"The Tiger" Prepares For Showdown With Heavyweight Champ Wladimir Klitschko On July 12
Upon my return from Germany, I immediately started training in order to get in shape for my dream fight.
My manager (Nate Peake), Sharmba (Mitchell), Steve Francis and Brandy Hudson went to New Orleans, Louisiana to meet with Mackie Shilstone. He did a whole body assessment, to tell me how bad my body really is…not fun at all. He had me doing MRI’s, seeing a heart and back specialist and a chiropractor.
The MRI was the worse. If you had an MRI you would know this is nerve wrecking. MRI is the most stressful thing in medicine. You go to see what's wrong with you and the test stresses you out. MRI looks like a hollow hot dog. You have to fit yourself in there, not an easy task for a big man like me.
And the noise… err, err, err, so noisy for an hour long! They tell you not to move but how the hell you not going to move? And you know what happens, your nose begins to itch the second they tell you not to move.
Everything came out fine but the doctor threw a surprise on me. He did a prostrate exam. I'm only 36! I'm thinking to myself, did Klitschko get to this doctor? I'm too young to have this exam without someone playing with me! He didn't even tell me he was going to do this, he's like "lean on your elbows" and I was caught by surprise.
After the horror, I came back home to have a team meeting. In the team meeting we discussed where I was going to train for the fight. We really wanted to train in Washington DC, the location felt right and I really wanted it to be a part of the experience and accomplish this journey together. But unfortunately some ‘big wigs’ couldn't pull off the deal and we decided to move the camp to Vero Beach, Florida.
I left the wife and 7 kids back at home with the broken air conditioner, broken dishwasher, broken dryer and the electricity down in one half of the house. To me, this is God's sign that I better get this fight done. I have to get this fight done. But I am OK with leaving to train because I know my wife and kids are going to be OK. They know daddy is doing what he has to do to get this stuff fixed.
They had me a little barbecue party (I was only able to be there for about 2 hours) before having to leave to the airport. So I kissed the family so long and traveled to Florida the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Most of my other family members that were invited got there late, so they owe me some time spent together. My brother who is stationed in Japan, Army Sergeant Keith Thompson, dropped me off at the airport.
I traveled with Brandy Hudson and Tom Browner and we got to Vero Beach around 9:00 PM. When I arrived a couple of people thought that I was Lebron James. I wish I had that darn "I am not a basketball player" T-shirt on now.
Sharmba Mitchell was already in Florida and picked me and my team up at the airport.
For the next week we trained hard. Got on schedule and went to Buddy McGirt’s gym. My back was sore so I had to see a masseuse. Come to find that I was being massaged by Hitler… or should I say Dr. Kevorkian. He left me worse than I had started so now I am back to my number 1 rule… never let a man massage you, only a woman. Can’t wait to see my regular masseuse Jamie from Florida. Looking forward to a real massage. Stop laughing!
After that I had to travel back to Washington for my sister's wedding. The day before the wedding and hours before I boarded the plane, I get a call from US Airways informing me that my flight had been canceled and that I would have to make “alternative arrangements.” After hollering for a while they were able to put me on a flight that departed earlier.
Little did I know that they had me in a center seat where the passenger next to me decided to rest his tray table on my knees. About an hour and a half before the flight landed I decided to stand and stretch my legs for the remainder of the flight (or at least until they asked me to sit down). I stood in the stewardess section and people seemed kind of nervous as if I was guarding the restroom.
The next day (the wedding day) I barely made it to the church on time because there was a storm. There was zero visibility and to top it off the storm was so bad that the electricity in the church went out. There were no lights, no air conditioning and no music (seemed like I was back at home).
Now we had to improvise. Luckily the RTL German camera crew were there filming me and we used their camera lights when it came time for the priest to read. Finally, my brother and me gave our older sister away because both of my parents are deceased.
I flew out the next Sunday night. However because of a faulty toilet and the storm, I was sitting in a center seat again for an hour and a half on the runway. These airlines are quickly putting me in the mood to get my hands around Klitschko’s neck. If this keeps up I may not be able to restrain myself until July 12.
I waited until Monday to resume working out and it was back to work again. On Tuesday, I worried about Wednesday. Why? Because the TV people don't have me in a speedboat this time, they thought of something crazier, but at least on dry land but unfortunately a little bit scarier.
Wednesday they've got me working with real life tigers and I know they are going to eat me. You know how it goes, they are well trained then they return to their wild instincts and attack.
Animals do attack. Wednesday will forever be known as the day of the tiger in my mind.
Wednesday, I started with my normal sparring session; it was predictable, as I took my lumps in the Florida sun, lol.
