Q&A: Anthony Ogogo
The biggest boxing event of the year to date takes place this Saturday when Floyd Mayweather Jr. meets Marcos Maidana in a RING/WBC/WBA welterweight unification.
The Showtime pay per view also features the return of Adrien Broner against Carlos Molina at junior welterweight, and Amir Khan‘s welterweight debut against Luis Collazo.
Khan won’t be the only British fighter on the card, however, as 2012 Olympic middleweight bronze medalist Anthony Ogogo is also scheduled to appear.
“That’s exactly why I wanted to join Golden Boy,” an enthusiastic Ogogo told RingTV.com. “The atmosphere is unbelievable. At the [MGM] Grand arrivals yesterday it was something I’d never experienced in the boxing world.”
Following his Olympic success, Ogogo, 25, had many suitors but elected to take the unusual route of signing with American promoter Golden Boy instead of one from his homeland.
“I struck up a brilliant relationship with Richard Schaefer,” said Ogogo. “We sat in the office and got on really well. It was the first time we met and it was like we’d known each other for years and years.”
So far Ogogo has won all five of his fights as a pro, with two inside the distance.
Anson Wainwright – On Saturday you face Jonel Tapia what are your thoughts on that fight?
Anthony Ogogo – I can‘t wait. He’s got a decent record, he’s had 12 fights, won 8, 5 knockouts, so he’s got a decent record. He’s from Puerto Rico, the streets of San Juan, I read on the internet. He’s tough, resilient, he likes a punch up. I also saw he boxed for Puerto Rico in the world championships, so he has a good amateur pedigree. It should be a good opponent, probably the best opponent I’ve boxed to date as a professional. I’m looking forward to it.
AW – It will be your sixth fight as a pro, how do you assess your progression so far?
AO – I’ve really enjoyed it, to be honest. It’s been very, very tough, don’t get me wrong. I’m really working hard. I’ve pretty much started again from being an amateur. I wanted to eradicate all the little things that you can’t do as a professional. Every time I‘m training to fight the best; if I do something seven times out of ten right it’s not good enough. I know if I changed my style in a small way I would probably have won my first 10, 12, 15 fights, but I know when I fight the top caliber of opponents that’s not going to be enough.
You see a lot of British fighters, they look sensational when they first turn pro and they get to the top level and they get found out, so I didn’t want that to happen to me. So I really, really worked hard to try to change my style in the right way and hopefully when I get to the very top it’ll hold me in good stead.
The point I’m trying to make is I’ve made a lot of adjustments in quite a short space of time and I think I could have stuck to what I always did as an amateur. As an amateur I was one of the best in the world. I’m enjoying starting from scratch again and not being one of the best in the world and being at the bottom and working my way up. It’s going to be a long journey.
AW – You have fought on big cards before but this one dwarfs them all. What is it like for you appearing on a Floyd Mayweather Jr. undercard in Las Vegas?
AO – That’s exactly why I wanted to join Golden Boy. The atmosphere is unbelievable, at the [MGM] Grand arrivals yesterday it was something I’d never experienced in the boxing world. It was great, I really enjoyed it. It’s a little taster of what’s potentially to come.
AW – What is your plan for this year, moving forward?
AO – I’d like as many [fights] as possible because my first fight was when Amir Khan boxed Julio Diaz – that was my debut, in Sheffield. I had three fights in four months and three good wins. In the first fight I felt like I was making the adjustments to becoming a professional boxer. I felt I’m at home in a professional ring and then I was quite unlucky – I got a bad injury and it prevented me from training. I had four months of nothing and then I managed to get myself in decent nick in five, six weeks and managed to squeeze a fight in December to just shake the ring rust. So I had five months where I stagnated, where if anything I regressed and went backwards, going back into old habits, doing things I did as an amateur. I pretty much trained myself for that one because I knew the importance of getting in the ring and shaking the cobwebs off, because I knew if I didn’t fight then I wouldn’t fight ‘til March and it would be eight or nine months‘ gap and that was far too big.
When you train as hard as I do in the boxing ring you’re always going to get some injuries. It couldn’t be helped, I just felt I didn’t get any better at boxing so this year I want to be really busy. Every time I fight I want it to be a big deal because I want to get to the top, I want to be in Floyd Mayweather’s position. I want to be in a position one day that when I fight young aspiring fighters like myself would give their left arm to be on my undercards, that‘s the level I want to get to. I want to carry on boxing on big stages like this and getting the experience and learning.
