by David P. Greisman
There are only two losses on Tony Thompson’s 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 — and working toward — 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: How’s training camp going?
Thompson: “Training camp is going great. Like I’ve been saying since the beginning of this thing, we’ve put together a good team and everybody’s coordinating and making sure that I’m doing everything I need to be doing to get ready for the fight.”
BoxingScene.com: I’ve been told you are in better shape, or at least look to be in better shape, than you’ve ever been before. Am I hearing right?
Thompson: “That is right. I’m in better health, which means I can get in better shape. At least since the Dominick Guinn, I’ve been in better shape. I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
BoxingScene.com: What’s the difference? What are you doing differently, and how are you physically different than how you used to be?
Thompson: “Like I said, I’m in better health. My leg’s finally getting back healthy and strong, which means I’m able to work harder. Obviously when you work harder, that’s just going to translate to better conditioning. I think that’s just the biggest thing. With great health comes great conditioning”
BoxingScene.com: What are you hoping to weigh in at for the fight?
Thompson: “Around 245, 244, something like that.”
BoxingScene.com: Who do you spar with to get ready for a guy like Wladimir Klitschko?
Thompson: “Well nobody out there can emulate Wladimir, but you’re looking to get some tall, athletic guys, a guy like a Deontay Wilder, then you hope to get some young guys, they’re 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.”
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: “Like you said, my condition. I think we got a great game plan. I wasn’t really able to carry out a game plan [before] due to the lack of conditioning. I’m ready to see how our game plan unfolds with conditioning. Obviously you have to adjust in the ring sometimes, but if you’re in the proper shape than you’re able to do a multitude of things.”
BoxingScene.com: What did you learn about Wladimir Klitschko in that first fight several years ago?
Thompson: “He’s not as soft as people make him out to be. He’s real athletic. Those are things you probably wouldn’t have equated with him earlier in his career, but the guy, man, he is a true champion. I learned that much myself.”
BoxingScene.com: How do you feel that he has changed, if at all, since you first fought him?
Thompson: “I don’t think he’s 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. That’s probably his biggest change.”
BoxingScene.com: Do you feel he’s slipping any with age? Getting better with age?
Thompson: “I definitely don’t think he’s slipping, but I don’t see how he’s improved. It’s going to be tough to tell until I have made him really fight. That’s what I’m looking to do.”
BoxingScene.com: He doesn’t face many guys like you, men who are both his size and active. Along with that, what’s the difference between you and opponents he’s faced in recent years?
Thompson: “I’m athletic. I’m tall. I’m active. I’m a southpaw. And I’m not going to sit back at the end of his punches and wait for me to bomb me out of the ring. I’m going to come forward and press the fight.”
BoxingScene.com: How do you go about beating Wladimir Klitschko?
Thompson: “That’s the way you beat him. You press him, make him uncomfortable. You got to outwork him, because he won’t punch while you’re punching. He has to be set and comfortable. If you make him uncomfortable the whole fight, then obviously that’s one way you out-work him. But I’m 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.”
BoxingScene.com: What are you going to do to deal with Wladimir’s power in this fight?
Thompson: “I’m just not going to be there to get hit by him. Last time, like I said, I wasn’t in shape, I stayed on a line, I had to come straight to him. I was easy pickings. I’m not going to be that easy pickings this time.”
BoxingScene.com: How does his power compare to other heavyweights that you’ve fought?
Thompson: “Obviously he has crushing power. I’ve only been knocked down by two people in my career. Obviously he’s one of the biggest punchers I have fought.”
BoxingScene.com: Do you think this fight goes the distance?
Thompson: “No. I think I stop him inside of 10.”
BoxingScene.com: This fight is in Switzerland. I know you’ve fought overseas before, but are there any disadvantages you see to heading to Europe for this bout?
Thompson: “He lives there, so he doesn’t have to deal with the jet lag situation. I have to get over there, get acclimated and get my body ready to perform. I’ll get there about two and a half weeks before.”
BoxingScene.com: Did you ever think you were going to get another shot at the championship?
Thompson: “Yeah. I didn’t see anyone who could beat me, besides Wladimir as champion. Everybody else would’ve been easy work, so it wasn’t really a thing that I was worried about the competition. I just wanted to get the opportunity to fight the competition.”
BoxingScene.com: At the same time it’s been four years, so was there any point that you didn’t think the opportunity was going to come, or if it was going to come that it had to come soon?
Thompson: “I’d 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.”
BoxingScene.com: How big and important is this fight for your career, not just because it’s for the heavyweight championship, but also for what it means for the rest of your career?
Thompson: “It will legitimize what I’ve done in the ring. A lot of people don’t really give a lot of credit to my career. I’ve knocked out a whole bunch of solid opponents. I’ve pretty much beaten everybody, fairly easily at that. It’s not like I’ve had controversial split decisions. All my fights have been lopsided, one-sided. I haven’t 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.”
BoxingScene.com: Does your career hinge on this fight?
Thompson: “Of course. It’s the heavyweight championship of the world.”
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want to say?
Thompson: “I’m working hard. I’m 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. I’ll be the oldest first-time champion ever.”
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 [email protected]