An Irishman in New York

07 October 2009 – By John Knox

I dropped by Gleasons last week to see how James Moore is faring in his quest for boxing glory. He comes across as a personable, down-to-earth bloke with a great memory for every detail of his career (amateur and pro). His easygoing manner and unmarked face do not fit the stereotype of a hardened pug with a knack of dispatching the opposition before the final bell. But then stereotyping never does tell the real story, which is what I wanted.

So, among the usual background gym noise of grunts, thuds and whirring ropes, as well as the more unusual sight of two female world champions sparring a few metres away (only in Gleasons), Moore filled me in on the latest.

Q: Where would you like to see your career going over the next one or two years?

A: “Im thinking of going up to middleweight. Ive been struggling for the past year at junior middleweight so I think Ill move up now and see what happens from there.”

Q: What is your ideal fight now?

A: “Chavez (junior) would be a good one. Hes 40 and 0 with 30 knockouts but hes actually not that good. Hes been babyed along so that would be a good fight if I can get it.”

Q: Whats your career highlight so far?

A: “I fought at the Garden (Madison Square Garden]) in March 2008 against JC Candelo. He went the distance with Winky Wright and Verno Phillips and I beat him on points in a tough 10-round fight. Ive fought in the Garden three times and I’ve had three good results there so it’s almost like a home for me.”

Q: Did the Candelo fight go the way you thought it would?

A: “Not really, no. I thought he would have been trickier. I hit him with everything bar the kitchen sink for the first two rounds and he was still standing looking at me, it was kind of surprising. At first he hardly threw a punch and the first power punch he threw was in the third round when he got me with an uppercut and I saw every light on the ceiling in Madison Square Garden. It lifted my head right up. I knew then I wasnt going to get him so I just boxed the rest of the fight.”

Q: It sounds like an ideal learning fight.

A: “Thats what you want. You need fights like that to move up through the levels. A guy can have ten fights and have a lot more experience than a guy who’s had twenty. It all depends on who youre fighting.”

Q: Youre well known now and have a good following. You could be on the verge of something big…

A: “I fought Yuri Foreman for the NABF title and that was a world title eliminator. Hes fighting Daniel Santos in his next fight for the world title. In publicity circles I dont get the same headlines other fighters get but in the boxing world I would be considered a much more realistic fighter than a lot of other fighters making headlines and not really fighting anybody. Some guys have high-profile coaches who make up lies just to get their name in the paper and other guys have big PR teams. Ive never had any of that and I never wanted it either. Realistically I know how close I was to getting a world title fight.”

Q: How was the Foreman fight for you?

A: “I just couldnt catch him, he was too quick for me. I was looking to fight and everything was stacked against me. It was on a Top Rank card and we were in the biggest ring you could be in which was 22 square feet, which makes no sense when the main event that night was a 140-pound fight.”

Q: There is no secret about Foremans style, but was he faster than you anticipated?

A: “I think I gave him a bit of confidence in the early rounds. He caught me with a couple of shots and maybe his confidence went up. I was looking for one big punch instead of working [my way in] and trying to catch him. I did that throughout the fight and I didnt change (my style). In the eighth round I landed a pretty decent shot on him, he spat the gumshield out twice and the referee never even gave him a warning.”

Q: Do you fancy coming back and having one or two big fights at home?

A: “This is the problem. Of course Id love to go home but the reality is it makes no sense financially. At the end of the day its business, this is my job.”

Q: Take Neil Sinclair for example, thats a big fight. Do you not find it a bit unusual that promoters cant entice you over?

A: “I dont know. I mean theyre blaming the economy and everything else but theyre not bringing ticket prices down that much either. Sinclair would be a great fight and I’d love it to happen. But that’s up to the promoters. Frank Warren’s offer made no sense to fight Sinclair on the Rogan show in Belfast.”

Q: Are you pleased with the way your career has gone so far?

A: “Pretty much. Ive had my eye on the business end right from the start. A good friend of mine looks after the business. No matter what happens he always contacts me and lets me know (whats going on). Professional boxing is more a business than a sport. You have to keep your eye on everything and be sure to dot the Is and cross the Ts because promoters will do you over every chance they get.

“On one of my fights I was literally gloved up and ready to get in the ring and a revised contract came in because the opponent changed and they cut my purse in half. Can you imagine – its Madison Square Garden and youre standing there ready to go and the contract came in. What are you going to do. People had flown over from Ireland to watch the fight.”

Q: Do you see yourself staying in the sport a few more years?

A: “I dont know. The Foreman fight was my first run at a world title. I have to revise everything now and get another go at it. Every fight is for my career now.”

And that, as they say, is ‘the story’. During our chat I noticed Moore has a tattoo on his right forearm saying ‘One Life One Love’. It struck me that there was another ‘one’ James is after: one chance. I dont mean the ‘last chance saloon’ type either. His body language and obvious enthusiasm were too positive for that. The vibe I was getting was more along the lines of give me the big stage, I know what I can do.

One thing is for sure. If (make that when) he gets that chance the green flags will be out in force, whichever side of the Atlantic it happens.

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