The Boxing Esq. Podcast, Ep. 36: Buddy McGirt and Michael Woods
The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”. Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world champions in his 20-plus years in the sport.
His guests on this podcast are Hall of Famer Buddy McGirt and boxing writer Michael Woods. Emhoff spoke with McGirt about the upcoming WBO light heavyweight title fight between his champion Sergey Kovalev and Ring middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez. They also spoke about the ring passing of Patrick Day and what safety measures the sport can take to prevent future deaths.
Emhoff spoke to Woods about his upbringing in Massachusetts and what brought him to New York to become a boxing writer. They also spoke about the state of the boxing press today and how it differs from when Woods started.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
On how training camp is going for Kovalev:
It’s going great, thank God. You know, I can’t complain. The funny thing is we didn’t really have to kill ourselves in training camp because he just fought. He took off three weeks, but you know, it’s like we don’t got to get back in here now and worry about getting the weight off or worrying about getting in tip-top shape. You know, the problem is trying not to overdo it.
The problem now is you gotta maintain it. You know, like one day I told one of the guys we’re sparring with that we’re only going to do five rounds. He’s like, “five rounds?” That’s all we need right now. We’ll pick it up the next day but right now that’s all we need right now. And now that he understood, he was like, hey I understand. Like, you know, you’re not 25 and 36. You know what I mean? You just came off of a tough fight, you don’t got to spar no 10 four-minute rounds. You don’t need that right now. If you don’t know how to fight by now, you’re gonna never learn to fight.
On how he sees the Kovalev-Alvarez fight playing out:
I think it’s going to be, honestly, an exciting chess match. I mean if we try to go out and bully him we play right into his hands. For him to come and bully us, he knows that he’s got to get past the long reach. I think it’s just a matter of setting traps and see who can do it the best.
(Canelo)’s a very good fighter. I take nothing from him. I believe in my heart that he’s become a better fighter since the Mayweather fight. His trainer’s done a great job with him. You know what I mean? So that’s what’s gonna make for an interesting fight. I mean, I’m not going to tell you how we’re going to beat him, I’m just gonna tell you that we’re gonna beat him.
It’s not gonna be an easy fight. I mean, I’m a realist. You know what I mean? But we’re going to get that victory.
In light of Patrick Day’s passing, his suggestion on making the sport safer:
Well, I have always said that fighters today don’t fight at their natural weight. If you have the weigh-ins the day of the fight, more guys would come at their natural weight. Cause they don’t have 24 hours to get an IV and take whatever they take to bulk up so much. When you’re killing yourself to lose weight, you’re dehydrating your body so much that who knows what kind of effects you find. When you’re dehydrating your body, it takes fluid from around the brain. Who knows? I’m not a doctor, but I believe that if the weigh-in was the day of the fight, morel guys would be fighting at their natural weight.
These guys weigh-in the day before and then they go get an IV right after. It’s no secret. They get an IV, the ones who are able to get it, because not everybody is able to get the IV. Then they come in 12 pounds heavier the next day. Is that fair? One guy who might put on five or six pounds, right? Is that fair? No.
I’ve seen guys who are like “see you later”. I’m like, where are you going? I’m going to get an IV. I’m like, what? Like yeah man, we’re getting IVs, man. I’m like, Oh my God. These are guys I was working with. They’re like, yeah, we’ve gotta get this IV. I’m like, and to myself, that’s kind of, to me, excuse my language, I’m like, no, this is fucked up. If you need to go through all that then you should fight at your natural weight. You know what I mean? They got these guys now, you know, right after the weigh-in you got to drink certain drinks with all type of amino acids, whatever. You got to drink all that to rejuvenate and, okay, you’re doing all that but what about the fluid around your brain? I mean, I’ve seen guys lose eight, nine pounds like two, three days before the fight and they think it’s okay. I’m like, that’s not healthy.
Not saying Patrick Day did it. I’m not saying that he did it. But in general, some of these guys they come in, they weigh 54 then they come in fight night 177 pounds, knowing their opponent might come in 158-160. It’s like where’s the fairness in that. If you’re in great shape and you weigh 144 pounds, you should be fighting at 147. You shouldn’t be fighting at 140.”
On Patrick Day:
I had a conversation, I did the Facebook Live fight on Friday night. I was talking to a young writer who’s asking about it and I confessed that I was angry at myself for not paying more attention to Pat.
Weeks before the Patrick Day-Charles Conwell fight, Joe Higgins messaged me, said, Woods got a real good one coming up there. Patrick’s fighting Charles Conwell it’s going to be a good scrap.
And I didn’t post it at the time and I forgot about it. And then as we’re moving towards that fight date, I remembered it. And then I couldn’t remember where Joe messaged me. Was it a text? Was it Twitter? Was it Facebook? Right. I did a search and I didn’t find it. And so I think I reached out to Joe and asked him to resend it, but he didn’t. So I kicked myself then. So, and then I realized as I’m watching the fight and then I see it like everyone else. I’m not live in Chicago. And I’m seeing it play out that hardcore probably was the right hand that did it send Day down and you saw that he was unconscious as he was going down and he hit his head and I’m seeing it play out. And because of the age of media that we’re in, things get covered and handled differently now. Now there is an immediacy and you will get word that you didn’t use to get. It used to be the next day in the newspaper. But now it’s in real time. I think messaged Lou. What’s going on. Got a little update. And followed over the course of the next few days. And I realized that this is the kind of story that I need to follow hard.
