I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tom Tsatas, who is the manager of the formidable heavyweight Fres Oquendo (32-6, 21 KOs). Tsatas talked about Oquendo’s upcoming fight with Oliver McCall (54 -10, 37 KOs). The bout will take place on December 7, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The vacant IBF Inter-Continental heavyweight title will be up for grabs. Tsatas also shared his thoughts on the state of the heavyweight division, Manny Pacquiao and boxing in general.
LS: Hi Tom. How are you doing today?
TT: I’m doing okay, sir. How are you?
LS: I’m doing fine, thank you. As I understand, Fres is working in the new 5th Street Gym. That is a place where history has been made. What do you think of the new gym?
TT: The new gym is great. It has a lot of good energy. Of course, Angelo (Dundee) has been out a couple times, and at the opening we had Muhammad (Ali) out, and Ferdie Pacheco, and we had all the news crews. So you know, it was like the old times, with some of the same people. We got fighters trickling in, and slowly, we’re getting the energy in. You know, the energy’s there and we’re getting people in. We’re very, very excited about that. We’ve got another heavyweight following in Muhammad’s footsteps. It’s just a dream come true for both of us.
LS: Is Fres actually being trained by Angelo Dundee?
TT: Yes, Angelo is training him for the fight. Obviously, Angelo is 89, so he’s not going 7 days for 12 hours like he used to do, but he’s gonna work with Fres every week. He’s gonna work with him for 3 days this week. And of course, (Fres) works with me, and I’m Matt Baiamonte’s protégé. Dino (Spencer) and I have been with Fres for about 6 years, and his brother is also part of the team.
LS: The Klitschko brothers are dominating the heavyweights right now, along with David Haye. They’re good at what they do, yet on a worldwide level, people haven’t embraced them. What do you think it’s going to take to bring the Heavyweight division back to life?
TT: Well, I’ll tell ya. You know, people always say it’s not what it used to be, but there’s still some good fighters out there. What you don’t have is the grind of the 15 rounds that you used to have. You don’t have a Mike Tyson per se, but… I think… I’m not gonna say that the Klitschkos are overrated, but Fres has fought David Tua. Fres has fought James Toney. He’s fought Evander Holyfield. He handles all of them just fine. But it’s a business, so if you wanna talk about fighting in the heavyweight division we could do that, but there’s a business aspect of it, and guys just don’t wanna fight. I think the Klitschkos are great, and so is David Haye. But if you look at who the Klitschkos have fought, you know, Samuel Peter’s kind of been washed up, you know? They fought Albert Sosnowski, who’s really not much of a fighter. Shannon Briggs has had a combined total of 3 rounds and 3 minutes in the last 3 years [sic]. Not quite heavyweight contention. Eddie Chambers is very small. He’s a buffed up cruiserweight. They haven’t really fought anyone of great, great skill or consequence. (Wladimir) is fighting Dereck Chisora, you know. He’s fought a total of 64 pro rounds. Look what happened to Chris Arreola. So I can’t be really that impressed with the Klitschkos because they haven’t gone out there and really proven themselves. You know, they haven’t fought, even though he’s older, James Toney – a fighter with 600 pro rounds. Tomasz Adamek has fought a lot of big guys. He deserves a shot. And with David Haye, he’s a good friend of mine, and I love him, but he’s only gone 12 rounds once in his life, you know? So when we talk about the Klitschkos, I don’t wanna give too much credence to them when there’s guys out there that deserve a shot, and could give them a hard time. Fres Oquendo, as far as fighting anybody anywhere, I think you gotta give him a shot.
LS: A lot of people feel that boxing owes a lot to Manny Pacquiao for rejuvenating the sport. Talk a little bit about the current state of boxing in general.
TT: I think Angelo Dundee, Emanuel Steward and Eddie Futch were the best trainers of all time. I think Freddie Roach is probably the best trainer going on in boxing. Manny Pacquiao, I think, is definitely reaching Muhammad Ali status. I think he’s reaching Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson status. (In the Margarito fight) You saw a junior welterweight beat up on a super middleweight. That’s pretty impressive to me. Oscar never even had a chance with (Pacquiao), and when Oscar fought Floyd, it could have gone either way, but (Pacquiao) demolished Oscar and made him quit. He did what he did to Cotto. He did what he did to Margarito. Clottey, a true welterweight, he just embarrassed by throwing 1000 punches. Manny Pacquiao is the man, and shame on Floyd for not stepping up and doing the right thing, and for making excuses. One week he talks about how he doesn’t care about his legacy, all he cares about is money. The next week he says, ‘Well I care about the legacy. I don’t care about the money’. Overall, I think that MMA is taking over. Boxing’s done a poor job with poor decisions. I love boxing, but MMA does a great job with marketing.
LS: I heard that Oliver McCall praised Fres, and got kind of emotional at the press conference yesterday. Do you feel as though he’s in a weakened emotional state right now? Talk a little bit about what happened.
TT: Well, I think he was having a bad week. I think he speaks from the heart. He believes in God, and he believes in what he does, but he did lose it a little bit emotionally. His trainer had appeared to bail on him for the week. His kid, obviously, I think he was having some problems there. But I think you can’t count out a guy who’s never really been stopped, apart from the whole Lennox Lewis ordeal, but you know, everyone has a bad day. He’s strong. He’s got more experience than just about anybody out there. I think it’s a tough challenge for Fres. We’re gonna do our best, not only to win, but also to be the first maybe to stop Oliver McCall. But make no mistake, this is one tough guy. We are not taking Oliver McCall lightly because he’s a guy you never wanna count out.
LS: Alright. Thanks for talking with me, Tom.
TT: Thank you.