Q&A: Roberto Bolonti intends to ‘unleash the beast’ on Jean Pascal
A large number of world-class fighters have become known for finding their way to jail after their ring years are over. A handful of them started their careers there.
As a member of the riot-control squad in one of Argentina’s most dangerous prisons for six years, Roberto Bolonti managed to keep both the inner strength to perform his dangerous job and the focus to keep his energy and his aggression on his boxing career. Now he is getting ready to take on his biggest challenge to date as a late replacement opponent for Jean Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KO) on Dec. 6 in Montreal, Canada.
Bolonti (35-3, 24 KO) has cleared the light heavyweight division in his native Argentina twice already, and for that he has learned to cherish every opportunity he’s had to break through in the international arena, in which he has fallen short twice but went the distance against both Juergen Braehmer and Tony Bellew. The former sits just below Pascal in THE RING’s 175-pound ratings at No. 4, while the latter just defeated Nathan Cleverly for a shot at the WBO cruiserweight title.
And in order to make the most out of this new opportunity (which arose after his original opponent, Lucian Bute, and Pascal’s original opponent, Donovan George, both withdrew for separate, unrelated reasons), the 35-year-old Bolonti has recruited Raul Paniagua, Sergio Martinez’s first trainer and uncle, to join forces with an already large and diverse team that includes a personal trainer, a former referee acting as punching-pad specialist, a nutritionist and even a psychologist. And he has also taken a leave from his current job as a court bailiff to train.
RingTV had the chance to talk to Bolonti before his trip to Canada:
Diego Morilla: You only had 45 days to train for Juergen Braehmer. How long was your training camp for this fight?
Roberto Bolonti: The training camp was great because we had 3 months to get ready before this fight. But then (Lucian) Bute suffered an injury 15 days before the fight, and they asked us if we wanted to fight Jean Pascal, who was fighting in the same card. I accepted, because I didn’t want my training camp to go to waste. Thank God, they gave me a license at work for me to prepare properly. I was still working until about a month ago, but now I have a leave of absence just to get ready and make some adjustments.
DM: How did you adjust to the difference between Bute and Pascal?
RB: We know they are two completely different fighters. Bute is left-handed, and we already had traveled to Buenos Aires to spar with Sebastian Heiland in his preparation for his fight against (Matthew) Macklin, which was great for both of us considering that he is a southpaw as well. But after we found out about the change of opponent we had to change the whole fight plan because they are two totally different fighters. But I don’t think I will have to make any major adjustments for Pascal, because I had him on my radar for a while. He was the champion when I went to fight Braehmer in Europe, so I was watching him with the corner of my eye already.
DM: Do you see this fight as a chance to make a big jump as far as level of opposition is concerned, just to see where you are standing now, or do you see this fight as the long-awaited opportunity that will finally show the world who you really are?
RB: I think this is the right opportunity for me, and it’s a great opponent for me to demonstrate what we know. After our loss against Braehmer we brought in a new trainer, which is Raul Paniagua, who is Sergio Martinez’s uncle and former trainer, the guy who made him who he is. He brought a lot of new things for us and changed our style completely. To me, he arrived just at the right moment for this fight. I don’t think I am facing an invincible opponent. I feel that with all the changes that we’ve implemented in our technique we’re going to put on a tough fight for both of us, but we’re ready to win. When I went to fight abroad for the first two fights I only had a hammer and a chisel in my hands. Now I am carrying a whole new bag of tools. I am confident that I can win if I truly apply everything that I’ve been learning in these last few months with my new trainer.
DM: In terms of the fight itself, how do you imagine it or visualize it?
RB: I believe we have to make a 180 degree turn in comparison to what we’ve been doing when we fought abroad. We’ve speculated during the first half of our fights and then started working harder in the second half, but that has to change. We have to go out and press the action because Pascal is a very intelligent fighter, he manages timing very well. You can hurt him when you press the action and push him out of his comfort zone. We need to manage the timing of the fight, just like Carl Froch did when he took the initiative and showed that he can do some damage in the second half of the bout. I believe we have to put pressure from the beginning, throwing a lot of punches. If we don’t do that, the fight will be complicated if we allow him to take control of the timing of the bout.
DM: In Argentina, you have fought mostly against local fighters, some of them twice or more, and you had only a few trips abroad. Do you feel that lack of opposition has hindered your progress, or does it play in your favor to know that you have swept the division at the local level?
RB: In order to be the best in Argentina, as a local champion, I had to fight the best out there. I fought the best available opposition out there. I cannot look back. I fought Tony Bellew and I went the distance with a guy who is about to fight for the cruiserweight title. I have to improve and get a few mistakes out of the way, but only to remain or improve at this high level. I cannot look back. I am focused on fighting at the highest level. I think I am ready to aim higher than the local level of Argentina.
DM: Argentine fighters are seen differently now, as guys who have to be watched and who are dangerous. Does this generate extra pressure for you?
RB: I know that I have to leave everything in the ring because I know that in the previous two fights abroad, even though I went the distance and left a good impression, I was not at the same level of the rest of our world champions, such as (Lucas) Matthysse, (Marcos) Maidana, (Sergio) Martinez. But I know I can give much more. Maybe we had too little international experience, both me and my team. In my other two fights I brought a doctor and a personal trainer with me, two people who helped me a lot but who didn’t have the experience to put together a strategy for a world-class fight. In those fights, you need a corner that can provide new ideas and new strategies between rounds. Sometimes it’s easy to say, “You got to throw more punches,” but if you have a world champion in front of you, you have to know what and when to throw. That’s one of the things we’ve corrected lately by adding a world-class trainer with experience, and I believe now I will give my full potential. No more excuses. We implemented all the ideas that we had to improve my situation, and now I think I am ready to give my best and at the same level as they are.
DM: Did your job as a prison guard give you any strengths, be it mental or in any other way?
RB: They are two completely different things to me. One has to behave professionally in all walks of life, and I think I am doing that. I was six years in the prison’s riot-control squad, and now I’ve worked for four years as one of the bailiffs in the court, in a more administrative job. It did give me a lot of control and restraint as a person, sure.
DM: You have two different nicknames: “Cicuta” (Hemlock) and “La Bestia” (The Beast). Which one do you prefer for this particular fight?
RB: (Laughs.) For Pascal, I will have to unleash the beast. I have to make him suffer a little bit. In this fight, people will see that I have much more to give. Perhaps I lacked confidence in myself or in my corner, but now I have that, and I have much more to give. You can see it in my last round against Braehmer. I was ready to go on, I even had him hurt. This time, I have to get the other guy hurt from the first round instead of waiting for the last round.