Patrick is a New York fighter. We’re the New York Fights, NYfights.com website. So I’m in touch with Lou, I’m in touch with Joe Higgins. I’m in touch with Charles Conwell. I try to cover all the bases and act like a decent human being. So yeah, reach out to Charles Conwell, “Hey man how you doin’?”. And he said, Woods, I’m up all night, Saturday and Sunday, praying all night long, praying all night long. And then Patrick’s fighting and he’s in the hospital and he’s probably not doing well as far as all his vitals go and word comes out, friends tweet out that he’s gone. Well, he’s not actually gone and he’s probably, there is some brain activity left. So we hope for a miracle still. And then October 16, we got the sad news that no one wanted. And like anyone, I’m pondering it, I’m pondering my place in the sport. Don’t want to be overly self-referential. But I mean, this is what I do. And is it right? Is it wrong? I had Mark Kriegel on the podcast talking about it. Kriegel’s a good one to talk to because he went into depth and detail with Ray Mancini following the Deuk-Koo Kim death.
And Kurt, this kind of thing affects different people differently. Obviously, if you’re close to Patrick it affects you more so. If you’ve maybe been covering the sports for a longer period of time and more of these situations have happened, then it’s more cumulative. I’ve seen this before. You’ve seen this show. It affects you differently.
I’m touching base with Joe Higgins. “Joe, how you doing?” Trying to balance the role of human being and journalist, trying to get that right line. Talking to DiBella, trying to be a friend, a boxing friend. Hey, how you doing? Also trying to gather information. That’s my job. Higgins as much as almost anyone, feeling for, because father figure to Pat, he said, Woods when I had PTSD following 9/11, he was a firefighter. His older brother, firefighter went down in the towers as the towers collapsed. Bob was found two weeks later, Joe dealt with PTSD, still does. And he says, Patrick saved my life. And then he lost his life on my watch.
There was a service on Friday and then a funeral on Saturday. I was angry at myself because I’m working in Philadelphia and get home at 3:00 AM on Friday and I need to make that money.
Hey, this is the capitalist system. Need to make that money. Right. So, but I told that kid at the arena, 2300 Arena on Friday night, kicked myself because Pat was off my radar a little bit because I’m paying attention to this undefeated one, that undefeated one. Why wasn’t I paying attention to the good human being who had a couple losses on his record? Why didn’t I recognize? Why didn’t I get the note to talk to this guy just because he’s a great human being? So I hope I learned from that and do I kick myself a little bit? I do. I tried to talk to these people. I try to talk to almost everyone on the podcast, but too often I’m talking to the undefeated guy, the future star. Too much of that man, because the world needs heroes now as much as it ever did.
Who are the heroes? Are the heroes the undefeated guy with a massive posse who’s making a big bank and all that? Or are the heroes the Patrick Days who have lost a few times but keeps on soldiering on doing it because he loves it. Those are the heroes. The heroes are the people, the teachers who are teaching my kids. Those are the heroes. Lower level man, lower level and I try to periodically remind myself that. Sometimes I forget because I get caught up in the sway of, you know, a falling for the spam, the propaganda. Followed this fighter, that fighter because they’re the future superstar and then Kurt, I don’t want to be too cynical or negative about it. I don’t want to be like, Oh I’m getting this press release on this guy. They’re just trying to hype them up. But honestly, sometimes I feel like that. Like I know that they’re positioning Gervonta Davis to be this big pay-per-view superstar. I have done this long enough and you’ve done this long enough so you understand more so the levels of where the moves are being made. You understand that Yuriorkis Gamboa is undersized and is going to be knocked out and is being sacrificed for Gervonta. That is what it is.
But if I’m the guy who was like, ‘Hey, there is no one behind that curtain in the Wizard of Oz, it’s a little old guy that’s speaking on a microphone. All that’s a little bit cynical and negative because I also got a balance. You do never know if you’re Gamboa you never know. Maybe you pull off the big one. So balancing that always in media I think is important, especially as you accumulate decades of coverage. I don’t want to be that middle tier towards older guy who is too negative about the sport. Kurt. I always have to come back and remember the upsides to it. So I’m going to come back and say regarding Patrick Day, Patrick loved it. He wanted to do it eyes wide open. He thought he was gonna beat Charles Conwell. He was doing what he loved.
Patrick wasn’t brought there to win. It was going to be competitive. So what your ratio (of his odds to win) is subjective and bro, that’s the way boxing is. That’s the way life is, right? Um, kind of. It is what it is, but we’re all still debating that in our heads.
On whether it’s time for writers to ignore the world title belts attached to fights:
I’ve felt it’s been that time for a long time. I don’t necessarily think that someone is gonna pick up on this without me saying it, but oftentimes when I’m writing up a fight report far down the line, will I mentioned what title was up for grabs. I think I did it with the Stevenson-Gonzalez fight yesterday, seven paragraphs down. And by the way, the WBO vacant title was up for grabs tonight. So that is how I handle it. I don’t mention it, I don’t shit on it, but I’m not going to mention it. And by the way, that’s also what I do with sometimes if a fight is a mismatch and I feel it’s being shoved down our throat. I’m not necessarily going to say this is a crap fight or whatever because it’s too negative, but I’m just not going to cover it as much. And so that’s what I do with the titles too.