John "Hoppa" Hopoate
By Paul Upham: Former rugby league star John “Hoppa” Hopoate has set up training camp in Los Angeles as he makes final preparations for his international boxing debut on Friday 22nd May 2009, in Las Vegas, USA when he faces former WBC heavyweight world champion Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall.
34 year-old Hopoate 11-2 (11) is working out at the Fortune Gym in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard. On Friday, the Australian heavyweight champion sparred four rounds with former WBO world champion Lamon Brewster and four rounds with American Lionel Butler.
“It was excellent for me,” Hopoate told SecondsOut. “Lamon was just a real gentleman. There is no mug about him. Both Lamon and Lionel have been helping me out, telling me what to do and what not to do. I feel my strength and speed is matching up well with these guys, but I can see their experience in the ring. Just in getting through the rounds. When I was getting tired, they were just pushing me through it. It has been great sparring. My speed has been up to it. When I was doing my angles, I was right up there with them. It has just been a learning curve for me.”
Hopoate’s match with McCall is a significant step-up in class for the Aussie, who is enjoying training in Los Angeles.
“This is a whole new experience for me,” he said. “I am getting a whole different picture of the guys over here. I thought being in their gym, there would be some mug about them, but they have been beautiful. I have been sparring a world champion in Lamon, a guy who beat Wladimir Klitschko. Lionel fought Oliver McCall back in 1990. Lionel was talking to me about McCall. He told me to stay away from his right hand and he hates pressure. Stay on his chest and he will hate it. He will walk back and try and hold you. Just put pressure and you have got it all over him.”
David Millward, Hopoate’s trainer/manager, could not have been happier with his boxer’s efforts in the gym.
“I can’t begin to describe how well I saw John spar,” he said. “His eight rounds today was unbelievable. His angles and everything were very impressive. His jab was strong. He didn’t get hit a lot. He was throwing punches from everywhere. Lamon Brewster was shocked at how quick John was.”
Former Australian heavyweight and successful trainer Justin Fortune, was impressed with what Hopoate has brought to his busy gym.
“I knew John was football famous and David (Millward) was training him, that’s all,” Fortune said of his prior knowledge of Hopoate. “John was real good. He just did some huge stuff sparring with Lamon. He was pulling some angles on Lamon Brewster that heavyweights just don’t do. He listened and he responded straight away. His fitness is great. John did eight hard rounds today. He works very well. He couldn’t get better sparring leading into this fight with McCall.”