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, March 27, 2004

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Interview With Jr. Middleweight Spoiler Grady Brewer



Talk to Grady Brewer and what you find is a fighter who believes in himself completely, no matter what others may think of the jr. middleweight or his 16-8 (11 KOs) record. The 33-year-old from Lawton, Oklahoma doesn’t get a fair shake compared to the more pampered combatants he's faced: he holds down a full-time job for Goodyear, has taken many fights on a couple days notice and has suffered several breaks to his right hand due to poor wrap jobs from inexperienced handlers.  He is currently without a trainer, manager or promoter—seems like he'd be grateful just to have a pal carry his spit-bucket.  Yet he'll tell anyone who'll listen, “When I'm coming up against someone that thinks they're better than me, I know that they're not. I believe I can beat anyone at 154 they put in front of me.“
From early on in his career, Brewer has been designated as the opponent.  As such, he has earned the status of “trial horse,“ a game pug who has tested promising prospects like Jermain Taylor, Kelly Pavlik, Peter Manfredo Jr., and fringe contenders like Carlos Bojorquez and Danny Perez.  Performing his role favorably, the boxing industry counts on tough guys like Brewer to challenge but lose to fighters going to higher places.  However, lately, Brewer has become . . . undependable in his role.  No longer content playing trial-horse, he has opted for the part of SPOILER.  The first sign of this came on Jan. 16 when he won a majority decision against 16-0 Miguel Martin. Then on Feb. 28, at the MGM Grand, in a non-televised bout on HBO's Morales-Chavez card, Brewer made it official: he starched prospect Anthony Thompson in the 3rd round.  A quick-handed Philadelphian with a 15-0 record and Top Rank in his corner, Thompson has been proclaimed by many as the future of the jr. middleweight division.  
When news of the upset came across the wire, even hard-core boxing fans were left scratching their heads as to who Grady Brewer was.  A quick search on reveals the impressive level of competition Brewer has met.  It left me wondering about Brewer and those of his ilk.  What if he had been matched a little softer, given the proper training and support, would he now be 24-0 or something close to it?  Or, provided a boxer can survive the psychological toll of all those defeats against stiff competition, is he be a better fighter for it?  (Saoul Mamby, who suffered 12 losses before he became the WBC light welterweight champ in ‘77, thinks so.)  What I really want to know is, given the chance, will Brewer produce more big upsets in the future?
ZL: Tell me a bit about your background in boxing.  You got started pretty late?
GB: I got started when I was 28.  They didn't have a boxing gym here—a professional gym—until two years previous to that.  I didn't know nothing about it until—
ZL: You didn't have an amateur career?
GB: Yeah, well, I did.  They stopped the amateur thing they had here when I was I about 20 years old.
ZL: What kind of amateur were you?
GB: Open.
ZL: I mean, how successful were you?
GB: Well, I had about 50 fights and I probably lost about 6.  I won the Oklahoma Golden Gloves at 125.
ZL: And did you consider going pro at that time?
GB: Yeah, I would've loved to.  But I didn't know where to turn…so at the time I just put it to the side and didn't really think no more about it, until a guy named Gill Pelletier came down here and opened up a gym.  And once he opened up the gym, I got involved in that.
ZL: Did you have any goals in boxing then beyond getting in shape?
GB: Yeah, well, sort of…I got started back into it by tough man contests they had here.  I had won, like, seven out of eight of those.  So that kind of got me back involved in it, too.
ZL: How were you supporting yourself before the pro career began?
GB: Well, I had different jobs all over. Now I'm pretty settled with a job at the Goodyear Tire Company.  I've been there a year and a half.  I do a job called ‘press tending.'  I walk about 17 miles during a 12-hour shift. I walk around a press row loading tires into a machine.   
ZL: The kind of purses you're getting now, it's enough to supplement your income but not exactly quit-your-day-job money . . .?
GB: Exactly.
ZL: So Gil Pelletier got you started back boxing, you won those tough man contests, and you just declared yourself pro?
GB: Not immediately. About year or so after my last tough man contest, they put on a pro show here in Lawton .  
ZL: I understand you've broken your right hand several times.  What happened?
GB: Well, I broke my right hand at least three times in my professional career.  I broke my right hand in three fights.
ZL: Do you have bad hands, or do you think they were wrapped poorly?
GB: They was wrapped poorly, and that's some of the reason I wanted to get rid of the coach that I had, Gill Pelletier. Cause I felt that he was new in the game, just as well as me being new in the game, as far as professional.  He was using me as a stepping stone and I was using him as a stepping stone.  It wasn't working right. So I felt I'd be better off with myself instead of sharing my money with him.
