Q&A: Sergio Mora
Sergio Mora enters this Friday’s USBA middleweight title fight against Abraham “Abie” Han on the back of four straight wins. The Los Angeles native had been set to face Jermain Taylor for the IBF world title before Taylor’s outside-the-ring indiscretions derailed those plans.
The title change is obviously a disappointing step down but Mora (27-3-2, 9 knockouts) admits that facing Han might well be tougher than the original assignment.
“Absolutely, it’s all about hunger, that’s just the way this game goes,” said Mora, 34. “Jermain Taylor has been knocked out more than once, he’s been to the top and he’s been to the bottom. Maybe that’s it – he needed to regain [the world title] and get a little bit of money and he’s off into the sunset.
“Abie Han, he hasn’t been to the top yet. He lost to Glen Tapia but Glen Tapia is a solid contender, so it’s not that big of a blemish on his record. So of course this guy is a guy that is coming to win, he’s a top 15-ranked contender for a reason.”
Fighting Han gives Mora, who won the first season of the reality-TV series “The Contender” in 2005 and briefly held the WBC 154-pound title in 2008, a reason to stay motivated. He feels the middleweight division is busting at the seams with talent, and being in the ring with that talent is exactly where he wants to be.
“We have some solid names, some solid contenders, and I’m one of them and I just need my crack at a title,” he said.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on your upcoming fight with Abie Han?
Sergio Mora – I was preparing to Jermain Taylor so I had tall sparring partners with good one-two’s, fast, strong. I had to switch my sparring partners from big one-two punchers to tall combination punchers and aggressive punchers. Abie Han takes a good punch, he’s strong, confident, smart, he comes forward, he has a great record of 23-1, 14 knockouts. His only loss is to a solid fighter in Glen Tapia, so he is a legitimate top-15 contender by the IBF and I have to respect all his accolades and I’m sure he respects mine as a former champion. So it’s going to be a contest between two guys that can appreciate what the other brings to the table, not one guy saying, ‘He can’t do this, he can’t do that.’ Those are ignorant fighters who go in thinking they’re God’s gift to winning and boxing. [Guys like Han] are the guys I like fighting. Whenever a guy steps back, starts pointing out the good things I do, that’s when I say, ‘We’ve got a thinker here,’ not a fighter who wants to talk about himself, how much of a killer he is in the ring. The first thing he does is appreciate his opponent, and that’s what I do.
AW – As you said, you were due to fight for the IBF middleweight title against Jermain Taylor. Obviously that fight fell out with all the things that happened to Taylor. What are your thoughts on that?
SM – At first I was very upset because I’ve been in this position before. I was supposed to fight Kelly Pavlik (in 2009) for the WBC middleweight championship and two weeks before that fight he pulls out with an injury that wasn’t really an injury, as we all found out in retrospect. We all found out he has alcohol issues and domestic issues so it wasn’t really the staph infection he claimed. So with Jermain Taylor I was expecting the same thing. He’s not mentally all there; he’s been doing irrational things. I was just hoping he’d show up and I could take that belt and we’d never have to hear about Jermain Taylor again. It’s an unfortunate thing that his mental issues and his legal problems and his personal issues and demons stopped me from taking that belt.
AW – Is there any danger of you being a little flat after the disappointment of the world title fight falling through?
SM – Great question, because it’s happened to me twice before. When I fought Elvin Ayala (in 2007) I got my first draw. I was training to fight Kassim Ouma and then that fight got canceled … I switched from preparing to fight Kassim Ouma, a former champion … to fighting Elvin Ayala on ESPN who wasn’t a southpaw, so it threw my whole motivation and preparation out. So I know how dangerous that can be.
It sounds like you can switch it on and off, but you can’t. It’s impossible to turn off drive and motivation and that will – you’ve been seeing this guy for eight weeks in camp and everything had been pointed to one fighter and all of a sudden that goes out the window. So with that big opportunity, a title fight, it was for really good money, it was on a big event and all of a sudden fighting a guy that’s not known for less money, for a lesser network, it throws everything out of the equation. But like I said, I’ve been there before and I think I know how to handle it now. I’ve put it in perspective and I realize I’m not in the position to get deflated anymore because it’s do or die, it’s win or you have to consider something else. I’m in that position now, it’s win or go home.
