By Sylvana Ambrosanio

04/20/13

Octavio Lara, who was one of the most promising kids fighting out of the legendary Kronk Gym, sat down with SylvanaBoxing for an exclusive one on one interview. Octavio lied about his age to get started in the Kronk and at a tender age he started attending training camps with then undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. He talks about his boxing career, relationship with Emanuel Steward, experiences with various world champions, life and much much more. A really deep insight that you will not want to miss!
 

SA: Octavio, thanks for talking to SylvanaBoxing.com today. How are you?

OL: Hey I am good. Just working and enjoying life.

SA: Why don’t we start off with you introducing yourself to our readers?

OL: I am Octavio Lara. I used to box for the legendary Kronk gym and worked with Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward growing up. I was born in Los Angeles, California, in the town of Inglewood. At the age of 4 my family moved here to Detroit and Detroit is where I’ve been raised. We moved here for a better way of life, back then it was more expensive to make a living in Los Angeles and a lot of people were migrating to Detroit. So we followed along.

SA: What got you into boxing in the first place and how did you get involved with the legendary KRONK gym?

OL: What got me interested in boxing was the legendary and my Idol Julio Cesar Chavez. I watched him growing up with my father and grandfather since I was in California. Every time he would fight we had large gatherings of friends and family and I myself would get nervous and get chills right before his fights. His entrances to the ring were nerve wrecking for me. I wanted to have that. I wanted to experience it myself. All the people screaming and chanting as he walked out and as he landed punches on his opponents caught my attention. I first got involved with the Kronk when I was 6. Well actually I went to the gym and when asked about signing up I was turned down because I was too young. At the time the law in Michigan to sign up to a boxing gym was a minimum of 8 yrs old. I was sad because I was turned down, so I waited a year and went back to the gym. I was confident nobody would recognize me and I was right, I lied and said I was 8 and I was still 7. For two years I was 8 years old and I was just happy and excited to just be training and learning.


 


SA: What was your relationship like with the late Emanuel Steward?

OL: My relationship with Emanuel went beyond boxing. He was a friend of the family and he was literally a second father to me.

SA: What has been your most memorable moment with Manny?

OL: I’ve had many memorable moments with Emanuel, it would be hard to pick just one out. He did so much for me in boxing and in life. I think one of the most memorable would be my pro-debut when I fought a guy that many people around were saying I shouldn’t. The guy had a good record and was strong but Emanuel had faith in me and that I could take this guy. We did. I scored a 3rd round TKO in my pro-debut with over 14000 spectators at the Palace of Auburn Hills with me being the main event, something unheard of.

SA: You were one of Steward’s most promising kids. Can you tell us about your good amateur run?

OL: Emanuel had a lot of faith in me. We knew amateur boxing was not suitable for me. He taught me how to box and sit down on my punches and in the amateur ranks it’s a lot of shoe shining as we say. Where you throw many punches and it looks good to the crowd but no power. I was knocking out grown men at the gym at 14-15yrs of age. I didn’t go to many tournaments in amateur boxing but I knocked out and beat a lot of the guys that won national tournaments and were considered top amateurs in the country.

SA: Do you have any favorite moments, or moments that you are very proud of?

OL: One of the moments that I am very proud of is the time we went to a regional tournament and I won the championship. I had to fight 3 days and 2 of those were knockouts which led me to take home a 6ft tall trophy for the ‘Most Outstanding Fighter’ of the tournament. Prior to that in the States Championship, I also had knockouts and had the same award for the tournament.

SA: How has boxing changed you mentally and physically?

OL: Boxing has changed me in so many ways. Mentally, it gave me different perspectives of life. I got to travel a lot and meet many fighters and see the different types of training routines and lifestyles that each fighter carried. What I did different as oppose to another fighter and things like that. Physically it helped me as a kid because I was fat! (laughs) Emanuel used to call me a butterball. With the rigorous training and dieting I lost weight growing up and got into fighting shape.

SA: What main lessons did you take from Emanuel Steward?

OL: Emanuel taught me many things. The most important I took from him is loyalty. Manny had a great big heart and loved to help others and that is something I enjoy doing. He was a true friend and I will forever be thankful to him for it.

SA: Can you tell us about your experience in camps with the champions?

