs entitled to make a livingÆ. Look, boxing is not a living, itÆs life and death. Holyfield knows the score, but we pay people to make responsible decisions. Just like the Commissioner in New York, Stevens, he made a great decision. He cut him off.
SN: Switching gears, youÆve done some writing and some acting since your last fight. First letÆs get to the writing. How did you get involved in writing and what was the experience like?
MB: Actually it was fulfilling, because as a fighter we fight we want to be seen and heard. Boxing gave me a platform, and when boxing was no longer a part of my life, I had to find a new platform, because I have something to say. I was doing boxing commentary overseas. Stan Hoffman had several Dutch fighters, and I would train some of the guys and also do English translation over in Holland. Eventually, I went back to school and enrolled in a journalism class. I wrote for the school newspaper, and that got the ball rolling. Michael Katz ran a few pieces that I had published in my school newspaper in the Daily News: a piece on Mark Breland, one on the Holyfield-Tyson upset. I left school after about a year and a half or two years because I ran out of money, and went back to New York. Then I met Bert Sugar at a press conference one night, and he said heÆd like me to write some stuff for his new magazine called Fight Game. The first thing I wrote was a profile on Michael Grant, and then I wrote a piece that actually changed my life called æAnatomy of KnockoutÆ, which detailed the whole Morrison experience, the Herbie Hide experience, the first time I got knocked out as an amateur against this guy named Ronald Turner. He weighed like 225 and I weighed 184, and he knocked me the **** out in the second round. Only time I ever got knocked out as an amateur. ItÆs just going to that dark place and it wasnÆt fun, but Bert said ôMike, this is a piece that only you can write.ö And I bared my soul in that piece. Ron Shelton, who was a director and a huge fight fan, read that piece and called and said ôIf you can act at all, come out to L.A. and read for this movie as Sonny Liston.ö
SN: Recall what the experience of making the Ali movie was like.
MB: It was surreal. Here I was, I have an expertise which is why I was hired. Michael Mann wanted to hire all boxers to make the experience for Will as visceral and authentic as possible. Will Smith learned how to fight for real, so you had to be careful with him. My motto was ôif you make a mistake as Ali, IÆm going to make you pay as Liston.ö It was as simple as that. It was like going to an acting school for me, being around guys like Michael Mann, Jon Voight, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Jeffrey Wright. ****, IÆm just an aspiring actor. Oddly enough, the boxerÆs approach and the actorÆs approach is so similar. In boxing we have to arm ourselves with this armor of invincibility and fearlessness, and the actor has to be bold enough to drop the curtain and let people in. They are both in a place in their lives that is challenging and scary, and itÆs like, sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it because itÆs so ****ing hard. Same way with boxing. Nothing over the past decade has given me more gratification than nailing a character, though. Sometimes I fall on my face, and thatÆs cool, because IÆm learning.
SN: Most boxing fans are aware that you were in Ali, and you also had an appearance in Million Dollar Baby, but IÆd like you to tell us about your stage work, most notably as Othello.
MB: They say that an actor, particularly an African American actor, you have to scale the mountain of the Moor. Honestly, I donÆt feel like I really, really nailed it in one series of performances, but I think the closest I got to nailing it was in my third performance. ThereÆs years and years involved in getting that character. I think that and Hamlet were probably ShakespeareÆs most challenging roles. Othello is so majestic and reigns so supreme and falls from such a high perch, which makes it all the more tragic. Othello is Mike Tyson, Othello is Sonny Liston. For me, the challenge was just to identify with the words. I used the words to remind of things, like having an argument with my father, or when Mickey Duff tried to embarrass me in front of a crowd of people. You have to pull from your experiences and personalize it. The experience of playing Othello was overwhelming at times, but very gratifying ultimately. Ron Shelton paid me a great compliment. He said, ôYou know, Mike, youÆre the only person to win the heavyweight championship AND play Othello.ö I was like, damn. (Laughs) IÆll take it. ThereÆs more work to do though. IÆd love to do it again.
