Thirty-two fights. Thirty-two knockouts. Zero have gone past the fourth round.
And my critics still wonder if I am America’s next great heavyweight champion? Doesn’t make sense, huh?
Saturday night they’ll have no choice but to start believing. When I face Bermane Stiverne at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the WBC heavyweight title, years of hard work will all be worth it.
Yet some people still talk about how I’ve been facing tomato cans my entire professional career. They drone on about how the heavyweight division today pales in comparison to previous generations. The past is the past, you can only make a better future. If you keep looking for a Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey, all legends that I admire, you’ll continue to miss out on a sport and division that is alive and well.
The naysayers and nonbelievers can’t understand how in the hell I’m knocking all these people out and not going past four rounds. “Oh! It must be the opposition that he’s facing. I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing!” People love making excuses for my victories because that’s easier than trying to figure out how I have the fifth-longest knockout streak to begin a career in boxing history. They don’t know what I do or how I train.
Training is the hardest part. The fights are easy. I live in the gym—whether I’m preparing for a fight or not. I’m never out of shape. To get to this level and become a “knockout artist,” as some call it, is not easy. You have to go into camp when you don’t want to, when your body is sore and you haven’t had a chance to recuperate all week. Your body is saying “I don’t want to get up, I can’t move,” but you have to push past that. The mental challenge is far tougher than the physical one. The knockout isn’t just the flashy finish to a fight, it’s the culmination of all that hard work.
Knocking someone out is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. It’s like eating red velvet cake—you get that melt-in-your-mouth feeling. When you knock a guy out, your heart is automatically filled with warmth because you know the fight is over. You know you don’t have to do any more punching, you don’t have to think anymore. My biggest fear is putting my fate in the judges’ hands. Time and time again we’ve all seen fights where one boxer dominates the whole fight and then in the end gets robbed by three people who have likely never laced ‘em up. You scratch your head and say, “How is this possible?” When you knock a guy out you don’t have to worry about that. That feeling is overwhelming because you’re fulfilling the expectations of everyone who came to watch the fight. People don’t come to see a 12-round fights go the distance, they come hungry for a knockout. I can and will continue to fulfill that hunger. That’s the difference with me. That’s who I am.
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m going to knock out Stiverne tomorrow simply to prove my critics wrong. Those of you who doubt me can continue to do so—in fact, stick by your words. When I do the unbelievable and unexpected on Saturday, I don’t want you to go and say, “I was wrong. He’s a good fighter.” I don’t want to hear anything. Let’s just move on. The heavyweight title is all I want. When I take a big bite out of that red velvet cake—no later than the fourth round, I’m calling it—on Saturday night, I will be looking to satisfy no one else’s taste buds but my own.