Patience pays off for ‘Tiger’ Thomspon
BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
Time hasn’t necessarily stood still, but when Tony “The Tiger” Thompson broke into the ratings of some of the four major sanctioning bodies in 2004, Pluto was still officially a planet.
On a less cosmic scale, much has changed in Northern Nevada since the now 36-year-old Thompson made his two appearances here. Caesars Tahoe ” where Thompson took an eight-round unanimous decision over Yanqui Diaz (then also known as Yamplier Azcuy) on March 27, 2004 ” is now called MontBleau and the City Center Pavilion ” where Thompson blew out Agustin Corpus in two rounds less than three months later ” is now known as the Reno Ballroom.
And in the universe of boxing, where the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO and various promoters align would-be stars, Thompson, 31-1 with 19 knockouts, has managed to remain in orbit by virtue of his 26-fight winning streak.
The good news for Thompson of Washington, D.C., is the planets and stars have apparently all lined up just right for him and he will challenge Wladimir Klitschko for his IBF and WBO heavyweight championships July 12 at Color Line Arena, in Altona, Hamburg, Germany.
The 12-round bout will be televised live by HBO at 1:30 p.m.
“I knew it was going to come,” Thompson said of his long-awaited opportunity during a phone call Tuesday. “I just had to keep winning and force (the sanctioning bodies’) hand. Thank God it came a little earlier than it might have been if it wasn’t for my manager and promoter.”
Thompson credits his manager, Nate Peake, and promoter Dan Goossen for keeping him afloat as he supported his wife and seven children (whose ages range from 7 to 19).
“As a fighter you definitely want to fight,” said Thompson, who has had four bouts in the last two years. “It’s hard to support your family if you don’t fight. If you don’t fight, you don’t get paid. (Goossen and Peake) did a good job of putting their money and time into me and saved my career.”
After going 13-3 as an amateur, Thompson turned pro with a four-round majority decision over Desean Harper in 2000, a year in which he fought nine times and suffered his only loss (to Erik Kirkland in a four rounder).
Thompson quit his day job in 2002 ” he worked for a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. ” and has patiently maneuvered his way to a world title shot.
“I thought I could do better things in fighting,” Thompson said of his career choice. “I always thought I was a tough guy anyway ” I wanted to see how tough and do some boxing.”
At 6-foot-4 1?2 and 245 pounds, the heavy-handed Thompson, a southpaw, proved to be a tough person to find an opponent for. After beating former title challenger Vaughn Bean in 2004, Thompson knocked out Brandon Casell for the modest Maryland state heavyweight title in January 2006.
A 12-round decision over fellow contender Dominick Guinn garnered Thompson the vacant WBC Continental Americas belt that June. After defeating Timor Ibragimov to open 2007, Thompson followed up with a five-round knockout over Luan Krasniqui in a WBO heavyweight eliminator to claim the WBO Intercontinental championship and secure his No.1 ranking.
Thompson last fought in September, when he scored a two-round technical knockout over Cliff Couser.
“You gotta have patience in this business,” Thompson said. “It’s the only sport that doesn’t have a universal commission. If you’re not down with the right people, it can be a real grind. I stuck to what I believed and, thank God, I’m here.”
In his entertaining blog for eastsideboxing.com, Thompson has written of leaving behind his family and a house with a broken dishwasher, air conditioner and half the electricity shut off as he traveled for press conferences with the 6-6 1?2, 245-pound Klitschko, 50-3 (44), of Kiev, Ukraine.
“He’s a freak of nature ” everybody knows that,” Thompson told the Appeal of Klitschko, who is known as “Dr. Steelhammer” for his prodigious punching power. “He’s a perfect fighting machine. But he’s a man. I’m a man. I feel I’m a better man.
“It doesn’t matter how tall you are. I’m desperate. He’s going to feel that desperation. I’m going to do what I always do. I’ll beat you for 12 rounds. I might not knock you out, but I’ll beat the hell out of your ass.”
Thompson feels as though he’s paid his dues and, although he’d be happy to bring the world heavyweight belts home to America, he’s looking to take care of what matters most to him: his family.
“I’m going to be tougher ” that’s what it’s going to come down to,” Thompson said. “I want it more. He’s been to the mountaintop. I want to be there. That’s what it comes down to. This is an opportunity to secure my family’s future. Make no mistake, it starts and ends with my family. This is what I’ve got to do.”
Times change and Pluto is no longer considered a planet. But if Thompson beats the 32-year-old Klitschko on July 12, a new star will be born.