ZL: So Gil was serving as your trainer/manager?
GB: Exactly.  And the manager part was nothing.  Basically, he just waited to see if someone called, or whatever, and then take the fight on shorthand notice.  The beginning of my career was kind of rocky.
ZL: Gil didn't have any background in the pro game?
GB: No, none at all.
ZL: Was it a tough break, was there a lot of animosity?
GB: Yeah, I lost the three fights I broke my hand in.
ZL: What I meant was, when you decided to go your own way, was there a lot of resentment?
GB: Yes.  He didn't like the idea of me leaving.  Then again, he kind of thought my career was over because I broke my hand for the third time.  I've been on my own for my last two pro fights. 
ZL: Before we discuss your hand, I wanted to know if you've since found a new trainer with experience in the pro game?
GB: No, I sure haven't.  I've never worked with a pro-style trainer.  
ZL: Did you at least receive good training as an amateur?
BG: I feel I was well-schooled and well-developed into a good boxer.
ZL: So which fights did you break your hand in?
GB: I first broke my right hand against a guy out of St. Louis named Stuart Beath (GB's 3rd fight).  For three fights after that I fought when it was still broken, because I thought it was just sprung.  I had to have surgery and take a lay-off to let it heal.  Then I broke it against Carlos Bojorquez (GB's 19th fight).  My hand was improperly wrapped—again!  The same thing happened the last time I broke it against Jose Luis Zertuche (GB's 22nd fight).  
ZL: You were thrown in against some tough competition from early on.  Kelly Pavlik to name one.  You lost by TKO in the 2nd round.  Was that a tough one?
GB: Well, that fight right there progressed by me getting called on Tuesday and taking the fight on Friday.  At the time they called, they knew I probably wasn't training because that's how a lot those guys do it.  They call around and take a look at the fight schedule and see the last time a guy fought.  Being early in my career I wasn't really aware of that.  So I took the fight, not knowing really what I'm up against…
ZL: Talk to me about your fight with Jermain Taylor.  Did you take that one on short notice?
GB: No, I took that one on about 4 or 5 weeks notice.  I had time to train.  I got in really good shape.  It was closer than they made it out to be.
[Taylor was awarded a unanimous decision for this 8-round bout. Having watched the fight on tape, Brewer was aggressive and competitive for the first 6 rounds, until his left eye began to close from Taylor's stiff jab and fatigue set in.  As with the 6'3'' Pavlik, Taylor is a substantial middleweight, whereas Brewer is a genuine junior middleweight.]
ZL: You can take solace in that Taylor is proclaimed as the next Bernard Hopkins, the future of the middleweight division.  You hung tough with him.
GB: Yeah, I did.  And I feel I can still take him.  I feel I can take him better now than I could then.  I took that fight not really knowing a lot about him.
ZL: So when you were taking these fights, were you doing a lot of the negotiating or was your manager?
GB: The only one I negotiated on was the Jermain Taylor fight.  They called and offered me about $6 or $7 thousand, and I told them I would fight for 10K.  And they went up a little more, and they went up a little more.  They finally went to 10K and I said I would take it.
ZL: What do you recall from your fight against Bojorquez?  He's a very tough fighter, huh?
GB: Yeah, he is.  He was top 10 at the time.   I dropped him in the first round.  I broke my hand around the 5th.  I beat him pretty much about every round.  He ended up catching me with a shot in the 11th round and I went down.
ZL: You didn't have any tape of yourself when I asked you if you had any I could see.  Do you watch tape of the prospects and contenders you've faced?
GB: I haven't done that but I'm looking forward to doing that in the future.
ZL: How would you describe your fighting style to someone who hasn't seen you?
GB: Lately, I've been a brawler.  But now I'm trying to work on my boxing skills.  I know I can box.  I'm looking forward to being more of a boxer now.  It's hard to say if it's something I can turn around and do.
ZL: How do you negotiate your training schedule with working full-time? Do you do your running before work?
GB:  I haven't really got it locked down yet as far as how I'm gonna do it.  Because after this last fight I had with Anthony Thompson, I know I'm going to have to get down a workout schedule.  I'm planning on running before work or even after work on a daily basis.  Going into the Thompson fight, I was running everyday, I was training everyday.  It was hard but I was able to endure it.  I'm kind of waiting on getting a scheduled fight, so then I could go ahead and start back up.
ZL: When you don't have a fight scheduled, are you still in the gym?
GB: I'm in the gym…I'm trying to stay focused. Before I wasn't.  But now I'm keeping boxing on my mind, not letting it leave my mind as far as what I need to do to get better and progress.
