"My greatest motivation was to not let prison define who Amir Mansour was...I feel like every piece of arsenal that I have in that ring, I don't think that any heavyweight in this country or outside of this country could stand up to it. I really don't...if I didn't think that I can be the best at this, I swear to you I wouldn't sit down for 8 1/2 years and come home and try to do it. My thing is I know I have what it takes to beat these guys...I'm actually going after Chris Arreola. I'm trying to get him in Atlantic City on April 2nd," stated undefeated heavyweight Amir Mansour, who after 8 years in prison is on the fast track to become a heavyweight champion. You don't want to miss his incredible story as Mansour discusses his past as well as his future, including an upcoming fight on February 25 and possibly a future bout with former title challenger Chris Arreola. Check it out!
PC: How is everything going, man?
AM: Everything is good, man. Everything is going good.
PC: You got a big fight coming up on the 25th. How is training going and who are you working with?
AM: I've been working with Chazz Witherspoon and getting some good work with him. A couple of other guys from Trenton, but mainly me and Chazz have been working together. He's been really helpful in camp for this fight.
PC: Who will be in your corner on fight night, Danny Davis?
AM: Howard Mosley is my head trainer, and Danny Davis and Tommy Burns are my assistant trainers.
PC: You have a great team behind you then.
AM: Ah man, I got a helluva team, man. I got a real good team.
PC: For the people that go to Boxrec to look you up, they will see that you fought in 2001 and then you had a long stretch where you didn't fight at all. You were incarcerated for a long period of time. Give us your story and what all you've been through.
AM: Well, I went to prison August 2001 and I came home March 1st, 2010. I did 8 1/2 years. The minute I came home, I got right back into the ring. Throughout those 8 1/2 years, I constantly trained vigorously every day. I ate right and preserved myself. I'm blessed to have the genetics that I have because there was no wear and tear on me throughout those years. I was able to come home and jump right back into the ring. One of the first guys I sparred with was Steve Cunningham, when he was training to regain the IBF title. I sparred with him several times for that fight and it really gave me an idea of where I was at and where I could get to. I did so good sparring with him; my speed and timing and defense was on point. I really felt good about the sparring sessions I had with him. At that point, we knew we still got it and we still can do this.
PC: You didn't really gain a pound while being away for 8 years. What was your training regimen like in prison and how important was it for you to stay at a respectable weight?
AM: Well, actually, I was locked up with Calvin "Strictly Business" Davis and Calvin was 22-1 when he got locked up. He had a very good record. He was in Bernard Hopkins' corner. He was one of Bernard's guys and he was always fighting on the same cards with Bernard. I was fortunate enough to be incarcerated with him and this guy kept his foot in my back. He was a great motivator. He already knew me in boxing because we both trained in Philadelphia and he's from Philadelphia, so when we got together, he saw that I still had speed and power and he said, "Man, listen, you really can go home and do this because the heavyweight division is wide open right now." He used to just motivate me, man. We used to do pad work and he would go around the prison yard and try to find guys to spar with me. We actually had this closet that was 10 x 10 feet. he would get guys to go in there and spar with me. He was just a great motivation for me. He was a very good technician when it came to boxing and he helped me tremendously with my skills, defense, combinations, and just giving me the looks that I needed. When I came home, a lot of guys were like, "My goodness, your defense is crazy." I was used to boxing in this 10 x 10 closet, man, for the 6 1/2 years that I was with Calvin, so coming home and getting in that ring was like I was boxing on a football field.
PC: You took one of my questions because I was going to say 8 1/2 years is a long time and it's easy to forget about boxing. I was going to ask you your motivating factors to stay dedicated to the sport, but as you said, Calvin Davis was a big part of that.
AM: My biggest, from the very beginning of my sentence. When I stood in front of that judge...I was in federal custody. I did federal time. By the time I stood in front of that judge, I had already been in federal custody for about 18 months. I saw how they were warehousing us. I'm talking 19-year-old kids and 22-year-old kids coming in for 5 grams and 10 grams of crack and they were giving them 20 years and 30 years. You understand what I'm saying? So when I stood in front of that judge and she sentenced me to 10 years, I literally, man, and I will never forget this feeling, but I looked at that judge and she sentenced me to 10 years and I said to myself, "I'm not gonna let these people win. I'm going to get through this and I'm going to go home and I'm going to fight again," because of course we were pleading like, "This guy has a career in boxing; give him a break." They wasn't hearing that, so my biggest motivation was that I wasn't going to let these people win. I'm not going to let them win. That was my greatest motivation man. And then I'm incarcerated with all of these brothers, white, black, brown, pin stripe, candy stripe, whatever young and they just warehousing us. I was like, "Man, I'm in this system and I am a part of this process right here and I'm not going to let this destroy me." So my greatest motivation was to not let prison define who Amir Mansour was.
