By Sylvana Ambrosanio



SylvanaBoxing got a chance to visit former IBF lightweight champion Jimmy Paul (33-6-0) at his new gym Hands on Boxing in Detroit. In this interview, Paul, whose pro career spanned from 1980 to 1999, talks about his past and life after boxing.


SA: Jimmy, thanks for having us at your new gym today. How would you describe in your own words your journey in the world of boxing?
JP: When I was in class there was this boy who bullied everyone and beat up all the kids. One day he came around and hit me on my leg, and hit me again. I laughed at him, and told him to not do it again. When this guy, who was way bigger than me, thought I was joking then I just lost it and gave him a whooping. Unfortunately, they put me out of school for that day. My father asked me what happened when I came home from school. He couldn’t believe it because he thought I was the person who got ass whoppings. The next day after class I followed him to the gym. I had to beg the coach to let me fight this guy. I mean he was way bigger than me, it was a total mismatch and, of course, he had experience. I didn't care and wanted to fight him so I kept telling the coach to put me in there because I really didn't care - I just wanted to fight him. The coach thought I was crazy! Eventually he put me in and although it was a mismatch he was so amazed by the way I had fought. He saw that I got a big heart, and fought hard with that guy. About two weeks later I was already fighting in a tournament. I went out there, and I won it. I was just training for like two weeks while the other guy who has been fighting for two years had lost the tournament. After this tournament, the coach started to work with me, picked me up and brought me to the gym every day. We started fighting against the Kronk fighters. Next thing I knew he said that Emanuel Steward would take care of us, and a new journey had begun for me. Then next thing I know Emanuel started taking us all over the place. All the tournaments in Mississippi, Hawaii, all kind of places and I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good thing and I just couldn’t refuse. At the same time it let me become a real man. You got to be disciplined, eat, sleep right, you got to train hard. If anything is missing then it just won’t work out right. It’s like a job and way more fun if you love boxing. That’s what I truly love and what kept me motivated. I was the number one amateur in the country trying to make it to the Olympic team but then this other guy caught it. You can only imagine how sick I was about it. The number two guy that I had been knocking out in the gym would go, so I knew I was going to make the Olympic team but anyway, after that we decided it was best for me to turn pro. In 1980 I had my professional debut. I had 17 straight knock outs and then it was time for a title shot.
SA: Tell us more about your relationship with the Kronk Gym and life after your boxing career.
JP: You know, first I didn't have a relationship with Kronk because we used to fight against them but then the coach said Emanuel would treat us pretty decent, so we got used to it and I became a Kronk fighter. Everyone would fear us. You got a Kronk shirt on, people all over the world would fear us when they saw us and got nervous. I can say we kind of were running this game. We went to tournaments and we probably got like 6, 7 fighters in the finals from 11 fights in 12 weight classes. Kronk became a household name worldwide. When we turned pro it still remained the same, it blew up to 40 something, almost 50 world champions. Now tell me, I never have seen any boxing organization that is close to what Kronk has achieved. It’s a big accomplishment.
Now life after my boxing career is a little different. I want to put something back into the game, and help other kids that have the same dream I had once upon a time. I think I have the skills. I am smart and have the technique to be a trainer and make world champions out of them.
SA: How does boxing influence your life?
JP: Well, like I said, I want to do whatever I can and pretty much develop from here. We have a lot of drug testing here. A lot of them do all kind of stuff and we want them together, and to help. Besides that, I am opening my own gym. I expect a lot. I expect that we should be able to develop some amateur and pro world champions. We have a female fighter who is an amateur world champion and will go to the Olympics in two years. She’s a very good boxer, so we have her to look forward to and maybe we have four, five other guys that I think will go all the way.
SA: Any goals, advise or wise words to anyone who is trying to make it in the game?
JP: Just stay dedicated. I know the economy is not the greatest currently but if you stay focused, be disciplined and work with the little you have then you will go far. I am sure we will pretty much be like a father or mentor so I think that's a good thing overall. Best thing you can do is to stay focused. Sooner or later we will bring the best out of you, the best you already got in you. We will help you make money. I won’t say anybody can be a world champion. I mean some guys are gifted and some are not, or the situation may just be better or different. If I see someone that I think doesn't have the potential but maybe fight beyond it, I will always be straight and tell how it is. I will at least let him know what I think, and maybe he can at least make some money or go all the way.
Let me tell you, I had a real good upbringing. My father is a preacher and I respect him. I have him on the same level as Martin Luther King. Even in church I don’t see him get the money, he works and gets his own. Whenever he preaches, he tells everyone to do whatever they want to do with the money because he is just there to preach God’s words. So when I was around him and hear him talk, it made me look at him in another way, and it’s very great to have. So if you ask me, I will be honest, you have to have love for the sport.
Back in high school, I had a poster from my art class that I made. I wrote on it that I will become a world champion, including the weight class. Believe it or not, I still have it. Five, six years later I became a world champion in the weight class I put on my poster. So then I knew I had accomplished my goal, and was very pleased!

SA: Jimmy, thanks for taking the time to talk to 8CountNews. We wish you all the best.
JP: Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure. Stay tuned.