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Whitaker takes on Ellis

Story by David Finger
Photo by 'Big' Joe Miranda

For a fighter nicknamed “Mount”, Lance Whitaker (33-5-1, 27 KO’s) certainly has had a career full of ups and downs over the years.

As an undefeated prospect making his first appearance on HBO back in 1999, Whitaker looked like a future champion when he dropped Lou Savarese in the sixth round in a fight he was clearing winning. But, like so many rookies before him in their first big fight, he suffered from a bad case of fatigue in the later rounds and came up short in a split decision.

Some boxing insiders closed the book on him then and there, only to be forced to eat there words just five months later when he took his experience from the Savarese loss to upset undefeated prospect in Monte Barrett. Barrett was a green young prospect at the time, but within six years he would establish himself as a contender, fighting for the WBC and WBA titles in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Unfortunately for Whitaker, over the next six years it seemed like is career followed the same trajectory. Win big fights at the wrong time (knocking out Oleg Maskaev five years before he would go on to win the WBC heavyweight title) while losing the fight that seemed to precede his potential title shot (like his loss to Jameel McCline and Luan Krasniqi in a WBO title eliminator). It is hard to imagine now, but for a fighter who was at times one of the more popular and exciting American contenders of the last ten years, Lance Whitaker never fought for a world title.

But maybe, just maybe, that is going to change in 2009. After several years off from the sport in 2005 following a disastrous year that saw him lose to Krasniqi and Sultan Ibragamov, Whitaker made a comeback in 2008. Although that comeback was derailed by a torn bicep in his second fight against Jason Estrada, Whitaker remained focused. Although another layoff followed, Whitaker promises he is healthy and has an impressive win over journeyman Danny Batchelder in July to prove it.

On August 21st he steps into the ring for a second time following his rehabilitation and layoff, as he faces a former prospect from England named Matthew Ellis (20-8-2, 9 KO’s). Although Whitaker is heavily favored against the rapidly fading Englishman, many insiders recognize that Ellis is a fighter who could give the bigger man problems. After all, Ellis was a fighter of some note in his heyday and he undoubtedly knows that a win over Whitaker could put him back into the picture. Some might call it ironic, that Whitaker is again fighting the right fighter at the wrong time (earlier in the decade Ellis was one of England’s most popular young heavyweight prospects, sporting a 17-1-1 record and holding a legitimate claim as a contender for the Commonwealth, and arguably even European heavyweight title), but maybe, just maybe, if a world title fight is where this comeback is heading, Lance “Mount” Whitaker can show the world that he overcame his biggest weakness as a younger fighter . . . timing.

Whitaker took some time to talk to Fightnews about his comeback and his upcoming fight with Ellis.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Lance. Let’s start with how are you doing?

I’m doing real good today. I had a good workout today, and yesterday. I’ve been working on my jabs, combinations. Got a real good fitness and cardio trainer named Mike Wood. (He’s been) busting my ass not only in the gym but running, and with a lot of cardio vascular training.

So what have you been focused on in training camp? Working on anything new?

I’ve just working on the jab. I never worked the jab to much, ever since the amateurs. Just doing the basic simple things, one two. But mainly the jab, lots of work with the jab.

What do you know about your opponent, Matthew Ellis?

He has two arms and two legs. (Laughing) That’s about it. And he’s from England I believe.

Did you see his fight several years ago on Shobox?

No, didn’t get a chance to see that fight.

Are you bringing anything different to the table? Can we expect to see a different side of Lance Whitaker on August 21st?

I’ll be a little more of a boxer, and using the jab. Also my footwork is getting a lot better and my cardio is better. I came back from a serious injury and my body sort of had to relearn a lot. But mostly to use that jab.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

I see myself getting a few more fights, getting on a roll. Hope to be fighting someone in the top ten later this year and hope o be fighting for a big belt later this year or next. Earlier last year I tore my left bicep, and even though I’m 37 I feel like I’m 27.

Are you targeting anyone in particular in the top ten?

No. Actually I’m not. I didn’t think that far ahead. But I am a top ten fighter, and they will see that when I knock some of them out of the top ten. I train smarter, I am smarter. Its’ a new and improved “Mount” Whitaker. I have a great trainer in Vernon Fletcher and a good team behind me. I surrounded myself with some good people.

So let’s talk about the layoff after the Estrada fight, and the Estrada fight itself. What exactly happened that night?

In the first round of the Estrada fight I tore my left bicep. My whole left arm was sore and I went to the doctor and found out about it the following day. I’d like to fight that bum again. I had no jab; I had no left arm period.

So is your left arm fully rehabilitated?

Oh yeah, its 100% . It has just started feeling normal again about four months ago. I did a whole bunch of physical therapy.

What was the cause of the layoff from 2007 to 2008? Was it injuries? Managerial?

No. No injuries. No managerial problems. I just traveled around the world; Paris and Morocco. Just took care of business, took some time off.

Were you pondering retirement?

My mindset was just travel, want’ thinking about quitting or anything, figure the right time would come I would get back and train hard. And that time is now.

Do you think the layoff helped you or hurt you in the long run? Was it a benefit?

Yes it was a big benefit. I got my mind straight and I got a different outlook on things. Everything I do is smarter. I train smarter.

I noticed you had some harsh words about Jason Estrada and indicated you’d like to fight him again. Is he someone you want to fight now and do you feel the injury was a contributing factor in the loss to Estrada?

Yeah, I would have defiantly stopped him. But fight him again? For what? If he was rated I would. I had no jab…no left. I had no feeling in my left arm until I got home where I discovered my whole tendon tore off the bone. I thought I could beat him but I couldn’t fight with one arm. He beat a man with one arm for all ten rounds.

What do you think about the heavyweight division now?

Well, Chris Areola is fighting Vitali. I got my money on Chris to stop him in 4 to 5 rounds. I think he has the style and punching power to beat him. The heavyweight division…I have respect for the Klitschko’s…and that 7-footer (Valuev). I wouldn’t mind going a few rounds with him.

What can we expect on August 21st?

Expect a win. For me to use that jab, be consistent and to beat him up with that left jab.

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