PC: You were an undefeated fighter going into prison. You weren't some guy trying to discover boxing. How disheartening was it to have that snatched away from you and for such a long time?
AM: You know what? You have to man up. I'm not going to say that I wasn't wrong, but I will say I didn't deserve that much time. But I put myself in that situation and when you put yourself in certain situations, you have to deal with the consequences, especially when you know there are consequences involved. So having to deal with that, the reality is I put myself in that situation with nobody to blame but me.
PC: Your opponent on February 25th is Alexis Meijas. He has been in with some tough guys. What do you know about him as a fighter and what kind of fight are you expecting?
AM: He actually throws very sharp punches. Chazz fought him and he told me that he punches a lot better than his record. I saw that on the tape of him. He puts together some nice punches and he's tough, but you know what man? This is what I have in my head when I go into that ring. You got your weapons and I got mine. When we exchange, I'm going to come out the victor. I feel like every piece of arsenal that I have in that ring, I don't think that any heavyweight in this country or outside of this country could stand up to it. I really don't. I know as fighters, we talk shit and we say things and you look at guys and say, "Does this guy really think that he can win?" But you know what? If I didn't think that I can beat these guys and if I didn't think that I can get a heavyweight title, if I didn't think that I can be the best at this, I swear to you I wouldn't sit down for 8 1/2 years and come home and try to do it. My thing is I know I have what it takes to beat these guys. I train religiously and I train vigorously and when I go into that ring, I bring my A game. I bring my A game. I'm not gonna come in there having no off night or come in there with excuses and this and that. I'm coming in there with my A game every single time. Those guys are gonna have to match that or fall, and they gonna fall.
PC: You're fighting on the 25th and you're slated to return in April. I'm sure you are on the fast track to your goals because of the time you lost in prison.
AM: Exactly. We're on the fast track because we don't have the luxury of time anymore. It goes back to what I said; either you got it or you don't. So either I got it or I don't and hopefully we can find out sooner rather than later because I don't want to waste my time and I don't want to waste nobody else's time. I feel like I got a good corner, I have the speed, the power and the size. I feel that I have everything necessary to be successful in this ring, man, and we're gonna just keep moving forward. I'm just excited and I'm blessed to have my manager Keith Stoffer. I'm just really blessed to have this man in my corner and in my life because he stuck with me. He and my trainer, Howard Mosley, stuck with me the whole 8 1/2 years I did in prison. They continued to believe in me and it wasn't just me in that prison cell staying motivated. Those guys kept me motivated as well. My trainer and my manager both believed in me and when I came home, they made the necessary sacrifices for me and I'm just really blessed to have the people around me that I have and of course I'm blessed to have the skills that I have.
PC: When you sit back and look at the heavyweight division, what do you think and where do you place yourself?
AM: I feel as though I definitely can compete in the top 10 in the world right now. I know for a fact...actually, this is who I'm going after. I'm going after Chris Arreola. I'm trying to get a fight with him as we speak. I'm trying to get this guy. He's in the top 10 in the world; he's ranked #10. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew too soon, but I will honestly fight any one of these guys in the top 10 right after this fight. I'm actually going after Chris Arreola. I'm trying to get him in Atlantic City on April 2nd.
PC: Keep me posted on the status of that fight and I will be checking for the results of your fight on the 25th. It was a pleasure speaking to you and it's always refreshing to hear a story of redemption and defying odds. Is there anything you want to say in closing?
AM: Thank you, thank your website, and I thank people like you that are interested in Amir and my story. I appreciate you guys. And I gotta thank everybody in the Tri-State area that have been coming to Dover Downs and supporting me. We've been there selling this place out, man. This is going on 3 times and it's almost sold out already. The support that I've been getting from the fans in the Tri-State area has really been surprising and overwhelming, and the love and the prayers that people send out to me on the social outlets and in public is very much appreciated.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]