Team McGirt has reevaluated middleweight prospect James McGirt, Jr., 19-1-1 (9), and, after considerable soul searching, has collectively decided that the 26 year old southpaw will return to old-school training and incorporate a more aggressive attack in order to take better advantage of his hand speed, as well as to avoid his frustrating “fight to the level of his opponent” pattern.
McGirt’s somewhat up-and-down career, at least of late, found him losing for the first time on April 11 to a fighter he had out on his feet, Carlos “Baby Sugar” DeLeon, rebounding from that with an impressive performance on ESPN to defeat former IBO and WBU middleweight champion Raymond “Hallelujah” Joval by 10-round decision last July, which moved McGirt up as high as No. 8 in The Ring’s ratings, but then fighting a disappointing 10-round draw with novice Marcus Upshaw in his last contest this past November.
“I need to stop taking people lightly,” McGirt admitted. “This isn’t a joke; boxing is a serious sport. I looked past him [Upshaw] to an HBO fight in January [since scrapped]. He trained for 5-6 weeks and really came to fight. I take my hat off to him. I had to lose some weight at the end that I shouldn’t have had to worry about and I paid the consequences. I am now working hard to take control of myself, mentally.
"Guys are coming to beat me and my father [former 2-time world champion and James’ trainer, “Buddy” McGirt]. They bring their ‘A’ game. I hurt him [Upshaw] in the first round and then waited around too long, loading up for a one-punch knockout. If the fight’s easy, I get lackadaisical and go into a slump for a few rounds. Before I know it, I’m behind, and then I need to come on.
"I had a bad day, got a draw, and now there’s nothing to do now but learn from it and move on. I want to fight the top middleweights but, mentally, I have to be in control. It’s not like in basketball when you’re in a zone and you feel nobody can stop you. You can’t do that in boxing because punches are being thrown at your head.”
McGirt’s next fight is January 16 on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights in a 10 round co-feature against veteran Angel “Toro” Hernandez, 28-7 (16), from Key West, Florida. Hernandez, who took “Winky” Wright 12 rounds in their 2003 IBF light middleweight title fight, is a former NABF title holder.
McGirt has already gotten into his old-school training regiment, working hard twice a day - in the morning and night with rest after 9 PM – and constantly coming forward in the ring towards his opponent, letting his hands go in laser-like fashion. “I’ve been on James 24/7,” his father/trainer Buddy reported from their Vero Beach training camp.
“I’m an old-school guy but today a lot of fighters train 3 or 4 times a day. That’s too much wear and tear on the body for James. He’s ready at 6:45 every morning. If he’s scheduled to run, he runs even if it’s raining. No excuses. I believe in hard work, a prepared diet, and rest. It’s working. I went to his place today and he was waiting for me to go at 6:45.
“I’ve told James since he started boxing that he has three strikes against him; all three strikes are having McGirt as his last name. The fighter and his trainer want to beat James and me. They want to get at me through James. He has a lot to handle in the ring and it’s not his fault that his last name is McGirt. It is what it is.
"I told him he can’t fight like me. The problem is he didn’t see what I had to put into training when I was coming up. He was too young for that. But he saw what it was like when I was world champion and thought that was the way it’s like. He didn’t see all of the work that went into it.
“James’ big problem is everything in sports always came easy for him, whether it was playing basketball, baseball or football. No matter what sport he played, it came easy for him on the field or court. But you don’t play boxing. I told him after the last fight that if he wasn’t going to take it serious, he should quit and get out of boxing. Nobody’s going to give him anything. I told him to take a few weeks, not overnight, to think about it.
"He says he wants it and he has done everything he has to do. James needs tunnel vision. You can’t just go home from the gym and go back the next day and pick things up. You have to take it home - shadow box and practice things there, too. He needs to be dedicated and isolated. James has an opportunity to make a better life for him and his two kids. This is it from now until he retires. When he loses the edge, I’ll pull the plug.”
The pressure associated with a fighter who is the son of a popular world champion, coupled with his tremendous natural athletic ability, have made it easy yet difficult at the same time for James McGirt, Jr. The new McGirt will hopefully allow James to go back to the future and become the world title challenger he’s destined to be.