Breazeale-Mansour: Time, frustration, opportunity meet at crossroads
Two heavyweight hopefuls step into the ring this Saturday night on the Premier Boxing Champions’ undercard televised on FOX (8:00 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). Because of recent events in their division, in which Charles Martin won the vacant IBF title off opponent Vyacheslav Glazkov’s injury, their aspirations to find themselves in the same position haven’t been brighter.
Dominic Breazeale and Amir Mansour took time out to talk with ringtv.com at the City of Angels Gym in Los Angeles, Calif., on the Wednesday before they square off at the Staples Center and, while their goal is the same, they couldn’t be any more different.
Originally slated to face Martin in this juncture of his young career, Breazeale reflected on how it felt to see the man he was supposed to face win a world title on Easy Street. “It’s upsetting, man. Me and Charles Martin were supposed to throw blows December 12th and, unfortunately, he pulled out, last minute,” said Breazeale. Martin pulled out of the fight after being tabbed by the IBF to fight for its vacant title after stripping Tyson Fury days after he upset Wladimir Klitschko. “The way he won his belt off of a injury like so, it’s upsetting not only for myself but for the heavyweight division,” Breazeale added. “You never want to see a champion win a belt the way he did. It sucks but, at the same time, I now want my shot at that belt. After I get done beating up on Mansour, Saturday, I want an opportunity to beat up on Charles as well.”
On whether or not Martin-Glazkov should’ve been a no-contest, Breazeale stated, “I believe so. Yeah, definitely. That’s exactly what I thought was going to be the result of it was a no-contest but the judging body saw it differently.” Since Martin won the IBF belt in less than thrilling fashion, most have been quick to call out the nameless heavyweight with a prominent belt. On the other hand, Mansour had a different take on the prospect of facing Martin. “I’m not gonna jump on the bandwagon because he just looked so slow and stuff like that. Nobody was eyeing him too much before that fight,” Mansour preached. “So, I’m not gonna disrespect the man like that but anybody who has the title is who I’m eyeing. It’s not a particular person; it’s the title that I’m eyeing, not the individual.”
Mansour (22-1-1, 16 knockouts), is an intimidating figure with a stone-cold look atop a chiseled frame. A man with a checkered past, Mansour lost a little over eight years serving time in prison but, since 2010, Amir has played chess in the heavyweight division with the only goal in mind of winning a championship. When asked if he ever reflects on the past that hindered his physical prime, Amir quickly went from a postulated threat to a wise logician. “I don’t,” Mansour proclaimed. “I reflect on the future and the present. The past is what it is. It’s a reason why your rear view mirror is very small and your front windshield is huge. If you’re moving forward and you steady looking in your rear view mirror, you gonna crash! It’s only there to remember where you came from and where you’ve been but you gotta keep looking forward at that big picture in order to get to your destination.”
Breazeale (16-0, 14 KOs), has a contrary disposition to Mansour. He has the cadence of a politician and fields questions with well-thought answers. A 6-foot-7 behemoth, he also dwarfs Amir physically but the former college quarterback at the University of Northern Colorado recognizes that his raw talent still has wrinkles to iron out. “Of course, I step in the ring every single day and I’m always looking to improve on something. I think my footwork is pretty damn good but, sometimes, I’m second-guessing myself,” Breazeale admitted he needs some improvement. “Working on that, as well as defensive skills and just using the jab. You never can really perfect the jab and, as a big guy, you really want to perfect the jab. It’s something I practice every single day.” Saying that, the 30-year old from Upland, Calif. still sees plenty of improvement from his amateur days as a 2012 US Olympian. “I think just my patience,” Dominic pointed out as his greatest strength in the Sweet Science. “Before, as an amateur, every punch I threw, I just wanted to kill the person. Every time, it was a left hook, right hand, whatever it may be. But as a pro, I’m setting things up, putting combinations together real well, working angles; I can buy time in the ring if I need to buy time and, of course, press the pressure. So, it’s like taking baby steps; as an amateur, I did one thing but, as a pro, I’m just excelling more and more every day.”