AW – How disappointed were you when your chance to become a two-weight world champion fell through?
SM – It wasn’t as shattering as the Kelly Pavlik one, Kelly Pavlik was a lot worse because Kelly Pavlik was undefeated, he [was lineal champion] and he was a power-punching machine. No one had beaten him [at middleweight], everyone thought he was indestructible, he was KO’ing everyone on HBO and I knew my style and skills would give him problems, and sure enough his next fight was against Sergio Martinez and [Martinez] beats him and becomes a star. That one was a more heartbreaking situation than this with Jermain Taylor. Like I said, I’ve been here before, I know what that feeling is like. I don’t want to be part of injuring someone permanently. I really believe everything happens for a reason and I really believe God intervened and has another course for Jermain because Jermain is not right mentally, he’s not stable and all it takes is one bad punch for him to be permanently injured and he has a family, health and a future. I don’t want to be no part of that, I don’t want to be a part of his injuries. I’m not distraught over it like I was Kelly Pavlik.
AW – What does Han bring to this fight?
SM – I think he brings hunger, he’s a combination puncher, he’s a pressure puncher, he’s a guy that takes a big shot. Anyone that can keep coming because he has a good chin and he applies pressure the right way is going to be a handful for anybody; he was a handful for Glen Tapia even though Glen was able to win that fight. He has one loss in 24 fights, that’s not to shabby. He’s a tough guy, he has confidence, he’s eager to be on national television. When you’re on national television, all eyes are on you and it’s very hard to get these television dates. I’ve been on television half of my career, nothing new for me; for him it’s like the Superbowl. I know he’s going to give it everything he has and these guys are sometimes the worst to fight.
AW – What weaknesses do you see?
SM – I’m going to find out. I’m the type of fighter who can appreciate a guy’s strengths but I don’t like to point out a guy’s weakness, because if I end up doing that and the day of the fight he doesn’t have that [weakness], then I’m the one that’s going to be shell-shocked and surprised and that’s going to throw me out of my game plan. So I don’t like to assume. I’ll find out what his weaknesses are.
When you look at THE RING Magazine ratings, what are your thoughts on your contemporaries:
C – Miguel Cotto – Miguel Cotto is a legend but he’s not a middleweight. I think he’s one of the biggest stars in boxing but I’ll say again, he’s not a middleweight. I think because he’s such a superstar he won’t fight a guy like Gennady Golovkin or any big middleweights, he’s gonna stretch that out and make the most money he can and he deserves it because like I said, he’s a superstar. But he doesn’t belong as a 160 fighter and I don’t consider him the lineal champion.
1 – Gennady Golovkin – I think he’s been matched ideally. He is the goods but he hasn’t really fought championship opposition and the one champion he fought was Daniel Geale, who didn’t show up to fight or maybe he was overwhelmed, but other than Daniel Geale he hasn’t really beaten championship-caliber fighters. He’s questionable as far as the opposition he’s been facing but there’s no denying how he’s disposing of them and that’s why he’s so exciting. So he’s definitely number one in my eyes.
2 – Peter Quillin – He [turned down] all that money that [boxers] are all looking for. Above that he hasn’t been fighting solid opposition. He and Gennady Golovkin are in the same boat – the only difference is Peter Quillin isn’t knocking out guys like Gennady Golovkin is. On the contrary, like Lukas Konecny, he should have wiped the floor with the guy coming up in weight and he actually ended up getting backed up the entire fight and he looked bad. Another smaller guy who did that was Gabe Rosado. He’s not number two to me, he’s a big, strong middleweight but he hasn’t proved anything to me yet.
3 – Sergio Martinez – Had his time in the limelight. I think he was an amazing star while it lasted, I think his injuries and age caught up with him. At 40 years old, he’s not a risk for anybody anymore. He should be calling it a day, the way he looked in his last fight, but who knows.
4 – Daniel Geale – Is top caliber, he’s an all-around solid fighter. He does all things good, not great, he always comes well-prepared and has a great backing in Australia.
