Fight Interviews

Holly Lawson: The Passion of a Boxing Dream [Part 2]

"When you hold the cards in your hands, then you’re in a position of power. I really want to make sure I’m always represented in a way that I feel is appropriate and makes a difference. I’ve been offered stuff I refuse to take because I don’t believe in the company or what I have to do or look like. I want to be someone who makes it so a little girl somewhere realizes she doesn’t have to be hyper-sexualized or bow down..."

Welcome to Part two of boxer Holly “Li’l Bear” Lawson’s exclusive interview with Beats, Boxing & Mayhem. The proceedings became more casual conversation than formal interview, and Lawson supplied a unique perspective on Manny Pacquiao’s contract issues with Floyd Mayweather, her favorite fights and modern vs. golden age boxing. Part one can be read HERE.

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Being that you’ve trained with Manny Pacquiao for about seven years, what’s your opinion on the contract issues he’s had with Floyd Mayweather over the last two years?

Holly Lawson: As far as boxing goes, I want to be more like Floyd than Manny to be honest. Floyd is just a beautiful boxer and his skill level is amazing. He’s a very throwback fighter. With that said, the way he’s approached this fight and the persona he’s built up for himself has made it hard for anyone to hear the valid things he’s saying. I feel he’s coming forward with actual legitimate concerns and I don’t feel he’s out of place. If I felt someone had been taking something I’d want tests done too. If he truly feels that I don’t think he’s out of line asking for testing.

I’ve talked to Freddie [Roach] about it. The thing is if they don’t have this fight it’ll eat Floyd up. Floyd would have another 4-5 fights and probably go into the Hall of Fame undefeated with millions of dollars. But it wouldn’t matter because for the rest of his life people would ask him about Manny and why they didn’t fight. It would consume him. Now if they didn’t fight, Manny wouldn’t care. It’s not that big of a concern to him; he’s had losses. For some reason the way they both look it and how it affects them is different.

Honestly I don’t see them fighting next year. There are still other, easier fights that can make them millions. The way the Arum-Golden Boy thing is with their lack of communication and the stories they put out to the media that turn out to be false, I just don’t see either side conceding. Do you?

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: The last time I talked to Manny one on one was right before the Margarito fight. We actually got to talk for about a half hour and he told me point blank he’d be willing to test the day of the fight and in between rounds if necessary. I doubt he‘s the problem. Golden Boy and Top Rank have so much animosity and options in house that they feel content continually putting it off.

The way things are going the fight may just happen when it means little to anyone. With them in their mid 30s, an upset or bad night can happen. The fact this has been going on for two years is disrespectful to the boxing fans and their legacies.

This is the biggest challenge for both of them. If it doesn’t happen it hurts both of their standings. It would be like if Ali and Frazier’s Fight of the Century never happened over a contract impasse. It’s mind-boggling and embarrassing to have to cover it…

Lawson: I’ve heard Manny in person say he’ll take the test. Manny would fight him in a heartbeat. The politics just won’t allow it.

My thing with Floyd is you build yourself this persona to help you sell fights. Paulie Malignaggi has also done that. Paulie is the coolest guy on the planet. Before I met him I thought he was going to be the biggest jerk. I was pleasantly surprised. Floyd is similar; he’s a really nice dude whenever I’ve encountered him.

The persona has totally worked for him. He’s made more money that anyone else. But now he’s confronted with this other persona in Manny who’s built himself as the nice guy and people’s champion. What Floyd doesn’t understand is that no one wants to hear his valid points because he’s built himself into the bad guy. And he’s also done things that make it so he can’t reverse the image.

He’s in a place where he’s stuck being that dude. He’s always gonna come off as that whiny, bratty and mean dude even though I don’t think he is. Floyd is really smart and did what he needed to do to make a lot of money. I have a lot of respect for him. It would help if the people around him did a better job of censoring him.

If Floyd really wanted to fight Manny he’d have went through Golden Boy and had some big negotiator came through with a contract. Going public was the safe way because I think he knew it would never happen [that way]. To be honest I think Floyd is scared of Manny…

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Remember that Arum did the public countdown on Floyd last summer. I’m sure a tit for tat payback factored into Floyd’s May 5 announcement.

Lawson: You’re right. And with Bob Arum that’s a whole ‘nother thing. [laughs]

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You touched on an interesting point about Floyd not being able to shake the “bad guy” role. To his credit he’s played it so well people were even criticizing him about announcing he’d pay for Joe Frazier’s funeral. Nothing he does is accepted at face value.

