June 28 has been a long time coming for 50 Cent. Ever since launching his boxing company, SMS Promotions, 50 Cent has tried to make the biggest fights for his most well-known commodity, Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa. He’s failed twice at making fights with Top Rank’s Mikey Garcia, as the bouts fell through over purse split squabbles.
Finally, the persistence paid off with the emergence of Terence Crawford, who secured the biggest win of his career in March when he defeated Ricky Burns for the WBO lightweight title. A few years ago, Gamboa would have been a clear favorite. Now with inactivity (two fights in the last two years) and giving up size to a skilled counter-puncher, many are picking Crawford to hand Gamboa his first defeat on Saturday night’s HBO card.
Despite the odds, 50 Cent isn’t worried. In fact, he’s excited. For the G Unit mogul, Gamboa isn’t a fighter he promotes. He is 50’s lethal weapon of choice to legitimize SMS Promotions, and in turn shake up the boxing landscape.
Knockout Nation: So far, this is the biggest fight SMS Promotions’ young history. How have you been dealing with the pressure of such an important fight for your company’s future?
50 Cent: I’m excited even though this isn’t the fight I wanted. I wanted Mikey Garcia and that’s why Gamboa has been out of the ring so long. Twice we went around with that and got the song and dance. Going into this one with Terence Crawford, I think it’ll be very competitive, but Gamboa will clearly come out on top. It comes down to experience. I don’t feel Crawford has the experience to deal with someone with over 400 amateur fights.
Over the last eight months, he’s spent a lot of time preparing for what was going to be the biggest fight of his career against Mikey Garcia. I’ve always been looking for the biggest possible fight for him because he’s ready. Guys avoid losing and even the promoters help them avoid it at different points because they have a financial asset in the fighter. The big imperfection in the sport of boxing is the promotional angle can hide great fighters from the talent that’s out there.
KO Nation: On the music end, you were able to be vocal in calling out artists and executives you had issues with and make it a public debate. Those tactics don’t work so well in boxing. Has it been hard to bite your tongue with the Garcia fight falling through and having to accept a substitute of sorts from Top Rank in Crawford?
50 Cent: Nah, it’s just an adjustment. You know what’s appropriate and inappropriate. The things I’ve said in the music, there’s a place for it. If I chose to attack someone, they’d feel it the next morning because then it becomes a public conversation piece. It might add additional energy to the actual matchup, but I don’t know if it would do much for the fighters.
You have to have guys with the actual talent. They [Crawford’s team] probably think they have an advantage fighting in his hometown. But for Gamboa, he’d have to fight in Cuba for it to be his hometown. It doesn’t matter because he’s always been fighting in someone else’s hometown. That’s not going to help you. All it does is give you all the distractions you could possibly have. All your friends are at the gym and always talking about something other than the fight. This makes a better scenario for us. I was thinking, “Why would they actually agree to this?”
KO Nation: What did you think of Crawford’s win over Ricky Burns?
50 Cent: Hands down he’s a talented fighter. You don’t make it to 23-0 and be a slouch. I watched him switch from right-handed to southpaw at points. The only person who I seen do that as well as Terence Crawford is Andre Dirrell. That’s a skill you have to develop early.
KO Nation: Was it your idea to link Gamboa with Floyd Mayweather Sr.?
50 Cent: I had Floyd Sr. work with him because he has the best defense. That’s where little Floyd got it – his Daddy taught him all that. The habit of Gamboa fighting with his hands down, don’t be surprised if you see him a little more protective than his recent fights.
KO Nation: You just mentioned Andre Dirrell. What is going on with his career?
50 Cent: He won’t be at the July card (Birthday Bash). But soon I’m hopeful to see him move forward with his career. I mean, I want to see something out of him. A lot of times it’s not the promoter’s inability to make a fight. It’s the fighter getting in his own way.
I’ve had to make adjustments. Each fighter requires different treatment. Sometimes you have to deal with the management and other moving parts that put out a different energy where I don’t have to provide it.
Take James Kirkland. He’s consistent coming in as the underdog. When the momentum is there, he’ll chill. Then when he comes back, he’s coming back as a B side of a bigger fight, but he’ll say “gimme more money.” But when you want more, you have a take a bigger fight that has more risk attached for that price tag to have merit.
KO Nation: How would you say the co-promoting experience has been with Top Rank?
50 Cent: I think it’s as good as any relationship can be with a co-promoter. I haven’t had a hard time with them outside the Gamboa-Garcia fight, and obviously that’s a dangerous fight for them.
You know what; I’ll just go out and say it. The reason Floyd has an issue with Bob Arum is that he took chances with him that they didn’t do with other fighters of different ethnicities. They have a targeted audience. The Mexican audience is a very strong audience. So now it was the Mikey Garcia fight can’t happen, but we’ll let Terence Crawford burn at the cross! And we’re gonna get Crawford god damn it and handle this shit! [laughs]
KO Nation: Since Gamboa has already spoken about moving up, what’s the game plan after this fight? Stick around for Garcia talks to resume or move one?
50 Cent: Gamboa doesn’t appreciate idle time – he wants to fight and stay active as much as possible. You build momentum by keeping him out in the general public. I don’t think you do it by picking your spots.
KO Nation: Was there ever a time when Gamboa considered severing ties with you?
50 Cent: To be fair, I think any fighter that’s earned the level of recognition he has would reach a high level of frustration from not being able to get a big fight. Remember the Garcia fallout happened twice. We were given two different dates from the network and still couldn’t make the fight happen.
Let’s keep this in mind about fighters. While we enjoy it, they live it. Their thinking is, “This is a big fight, and I should be paid this amount.” Sometimes, they fight seems bigger in their mind than it actually is. Then it’s my job to bring them back down to the reality of the actual deal.
KO Nation: The line of thinking goes that since SMS is independent, your company is free to work with any network. Up until this point, you’ve worked exclusively with HBO. Is there really an open door policy for you to make fight offers to Showtime like some claim?
50 Cent: The fights get pushed to HBO if you’re not actually connected to Showtime. It’s Showtime and Golden Boy. They’ll tell you they’re open to everything else, but even then your fighter will be fighting someone from Golden Boy on Showtime. That won’t end anytime soon.
They worked hard to put themselves in this position. These guys have been in the background for years planning this. They aren’t going to just let it go. They are going to hold on to the old way of doing business. They will even feel threatened by anything knew.
This is what creates confusion for Floyd [Mayweather]. Now he has no idea what direction to go in.
KO Nation: Was there anything about this training camp that surprised you from Gamboa?
50 Cent: Because his training is so intense, it doesn’t surprise me to see him in dog shape. Normally he hits the weight real quick. This time he did it more naturally and gradually. This will make him feel stronger. Before he’d get down and shoot right back up. He’s spent a lot of time training. The training process is harder than fight night.
KO Nation: Does that imply he just might stick around at lightweight?
50 Cent: I see him wanting to go towards the biggest event. Remember he was going to go down for Garcia. He hasn’t had a problem making weight since I’ve been around him. As Floyd Sr. said early in the training, he has such snap on his punches he can fight at the higher weights. He walks around at 150 pounds – he’s very strong.
KO Nation: With everything you’ve said, does Crawford-Gamboa go the distance?
50 Cent: It depends on if Crawford comes to mix it up or tries to run away from him all night. I can rephrase it to make it sound better [chuckles]. If he goes back to his technical boxing skill…yeah [laughs].
Gamboa vs. Crawford airs live on HBO June 28 at 10 p.m.