May 1, 2001 – Interview by Clive Bernath: Mike McCallum will not only go down in history as a three weight world champion, but also be remembered as one of the finest body punchers ever to lace a pair of gloves.
The Jamaican born and American-based McCallum won the WBA junior middleweight and middleweight crowns as well as the WBC light-heavyweight title in a 55 fight career, spanning 16 years, from 1981 to 1997.
Today, McCallum, now 44, lives in Las Vegas and plans to give something back to the sport by becoming a trainer. He was such a severe puncher to the body he became known as the 'Body Snatcher'. Though he made those midsection assaults his trademark, he thinks the punch is badly neglected by today's young fighters.
"These young fighters today, they don't punch to the body, all they do is punch to the head," said McCallum. "It doesn't make sense. The body is a much bigger target than the head. Not only that, most of these fighters today don't eat right, they like their junk food too much, it makes 'em soft.
"When you hit a guy to the body, it slows everything down. So I was very happy to be such a good body puncher,” he continued. “Not only that, I know a lot of guys that punch to the body that have got a lot of results. I used to find that when I hit guys to the body they were more precise, more effective, more direct. I used to perfect those body shots."
McCallum ended his career with 49 wins, five losses, and draw and sees his epic five round knockout win over Donald Curry in 1987 as the highlight of his career.
"The Donald Curry fight was maybe my best fight," said McCallum. "It was a short fight, but it was a very back and forth fight. Donald was pound-for-pound one of the greatest fighters at the time. He was a good thinker, he punched quick, was very precise and he had me going for a minute until I knocked him out. It was a great fight, it was like a chess match, a real thinking mans fight."
The following year, McCallum moved up in weight for the first time to challenge Italian-based African Sumbu Kalambay for the WBA middleweight crown. It was a very technical encounter, that resulted in the 'Body Snatcher' experiencing his first defeat.
"The Kalambay fight was a very technical fight," said McCallum. "He was a very consummate pro, very slick, made a lot of good moves. That was also a very good fight because he always kept me thinking. I had to use my brain a lot against Kalambay.
McCallum was involved in some of the great fights of the 1980s but his most awkward opponent was Britain's Herol 'Bomber' Graham, whom he outpointed for the vacant WBA middleweight crown to become a two weight world champion in 1989.
"Without a doubt, Herol Graham was the most awkward man I ever fought," remembered McCallum. He was the type of fighter that could make any great fighter look bad. It was a very close fight. You see Graham won a lot of fights, he was a champion. He was no average fighter. He wasn't no great puncher, but fighting Herol Graham was like fighting your worst nightmare.
"His hands were low, he was a southpaw. He was slick and very quick. Then he taunts and dances around you and all that stuff, oh my god."
The 'Body snatcher' fought the young brash James Toney three times, drawing once and losing twice. But it was the first fight in 1991, against a peak Toney that was to be the toughest fight of his career.
"I think I won that first fight," recalled McCallum. "But the judges gave it a draw. For that fight I really had to step up to the table. That was a hell of a fight."
Toney may have pushed McCallum harder than any of his other opponents but it was the incredibly hard-hitting Julian Jackson who hurt the 'Body Snatcher' more than anyone during their fight in 1986.
"Don't let anybody fool you, Julian Jackson was the hardest hitting fighter I ever fought, what! This boy was dangerous. He hit me so hard in the second round of our fight that I was on queer street.
"Just before I knocked him out, I started to get my senses back,” said McCallum. “He hit me so hard in the first round also that I was dazed for the whole round. I had to do everything I could to survive. I grabbed him, jabbed him, held him, everything I had to, to get through that fight."
McCallum won the WBC light-heavyweight crown from Aussie hardman Jeff Harding in 1994. It was an incredible result given the fact that McCallum's skills were, by now, starting to erode.
He retired in 1997 at the age of 41, but not before he crossed swords with one of today's modern greats in Roy Jones in 1996. A fight in which Jones won on points.
"I was way past may best when I fought Roy Jones,” he said. “But I was very fortunate to have been fighting good (when I was) old, you know what I'm saying. I was 40 years old then, but could still fight ok.
"If I had fought Jones in my prime," added McCallum. “The fight would have been different. In my prime I was a bad boy, the fight would have been very different. I was bad I was dangerous. You see I was punching hard and I was rounded as a fighter.
“I could fight inside and outside and had great condition. I was very strong and also, as you know I was a devastating body puncher. When you put all that together I was a very difficult fighter to beat.
“So in my prime I don't see a lot of guys beating Mike. I was very determined and very dedicated,” concluded McCallum.