Lawson: I couldn’t believe that. It’s so evil for anyone to say anything about that because no one else stepped up to do it.

I can’t give Floyd enough props but he continually shoots himself in the foot. The reason Floyd is so good is he lives a really clean life and trains every day even when he shouldn’t. Floyd doesn’t drink alcohol or really party like that or engage in the shenanigans like he makes it out to be. He just has a paid entourage. Other than that he’s very regimented and disciplined athlete. I have so much respect for him in that capacity.

Floyd just doesn’t go out and buy Bentley’s every day. He doesn’t wild out 24/7. As an athlete I respect and admire his work ethic. He’s also not really bad with women. [laughs] People don’t know that and he’s really shot himself in the foot because he’s put out the image that he is all of those things. I think he and his people never really considered the long term repercussions to that image.

I feel like he’s this little kid that gets talked into stuff and when he has a little bit of a temper tantrum, the people around him allow him to go like “yeah, let’s get on TV and talk into stacks of cash! That’s a really good idea!” No, it’s really not. [laughs]

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Now that Andre Ward vs. Lucian Bute is the big fight at super-middleweight, who do you favor in that bout?

Lawson: [Pauses] I’ve not seen enough Bute to really call that one. But he’s Canadian so by default I have to favor my fellow Canadian.

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Bute has a very good uppercut and I’d like to see how Ward would handle it if he got caught. But Ward is a better skilled overall and has a speed edge.

Lawson: Ward can get a little sloppy at times when he gets comfortable. The openings are there.

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: What five boxing matches had the biggest impact on you?

Lawson: Hagler-Hearns. I’m a big fan of both. I loved the Hopkins-De La Hoya fight – I’m probably the only person that did. [laughs] There are so many. I’m a Mike Tyson fan, too. I’m drawing blanks… I do watch a lot of Sugar Ray Robinson. To me he wasn’t the greatest, but he’s the best boxer ever.

He was so smooth. The way boxing was back then they moved differently than we do. He was one of the people who changed that. The way he slipped [punches], we do that now. A lot of modern boxers got their stuff from him. He would just roll off and come back with something. All those fighters who would fight 15 round fights every week, I have so much respect for them.

Sugar Ray’s determination was evident every time he fought. Every time I think about the culture back then and what he had to live through, you see it in the ring. That’s one of the reasons I think Muhammad Ali was the greatest. I’ve never been a big fan of flashy footwork, but every time he got in the ring, regardless of how many he talked, he showed his confidence and life experiences. What he said, he did it. I’m somebody with social and political awareness and I can’t imagine what he had to battle through. It showed his character as a person.

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You mentioned the older fighters being able to fight big fights multiple times a month. You try anything like that now, as seen in the Super Six, and guys seem to physically fall apart. Do you think that’s because the boxers back then were tougher or due to fighters being stronger now and delivering more damaging blows?

Lawson: I want to fight every month. One time I almost got to fight twice in a month. That was six rounds, though. If you’re fighting 15 rounds and every two weeks that’s pretty crazy and a toll on your body. I just think it’s a different type of durability. The way we train now is for immediate output. It’s gotten a little more specific and scientific being that we train more aerobically. That’s not conducive to fighting multiple fights over a short period of time. The body will need that rest.

I don’t think boxers hit harder now. We just exert more energy. On the flip side of that can you imagine getting hit with those older gloves? I wear eight ounce gloves and they feel like nothing. I couldn’t even imagine big guys, heavyweights, hitting with them.

I also think what we are physically capable of comes down to the limitations we place on ourselves.

Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: It’s been great speaking with you, Holly. Any closing thoughts?

Lawson: I want to be world champion but I think there’s really a gap in Western culture for women athletes. There are not a lot of women out there who are good examples for young women. And those that are don’t get the shine that they need to. In female boxing there isn’t anyone in that role now. That is what I would like to own.

There are a lot of social causes I’m interested in. I really would like to use my boxing to step into other things to build myself as a brand so when I stop boxing I can do other things. Because of how women’s boxing is I feel I can be in a more powerful position if I can build myself outside the ring. That is when the top promoters will really be interested in me. When you hold the cards in your hands, then you’re in a position of power.

I really want to make sure I’m always represented in a way that I feel is appropriate and makes a difference. I’ve been offered stuff I refuse to take because I don’t believe in the company or what I have to do or look like. I want to be someone who makes it so a little girl somewhere realizes she doesn’t have to be hyper-sexualized or bow down. You can get there by working really hard and perfecting your craft. These are the things I personally care about.

Stay updated on Holly “Li’l Bear” Lawson’s career by following her @lilbearlawson

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