If you don’t remember Bayan Jargal from his appearance on Versus last year, here are a couple reasons I wanted to interview him:
1. Know how he got that Versus gig? He gave good work to Paul Williams — yes, THAT Paul Williams — during Williams’ sparring for the Versus main event, and it earned him an undercard bout.
2. Gary “Digital” Williams, who runs the indispensable Boxing Along the Beltway blog, rated him the top D.C.-area prospect of 2008, and the region’s top “rookie” in 2007.
That’s for starters. There are reasons less specific to him. I admire my ex-Queensberry Rules colleague Sean Malone for covering his local scene via North Texas Fisticuffs, and it was long overdue for me to get in on the act in my neighborhood. Next to amateur boxing, local boxing shows are the lifeblood of the sport, and it’s silly I haven’t attended any. Since Jargal’s fighting in Winchester, Va., this weekend, and I plan to attend, it made sense to pay him a visit beforehand. Another is that it was time for me to get into a gym and see a fighter being built, as opposed to only covering the finished product. And yet another is that I was able to, via Twitter, make the acquaintance of Terry Lane, son of famed referee Mills Lane, whose family is building up its Let’s Get It On Promotions company, and for whom Jargal is a very good block.
To get back to the subject at hand — that is, Jargal — something that speaks well of him is the Lane family involvement, plus the involvement of a a good team that includes manager J.D. Brown, who has worked as an adviser to Sugar Ray Leonard.
I wasn’t sold on Jargal at first when I saw him on Versus. In the 1st round, he seemed like he wasn’t really into it. In the 2nd, though, he came out like a real destroyer, and destroy he did. I left seeing some promise, but a little skeptical about him in the short-term.
Since, though, he has knocked out Doel Carrasquillo, a journeyman who nonetheless was solid enough to, in early 2008, make my Friday night. That’s good. Jargal suffered the first knockdown of his career in his last fight, but bounced back to knock his 9-20-1 opponent out in the next round. That’s a little good and a little bad, but it sounds excusable enough to me under the circumstances that Jargal and his crew explained it to me (and I’m taking their word for it), which I’ll get to in a minute.
I trekked out to Arlington, Va. to see Jargal get prepared for his Saturday night fight. Jargal, who hails from Mongolia, is still working on his English, so Brown accompanied us to help out on the interview. Willie Taylor, his trainer, also helped out. It’s Taylor’s gym, and it’s where Williams got ready for his last fight, against Winky Wright. I didn’t expect to get to see some sparring. But Jim Ed Jones, another nice-sized name in the D.C. area like Taylor and Brown, was there with his 18-year-old prospect Juan Rodriguez, who turned pro in November. Rodriguez is a junior middleweight or a welterweight, whereas Jargal’s weight is a moving target (again, I’ll get to that in a second), but Jargal is fighting this weekend at junior welterweight.
As Jargal and Rodriguez got ready to spar and between rounds, I chatted with Brown. Brown told me about working with Leonard on his motivational speaking gigs, and about how Leonard and his crew had to separate his stake in some fighters, including Paul Williams, in order to sign up with The Contender reality TV boxing tournament show. Brown told me it was his understanding that there would be another season of the show, which was news to me, but he didn’t have any more details.
He told me he pursued Jargal after one of his fighters, William Joppy, spoke highly of the kid when he was just turning pro. (Jargal is 27 now.) He also spoke highly of Rodriguez. As it turns out, Rodriguez had been giving Jargal good sparring, and as such was now in line to maybe get a guest slot on the undercard for the event where Jargal was the co-main event. Ah, the boxing circle of life.
In the 1st round of sparring, Jargal looked like the more seasoned pro (record: 11-0-1, with eight knockouts) that he is. He was backing Rodriguez up with his jab and setting up shots, and he was very evasive, thus the nickname “The Mongolian Mongoose,” after the original “Mongoose,” Archie Moore. Rodriguez snuck in some decent body punches, and showed good footwork, but on my mental scorecard, it was a clear round for Jargal.
In the 2nd, Rodriguez started getting into his rhythm. He landed some showy straight rights, and it looked like it was going to be his round. But then Jargal landed some killer body punches, including a right hook/left hook combination, with the left hook prompting an audible grunt from Rodriguez. Rodriguez got a little less aggressive after that, and Jargal took the round again.
