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BURT WATSON: "HISTORY HAS A WAY OF MAKING YOU A PART OF IT"

By Percy Crawford | April 19, 2011
BURT WATSON:

"I actually started my career in boxing in Philly with Joe Frazier. I was with Joe Frazier first as kind of a runner and 'do everything' guy. I became his manager in the late years; the years after his 3 epic fights with Muhammad Ali. I became his manager in '82 or '83, something like that. I stayed with Joe until 1995...History has a way of making you a part of it without you asking for it. Most of the time, people don't even know that they are a part of history. Most of the time, it's not intentional; it just happens...The only fighter that I can honestly tell you that I've never worked with is Lennox Lewis. That's another part of history where I can say, 'Damn!' But I've worked with Frazier, Tyson, De La Hoya, Chavez, Trinidad, Roy Jones, Vinny Pazienza, Kostya Tszyu, Zab Judah, The Klitschkos and Laila Ali. You name them, I've worked with them. I did the fight when Joe Frazier's daughter fought Muhammad's daughter. I did that fight in June of 2001 in New York. It just kinda springboarded me. I did De La Hoya and Gatti. I did the last fight of Sugar Ray Leonard's career when he fought Camacho. That's how I became friends with Sugar Ray Leonard. I did the fight between Duran and Camacho," stated the hardest working man in MMA, Burt Watson, who works for the UFC as their site coordinator. Although Watson handles just about every detail when it comes to making sure a UFC event runs smoothly, unbeknownst to many, he actually got his start coordinating fights in boxing, working with just about every big name you can think of. Check out what he had to say about his time in the Sweet Science and much more.

PC: How are you doing my man?

BW: Ah man, I'm trying to make it, baby. How about yourself?

PC: I can't complain one bit, man. I'm speaking with you. You're from the great fighting city of Philadelphia. Is that how you broke into the fight game; just coming up in Philly and being a fan of the fights?

BW: Yeah! I grew up in Philly. I went to high school in Philly. I went to Overbrook High School in Philly. I didn't go with Wilt Chamberlin, but there were a lot of basketball players and track stars that came out of Overbrook High School during the time that I went. But I actually started my career in boxing in Philly with Joe Frazier. I was with Joe Frazier first as kind of a runner and "do everything" guy. I became his manager in the late years; the years after his 3 epic fights with Muhammad Ali. I became his manager in '82 or '83, something like that. I stayed with Joe until 1995 and at that time, I decided that my job with Joe was basically creating situations for him to make a living off of his name. I really didn't have to do too much 'cause hell, that was Joe Frazier (laughing). He already had a name. He was famous enough, but even a blender, you gotta put gas in it, baby! Other than that, it will stop running on you, so the gas was making a little money to keep the train rolling. I had to create situations; autograph sessions, book signings and the boxing Hall of Fame, just different things like that and that's when those creative juices started to flow. The coordinating started to happen for me and I did that, you know, until things got a little lean and then around 1995 or 1996, I kinda ventured out on my own. I didn't want to get out of boxing, but I didn't exactly know where my niche was or where I was gonna stay, so I just kinda floated around and because of my experience with Joe Frazier and being around him, I got to know a lot of people through him, man. I got to do a lot of things and go a lot of places to meet people and things that I would have never done being Burt Watson. Luckily, people gave me a shot at things that they wouldn't have just given to anybody because of Joe Frazier, because of my time with him, and I started bouncing around to different promoters and they started using me as an add-on guy to help them put things together and just pull the plow a little bit, baby.

PC: What was it like for you being around greatness? Joe Frazier is an all-time great and you started your career off with the guy. What was that experience like for you?

BW: Well, you know what Percy? Let me tell you something, baby. History has a way of making you a part of it without you asking for it. Most of the time, people don't even know that they are a part of history. Most of the time, it's not intentional; it just happens. I knew Joe Frazier was great, but the greatness and the greatness around it when you're in it at the time, you know, that there is something special going on, but you don't necessarily know what it really is. I didn't really know what it was. I knew the level that it was and that there was something special about it. I worked with him in 1989 or 1990. There was a video project called "Champion's Forever!" and that was a video project with Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Ion Productions did that and what it was, it was a video production of the fights that those 5 guys had amongst themselves. So I was the guy that they, I won't say selected, but because of Joe, I was the guy that they picked to travel with them guys. Those guys did a tour, nationally and internationally, for that video for 2 1/2 years. I got to travel with those 5 guys, man, and that was a part of history that, I knew how special it was, but until I got to travel with those 5 guys and see the reactions in different places, shit, that was an experience that I will never forget. It was a learning experience, man, and it was awesome. And I did that for 2 1/2 years and I got to know Muhammad and I got to know George, Larry and Ken Norton. I got to know those guys. I got to work with them. So, you know, in that time of working with them, working with Joe and being from Philadelphia, I got to be around a lot of guys. When I first started working in boxing, baby, I remember when Meldrick Taylor was sweeping the floors in Joe Frazier's gym when he was like 13 years old or something crazy. And he went on to win a Gold medal and became one of the best. "Smoking" Bert Cooper and Tyrell Biggs, just seeing different guys like that come up and they came through the gym; it was all a part of history and as I said, history has a way of making you a part of it without you asking. I didn't realize how historical all of that was going to be at some point in my life. Eventually, it became historical.