It was also the day of the Tiger shoot with RTL TV from Germany. After we finished sparring, I had to recharge my battery by getting a little rest and do my best of not thinking of how nice this tiger was going to treat me.
Animals do attack.
I then hopped on my first helicopter ride, which was pretty interesting and scary. A lot of you may ask why? Everybody that knows me understands that flying is not one of my favorite things. Especially something as small as a helicopter where you feel every bit of the wind whipping against the chopper.
Before I got on the helicopter the pilot gave me a few instructions. One rule in particular stuck in my mind. The pilot said never walk towards the back of the helicopter because people have been known to lose a limb or two. So this did a lot to help my confidence for getting on this helicopter.
Since RTL was also flying in the helicopter, I had to sit in the back seat scrunched up as if I was in the middle of the coach section on a plane. You can imagine how I felt like a sardine. Surprisingly, once the helicopter took off I had the time of my life. Man it was it was crazy. It was better than I could have ever imagined.
At 500 feet, it was incredible to see the top of Orlando and the rest Florida from that height. You would be surprised to see how many wild animals and sh-t you see running around loose. Because I am, kind of a nature nerd it was cool for me. After an hour ride in the helicopter and dodging a bus fire below, we landed at the tiger compound. This is where it really gets interesting.
I was excited and anxious at the same time, because I have a soft spot in my heart for big cats especially tigers. I was also kind of fearful because some of the things that I was about to do with the tiger. I was nervous and fearful baby!
Some of the things they wanted to do were walk the tiger on a leash, feed the tiger by hand (by hand!), wash the tiger with a hose and kneeling down beside the tiger while rubbing him on his back (I was thinking more like begging him for his forgiveness not to eat me). This was a tall order.
I thought it was pretty interesting because when I fed the tiger I only fed him the legs and thighs of the chicken, that’s right all the dark meat. And he seemed to really enjoy it. I didn't know if I should bring out the deep fry or if I should be worried because I was the only dark person there, lol.
Never was I calm, even when the tiger was behind the cage and I was feeding him. I fed a 600-pound tiger name Chad. Somehow I thought the name just did not fit very well. So, I immediately changed his name to Sampson. However, let me explain by saying, no disrespect to all the Chads out there, but I thought a tiger this magnificent deserved a magnificent name.
I fed Sampson a chicken leg at the top of the cage and when he stood fully extended, he was over 7 feet tall. Baby he was big!! Shaq and Yao Ming have nothing on my new friend Sampson.
It was a magnificent but very scary site. It made me feel justified in my kids choosing the name of the Tiger for me because the tiger is majestic, he is intimidating, he is ferocious and more importantly, Sampson was just plain beautiful. Beautiful like me baby!
When I first got to the tiger compound, I was a little hesitant because I do not like to see ANIMALS HELD CAPTIVE. However, the tigers where in such wonderful shape and I have to commend the guy that ran the compound for the way he kept his place.
The way the animals where treated as well as the condition of the animals. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the guy who ran the compound but after this fight, I am definitely going to take my kids there. However, they will not do all the things I did with tiger but they will definitely get to see all the animals.
It’s real funny that German TV has shown more interest in introducing me to their public than our own TV networks in the US. To me that's really unfortunate because most of our TV networks think of me as an after thought, when it comes to this fight.
Nevertheless, this just adds more motivation for me and I am not bitter at all. I am just determined BABY!! So after all the excitement on Wednesday it was back to work on Thursday.
Brother back to work it was. It started off pretty bad for me because I was exhausted from all the tiger stuff and posing for pictures. It was good to get the PR stuff over with and get back to the grind of winning the heavyweight world championship.
Let me describe Buddy's gym for those who don't know. For anybody that has ever been to Florida, you know it is an understatement to say that it’s freaking hot down here. Even though Buddy has a great gym, it’s pretty much a warehouse with no fan, no air condition and no ventilation. If its 90 degrees outside, then it is about 115 inside at 9 a.m., when I train.
Therefore, without having my proper rest with the heat beating down on me, I was dog-tired after sparring and not much in the mood for continuing anything else. But they (trainers) did not have any mercy on me, as they pushed me through the rest of my workout, which good trainers are supposed to do. So I was very tired but satisfied with the quality of my workout. I was also looking damn forward to my day off from sparring on Friday.
We worked very hard Friday. My trainers again did a great job of pushing me through the hard work and the heat. Barry Hunter, Tom Browning and BB Hudson; they make a great team knowing my body and the right things to do to get me through my workouts. Having the Headbangers family down here was a plus as well.
That's about it, I guess I will catch you people a little later, time for bed now. I got to run in the early morning.
- Tony Thompson