5 – Hassan N’dam N’Jikam – You’ve got to respect any guy who gets knocked down six times and gets back up to fight. That’s the only time I’ve seen him fight. He shut out Curtis Stevens. I would consider him a Top 10 fighter. It’s very possible Lou DiBella mentioned his name too; I can’t overlook my next opponent. [Note: N’dam is the IBF No.1-ranked contender and Mora could face him in the future, if victorious on Friday.] Once I take care of business and his name pops up, I’ll start considering him.
6 – Martin Murray – I don’t really think highly of him, as far as athleticism or boxing ability. I just think he’s a really big middleweight and he’s strong. He’s a popular from the UK. He hasn’t really shown me he’s championship-caliber and this is why I say that: he had the chance to beat Sergio Martinez in Argentina and he kind of eased up on him, he didn’t close the show and that says a lot about a fighter. When you have the ultimate chance to become world champion, it’s a big deal, it says a lot about a fighter’s temperament, and I think Martin Murray fought an injury-prone fighter in Sergio Martinez and still wasn’t able to close the show. I don’t think he has the goods to be champion and I also don’t think he’s going to last more than six, seven rounds with Golovkin.
7 – Andy Lee – He’s the real deal, he’s a solid middleweight. He was an Olympian, which is a good springboard to what you’re going to do as a pro. Andy Lee is an Irish Olympian, he’s been a longtime contender and he knocked out a very, very good fighter in (Matt) Korobov, even though it was maybe somewhat of a punch in the dark – I don’t like to say “lucky punch” because I don’t believe in luck in boxing. He was losing every round but he was lucky to have that right-hook eraser of his. I’m so, so happy for a guy like Andy Lee because he deserves that title.
8 – Jermain Taylor – He doesn’t belong in boxing anymore so I basically think he was a solid middleweight fighter back in the day he fought Bernard Hopkins and was making his defenses but once he moved up to super middleweight and got knocked out brutally he stopped being the Jermain Taylor of old and now we just have the shell of Jermain Taylor.
9 – Billy Joe Saunders – I only seen him fight once and I liked what I saw; he has very good skill. He has the type of skill I wish Martin Murray had, with Martin Murray’s motivation, strength and size. Saunders has all the skill but I need to see him against better opposition, maybe fight some Americans over here. He has the ability to be something special.
10 – Daniel Jacobs – Is a top fighter, he has a regular WBA championship but I don’t consider that a world title yet. He’s definitely Top 15; he has all the skill to be champion if he gets matched properly. I think him and Peter Quillin, if they fight, we’re going to see who is the top American middleweight. I think he needs to pick up his level of opposition and I think this year we’re going to find out what Daniel Jacobs is made of.
AW – You sprang to prominence winning the first series of ‘The Contender‘ and then winning a world title at 154 pounds – what goals do you still have in the sport?
SM – I told myself if by 25 years old I wasn’t anywhere in boxing I was going to quit and go back to school. ‘The Contender’ came along when I was 24 and a half and I had no idea how big that show was going to be and shown around the world. It paid me very well. Three years later I won a world title from a four-time world champion [the late Vernon Forrest] – that just reignited my popularity and then I lost the title. And then I fought Shane Mosley – I figured that was my chance back into the big leagues – I ended up taking a draw. That was the worst beating I took from the media out of any fight, so that really got me down, then the two close losses to (Brian) Vera in his hometown. It’s a tough sport. I’m on a four-fight win streak, two knockouts, and I have a new motivation. Right now the main thing I want to get back is my respect, I want to get back to the big fights, back on people’s minds and ultimately I want a crack at the middleweight title and win that. Once I’ve done that I can go off into the sunset myself.
AW – In closing do you have a message for Abie Han?
SM – No message. I respect him as a fighter. May the best man win and let’s put a great show on for the fans in Biloxi, Mississippi, and all the fans watching on ESPN. Also everyone in the UK and around the world, if they could, follow me on twitter @TheLatinSnake_
Mora-Han headlines this week’s edition of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” and takes place at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. The broadcast begins at 9.00 ET/PT. The undercard is stacked with up-and-comers such as highly touted welterweight Erickson Lubin, junior middleweight Dominique Dolton and Texan-based Australian 175-pounder Steve Lovett.