PC: You just touched on something that stuck out in my mind and that's being around probably 5 of the most different personalities that you can be around. I'm sure that prepared you for what you are doing now. You're dealing with a lot of personalities and guys cutting weight and things of that nature, so I'm sure your experience, not only with Joe Frazier but in particular on that trip with 5 of the greatest heavyweights of all time, prepared you for what you are doing now.

BW: Man, you could have never said it any better because it was just that. I knew the history of...being with Joe, I knew the history of Joe and Muhammad and it was real. What Joe felt was real. But because I was with him so closely, I knew that personally in my soul, and I felt some of it, So when we went different places, you had to know how to bring those guys into a certain place so that they had a certain comfort level. They weren't uncomfortable. When they sat them up on the dais, you had to know who to sit where and kinda learn their attitude for the day, who was up for press and who wasn't, and who wanted the media and who didn't want the media. So yeah, it prepared me for a lot of things because still, to this day Percy, I couldn't say to you why I was the person with them and why I was traveling. And that's not that none of them didn't have other people with them, but I went all of the places with them. Once that video started, Joe and Muhammad...the fact that they had Joe and Muhammad Ali together became the engine in that train. And I was always there with him. We went to London, The Palace; I met Lady Dianne and the Prince; Charles. You just met people, man, but at the time, you're starry-eyed and kinda like, "Whoa!" When Nelson Mandela got out of prison, and I'm thinking 1990, when he got out, 3 weeks after he got out, baby, they did a presentation for him at the United Nations in New York. Nelson Mandela was a big boxing fan and they invited Joe to come. Joe and I sat down and discussed what he was going to do or what he was going to give him. Joe decided to give him his WBC belt that he won when he beat Muhammad, March 8th, 1971. We went to New York, baby, at the United Nations in the basement. It was me, Joe, 3 security guards, Nelson Mandela and 2 of his people and I put that belt around Nelson Mandela's waist, man. I'll never forget that either and that was history. It was just, "Whoa!" But now that I've been through that, to look back and remember that and see that, it's like, "Wow, I put that belt around Nelson Mandela's waist." I had the privilege to meet Mr. Mandela again and he did not remember me, but he remembered that incident because he still had the belt. He didn't forget. He didn't remember Burt Watson, but he remembered that incident.

It's things like that, and as times kinda went on and I started bouncing around different promotions and meeting different people...just like any other business, boxing was as small as it was big at the time. It was a very good old boys network, baby. It was like word of mouth. Me moving around to get jobs was mainly word of mouth. Somebody would see me at one fight or somebody would talk about what I did or they would ask the promoter who did this for you. So I started getting gigs, man, like that; word of mouth passing it around. The only fighter that I can honestly tell you that I've never worked with is Lennox Lewis. That's another part of history where I can say, "Damn!" But I've worked with Frazier, Tyson, De La Hoya, Chavez, Trinidad, Roy Jones, Vinny Pazienza, Kostya Tszyu, Zab Judah, The Klitschkos and Laila Ali. You name them, I've worked with them. I did the fight when Joe Frazier's daughter fought Muhammad's daughter. I did that fight in June of 2001 in New York. It just kinda springboarded me. I did De La Hoya and Gatti. I did the last fight of Sugar Ray Leonard's career when he fought Camacho. That's how I became friends with Sugar Ray Leonard. I did the fight between Duran and Camacho.

PC: The first time I ever heard the name Burt Watson was when my business partner, Ben Thompson, who was working for another publication at the time, went out to cover the Danny Williams and Mike Tyson fight. He told me he didn't have a credential, a hotel room, or anything when he got out there, but he said, "Burt Watson took good care of me and handled everything." That was my first time hearing your name.

BW: If I saw him, I probably would remember him, but you know, and I do know and I have learned, I like what I do. I love what I do, baby, and the only way you could be good at what you do is to feel what you do. You get a compassion for it and a comfort level for it and when you do that, then you create a way to make it better. You create a way to keep that shit going. I've grown to like it and I've grown to love it and I've only learned how to make it because I feel it. And that Danny Williams and Mike Tyson, I did that in Louisville. I did and it was awesome, baby.



[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]

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