In the 3rd and final round, both men came out to slug, with Jargal landing yet more crunching body blows and Rodriguez dialing in his uppercut. It was a close round, one I mentally gave to Jargal if only by a little, and one that struck me as particularly ferocious. Jones laughed that off. “Nah, that was light sparring,” Jones said. “Normally, they’re trying to take each others’ heads off. You can hear the body punches throughout the whole complex.” After the sparring ended, Rodriguez left to do some of his own working out, then Jargal put on some 18-ounce gloves to work the pads. The gloves were comically giant. But Taylor said he can’t deal with Jargal’s body blows unless he’s wearing gloves of that size. Taylor had Jargal go through repetitive sequences where Jargal would be told to do things like throw five right uppercuts in a row, and Taylor always told Jargal to keep moving and bouncing between. It made me tired just looking at it, and Jargal got his sweat up.
Then we had our chat, a little longer than 12 minutes’ worth. We started off with Jargal answering most of the questions, but Brown and Taylor jumped in a good deal; Jargal, besides still learning English, is also a tad quiet, they explained. (I’m TQBR, Jargal is J, Taylor is T and Brown is B.)
TQBR: So tell me a little bit about your story. You’re from Mongolia. How did you get into boxing, and how did you come to America?
J: Professional boxing is a one-on-fight. That was my desire. That’s why I came here in America, to start professional boxing with my coach, Taylor.
TQBR: How did you find each other?
T: He went to like six or seven gyms, and he liked this one best, so he stayed here.
J: I was looking for gyms… and I met coach.
TQBR: When you came to America, did you come right to this region?
J: First I was in Philadelphia, and then one month in Philadelphia, after that came here.
TQBR: Did you hear something about this area, that they had good trainers or something?
J: I came here because tried in Philadelphia, and I’m thinking, I’ll try here.
TQBR: When you’re not boxing, you work a different job?
TQBR: What do you do?
TQBR: What kind of delivery?
TQBR: Nice. If I knew a professional boxer was delivering me pizzas, I ‘d be scared. We started talking about this a little bit, J.D. and I, but what weight do you want to fight in — lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight?
TQBR: Why is that weight good for you?
J: I want to start from lightweight.
B: He want to start at lightweight and win the junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight and middleweight titles.
TQBR: Whoa. That’s a lot.
T: If he starts at 135, he’s going to be bigger and stronger than everybody. [Jargal is listed at 5’11”.]
J: That’s plenty.
TQBR: You’ve been fighting at welterweight, and this fight is at junior welterweight. J.D. was explaining you were having trouble finding opponents at lightweight; is that’s what’s been going on?
J: Say again?
B: He wants to know about how everytime we find a fight for you, somebody pulls out. So many guys have pulled out on us it’s unbelievable. Even on Versus, we had two guys pull out before we got a guy in California.
TQBR: I saw you on Versus. I thought in the first round, you were OK. In the second round, you looked great. Have you been working on starting faster?
J: I like to slow start in first round —
B: He’s a 10 round fighter now. He’s a guy who takes his time and is patient. That’s why I said, in a preliminary fight that only goes four round is not his thing. I told Willie we’re going six rounds from now on, because the four round fight we fought where he got a draw we had the guy knocked out in the 4th round but there wasn’t any more time.
TQBR Tell me about your last fight. How did that go?
J: That was a good fighter.
TQBR: Did you get knocked down in
T: Yeah, he got caught with a shot. He was off-balance.
B: He was off-balance. But he got right back up and knocked the guy out in the next round.
TQBR: What was that like?
J: My ankle twisted.
TQBR: He didn’t hurt you?
J: No, he didn’t. It hurt down here [points at his ankle].
T: Toward the end of that round, he about had him out then, but when he got knocked down, he got up and caught the guy with a 1-2, then the bell rang. Then he came out in the 3rd round, and I don’t know what got into him.
B: He’s working on his footwork. His footwork is getting better, but he got his feet tangled up and he twisted… the guy hit him with a punch, but he went down not from a punch but from twisting his ankle.
J: I thought, wow, I need to finish the fight.
TQBR: How did you feel? Had you been knocked down before?
J: That was the first time.
TQBR: What went through your head?
J: I need to step right.
TQBR: You sparred with Paul Williams?
TQBR: How was that?
J: He good. [laughter all around]
TQBR: Where you able to do some good work against him?
TQBR: How? He’s so big. How were you able to do well against him?
T: I had him attack Paul in and out. That’s probably the only way you can really fight him. He’s a freak of nature who can fight inside and out, so you have to attack him at angles.
B: Paul WIlliams’ trainer said to me after training, “This kid is phenomenal.”
J: I was fighting usually higher guys in my country.
TQBR: So you were used to fighting tall guys?
TQBR: What do you know about your next opponent [Brian Carden]?
T: He’s a strong right hand puncher. Big right hand puncher.
TQBR: Are you preparing any differently for him?
