When we here at PRO MMA (promma.info) learned that one of the legendary strikers in the sport of mixed martial arts, Chuck Liddell, after years and years of doing things the same way, sought the help of a new trainer to help him with his hands it got our attention. Who was this guy and why did Chuck need him?
Well, “this guy” was a 1976 Olympic gold-medalist boxer and Head Boxing Coach at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida named Howard Davis Jr. and Chuck needed him frankly because he was no longer getting away with some of the bad boxing habits that were easy to overlook when he was knocking people out.
Although from the old school of boxing, Howard Davis Jr. has fallen in love with the sport of MMA and its fighters. In fact, he has started a new MMA promotion entitled “Fight Time Promotions” which has already secured a TV deal and will launch this fall.
PRO MMA (promma.info) caught up with Howard this week to learn more about his plans as a promoter, his American Top Team fighters, his opinion on Liddell, the current state of boxing, and more. MMA is fortunate to have someone of his caliber involved, and we were fortunate to get a few minutes of his time. Ladies and gentlemen, it is our honor to present Mr. Howard Davis Jr…
PRO MMA: Howard, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us here at PRO MMA (promma.info). How are you doing?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: I’m doing great. I’m having a wonderful day as usual.
PRO MMA: Howard, many of the MMA fans came to hear about you as Chuck Liddell’s boxing trainer for his last fight, but you’ve been working with American Top Team in Florida for some time. How long have you been with American Top Team and how did you end up working with ATT?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: I’ve with been with American Top Team since its inception. I knew very little about MMA when I started about six years ago. I worked from the ground up for American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida and it all started when I was working as a Computer Technician in New Jersey. I would get laid off after every job for a few days at a time. After one particular job, I got a call about working at American Top Team and that they were looking for a Boxing Director. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Florida or working with a different breed of fighters. My old boss kept my Computer Tech job open for me, but I never went back. I fell in love with Florida, with the MMA fighters and with ATT. I knew that this is what I really wanted to do.
PRO MMA: You spent eight weeks living with Chuck Liddell helping him prepare for his last fight. During that time your father passed away. Karla told me you only took a couple of days off from training Chuck to go to the funeral and deal with that situation. First of all, our condolences on your loss and our thoughts are with you and your family, but what was the experience like living and working with Chuck and how in the world were you able to remain so committed to the task at hand with the passing of your father?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: First, thank you so much Jack for the kind words about my father, Howard Davis Sr. My father always believed that when you start a job, you should always finish the job at hand! He was a firm believer in that, so my father’s words echoed in my mind about finishing what I had to do, so I got on a plane back to California soon after my father’s funeral in New York.
PRO MMA: You have been around the fight game your whole life. In your opinion do you think it is time for Chuck Liddell to retire? Do you think we will see him back inside the Octagon?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: Well, as a former fighter myself I have to say that this is a very personal decision to make, especially if you have been on top for a long time. The fighter has to decide in his heart and his mind when it’s the right time to step down. It’s not an easy decision to make because it will change your entire life. Who am I to make that decision for someone else? It has to come straight from the fighter himself.
PRO MMA: Any plans to work with Chuck in the future?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: First, I’m a friend. Second, I’m a trainer. So if Chuck needs me again, I will be there 100%. I will always be there and I have his back.
PRO MMA: Freddie Roach has been quoted as saying B.J. Penn has the best boxing in MMA. What is your thoughts on that statement and who has the best fundamental boxing skills in MMA in your opinion?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: Everybody has their opinion. I don’t agree with Freddie Roach at all. The beautiful thing about MMA is that you have many great fighters with excellent boxing skills including: Thiago “Pitbull” Alves, Din Thomas, Mike Thomas Brown and Chuck Liddell. These guys have great stand-up skills. I always tell my fighters that MMA is 80% ground and 100% stand up. When the bell rings everyone stands up first, that’s the first thing that happens during a MMA match, so you better have your stand up game on, from the start.
PRO MMA: Who are some of your MMA fighters at ATT that stand out in your mind has having great hands?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: You’re asking me to choose from one of my children sort of speak, but I will answer the question. Thiago “Pitbull” Alves, Mike Thomas Brown, Chuck Liddell and Din Thomas have great hands. These guys can be great boxers, if they ever chose to make that move.
PRO MMA: What is your opinion on Tim Sylvia getting in the ring with Ray Mercer? What do you think will happen in that fight?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: May the best man win! It’s an interesting dichotomy of a good stand up MMA fighter against a former world champion in boxing.
PRO MMA: What would happen if Anderson Silva got his wish and got in the ring with Roy Jones Jr., would Silva stand a chance? Why or why not?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: You’re talking about someone at the highest level in MMA against someone in a very high level in boxing. If it was MMA, I would give a 90% chance of winning to Silva. If it’s strictly boxing, I would then give Jones a 90% of winning. It’s two different genres of the sport. That brings me back to the comparison of MMA and boxing. There’s no comparison. There are some elements of boxing and MMA that are similar, but you can’t call boxing MMA and you can’t call MMA boxing. A boxer cannot choke another fighter, cannot kick, cannot arm bar, cannot leg lock another fighter. A boxer can’t take another fighter to the ground unless he knocks him out. I think Dana White did a brilliant job in comparing the two. The only thing that they have in common is doing battle in a confined environment.
