The Church St Gym in Manhattan, downtown, is a “boxers gym,” as a fight guy put it to me today as fighters appearing on the Saturday Barclays card gathered to work out and fire some responses to media questions.
I had never been there before, at this converted racquetball courty, of moderate size and more than respectable atmosphere.
I chatted with Irishman Carl Frampton, seeking to climb a weight division and take down volume puncher Leo Santa Cruz in a 126 tango, which will top a Showtime slate.
I chatted with the event promoter, Lou Dibella, who swore that this is the best top to bottom Barclays card that has been put together and I didn't disagree.
I shot the shit with vets Paul Malignaggi and Gabe Bracero, Brooklyners who used to carpool back in the days when Paulie didn't have a beater, let alone a fleet of sweet rides which his skills have earned; they clash in a crossroads tangle which is seen as the main event of many ticket buyers.
We taped an edition of my podcast, TALKBOX, powered by Everlast, and had a ball. Here is a release which went out with quotes galore:
BROOKLYN (July 27, 2016) – Undefeated featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz and undefeated former unified 122-pound world champion, Irish star Carl Frampton, were joined by undercard fighters in Manhattan at Church Street Boxing Wednesday for the final media workout before Saturday's SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING tripleheader live from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Televised coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on SHOWTIME following fights on SHOWTIME EXTREME that begin at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Tickets for the live event, which is presented by Premier Boxing Champions and promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Cyclone Promotions, start at $38 and can be purchased online by visiting www.ticketmaster.com, www.barclayscenter.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Tickets are also available at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. Group discounts are available by calling 844-BKLYN-GP.
In attendance Wednesday and fighting on SHOWTIME wereundefeated two-division world champion Mikey Garcia and former world champion Elio Rojas, who meet in a 10-round super lightweight bout, plus super welterweights Tony Harrison and Sergey Rabchenko, who meet in a world title eliminator.
Also working out at Church Street Boxing were the main event boxers on SHOWTIME EXTREME, Brooklyn natives Paulie Malignaggi and Gabriel Bracero.
Here is what the fighters had to say Wednesday:
LEO SANTA CRUZ
“I'm ready to come here and give a great fight. I want to make it a war. Carl Frampton is a great fighter and he makes for an interesting fight. I'm excited to perform in front of the fans.
“Carl is an undefeated fighter just like myself, so we're both going to be hungry. We're going to leave it all in the ring. Neither of us wants to lose and we're going to give it our all.
“My dad is going to be in my corner and that's very important to me. We're both excited to give the fans a great show. It's a great relief to have him here and for many more years.
“I think that this is the perfect time for this fight. We're both undefeated and in the prime of our careers. It's an easy fight to make and a really big fight that the fans will love.
“I don't think moving up in weight will affect Carl at all. He's got a big frame and he's a big guy. He is probably a little bit bigger than me. I know he had problems making 122 pounds, but this should be easier for him.
“I think he's going to move and I'm going to have to be smart and not get caught. If I'm not feeling his punches, then we're going to stand in front of him and exchange. I can also box with him if I need.
“I know I'll have to use my jab and follow up with the right. We have a game plan and backup plans. We'll be ready for anything.
“I think our styles are both very exciting. I can't wait for Saturday night. This is the right fight. I'm hoping that both of us come forward and give the fans a show.
“People think Frampton is the underdog because he's moving up in weight. But I moved up in weight too. I never take an opponent lightly. I'm going to come really hungry. I respect every fighter and I train for my opponent to be at his best.
“I have a lot of respect for Frampton. He has everything you need to be a great fighter. Excellent footwork, great power and good punches. Once he's in the ring with me, I'm fighting for my future.
“This could definitely be a career-defining fight. I think getting a win over Carl Frampton will get me to the next level. I think the winner of the fight will be considered one of the best fighters in the world.”
JOSE SANTA CRUZ, Leo's Father & Trainer
“I'm really happy to be here. I've been at all of Leo's fights and it's great to be at this one. This is just another reason to be happy. I'm so thrilled for Leo that he has this opportunity and to be here for him.
“I know Frampton is undefeated, but Leo comes very prepared. He has worked hard in camp, like he always does. Hopefully both fighters give the fans a good fight on fight night.”
“It's getting big this week. It's real. I'm completely up for it. I'm excited to bring a big crowd over here and I'm going to do everything I can to have my hand raised.