For this year I want to be really busy, I saw Canelo [Alvarez] is fighting [Erislandy] Lara in July – that will be another card to get on in Las Vegas, so I’m looking to perform well on this one so I can get the nod to maybe comeback in July and have a few more fights in England. By the end of this year I’m looking to have a title of some sort around my waist whether it be something like the southern area champion in Britain at the very least, maybe a British or Commonwealth title if that comes up if my team think I’m ready.
AW – Tell us about your younger days growing up in East Anglia?
AO – My mum brought me and my four sisters up by herself; I grew up in a house with me and five women (laughs) so that had its difficulties. As you can imagine, I got picked on and bullied quite a bit. I learned from a young age you have to work hard. My mum looked after all five of us plus my Nan and my granddad helped out and she worked three jobs at one point. I saw how hard my mum worked and that work ethic was instilled in me from a young age, just be seeing what my mum did to provide for her family.
I’ve worked hard to provide for myself through boxing. Like I said, we didn’t have a lot. My mum grafted (worked hard) to keep our heads above water but I had a great upbringing, really. I wouldn’t change it. I grew up in a little town called Lowestoft in East Anglia; it’s got a lovely beach which is two minutes from my bedroom. We spent all the summer there. We didn’t have much money and going to the beach is a free day out with family and friends.
AW – Did you play many sports?
AO – My entire childhood revolved around sport. I was a decent swimmer – I was county and regional level, I swam at the nationals a couple of times. I also played football – I was captain of my county. At football, I played for Norwich under 13’s, under 14’s, school of excellence when I was a kid. I started boxing when I was 12 years old so at one point I was swimming in the morning, football all day in school and then I’d go either swimming, football or boxing training in the evening. How my mum took us around plus work I’ll never know.
I just loved sport and I loved winning. When I found boxing it suited my attributes down to a tee – I didn’t have 10 other players to rely on. I liked swimming – it taught me to get up early in the morning and go training. Swimming was very competitive because it’s you against seven other people in the lanes. Whenever I came second it was like I lost, I didn’t like it. That was really good for me to develop my competitive edge but boxing for me was the sport I thrived on and loved. I had my first fight when I was 12, I knocked the kid out in the second round and I got the biggest buzz. If I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be for the rest of my life before that, then after that I knew boxing was the sport for me.
AW – What was the catalyst for you becoming interested and then take up boxing?
AO – (Laughs) This story always makes me giggle. We were playing football like we did every lunchtime at my school, I’d gone through to the final and I was waiting for two other lads to score and I’d play the winner in the final. One lad scored but it came off the other lad’s leg. One guy‘s called Adam and the other is Aaron – they were my best mates and they were best mates as well – it transpired that both said they’d scored, there was pushing and shoving, a little fight erupted. We were only 12 years old so we weren’t violent at all, just little kids getting a bit to angry. Everyone thought Adam the big lad was gonna win but then Aaron – about 20 seconds later the big guy was on the floor crying and Aaron the scrawny guy – he’d won. I said to Aaron, ‘How did you learn to do that?‘ He threw about 20 punches in about 10 seconds and that was the fight over. He said, ‘I go boxing club.‘ I said I didn’t even know there was a boxing club in town. I said, ‘Can I go?‘ He said, ‘Yeah, there’s a beginner session tonight.‘ Cause I didn’t want to go by myself I went to Adam, who was still crying, ‘The only reason he beat you up was because he goes to boxing club. We can go tonight, get good, you can fight him tomorrow and everyone’s gonna like you again.‘ So we went that night, I walked into the gym and fell in love with it and have been ever since.
AW – You won bronze at the Olympics but you had a lot going on outside the ring – your mother had a brain hemorrhage a few weeks before the games. Could you tell us about how you dealt with everything?
AO – I enjoyed being an amateur and being part of the GB squad but to be honest with you, I look back on the London Olympics, I was very proud to represent my country but I’ve got funny memories of 2012 because there’s no doubt in my mind that I would have won the gold medal if my mum … six weeks before the Olympic games she suffered a brain hemorrhage, she was in hospital, she nearly died. She’s all right now. I can talk about it now because she’s made a miraculous recovery but at the time, out the blue from nowhere, she had this brain hemorrhage. She was in an induced coma for the whole of the Olympics.
