|Lovemore N'dou has been boxing professionally since 1993, working his way up first in South Africa, and then on the east coast of Australia. He crashed US shores for the first time in 2002, dropping a majority decision to Jose Luis Juarez in an action packed fight.|
N'dou’s big break came in February 2004, when he got the nod to take on junior welterweight heir apparent Sharmba Mitchell on short notice. Far from being intimidated, N'dou gave Mitchell twelve rounds of hell and Sharmba was lucky to walk away with a close decision and the IBF interim world title. Later that year, N'dou again took a fight on short notice, this time against young superstar Miguel Cotto and, despite fighting most of the fight with an injured rib, he put up one helluva fight, giving young Cotto by far his toughest test as a professional, and dropping another close points decision. So when all is said and done between Tszyu, Mitchell, Cotto, Harris and Hatton, none of them will be thrilled when they see that next in line for a shot is the Black Panther - Lovemore N'dou.
Greig Johnston: Ricky Hatton's opponent for his December 11th fight in London has been confirmed as Ray Oliveira, how disappointed are you that you weren't considered?
Lovemore N'dou: Look, I know that Ricky Hatton will do anything to avoid Lovemore N'dou. If he's got any excuse at all to avoid me, he'll use that excuse. Now, the guy is ranked number one, the only guy above me apart from Kostya and Sharmba. I've got a feeling that if Tszyu wins, he's gonna move up to welterweight, and vacate the title. He can avoid me now, but someday Ricky Hatton is going to have to fight me.
GJ: You'll get him in the ring eventually?
LN: It will happen .If he wants the IBF title, I'm the ranked contender there, he will have to fight me.
GJ: You last fought in August, what have you been up to, and when can we expect to see you back in the ring?
LN: I've had two fights fall through but I'm expecting to get back in the ring sometime in December, just for another tune-up fight. Then I'll just wait and see what happens, I'm hoping for a title shot sometime next year.
GJ: You've sparred against Kostya Tszyu, and you gave Sharmba Mitchell fits back in February, how do you see their match-up?
LN: Look, it's gonna be a tough fight, it depends on how Tszyu comes back after nearly two years out of the ring. The guy's got tremendous punching power, and if he can use that in the first six or seven rounds it might wear Sharmba down and stop him. If the fight goes beyond eight, nine rounds, I believe there could be an upset and Sharmba could beat Kostya.
GJ: Inactivity does different things to different people.
LN: I know from personal experience. I had fourteen months out of the ring, and when I came back I had a really tough fight against Jose Luis Juarez. That was the first time ever in my career that I was knocked down. And it comes back to inactivity, and I can see this affecting Tszyu.
GJ: You gave Miguel Cotto his toughest fight, how did you rate his performance against Kelson Pinto, and would you like another shot at him?
LN: If you look at the Miguel Cotto fight, the Sharmba Mitchell fight, these are fights I took at short notice. I believe that if I'm given at least four to six weeks to prepare for them, I'll knock them out. I was also unlucky, I got hurt in the ribs in the fourth round, I fought the last eight rounds with a sore rib. I believe if it wasn't for the rib injury I would have stopped him. Anyone that saw that fight knows that all he did for the last two rounds was run, looking to survive. He's never been in a fight like that before, that was the toughest fight he's ever had, and look at the way he handled Kelson Pinto, he beat him easy. Give me four to six weeks to prepare for Miguel Cotto and I'll stick him.
GJ: Vivian Harris just had a good win in Germany against Oktay Urkal, would you like a crack at him as well?
LN: Look, I've challenged Vivian so many times. The problem with Vivian is he talks too much, and he doesn't live up to what he says. He talks like he wants to fight everybody, and then when it's time to fight, he doesn't want to fight. Look what he did to Ricky Hatton. They gave him more than what he got to fight Urkal in a rematch. Look at the marketing side of it. Who's more marketable? Ricky Hatton is more marketable than Vivian Harris, even though Vivian is world champion. If I was Vivian, I would have taken the money, gone to England and beat Ricky.
GJ: Stylistically, a fight that I would really like to see is yourself against Floyd Mayweather.
LN: That's a great fight. Floyd Mayweather had a chance to fight me. HBO gave him two men when he made his 140-pound debut. It was myself and DeMarcus Corley. He chose to fight DeMarcus Corley. His people knew very well that Lovemore N'dou was a tougher fight. That's why they didn't take that fight, but along the way I can see that fight happening, and I believe I could upset Mayweather. I believe he's one of the toughest fighters out there, and I believe that he deserves to be ranked as pound for pound one of the best, but I also think that I've got the style to upset him. Most of the fighters he's fought are Mexicans, they fight that Mexican style which suits him better. I'm an all round fighter, if I have to use speed, I'll use speed. If I have to brawl I'll brawl. I think I'd give him trouble.
GJ: In the last two weeks it's been announced that your cousin Phillip has had to retire because of an abnormality in a brain scan. Have you spoken to Phillip, and as a fellow professional, does that kind of thing weigh on your mind?
LN: Yes, it does weigh on my mind. When you look at it, I think it was bound to happen. I think if you look at Phillip's fighting style, although he won a lot of fights with knockouts, he used to cop a lot of punishment. That kind of slows you down, and all those heavy sparring sessions he used to have in the gym with bigger guys, that slows you down. Somehow, it's going to affect you one day. I feel sorry that his career was cut so short, but what can you do? These things happen in boxing, and they can happen in any sport.
GJ: You're thirty-three years old now, but with your great performances against Mitchell and Cotto, is it nice to finally be recognized at an international level?
LN: I waited too long to get an opportunity to prove myself, but that was something beyond my control. I wish I had an opportunity to get those fights with Mitchell and Cotto earlier, to get people in America to see me. But I'm the kind of guy who takes a negative and turns it into a positive. I might be thirty-three, but I feel like I'm twenty. I live a good, clean life, I'm always fit. I believe I've still got a long way to go.
GJ: Who are your boxing idols? If you could pick an all-time boxer, and an active fighter you greatly admire, who would they be?
LN: Sugar Ray Robinson. I think he was the best fighter. Funny thing, the other guy I think is a great fighter is Roy Jones Junior. Irrespective of what happened in his last two fights, I still think that he's the best out there. Maybe the time has for him to give it up, bit I've always looked upon him as an idol. For his fighting style and the way he handles himself in the ring.
GJ: Your nickname is the 'BlackPanther,' and one of the things I used to love about your fights here in Australia is that you used to enter the ring to 'Black Cat' by Janet Jackson. Can we expect to see that again?
LN: I will do it again. If I get a world title shot, that'll be the song, that will be my ring entrance song. The Black Panther has a lot of meaning behind it. My South African people gave me the name. It's got a political meaning behind it, and at the same time they compare me to a black panther because of my viciousness in the ring. Then there is the Black Panther movement in America, black people fighting for their rights. Growing up in South Africa I had to fight for my own rights, to be recognized as an equal in my own country. And through sport I want to prove to everybody that I'm just as smart and just as capable of doing something as any other person out there. That's why I took the name, it's got a lot of meaning behind it, and that 's the name I live with. I'll never change it, until I finish my boxing career, I'll still be the Black Panther.
GJ: Thanks very much for your time today Lovemore, and I want to wish you all the best and hopefully you can get one of these champions in the ring with you real soon.
LN: Thank you for your support and I want to thank all my fans out there for their support. I want everybody to know that when I get a title shot I won't disappoint anyone, I'm gonna win it one day.
Greig Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org