“This is a dream of mine. To come to America and box is something I've always wanted to do. Barclays Center is taking over as the best venue in New York and I'm going to look to put on a world-class performance. It will take my best to get this victory.
“Obviously I have enough motivation on my own, but it would be nice to bring back the title that Barry (McGuigan) once owned. It feels a bit like destiny for me. It's my turn to win it back for him. I'm doing this for my whole team. I'm doing this for my family and I'm doing this for my entire country.
“I've dealt with fighting bigger guys throughout my whole career. I'm used to it. I've fought bigger guys than Santa Cruz. I think on fight night I'm going to be stronger. People forget that he started his career at bantamweight while I fought as a featherweight in the amateurs. On the night, I'll be the bigger man and that will be the difference.
“Leo seems like a nice guy and he's very respectful. I've been respectful to him. He's obviously a very good fighter. This is a world title fight, so I don't think we need any extra words between the two of us. We're both undefeated and we're looking for a war.
“The last time I was an underdog was 2009 during the Irish championships. I was a massive underdog and everyone who knew me won a lot of money that night.
“Leo is a great fighter. He's world class. Easily the toughest opponent that I've faced so far. But I think I'm Leo's best opponent as well. I think this has all the ingredients to be a top quality fight. I've had a hard training camp and I'm ready to leave everything in the ring.
“I've got a game plan. I'm not going to blink. We're hoping that ‘game plan A' will work, but if not, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve.
“All the pressure is on Santa Cruz. Everyone is expecting him to win. I'm going to come in there and upset him. I'm here to put on a great performance and bring the belt back home.
“I've gotten a good reception since coming to America and I think it will only grow on fight night. People will appreciate my style and I think our styles will gel well in the ring.
“I'm feeling strong mentally and physically. I feel like my stamina level has increased with the new weight. I'm eating well and enjoying myself.
BARRY MCGUIGAN, Frampton's Manager, Former World Champion & Hall of Famer
“Being here is great. I never got a chance to fight here in New York. I've always known that Frampton would be a sensation over here. We've always wanted to be here on the east coast. We've worked very hard with the Irish community to get his name out there. It's been fantastic.
“This is a can't miss fight. It can't be a bad fight, no matter how you look at it. It's going to be an exciting fight. It might start off tepid, but it's going to develop into a phenomenal fight. The mesh of styles is going to make this a Fight of the Year candidate.
“It was a wonderful experience being at the Empire State Building yesterday and it was our first opportunity to meet the Santa Cruz family. They're wonderful people and Leo is an incredible fighter. He's not arrogant and he's the sort of guy that everybody likes. We admire Santa Cruz, but we believe that Carl is going to put on an amazing performance Saturday night.
“What's important is winning on Saturday night. We put so much time and commitment to this game. You don't want to do all that work and lose. Getting the win is vital.”
“I don't feel any pressure at all. To me, it's just another day at the office. I have faith in my abilities and confidence in what I can do as a boxer. I'm excited to be back. I'm going to go in there and take care of business like I always do.
“The New York fans have always showed me a lot of love and support. No matter what, they're in for a good boxing match. The fans are great and they want a great fight. I never look to make a boring fight. I always want to put on a show. I want to give the fans something to talk about.
“I'm more motivated than I ever have been before. It's been a long time of working hard in the gym every day.
“I'm very happy to be back and I want to accomplish a lot more. I think you're going to see a better Mikey on Saturday. My will to win is higher than it's ever been.
“Being on a card like this is a reminder of everything that I can be. If there is interest in me right now, it shows that someone believes in me. We put everything else aside and focused on this date. After that, I'm looking for a world title.”
ROBERT GARCIA, Mikey's Brother & Trainer
“I think that Mikey is going to put on a great performance. Anything could happen in boxing. Mikey should look good and he should win convincingly.
“I think the interest that people have in Mikey's future shows how much potential he has. He's a guy who could be a big name to help carry the sport.
“We haven't been listening to anything outside of the camp. We stopped any conversations outside of training to get 100 percent focused on this fight. We're looking to come back stronger than ever.”
“We're both coming off of long layoffs. I see the fight pretty even. Garcia might have some advantages of being the bigger guy but I'm not worried about that.
“The new weight feels good. It's different but it's nice to not have to kill the body to make weight. We've been on weight for two weeks. I've brought some power with me as I go up in weight. I feel strong.
“I've been doing everything right in training camp. My specialty is moving my hands and excellent footwork.