ZL: So how has your life changed since knocking out Anthony Thompson?
GB: It really hasn't changed much, like I thought it would.  [Lou DiBella's matchmaker] called me for a big money fight—well, a pretty big money fight, $7,000—against an undefeated guy from New York, Sechew Powell.
ZL: But you decided not to take that fight, right?
GB: I feel I could go in there and take him out.  But I had heard a lot of bad things about fighting in New York, how they rob fighters on decision fights.  I didn't want to take a chance of going down there and fighting a good fighter like Powell, and not get treated fairly.  Going in as an opponent already…I didn't like those odds.
ZL: You felt that if the fight went to a decision, it wouldn't go your way.
GB: Exactly. And I didn't want to take no chances on that.
ZL: Are you looking for a promoter?  
GB: Well, Lou DiBella's guy told me that if I had beat Sechew Powell, they would've offered me a small contract.  But it really wasn't appealing what they was offering me.  I make more than that on my job.
ZL: Is it tough making a go at a pro career from Lawton, Oklahoma?  What's the boxing seen like there?
GB: There's no boxing going on right here where I live.  And that's why I'm thinking I get a lot of calls.  Because they think they're taking on a guy who doesn't know anything, that's got a record with 8 losses.  But they don't know anything about my history and my boxing.  They don't know how close these fights was before I lost.  It's an advantage I have—it gets me fights. But it's also a disadvantage because it cost me money.  It hurts my pockets.
ZL: Do you like being in that position, as the opponent? 
GB: You know, I'm so used to it.  I started off my career as an opponent, and I've been an opponent ever since.  In all of my fights I've been an opponent.
ZL: Are there things in your life, in your background, that have prepared you for this?  A lot of guys aren't comfortable in that role, it's not a part they could play.
GB: When I'm coming up against someone that thinks they're better than me, I know that they're not.  If I've seen him fight on TV or whatever, I just know what I can do.  And I just go in with what I got, and match it against what he got.  It's just something in me that knows I can do it if I put my mind to it.  It really is true that people can do what they want to do.  I believe that if I put in the effort and work 100% toward it, I can get what I want.  And that's a championship belt. 
ZL: Do you think because you have to do things the hard way, have to be independent—even now you're training on your own—that it's made you a stronger person?
GB: Yeah, well, I guess you could say that.  When I was growing up my mom was on drugs and my dad was an alcoholic.  It was pretty difficult to deal with at times.  I had to take care of myself, and I had a little sister that I had to watch out for.  Later in my high school years things started clearing up and getting a lot better.  [My parents] are great now.  But we went through a lot of trials.
ZL: You seem to have a lot of confidence.  Is it mainly when it comes to fighting, or any sport or game? 
GB: I played basketball and was pretty good.  I had a four-year scholarship offer.  But I didn't take them up on that because I had a little boy and had a girl pregnant.
ZL: Is your son involved in your life now?
BG: Yeah, he's here.  He's in my life.  I've also got another boy and a girl.
ZL: How do they feel about your boxing?
GB: They like it, they enjoy it.
ZL:  When you had the big upset against Anthony Thompson, did people in your hometown know what was going on?  Do you have a big supporting cast in Lawton?
GB: As far as the people I work with and my family members, I mean, they was all excited about it.  They don't really know the caliber fighter Anthony Thompson was.  They don't know how big he was, only people following boxing understand that.
ZL: And I guess you didn't go around telling folks.  You seem like you keep a low profile.
GB: Well, I do.  But I let a lot of people know that I was going into the fight.  I thought maybe it was going to be on TV and I wanted people to watch it.  Because I really felt that I was going to win it.
ZL: Anthony Thompson is promoted by Top Rank.  Why do you think they chose you for him?  Maybe they thought you'd give him a test, but they expected their man to win? 
GB: Well, probably the losses, as I was saying before.  They had wanted to fight me at one point, but they didn't.  They backed out cause Thompson was 147 at that time, and they figured I was too big at 154.  Plus, I had fought at 160 a couple of times.
ZL: What's next for Grady Brewer?
GB: They're going to have a show here in Lawton on the 17th of next month.  And I'm going to be the main even on that show.  There's a lot of shows they're going to have here in Oklahoma, and I've pretty much been guaranteed to be in a lot of the them.  So I'll probably go that route.
ZL: So for the first time you're going to be the featured guy and not that opponent.  That's gotta be nice.
GB: Exactly.
ZL: Do you know anything about the guys you will be fighting?
GB: No I don't.  But none of these guys should be a big threat to me.




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