“I don’t think he’s really that fast on his feet,” Mansour opined on what he thought was Breazeale’s biggest flaw. He also pointed out this same notion in regard to Dominic’s last fight – a unanimous decision win over Fred Kassi last September. “I thought Kassi won enough rounds to maybe get the decision. If anything, worst case, it should’ve been a draw,” he said. Kassi is actually the only common opponent appearing on Amir and Dominic’s ledgers and Mansour brutally knocked him out in 2014. Despite there being film to study against a mutual opponent, neither fighter really takes footage into account, considering Kassi’s stature and style doesn’t correspond to either’s match-up this Saturday. “I briefly looked over it,” Breazeale said about Mansour’s KO of Kassi. “I didn’t study it very much like I did some of the other films only because Fred Kassi is nowhere near the style that I am. I know Amir Mansour not is gonna take that approach fighting me. I studied Amir Mansour’s fights against bigger guys like Gerald Washington.”
Washington was Mansour’s last fight and, in it, he pitched a small tirade after a draw was scored, bringing up the politics in boxing. “Hell yeah, they were discouraging,” Mansour admitted to Francisco Martinez of ESnews, who was alongside this writer, during a post-fight Q&A. “In a real, fair world, I should be undefeated. At the end of the day, I’m a fan of boxing and I love the fans as well, and as long as the fans know what type of fighter you is and the fans continue to support you, continue to come see you, tune in, then I’m good.”
Mansour-Washington is the tape that can be useful for Breazeale. Washington is just as big as Dominic and the latter got a glimpse of how the 6-foot 1-inch will try and attack a larger opponent. “Yes, definitely more helpful,” said Breazeale. “The first four rounds, Gerald Washington came out real strong. Did what he was supposed to do, be the big strong guy. Kept (Mansour) at bay, kept him rangy. I’ve talked to Gerald himself and he admits that he kind of let it slip away. He got away from the game plan, was trying to do some thing in the middle of the fight that didn’t pan out for him. It’s one of those films that I’ve been studying every night.”
“Gerald wasn’t the first tall guy I fought. It was like the fourth or fifth,” Mansour said about facing Washington and what experience it will add to fighting Breazeale. He added, “It’s just about executing the game plan; you know what I mean? If I execute the game plan, it will be an easy night.” When followed up with the question of what that game plan, without disclosure, Amir replied with a grin, “Executing the game plan.”
Without much time left to attain a heavyweight title at 43-years-old, Mansour can’t afford to let Saturday night slip through his fingers. Asked whether or not he will see an opponent with nothing to lose at bell time, Breazeale responded, “Yes and no. Anytime you step in the ring as a heavyweight, you always have something to lose, whether it be your general record or your behavior or whatever it may be. I think he steps in the ring with a lot of confidence. He’s been in the ring with a lot of guys, experience-wise but, like you said, he had a troubled past and that will always come back to haunt you.”
“Of course!” Mansour replied about needing a knockout this weekend with his disputed decisions in mind. “You want to stop anybody. You want to make it as easy as possible but if the knockout comes, it comes, if it don’t, we’re prepared to go all night. It is what it is.”
With Martin in play as a titleholder in the sport’s glamour division, the opportunity is there for both Breazeale and Mansour, as they’re all under the same promotional umbrella. Deontay Wilder, the WBC titleholder, also sits under the same Al Haymon parasol and fighters like Dominic and Amir are comparable to the three moderate opponents he defended his belt against since winning it a year ago. One thing is for sure, the stars may align for the winner of this match-up on Saturday evening but, first, Breazeale and Mansour must come out victorious. It would be a bonus if either did so convincingly.
You can reach Michael Baca II at [email protected], follow him at twitter.com/wotbboxing and visit him at his blog, writeonthebutton.squarespace.com.