PRO MMA: Howard, you have been an Olympic and professional boxer, a trainer, and now you are getting into the MMA promotion business with Fight Time Promotions. Do we have a date set for the first event entitled USA vs. BRAZIL and how did this whole thing come about and how did you come up with the theme of country vs. country?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: I’ve been to so many MMA fights, that I’ve lost count. Last year, I went to a fight with my business partner – Karla Guadamuz. I had a little down time after one of our ATT fighters won and I decided to go out and be a part of the audience and I sat down next to my partner – Karla. As I sat there, I got an epiphany and I thought that it would be a good idea to put together a show myself. My partner has a Marketing Firm and we sat down the next day and came up with different concepts including the company name: Fight Time Promotions, LLC. We then decided to come up with a complete USA VS Brazil show. My love for MMA and the fighters themselves motivates me every day to put on the best show that I can. Right now, we’ve secured a deal with Comcast Sportsnet, which will distribute the 2-hour show to take place in Ft. Lauderdale, to 35 million households. The show is set to take place in the fall and anyone who wants more information about sponsorship opportunities can visit: www.fighttimepromotions.com. We plan on doing 8 shows during the next 18-months.
PRO MMA: Will this be a hybrid boxing/MMA card or strictly MMA?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: No. It’s 100% MMA. It’s not a mixed bag of tricks. We looked into the whole MMA/Boxing mix, but we decided to keep it strictly to MMA.
PRO MMA: Do you have any names yet of who may be on the card and will it be mostly local Florida fighters?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: Since these fighters are going to be featured in front of millions, we are going to put an exciting MMA show for the fans to enjoy. The fighters for the Fight Time Promotions’ events will be coming from mostly Florida. We have such great talent in the Sunshine State, that we want to give those fighters a place to shine.
PRO MMA: What is your ultimate goal with Fight Time Promotions; how big do you want to do this thing?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: The ultimate goal for Fight Time Promotions is to produce quality MMA shows that will place up and coming fighters in the spotlight. Fight Time Promotions is going to be known for the 3 C’s: Commitment, Competitiveness & Champions! We are also going to be partnering up with non-profit groups that will benefit children and the less fortunate.
PRO MMA: Who are some of the up-and-comers at ATT we should be on the look out for?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: I would look for the “Miller” brothers (Cole & Micah) and Steve Bruno. These fighters have the makings of being the best. These guys are dedicated and have the talent to take them to the highest levels.
PRO MMA: You have really accomplished a lot in your life. What are you most proud of out of all you have done?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: My biggest accomplishment always takes me back to the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal Canada, when I won the Gold medal just days after my mother passed away. No other accomplishments before or after will ever replace the Gold Medal that I won for my mother.
PRO MMA: As one of the legendary boxers of our time, what is your opinion on the current state of professional boxing and where does it fit in now that MMA has become so popular? Do you still see a lot of kids come into the gym now who want to go into boxing now or is it mostly MMA?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: When I was growing up all the boxing gyms were full. We live in different times now with different economic situations. Boxers were a lot hungrier and had more exposure. You could watch a Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton or Alexis Arguello on regular TV as opposed to HBO or PPV. Boxing had much more exposure back then. Today, only the big money fights get the attention and everyone at the bottom gets very little. I would love to see more kids in the boxing gyms like I see little kids at American Top Team. Hopefully, boxing promoters will do something to showcase more talent and create competitive fights on all levels like it used to be. Today, if you don’t have a promoter, then you can’t get on a card, no matter how good you are. Some managers are even paying for opponents to keep their guys busy. It’s not the way that it was and it’s a shame because boxing is a beautiful sport.
PRO MMA: Finally, I have to ask, who would win and what would it look like if you and Al Stankie fought today?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: Ha! Funny. I can still throw 30 punches in 3 seconds at 53 years old!
PRO MMA: Thank you Howard. We will definitely be following Fight Time Promotions and keeping in touch and we wish you all the best. Do you have any final thoughts?
HOWARD DAVIS JR: Jack, I’m glad that you found me. I know that Karla had something to do with this. She’s always talking about me to people. I want to let people know about our company website and we are looking for some business sponsors for the shows. I’m happy that you guys are out there providing the public with great information. Please don’t ever hesitate to contact me, if there’s anything that I can do for you. I’m blessed to be a part of the MMA family and I plan on staying in it until I retire.
If you would like to learn more about Howard Davis Jr. and Fight Time Promotions, LLC or are interested in becoming a sponsor of the Fight Time Promotions MMA fight cards, visit www.howarddavisjr.com and www.fighttimepromotions.com.
PRO MMA (promma.info) would like to thank Howard’s partner and publicist, the KGC Marketing Team (Karla Guadamuz “Complete” Marketing Team) www.kgcmarketingteam.com
By: Jack Bratcher