SN: How far do you hope or expect your acting to take you?
MB: (Laughs) Well, Hollywood is the beacon of the film world. If I was living in the West End or Birmingham, England, or Ortego Bay, Jamaica IÆd be acting. IÆm not acting to be a star, I just want to be proficient at it and have the respect of my peers. As a fighter, thatÆs all I really wanted to have, to have guys like Roy Jones say æthat was a great fightÆ. As an actor, youÆd like to have Denzel Washington or Ben Kingsley say æHey Mike, you nailed that performanceÆ. Of course I want to feed my family, and thereÆs that aspect as well. This thing is a discipline and when Michael Mann or Ron Shelton says æactionÆ, theyÆre not paying you because you are an ex-boxer. You have to know your ****. IÆm in it for the long run. It may not come for 5, or 10, or 15 years, but IÆm going to keep growing and keep digging and keep challenging myself as an actor, and keep trying to feed my family as an actor.
You know what, Sean? ThereÆs a film that I produced, itÆs called æBrokenÆ. The website is www.brokenthefilm.com. Check out the stuff there. ItÆs a short film, about this Latino fighter and I have a role in it as well in addition to being one of the producers.
SN: IÆll do that, and IÆll encourage all of our readers to do the same. Back to boxing, in the present, the heavyweight division is obviously in a sad state. When you look at things as they are, do you have any regrets that you could not continue your career after the Hide fight?
MB: You know what? When I was training with Will Smith, James Toney, Al Cole and Charles Shufford back in 2000 for six months for our roles in Ali, I was thinking, you know, IÆm sparring with these cats and IÆm handling these guys. So I had an inkling to entertain making some phone calls, but I remember something Georgie Benton told me. In my estimation, Eddie Futch is head and shoulders above a lot of guys who are now ætrainersÆ, but in my estimation the most insightful guy and the man who had the biggest influence on me was Georgie Benton. When the whole Ali experience wrapped and I was contemplating making a phone call, Georgie said ôMike, never ever dishonor or humiliate yourself by fighting again.ö I never got that until maybe five years ago. Because I canÆt fight again. Even though I sustained a horrible injury almost 12 years ago, and I probably shouldnÆt fight again competitively, some commission or some state that has no commission might say æMichael Bentt can fightÆ, and thatÆs a goddamn shame. So that sticks with me.
Ive been divided myself, though, man. One side says, ôIÆm done, IÆve got nothing more to prove.ö Sometimes I go to the gym and guys are like ôMike, you should make a comeback,ö and I tell them ôhey, my man, check it out, IÆve got nothing to prove. My championship belt is under my bed collecting dust, and itÆll stay there.ö IÆm happy with that. And my five national championships will go down in the annals of amateur boxing. People refer to me as the most accomplished amateur never to make an Olympic team, IÆll take that. ThatÆs not bad. And I think if IÆm going to recite Mr. ShakespeareÆs words, I need my brain cells, baby. (Laughs) You know what I mean? I donÆt want to be mumbling.
SN: I can understand that. Is there anyone out there now, though, especially in light of VItali KlitschkoÆs retirement, who is capable of becoming a dominant champion?
MB: (Sighs) A dominant champion in the same vein as a Holyfield, or Lewis or Tysonàno. No one really jumps out at me. Each guy has a fault. Essentially, the most talented guy out there in the heavyweight division and the most talented guy to come along in a long time, doesnÆt trust himself. HeÆs a frontrunner, as Georgie Benton would say. And I think you know who IÆm talking about.
SN: Wladimir Klitschko?
MB: Yes sir. I have never seen a heavyweight throw a left hook off of a jab like he does. IÆm like ôGoddamn!ö Guys who I came up with in Bed-Stuy Boxing Club in Brooklyn, like Mark Breland, he was probably the mostàIÆll go out on a limb here. Aside from Howard Davis and Ray Leonard, who were the glamour boys, I donÆt think you can have a composite of an amateur fighter more perfect than Mark Breland. He was tall, lanky, his left hook off a jab was a mother****er, and George Washington who trained Mark, called the jab, hook, and right hand the cherry tree special because guys would just get chopped down. I never saw a big man throw it as fluidly as Wladimir does.
