by David P. Greisman
There are only two losses on Tony Thompsonís record. One came in his fifth fight. He won 27 fights in a row after that before suffering his second defeat, an 11th-round knockout against Wladimir Klitchko.
That was four years ago. For those four years, Thompson has been waiting for ó and working toward ó a second shot. That second shot will come July 7, when Thompson steps into a ring in Switzerland in a rematch against the true heavyweight champion.
Thompson, 40, is 36-2 with 24 knockouts. He recently spoke to BoxingScene.com about the bout.
BoxingScene.com: Howís training camp going?
Thompson: ďTraining camp is going great. Like Iíve been saying since the beginning of this thing, weíve put together a good team and everybodyís coordinating and making sure that Iím doing everything I need to be doing to get ready for the fight.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Iíve been told you are in better shape, or at least look to be in better shape, than youíve ever been before. Am I hearing right?
Thompson: ďThat is right. Iím in better health, which means I can get in better shape. At least since the Dominick Guinn, Iíve been in better shape. I think Iím in the best shape Iíve ever been in.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Whatís the difference? What are you doing differently, and how are you physically different than how you used to be?
Thompson: ďLike I said, Iím in better health. My legís finally getting back healthy and strong, which means Iím able to work harder. Obviously when you work harder, thatís just going to translate to better conditioning. I think thatís just the biggest thing. With great health comes great conditioningĒ
BoxingScene.com: What are you hoping to weigh in at for the fight?
Thompson: ďAround 245, 244, something like that.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Who do you spar with to get ready for a guy like Wladimir Klitschko?
Thompson: ďWell nobody out there can emulate Wladimir, but youíre looking to get some tall, athletic guys, a guy like a Deontay Wilder, then you hope to get some young guys, theyíre hungry to establish themselves in the game, like Seth Mitchell. You get a group of those guys ready to push you and make their own mark, therefore making you better in turn.Ē
BoxingScene.com: When I spoke with you in December, you told me the big difference strategically was going to be your condition. How are you going to approach this rematch compared with or contrasted with how you approached the first fight?
Thompson: ďLike you said, my condition. I think we got a great game plan. I wasnít really able to carry out a game plan [before] due to the lack of conditioning. Iím ready to see how our game plan unfolds with conditioning. Obviously you have to adjust in the ring sometimes, but if youíre in the proper shape than youíre able to do a multitude of things.Ē
BoxingScene.com: What did you learn about Wladimir Klitschko in that first fight several years ago?
Thompson: ďHeís not as soft as people make him out to be. Heís real athletic. Those are things you probably wouldnít have equated with him earlier in his career, but the guy, man, he is a true champion. I learned that much myself.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How do you feel that he has changed, if at all, since you first fought him?
Thompson: ďI donít think heís changed in any way in terms of skill level. His biggest asset right now is just his level of confidence, having vanquished his opponents so easily. I think his confidence is at an all-time high. Thatís probably his biggest change.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Do you feel heís slipping any with age? Getting better with age?
Thompson: ďI definitely donít think heís slipping, but I donít see how heís improved. Itís going to be tough to tell until I have made him really fight. Thatís what Iím looking to do.Ē
BoxingScene.com: He doesnít face many guys like you, men who are both his size and active. Along with that, whatís the difference between you and opponents heís faced in recent years?
Thompson: ďIím athletic. Iím tall. Iím active. Iím a southpaw. And Iím not going to sit back at the end of his punches and wait for me to bomb me out of the ring. Iím going to come forward and press the fight.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How do you go about beating Wladimir Klitschko?
Thompson: ďThatís the way you beat him. You press him, make him uncomfortable. You got to outwork him, because he wonít punch while youíre punching. He has to be set and comfortable. If you make him uncomfortable the whole fight, then obviously thatís one way you out-work him. But Iím going for a straight knockout. I want to knock out the heavyweight champion to be the heavyweight champion. My game plan is to press him until I get a chance to land enough punches to take him out.Ē
BoxingScene.com: What are you going to do to deal with Wladimirís power in this fight?
Thompson: ďIím just not going to be there to get hit by him. Last time, like I said, I wasnít in shape, I stayed on a line, I had to come straight to him. I was easy pickings. Iím not going to be that easy pickings this time.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How does his power compare to other heavyweights that youíve fought?
Thompson: ďObviously he has crushing power. Iíve only been knocked down by two people in my career. Obviously heís one of the biggest punchers I have fought.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Do you think this fight goes the distance?
Thompson: ďNo. I think I stop him inside of 10.Ē
BoxingScene.com: This fight is in Switzerland. I know youíve fought overseas before, but are there any disadvantages you see to heading to Europe for this bout?
Thompson: ďHe lives there, so he doesnít have to deal with the jet lag situation. I have to get over there, get acclimated and get my body ready to perform. Iíll get there about two and a half weeks before.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Did you ever think you were going to get another shot at the championship?
Thompson: ďYeah. I didnít see anyone who could beat me, besides Wladimir as champion. Everybody else wouldíve been easy work, so it wasnít really a thing that I was worried about the competition. I just wanted to get the opportunity to fight the competition.Ē
BoxingScene.com: At the same time itís been four years, so was there any point that you didnít think the opportunity was going to come, or if it was going to come that it had to come soon?
Thompson: ďIíd keep on fighting until I got to where I needed to be. Eventually they have to recognize me. Same way throughout my career. I keep knocking out everybody, eventually they have to recognize me.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How big and important is this fight for your career, not just because itís for the heavyweight championship, but also for what it means for the rest of your career?
Thompson: ďIt will legitimize what Iíve done in the ring. A lot of people donít really give a lot of credit to my career. Iíve knocked out a whole bunch of solid opponents. Iíve pretty much beaten everybody, fairly easily at that. Itís not like Iíve had controversial split decisions. All my fights have been lopsided, one-sided. I havenít gotten the credit for any of that. I think once I win the heavyweight championship, people will have to start to really give credit where credit is due.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Does your career hinge on this fight?
Thompson: ďOf course. Itís the heavyweight championship of the world.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want to say?
Thompson: ďIím working hard. Iím not going to be one of those same-old, same-old against Wladimir where a guy sits back and gets taken out. This will actually be a fight. I suggest everybody tune in. Iíll be the oldest first-time champion ever.Ē
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Wladimir Klitschko , Tony Thompson , Klitschko-Thompson , Klitschko vs Thompson