TQBR: Have you seen him fight before?
B: We haven’t seen any tapes of him.
T: I have him working on more angles. He does sometimes have a habit of going straight in and out. So we’re trying to work on angles and do more of that right now.
TQBR: After this fight, I know fighters don’t like to think that far ahead, but what are your plans for future fights? Do you guys think he needs a few more fights with this level of opponent or are you going to start stepping it up a little?
T: Whatever decision he [Brown] makes, that’s what we’re going with.
B: What we’re doing is, we’re trying to build him up to each level. Right now, he’s a 10 round fighter right now. He can fight for a world title right now. But we want him to take him along at the progress he’s going now. I’m looking at maybe two more fights this year, eight rounders, then at the end of the year fight a 10 round fight, and beginning of next year maybe fight for a title.
TQBR: He’s fought some people I’ve heard of, Doel Carrasquillo.
B: Total bricklayer. Hard puncher. He knocked him out. He’s the only guy who knocked him out.
TQBR: Exactly. [Note: Actually, Carrasquillo had been knocked out before.] And you had another child over the weekend?
TQBR: Was it another boy, or a girl?
TQBR: What’s his name?
TQBR: And what’s this one’s name? [His four-year-old son had been running around the gym, jumping rope and shadow-boxing — excellently, I might add.]
TQBR: How do you manage to find time to be a new father, and to get ready for a fight, and to work delivering pizzas?
T: We communicate, I don’t know how many times we call each other a day, I work the gym around his schedule when he can come in…
B: I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest fighters in the world, and some of them get a silver spoon in their mouths, and once they get the silver spoon, they’re not hungr. This guy’s hungry. That’s what we want to keep him, is hungry like that. If it takes him going to work a couple days a week, delivering pizzas, being a daddy, that’s fine, because when he gets into the ring, we want him to become the Mongolian Mongoose. Just a monster, that everyone’s afraid of. That’s one of the reason Mike Tyson was so good, because everyone was afraid of him. We want people to be afraid of him when they get in the ring. He’s such a nice guy outside the ring, that when he gets into the ring, it’s like his face does like this — “RRRR.” There’s no friends in the ring. He tries to knock out everybody in the ring. That’s what I like about him. That’s why I said — we’re going to be moving at a pretty fast pace. But the thing is, we’re moving at the right pace. We don’t want to take two steps forward and one step back. We want to take two steps forward all the time.
TQBR: He doesn’t have a big amateur background, right?
B: No, he does. For his country, he fought in the World Games.
J: Two times, World Games. Asian Games, bronze medal.
B: He’s the best kept secret in boxing because a lot of people don’t know about him. When I decided we were going to try to go with a promotional group — I did the same thing with the other guys I worked with, Joppy, Demarcus “Chop Chop” [Corley] — is when there’s a time where you make a move when you need a promoter, we were having trouble getting people signed to fight him. Therefore we were going to need a promoter who was going to be able to pay extra money for an opponent to come into the fight. I talked to Don King’s office. They told me they would sign him sight unseen just because I said he was good. The only reason we didn’t is because Don doesn’t do a lot of fights anymore. He does major, major shows only. Goosen. We went out to California, fought on Versus. But they wanted to put him in the kind of fights I wasn’t ready for him to be in yet. We had an opportunity to meet Terry Lane… and I liked what I saw. I see a young guy who has a focus, and an agenda that’s going to be good for young fighters like him. That’s why we signed with Let’s Get It On Promotions. And I think, with the combination of Let’s Get It On Promotions, and Bayan Jargal, it’s going to be a win-win situation.
TQBR: Anything else you want to say?
T: He doesn’t do a lot of talking. He does the talking with his fists.
Let’s Get It On Promotions wants to get Jargal a date on Showtime’s ShoBox or ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights. Assuming he doesn’t slip up this this weekend, my honest evaluation is this (and it’s sometimes difficult to be honest when evaluating a fighter when he and his team are so pleasant toward you): He’s ready for that. He’s beyond ready, I think. I may have been skeptical before and I still think he’s got some work to do — even his team thinks that — but he’s better than a lot of folk I’ve seen on ShoBox or FNF, and he has an exciting television-friendly fighting style, and he has shown progress since I last saw him, and he hasn’t even really fought at his ideal weight much yet. I’d like to see how he does when he steps up.
Jargal is in the Saturday night co-main event of “Triple Threat: Tomorrow’s Champions” at the Winchester, Va. Sportsplex. Tickets are available at Anthony’s Pizza and the Sportsplex (540) 868-2200. For more information, call (540) 379-1532 or (540) 933-6895.