“I feel like I can beat Mikey Garcia. I have some things that I think will give Mikey Garcia a lot of trouble. I have the tools. We know that Mikey is the favorite. Everyone thought LeBron James was going to lose in the Finals when he was down 3-1, but this is a sport and anything can happen.”
“I take this sport seriously. Everything I do, I do 100 percent. I'm here for the city of Detroit. The city needs something to rejuvenate and that's what I'm trying to do. I want to bring big-time boxing back to Detroit.
“This is going to be a fan-friendly fight. This is going to be like Thurman vs. Porter. The styles are just perfect for this fight. I'm going to be at my best on fight night.
“Being here in New York is great. I can tell right away that it's a great fight atmosphere and I love it.
“It was a very long camp. I'm in great shape and ready mentally. I have a lot to prove in this fight and I'm excited to get in there.
“I watched a 15-second clip of him and then I shut the video off. I don't want to make adjustments off of him, I want him to adjust to me. I know that he's a tough competitor. You can't take anything away from his record.
“I'm taking it one fight at a time. I just want to get the respect that I deserve. That's what I'm coming for. They call me for a fight and I say yes.
“I think I'm at my best right now. I'm starting to peak. I'm starting to find my grown-man strength and my second wind in the ring. When I'm going in late rounds I feel comfortable.
“Whoever wants to fight; they know I'm going to say yes. I just want to compete. I'm fighting for my city and I want to see where I'm at. I'm ready to carry the load for Detroit boxing. I wouldn't want to be from anywhere else.
“My team is definitely the strongest it's ever been. I'm in a really good place mentally right now. I think I'm going to show a whole new level on Saturday night.”
“It's the most important fight of my life. I think it's a very interesting fight, with it being my first time in America. I've enjoyed it a lot so far. New York never sleeps. There are always many different kinds of people. It's a nice city.
“Having Ricky Hatton as my trainer helps me because of his great experience. He's been in many big fights and he's a great trainer. I'm very comfortable working with him.
“I am aiming for a knockout, but I'm ready for 12 rounds. It's boxing though, so anything can happen. It could be over very quickly.
“This is a big chance in my life. It's a big step and I'm ready to take advantage of it.”
RICKY HATTON, Rabchenko's Trainer
“This isn't exactly like fighting, but I do get very nervous and tense in the corner. I've fulfilled my dreams and now I'm here trying to help other fighters fulfill their dreams. I get nervous but I'm confident in him.
“Sergey has been a pleasure to train. I think he's going to be a world champion. I really do. He's been a European Champion and he's overcome his loss. I think this is the best he's ever been. We'll hope that it translates to Saturday night because he certainly has the potential to be a world champion.
“I can't train fighters that I'm not fond of. I've known Sergey for a number of years and I'm here for him. I have a feel for being in the corner with him. There is a different type of nerves I have being in the corner.”
“I hope the crowd enjoys this fight. I really want to put on a show for the local fans and represent for my home.
“It would normally be strange to fight a guy I know so well. But I know he's a competitor. I've known his mentality since the amateurs. He's coming to win. Once the bell rings, this guy isn't taking any prisoners. I trained with that same mentality.
“I know we're both competitors. Who wants the bragging rights on Saturday night?
“Hopefully we can bring some fans of ours to the building on Saturday night and they can become fans of Santa Cruz and Frampton.
“This is a great crossroads fight. I trained for the competitor that I know he is and I'm ready to put on a show.
“This fight gives me an opportunity to keep dreaming in that ring. I have an opportunity to do some things that people don't think I'm able to, but I feel like I still can. I'm going to put my skills to good use and accomplish what I'm set out to do.
“It's not about impressing myself, it's about getting the job done to the best of my abilities. I want to prove to people that I still have more left than they think.”
“This is all business. Paulie is a friend now and he'll be a friend after. But I'm trying to make it to Paulie's level. He is successful and I'm trying to do the same thing. Boxing is my outlet to reach those goals.
“There was a time when I was away in prison. I would receive boxing magazines in the mail and see Paulie there and on TV. I wanted to be Paulie's competition and have his success. By him giving me this opportunity I can accomplish that. I'm thankful but I'm taking him down.
“I don't want to sound overconfident. You're going to see a chess match. Paulie is a boxer. When he makes a mistake, I'm going to capitalize on it. The rest will be a surprise.
“This is the biggest fight of my career. If I beat Paulie, my career will jump to the next level. I can get the big fights that I'm looking for. I'm never looking past Paulie and I'm focused on the task at hand.”