Exclusive Interview by James Slater - I called up former Olympic gold medallist and former WBO heavyweight champion Ray Mercer earlier today, primarily to speak with "Merciless," 36-7-1(26) about his upcoming fight with unbeaten Swedish big man Andreas Gustafsson. However, as soon as we began speaking Ray told me that the scheduled fight was no more. Thrown off a bit, I was happy when Ray went ahead and talked with me all the same.
Fans took a great deal of notice when the 48-year-old met and quickly defeated MMA's Tim Sylvia earlier this year. Ray spoke about possible future MMA adventures, as well as possibilities for his continuing pugilistic career..
Here is what the iron-jawed former champ had to say.
James Slater: It's a pleasure to speak with you, Champ, as always. Firstly, is the fight with Andreas Gustafsson a definite for September 4th?
Ray Mercer: No, I'm not taking that fight now. I was supposed to leave yesterday.
J.S: Oh, does that mean you're retired, Ray?
R.M: No, I'm not retired. I was gonna take the fight, but I had a little accident, that's all.
J.S: Sweden, of course, is the site of your last boxing win - when you beat Richel Hersisia (last September). Are you popular over there?
R.M: Oh yeah, I love fighting over there, man. I love it in Sweden.
J.S: So have you anything else in the pipeline - either in boxing or in MMA? People are still talking about the way you iced Tim Sylvia in what was it, nine seconds?
R.M: (laughs) Yeah, I'm willing to take anything that's offered to me, you know. But those MMA guys, they don't seem to want to fight me. I don't get it. I thought they had heart, and yet they won't fight me and I'm nearly 50-years old, man!
J.S: Your 9-second win sure got a lot of hits on You-Tube, and the fight sparked a debate among fans of boxing and MMA. Boxing fans said, "I told you so. No way an MMA guy beats a boxer!"
R.M: Yeah, and I fought him [Sylvia] his way, with his rules.
J.S: Yes, but you never gave him a chance to get his thing going, you slammed him with that right hand to the head so quick!
R.M: That's right. I definitely don't think those guys should be messing around with boxers. We'll KO them because they don't have the heart we do. It kills me how none of those guys want to fight me now. They say they have heart in that sport, but I don't know. They don't wanna do it, with those four ounce gloves on. I thought they were tough. I was supposed to fight a guy after Tim Sylvia, but he turned it down. I'm really surprised none of those guys will take a fight with me, I really am.
J.S: Another interesting thing lately has been the announced comeback plans of a guy you fought in the past, Shannon Briggs. We hear he is in training, wants a fight this month or so and then wants a shot at one of the Klitschkos - who you've also been in with (Wladimir, anyway). Would a rematch with Briggs be of interest to you?
R.M: You know me, I'll fight anybody. It don't matter if I hate them or not, I'll fight anybody. But yeah, I'd love to kick his [Briggs] ass this time! But he had better get off them steroids it looks like he's been taking! You know, he was supposed to be going to this Sweden thing too. Not to fight, but to be a guest or something.
J.S: He hit you in the back of the head when you fought in August of 2005, didn't he?
R.M: Yeah, I'd like to fight him properly this time. You know, they say you have to protect yourself at all times and I never did that like I should have. I'll never turn my back on him again, that's for sure. He's so big, he's got no wind - that's what happens to guys who take steroids. When I fought him I went right to him and I was whupping him good until I missed with a right hand and fell over the ropes, and then he climbed on my back! I'd like to fight him again, of course. But I don't think he'll fight me again, I swear to God. As for Klitschko, he'll kill the guy! Briggs is so big he only throws three punches a round.
J.S: Well, we hope you can get a fight going, Champ - either in boxing or in MMA. It's been great speaking with you.
R.M: Okay, call me up anytime, my man.