SN: And I donÆt think IÆve heard anyone put it better than you just did when you said he does not trust himself.
MB: No, he doesnÆt. We saw that when he fought the cat from NigeriaàSamuel Peter. That is the poster child for a guy who is strong, tough, but no talent. None. Sure, if you put him in with Jeremy Williams, heÆll knock him out every time they fight, because Jeremy Williams never had a heavyweight chin. He was a talented fighter, and he had a heavyweight punch but not a heavyweight chin. But Sam Peter is just raw, heÆs crude, you know what I mean? Everyone is hopping on his bandwagon because, you know, heÆs from Nigeria, and I guess everyone is trying to paint him in the same mold as Ike Ibeabuchi. Ike Ibeabuchi was a bad mother****er. HeÆs the kind of cat that I wouldà(Laughs)àthat I would NOT fight. If I had a heavyweight, if I was a manager of a heavyweight, thatÆs the kind of mother****er we would fight for 50 million dollars! You donÆt **** with him for less than that! Ike had a complete arsenal; movement, defense, had a granite chin. Sam Peter is one-dimensional. HeÆs a poor manÆs Mike Tyson. IÆm going off here. (Laughs)
SN: Well IÆve just got one more thing here, and IÆm sure IÆm not the first person to tell you this, but you are obviously a very intelligent and articulate person, and you mentioned earlier doing commentary overseas, is television commentary something else you might be interested in doing?
MB: Nooo. Honestly, I did a couple of spots for HBO, a thing where they were kicking off KO Nation. Oscar De La Hoya was supposed to fly in and do the first test broadcast with Fran Charles. Oscar, for some reason, didnÆt make it. I got a call from a buddy, my sonÆs godfather, Arthur Curry, who is the HBO Vice President of Talent. He gave me a call and suggested I come and read for it. I auditioned and I ended up doing the blow-by-blow with Fran Charles the night of the Junior Jones-Paul Ingle fight and the main event was Lewis-Grant at the Garden. I called it as I saw it, and I donÆt know whether they thought I was savvy enough or if I was too honest, but I basically slammed Michael Grant, who was being groomed as the next heir apparent. Even though Grant lost, I think they still had hopes that Lewis was fading out and Mike would somehow reclaim his luster. To make a long story short, I didnÆt get anymore phone calls from HBO. I did some things for Cedric KushnerÆs Heavyweight Explosion, some things overseas with BBC, and I would love to do some commentary for BBC. I have an affinity for their style of broadcasting, and also being born in London, I have an affinity for that part of the world. If someone said æMike, come on board, do some commentaryÆ, IÆd explore it, but IÆm not going to go looking for it.
SN: Is there anything else youÆd like to add to this, Mike?
MB: I think weÆve done a pretty thorough job. (Laughs) I do want to say this, though, and I said this earlier, but it tends to be misconstrued. IÆm not apologizing for it, but I said I resented Morrison for the Great White Hope brouhaha, but as a fighter, we have to use anything and everything that is going to motivate us. That night, what I used to motivate me, itÆs some really, really dark **** in my personal history and in the history of this country. When you step into the ring with that kind of venom, itÆs kind of hard to walk out of the ring a loser. All I am is a product of my past and what I hope to be in the future.
SN: Thanks so much for your time, Mike. It was great talking to you.
MB: My pleasure.
* Taken from doghouseboxing.com
Last edited by paul750; 05-20-2009 at 03:25 PM.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
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The unsuccessful pro debut:
First round KO of Tommy Morrison:
Join Date: May 2006
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What an arrogant cunt. I stopped reading after the second post, I couldn't read anymore of how full of himself he is.
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