James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith reflects on career and talks about ‘Champion For Kids’ organization
By Ian Aldous: This past week former World heavyweight champion, James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith (44-17-1) took the time to talk with me about his rollercoaster career and what the first man to become heavyweight champion with a college degree hopes to achieve outside the ring, helping others.
Before you became champion, you lost an IBF title challenge against Larry Holmes and lost to Tony Tubbs, Tim Witherspoon and Marvis Frazier. How confident were you at that stage in your career that you could still go on to become a World champion?
JS “Well, I said that if I could land the right punch at the right time because timing is everything and if I didn’t get any other opportunities, would I be satisfied with what I done ‘til I won the title? The answer was no and I would not have been satisfied, so it really motivated me and put me in a different frame of mind and raised my mental attitude to a different level and I just felt like I was really running out of time and when you really think about it, we all are running out of time, so whatever we wanna do, we need to be thinking about not having any more time to get it done.”
What was going through your mind when you were told you’d get the title opportunity against Tim Witherspoon at only a week’s notice? It was obviously something you couldn’t turn down.
JS “I didn’t have time to think about it (laughs). Then I knew I shouldn’t give him time to think about it either because Witherspoon is a smart fighter and if you give him time, he’ll jump up on ya and he’d already took me 12 rounds, I took him 12 rounds, he gets stronger as the fight goes on.”
You finally became WBA heavyweight champion when you KO’d Tim Witherspoon inside one round on December 12th 1986. It must have been amazing to not just win the title but to secure the unification fight with then WBC champion, Mike Tyson.
JS “Yes, I kinda kicked myself because if I’d fought Tyson the way I’d fought Witherspoon, I think it would’ve been the same kind of result, me knocking out Tyson too because he’s smaller and at that point when I fought him he was 21 and nobody had really hit him hard, as soon as someone hit him hard and flush, he went down.”
You must be very proud of the fact that you were the first World heavyweight champion with a college degree.
JS “Well, absolutely you know it kind of ties in with what I’m trying to do now, which is to bring the guys together and we create something down in Myrtle Beach, where I live, called the Boxing Legends Hall Of Fame. This is a fun place (Myrtle Beach) and I been here for three years and my goal is to put my funding and everything together and on the Intercoastal Waterway put a nice, state of the art building where legends can come together, champs can come together at least once a year and enjoy themselves, make a few dollars signing autographs and just have a great time in the golden years of their life.”
Tell us about your non-profit organization ‘Champion For Kids’.
JS “It’s an international mentoring program that encourages kids to try and get their education, do right and once we get our facility built at the Boxing Legends Hall Of Fame we gonna attach a ‘do right’ headquarters to that museum where adults and kids can attend class, see videos of the legends and interact with the legends and be mentored by boxing legends from all over the world.”
What are your thoughts on the heavyweight division today and the domination of the Klitschko brothers?
JS “They need to come out of Germany (laughs). I think I came along about ten years too soon (laughs). I go right back to my first statement, timing is everything (laughs).”
Check out ‘Champion For Kids’ at http://www.championforkids.org/