OL: Yes I got to meet so many guys, some great some not so good but you learn from all of them. Some of the champions I met were awesome, we would have good conversations about boxing and life in general. There were a few that were snotty as far as for autographs and such but I will not name them. I respect them as the champions they were. Some of the most down to earth guys I met were Lennox Lewis, Hilmer Kenty, Milton McCrory, Tommy Hearns, my idol Chavez among many more. I’m surprised to say it but Floyd Mayweather was a great guy to meet, he is not like what the media potrays. Roy Jones was also very charismatic and fun to talk to. I even met Joe Frazier. Shannon Briggs was one of the funniest guys around and so was Zab Judah. I met many greats during my period involved with boxing. I got to box with many professionals sometimes I would get the better of them. It was a great experience for me as well.

Octavio with 140lbs Miguel Angel Gonzalez when he was trained by Steward for the De La Hoya fight

SA: 2006 was the last time we have seen you in the ring. With only 9 fights (record 7-2) you retired from the sport that you love. Can you explain to us why and what has made you actually stay out of boxing?

OL: My pro career was run short. I made some mistakes and that changed my career dramatically. I had everything going for me until I was involved in something so stupid and immature. That led to my first lost as a professional by split decision and it was on pay-per-view. I was sad, disappointed in myself and really depressed and frustrated. I felt I let everybody down including myself, my family and Manny. With a record of 3 wins 1 loss and all 3 wins by knockout I left the sport for about 2 years. I was depressed and just didn’t know what to do at the time. I stopped training I wasn’t working or doing anything. I decided to come back and got on a strict diet because I had blown up to about 205lbs. Keep in mind I use to fight at 130lbs prior to my loss. It took some time but after about 6 months I was back down to my fighting weight. I started to fight again and started winning fights. I was on my rode back then I hit another bump on the road. I lost again, another split decision. I wasn’t fighting often, I wasn’t sure why none of us were fighting that often. Team mates started leaving to different gyms and to rival promoters. Some because they were offered more money and others I guess for different scenery. I could not picture myself doing that. I would not see myself under a different banner that is not Kronk. I was upset that a lot of these guys that Manny did so much for just left him like they did. A lot of them did it behind his back. That really pissed me off. When things didn’t go their way they came back to Manny and with the great big heart he had he forgave them and took them back and helped them again. Until some of them left again. To me they were ungrateful and stupid. But I guess what goes around comes around. Even though I stepped away from boxing, Manny and me kept our friendship and we talked frequently about boxing, about life, upcoming fights and predictions. We had a great friendship and I learned a lot from this man. When I was younger I promised him and myself that I would never leave him. If I ever became a champion it would be with him. I had different people approach me and make offers that I wouldn’t take. Emanuel and me never had anything signed but I didn’t need a paper signed with him to make no deal official. Our trust was beyond that and my word with him withstood any money offered by other people. Especially those dirty promoters looking to steal Manny's fighters. All those fighters that took the money I hope had a guilty conscience for doing so. My first coach Mr. Floyd Logan was always in my corner as well. These were the guys that were with me since day one. Also one of the few guys to put time into me and to spar with me when I was a kid was Marlon ‘Troubleman’ Thomas. He would literally get on his knees to box with me because there were not many kids around my age at the time. Marlon pushed me to the most extreme limits every day.

SA: What have you been doing since?

OL: Since then I have been living a normal life, working and enjoying every day as best I can.

SA: Are you still a fan of boxing?

OL: Of course I am and will always be a boxing fan. It’s in me and in my blood. I love watching the fights and keeping up with the up and coming prospects of today.
 

SA: It has been said that the sport of boxing is on the decline - what are your views on this?

OL: Yes I have seen and heard that boxing is on a decline. I think it is as well. I think boxing is becoming more of a business now for promoters. They don’t want their guys to fight certain fighters and you have so many belts for the same weight class it’s ridiculous. Boxing needs to go back to the days where there was 1 belt per weight class and in order to be the champion you actually had to fight the top guys of the division. To be the best you have to beat the best. You can’t call yourself a champion when you haven’t even faced a legitimate top ranked fighter. It’s killing boxing slowly.

SA: There have been several high profile doping offences within the sport recently. Do you feel that there is an underlying problem and do you think that more could be done to make the sport cleaner and fairer?

OL: I think doping is also killing boxing. I believe every professional fighter should be tested randomly whether you’re training for a fight or not. This is a brutal sport and we have to look out for the safety of the fighters by doing what we can to eliminate cheating. I think the penalties should be more severe to make a fighter think twice about cheating. There should be higher fines and a fighter should be banned from boxing for repeated offenses. If they love the sport so much they will not want to be banned for cheating. It should be unacceptable. This is a men's sport where you dual it out with your two fists and see who is a better fighter.

