Tavoris Cloud escaped a harsh upbringing and the pitfalls of a rough Tallahassee, Florida neighborhood, to become the current IBF Light Heavyweight Champion of the world. Cloud turned those early misfortunes into fuel for his future. Cloud entered the boxing gym at the age of 17, and hasn’t looked back since. Tavoris won the IBF Light Heavyweight title on August 28, 2009 by defeating Clinton Woods, and has defended that belt four times since then.
On March 9, 2013 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, Tavoris Cloud will get a look at his past and his future, when he takes on the legend himself, Philadelphia’s own Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, the fight will air on HBO beginning at 9:30pm ET/PT. Tavoris sat down with BSO to talk Hopkins, his past, his future, Don King, and if he’ll ever fight at Heavyweight.
BSO: What got you interested in boxing?
TC: Boxing at the time in 1998, was the only outlet for me. You didn’t have to try out for or make anybody’s team, you could basically walk in the gym and start training. I started boxing to stay out of trouble, and it was something I could be successful in immediately.
BSO: I read somewhere that your childhood was extremely rough. Not trying to harp on that upbringing or glorify, but can you tell us how you pushed through those times, and how that helps motivate you today?
TC: What got me through those tough times was my mom for one. Boxing was the other thing. You have to some street smarts, and some common sense. My mother worked a lot, so she would warn us about hanging with the wrong crowds. She would tell us do the right things, and before she left for work, would tell us, stay your ass out of trouble. I don’t have no money to bail you out. Once I got involved in boxing, that took up a huge part of my time. Trips, training, recuperating from training.
BSO: How does that keep you motivated today?
I use my upbringing in different ways now. I remember how far God has brought me, and think Tavoris always do the right things, stay on the right path, stay focused, and don’t blow it.
BSO: Who were some of the great fighters you admired coming up?
TC: I used to study fights. James Toney was one fighter I studied. I watched a lot of Roy Jones. I could never emulate him, lol, But I loved to see him fight. Of course he’s a Florida boy right there. I used to study Evander Holyfield, Joe Louis, Archie Moore. I loved watching the fabulous four, Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, and Duran. Evander Holyfield really stood out to me. I had the chance to meet Evander, and he always told me to be a student of the game, I never forgot that.
BSO: I know you are represented by Don King, and Don King Promotions. How did that partnership come about?
Well I was with my former trainer Al Bonnani who I had been with since 2005-2006, and at that time I was only a four round fighter. Al had already had a relationship with Don King that spanned maybe 30 years. So when I moved up in the rankings, It was time for him to bring me over to Don King, because he always had a job with Don King. A couple of years ago after I became champion, I signed with Don King.
BSO: How has that experience been working with Don King?
TC: Me being with Don King is great. Don King is a maniac, a crazy man. A lot of people say some things about Don King. One thing I know is that Don King is a man of his word. If he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it.
BSO: What are your impressions of Bernard Hopkins as a fighter at this point?
TC: As a fighter he’s not what he used to be. Bernard is into playing mind games and stuff. He talks better than he fights right now. One thing about this fight, he can’t win it by talking, not against me. If this is how he wants to go out, if this is how he wants to make his last stand, then so be it. I’m not a big talker, so I’ll leave all that to him. The fight definitely won’t be won by words. This is not a war of words.
BSO: What kind of fight are you expecting from Bernard on March 9? He has a reputation for being a crafty fight, sometimes dirty.
TC: I expect him to be crafty. I expect him to be dirty. I expect him to play on the crowd, the judges, everything. What I have to do is just go in there and keep punching. I can’t get caught up in the stuff Bernard does. I just have to stay focused on throwing punches and doing what I do well. I can’t focus on if Bernard is doing pushups in the corner or talking trash. I have to fight my fight, and not let dude get in my head. I’m in great shape and he doesn’t fight the full three minutes of every round.
BSO: During a recent interview, Bernard Hopkins said that he will win every round of your fight, what are your thoughts on that statement?
TC: I’m going to win every round. I’m younger and stronger. I want it more than he does.
BSO: Do you consider yourself to be the best Light Heavyweight in boxing today?
TC: Yes I do. I’m not only the best Light Heavyweight in the game, I’m the prettiest Light Heavyweight in boxing also.
BSO: Do you feel that at this point in your career as an undefeated World Champion that you are getting the respect you deserve?
TC: No I do not. Bernard Hopkins is one of the first guys to actually go threw with a big fight. I have been scheduled to have big fights before, and guys would pull out with hand injuries and different things like that. They don’t want to fight me. Since my last win they really don’t want to fight me. I had Jean Pascal step up and want to fight me, he almost went through with it, and then he got hurt, and that fight went away. Lets see if Bernard Hopkins shows up. I go through with press conferences, I go to their hometowns, two or three weeks later, the fight gets canceled.
BSO: Speaking of Jean Pascal, will he be your next opponent?
TC: I definitely want to make that fight happen. I would love to fight him. He’s going to stay on my radar.
BSO: Can you ever see yourself moving up to the Heavyweight division, or fighting as a Heavyweight?
TC: Fighting as a Heavyweight, I would love to fight a Heavyweight. I don’t think so. You never know. I would love to move up and take out one of the Klitschko’s. If the money is right I’d definitely do it?
BSO: What advice would you have for a young up and coming boxer try to trail his own path in the sport of boxing?
TC: Well, number one, stay out of trouble. Stay sucka free. Find a good boxing gym. Train hard, stick with it. Be the opposite of guys who like to get in trouble. Understand that being a loud mouth, focusing on money and jewelry is not the way. The path to success is lonely and a lot of the time you will be training and working out by yourself. The road to be a champion is lonely and a hard road.