Interview Tips And Techniques: A Fighter’s Guide

(“I’d like to thank God, without God none of this would have been possible.”)

Malignaggi, Hamed, Tyson good. Cotto, Oscar, Lennox bad.

Everything about being a prize fighter is tough, not least the part which comes directly after the fight, when an erudite guy in a penguin suit sticks a mic in your grill and wants you to waffle like “The Greatest.”

Some take to it like a duck to water, mind you, from Ricky Hatton’s self-deprecating humour to James Toney’s gangsta schtick. Others sink like stones, and why wouldn’t they? Fighters spend their lives learning to throw punches not punchlines. It’s very much a modern demand all of this personality business, ever since the Ali revolution — I mean, can you imagine how Louis-Carnera 24/7 would have panned out?

So, as it’s quiet and because I have itchy fingers, here are a few handy hints to help make that all important after fight interview go with a swing.

Remember though, time is of the essence, so let’s start by not saying this:

“I’d like to thank God, without God none of this would have been possible.”

Ok, there are a few variations on this riff but it’s a pretty ubiquitous sentiment, one which wastes precious seconds in the limelight. If one has faith, then it kinda goes without saying that you believe the big guy is pulling the strings. Not only did God help you win friend, he invented you, those jazzy shorts, your entrance music and all of the nuts and bolts around you, therefore, I’m suggesting a universal hand signal. It’ll be like a gang sign for the enlightened, something like the popular “OK” symbol would do quite nicely. A quick flash of that bad boy will say it succinctly and let the interview shimmy right along onto the boxing, you could even talk whilst you flash it, play with it a bit.

And while we’re at it…

“I’d like to thank (the network), my sponsor, my promoter, my manager (plus many other random associates).”

This one’s even more grating and doesn’t even merit a universal hand gesture. As fans we’ve sat through countless infomercials, we’ve heard the theme tune ‘til we’re fed up with it and had slick production rammed down our chops quite enough for one sitting. Don’t thank this mob dude, it’s their job to thank you, for without fighters, they’d be presenting home improvement shows or selling cars or cheap tat on QVC. Anyway Michael Buffer mentioned them heaps during the intros, so that’s enough.

You must have sat through at least one Oscar night right? Remember those painfully boring orations, where the winner holds aloft the little gold statuette and thanks the key grip, the gaffer, the canteen lady and many, many other folk we never knew existed? Avoid all of that malarkey; as a guide, try to be a little bit more Louise Fletcher and a tad less Gwyneth Paltrow.

“I’ll fight whoever my promoter puts in front of me.”

Ok fellas, here’s the deal: Boxing is like speed dating with broken bones. The networks, fans and the money men need you to bang the drum after you’ve finished thumping your opponent, in order to crank up interest in your next fight. Putting a name out there will filter through into news coverage and send web forums into overdrive. It’s a fantastic way to gauge public perception, giving the suits an excuse to either make or break your next tango. So next time HBO’s Max Kellerman or Larry Merchant ask who you want next, say a name, any name, it’s good for you, trust me.

Don’t overstretch yourself though.

If you’re a contender toiling away on the fringes of your division’s top ten, then calling out Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather is a wasted vote. If those fellas want you, they’ll come get you. Consult your promoter before the fight and see what’s on his radar — better to be realistic and ensure your three minutes in the sunshine pays off.

Candidness can work wonders for your appeal. How many fighters do we see in a spot of bother during a bout, only for them to deny post fight what our eyes showed us to be true just minutes earlier?

“I was never hurt/tired/intimidated/nervous.”

Well champ, it’s just that this here video thing is a bit of a giveaway these days. It’s like HD sharp, pixelized to the max and coming at us from multiple viewpoints. I know it’s a macho world and you need to keep that shield up but humility puts butts in the buckets. Give it a shot sometime — if nothing else, it’ll stop you ever giving us the old:

“I felt I won the fight.”

No you didn’t. You were sitting in the corner before the last session with a hangdog expression while your team flapped the alarm bells in your lughole and dropped ice down your drawers. They explained quite clearly that you needed a knockout and did you get yourself one? Negative ghost rider. You then stood forlornly as you watched your opponent being paraded atop their cornermen’s shoulders, crossing your digits and hoping for a gift and hey, you got one, fair play to you. These things seem to even themselves out over time, so you must have been due a break, only please, tell it like it is.

Imagine if Joel Casamayor has looked sheepishly into the camera lens after lucking in against poor Jose Armando Santa Cruz and chirped: “Boy, I dunno what the judges were watching there, I lost by a country mile.”

What about if Evander Holyfield had merely flashed his religious hand signal before saying, “Where the hell was that 3rd round knockout? Man I had my head punched in out there. Lewis is the champ, he whupped my ass but I’ll get him next time.”

Bang! Instant cult hero status, his popularity rockets off into orbit and boxers (yet again) reaffirm themselves as the most endearing of all sports stars. Seriously, we have to put up with enough bullspit and trickeration as boxing fans, without the guys we truly admire amidst this band of wrong ‘uns joining in on it all too. Someone has to try being frank; come on, it’d be cool, like Bulworth for the spit and sawdust brigade.

Ok, we’re good to go, and remember: HBO is still looking for a new narrator to give the folks at home a little extra BANG BANG for their buck. Protect yourselves at all times, move your hands and your head.

Just don’t forget to flap those lips.

Andrew Harrison also writes for his own blog, Safe Side of the Ropes.


About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.