SA: Do you feel that people tend to overrate boxers too quickly these days?

OL: Yes I see many fighters that haven’t proved anything and get talked about like they are all time greats already. Boxing does not have many stars right now and that’s why the fans and media are so desperate for jumping onto a fighter’s bandwagon and overrating them. You also have these promoters that just want to make money so they push for some of these unproven fighters to get more promotion and be something they are not yet.

SA: Any boxers you think that are under or over rated at the moment?

OL: I see a lot of cases right now. I think Canelo is one of the most known. He is good and has talent but he hasn’t proved it yet. He has not fought anybody worth mentioning and your career cannot be defined as beating up on 40 year olds like Sugar Shane or overblown in weight guys like Lopez. I think Trout will be a good test and I’m leaning towards Trout pulling an upset. Canelo has fought many guys tailored made for his style and Trout will not be a stationery target. I think it’s a good match-up and a start in the right direction for Canelo.


SA: There are some up and coming boxers coming out of the Kronk Gym. Leandre Blue White, Anthony Barnes and Joseph Bonas are just three – what can you tell our readers about the rising stars?

OL: I like these guys. They train hard and are hungry. They have good discipline and are willing to fight anybody. These guys are talented and have a good head on their shoulders. Its more fighters like these guys that we need in boxing to be what it was back in the past years. I had the opportunity to spar with both Bonas brothers and Blue when they were younger and these are great guys. Barnes I’ve watched train and this guy always puts 110% into his training every day. I look forward to seeing these guys make it.

SA: What upcoming fights are you looking forward to? Your predictions?

OL: Canelo Vs Trout for one. As I said before, I think Trout might pull the upset but it’s a step forward for Canelo. A loss means nothing. Any fight that has Rios in it I love to watch. This guy loves to fight and lets everything in the ring. I also want to see the rematch with Chavez – Martinez. I think the first fight was good even though Chavez got out boxed the whole fight, but I think he can do more. I think with the loss, Chavez had a reality check and his mind right now should be more in boxing. I think he started believing all the hype and started to think he was untouchable. I want to see what this kid has and I don’t like the comparisons with his father. I think it’s a mistake. Different styles, different eras and just not the same all around. This kid will make his own name and I think he needs to go back to his roots. I don’t think the move switching to Roach was good. He’s not that type of fighter that Freddy wanted him to be.

SA: How did your family feel when you were fighting?

OL: My family was very supportive with my boxing. They always went to my fights and my dad was with me during my trainings and would always take me to get my running for the day. Even as I got older he would be on top of my training and my dieting.

SA: How do you feel now that you have retired from boxing?

OL: I feel good. I feel that I learned a lot and got to see many things people would normally not see. I got to travel a lot and see many big cities and countries. They are unforgettable memories that I will forever cherish.

SA: How does your life look now that you have retired, and what role does boxing still play in your life?

I think boxing has played an enormous role in my life. It gave me a different perspective on life and the choices you have. If not for boxing I think I would have ended up in jail or somewhere else not worth it. There weren’t many things for me to do growing up and boxing was a second home to me. I went to the gym every day since I was 7 years old. I was one of the few boxers to never miss going to the gym. Sick or not you would see me at the gym even if it was a light workout.

SA: If you had to pick an all-time favorite boxer and a favorite current boxer, who would they be?

OL: I think all-time favorite will always be for me Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Sugar Ray Robinson. As far as for the fighters now I really like JM Marquez and Brandon Rios.

SA: Are there any fights you would like to see?

I would really like to see Chavez Jr and Canelo get it on one day. I would pick Chavez Jr. to beat Canelo, just based off power, pressure and endurance. Besides the Chavez Jr. and Canelo fight, I would like to see Adrien Broner and Brandon Rios. I think Broner is good and talented and Rios would give him a run for his money and really test this kid. Rios would have a great chance to take him.

SA: Do you have a message to our readers?

OL: Yes, my message is to try whatever you want to do in life. You have to try. Even if you don’t make it but at least you tried. I’m a big believer in God and I think everything happens for a reason. If things don’t work out how you planned them you can still learn from your experiences and put that towards your life elsewhere. I enjoyed taking this time out for these questions. It’s really great to let people in and see what goes on with fighters and ex-fighters.