So six weeks out from the Olympics I pulled out because how can you perform? I didn’t lift a finger and the GB lot were trying to get me to come back up to Sheffield but I couldn’t leave, even going to the toilet I had to rush back. In the end my sisters rallied around and guilted me into going to the Olympics. I went back to Sheffield to train with the rest of the squad. That was horrible. My first spar back I didn’t even wanna be there. I had my phone in my pocket in case someone rang me saying about my mum. I wanted to be back with my family. I got a whack on the rib, so I’ve got a broken rib for the games and I don’t wanna be there – that was horrible.
AW – Do you remember much of the Olympics?
AO – When I look back how I focused, it sounds silly but it was all a bit of a blur for me. There are parts of the games I enjoyed but the first time I was without my phone for 10, 15 minutes was my first fight at the Olympics and I ran to my phone, turned it on in case any bad news came. I just wasn’t really there. By the time I beat the world champion in my second fight – he hadn’t been beaten in two years – the biggest win of my life, I couldn’t enjoy.
The fight I lost in the semi-final, I was spent emotionally and physically, I was sick to death with the worrying, I was ready to go home. I left and went back to Cambridge to see my mum; I was there until she was released from hospital. It was an odd period for me because there was no doubt in my mind that if this wasn’t going on I would have got a gold medal because I’d have focused on actually what I was there to do. That’s not saying I was unprofessional at all just that the person I love most in the world is in a very bad way.
That’s why I’m really looking forward now because the Olympics wasn’t really what I thought they’d be because of that reason, and now I want to surpass anything I did as an amateur in the pro ranks, really leave my mark.
AW – You signed with Golden Boy Promotions – how come you signed with them and not a British promoter?
AO – When I first turned pro Richard Schaefer came over [to the U.K.], did my press conference saying I was joining Golden Boy and every journalist said, ‘Why?‘ Even when I had my second fight in Atlantic City everyone asked why I signed with Golden Boy when I’m a young British lad. People don’t really know me. It’s for this reason, really, I struck up a brilliant relationship with Richard Schaefer – we sat in the office and got on really well. It was the first time we met and it was like we’d known each other for years and years. We were talking on the same level. I told all the promoters what I wanted to achieve in the sport of boxing when I met them all, and Richard was the guy when I told him what I wanted to achieve he kind of nodded and said, ‘That’s exactly what I want.‘
Obviously I have lofty ambitions and he shared them with me and he said if you sign with Golden Boy this is what I can do for you, I can guarantee you a massive stage to showcase your ability, and I had just come out of the Olympic Games and they were extraordinary, Britain did an amazing job hosting the Olympics and I wanted that to continue. I didn’t want to go back to boxing in small working man’s clubs or nightclubs with only a few hundred people. I experienced the big stage and I loved it. That’s what I wanted and it’s down to me to make the most of it. I’ll box well and continue to get better and better.
AW – Away from boxing what do you enjoy doing?
AO – I love all sports, I’m a massive football fan – I can sit and watch anything. I support Norwich City. Outside of sport, I really enjoy acting, theaters and going to the cinema. After boxing I wouldn’t mind turning my hand to acting. I did drama and theater studies at six form and then A level – that’s a passion of mine. My life is very much dominated by boxing with what I do.
AW – Who is your boxing hero and why?
AO – The ultimate one was Muhammad Ali because when I first told my mum that I boxed, she banned me for a week or two then she saw how much I loved boxing, so she said you can do it. She wanted to learn about it as much as me so we went down Wordsmith (Retailing Company) we bought a VHS boxing video and it had a Muhammad Ali documentary and I was transfixed and Muhammad Ali is an absolute hero to me.
Also Sugar Ray Leonard. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him a couple of times – he’s a lovely man. Every time he sees me he’s got so much time for me, sometimes he tweets me out the blue asking how I’m getting on. Also he’s more my weight. He’s the person I watch most and try to replicate.
AW – Lastly do you have a message for the middleweight division?
AO – Yeah, I think the message to the division is: I’m not out to slag anyone off, or criticize anyone, but I just want to say in a couple of years I want to be on top of the division, I want to be the king of the division. I want to be the guy everyone wants to fight. I want to be the guy young aspiring fights get excited about, fighting on my undercards. I want to be the be the king of the middleweight division and I’m not going to stop until I get there.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright