Ray Mercer talks MMA, winning ‘88 Olympic gold and ‘Find A Dream’
By Ian Aldous: As a board member of the ‘Find A Dream’ non-profit organization, ‘Merciless’ Ray Mercer (36-7-1) is building on the success of his amateur and professional boxing careers to become a role-model for the stars of tomorrow. This week he spoke with me about the charity he proudly represents as well as his colourful career inside the ropes (and cage)!
On June 13th 2009 MMA fighter, Tim Sylvia, was on a run of two defeats following a very successful, if unimpressive run as UFC world heavyweight champion during 2006. His opponent on that night was a former WBO world heavyweight champion who had only a couple of months beforehand turned 48 years of age. Ray Mercer was expected to be beaten on that very night, but just nine seconds later Tim Sylvia was laid flat out on his back having been brutally KO’d. Ray previously dabbled in MMA back in 2007 losing an exhibition fight to Internet fighting sensation, Kimbo Slice. So, what did Ray think of his brief time (1:21 to be exact) spent inside the cage? “I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and believe me, in MMA, everything was new to me apart from striking. It was a hard, gruelling job training for it. It’s almost like you’ve been in a real fight (when training). It was something different for me. It motivated me and I just love it, my kids love MMA, everybody loves MMA and I was just glad to be a part of it.”
Twenty-one years previously to the afore-mentioned MMA fight, Ray was looking to reach the pinnacle of amateur boxing when he travelled to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He successfully followed in the footsteps of American heavyweight legends, Joe Frazier and George Foreman by claiming a gold medal. “It’s just unexplainable, I mean, I wasn’t thinking about them guys (Frazier and Foreman)! I was thinking about everything I accomplished and if you really put your mind to something, you can do it. That taught me that, first of all and my family being so proud of me, fighting for a whole country was amazing and winning a gold medal was even bigger. When I talk about it now, I still get chills!”
Having already achieved the ultimate goal as an amateur, less than two years into his pro career, a major world title was claimed when Francesco Damiani was relieved of the WBO world heavyweight title by ninth round KO in a very tough fight that Damiani was controlling before the stoppage. “I think that for nine rounds, he was whooping my ass! The guy was deceiving, he looks a little fat, like he can’t move, he looked like he wasn’t fast but he had boxing skills. He was fast and he had power and could move. I couldn’t believe it. He was just taking it to me, every time I went back to my corner, I knew that everybody knew I was losing and I would tell my trainer I’m gonna catch him. We’d practice the 45-degree uppercut with the left jab hand and I knew if I caught him with that, it’d be over and I just kept throwing it and caught him. That was another blessing in my life, he went down and I was world champion. I’m telling ya, Francesco Damiani was a great champion, he was very skilful. He fooled me.”
Nowadays, Ray is clearly relishing his role as a board member of ‘Find A Dream’. The non-profit organization helps youths and young adults interact with positive role models, such as Ray. “It’s a great organization for giving back to the kids. It’s non-profit and if you make donations, you can write that off on your taxes. We’re building a gym in Myrtle Beach and we got a gym in Iowa. It’s not just sports, it’s singing, schoolwork and you haven’t gotta be a kid, you can be a young grown-up and wanna dream and it’s there for you. It makes me so proud to represent ‘Find A Dream’ because it’s the first that I’ve represented and it’s a great feeling being able to give back and help these kids get to maybe, where I was. The president, Rod Ricciardi, he believes in helping out the kids and that’s why I’m part of it too. He’s a great guy and he’s doing such a great thing for these kids, he’s helped a lot already. We been up and running for four, almost five years and everything is coming together.”
For more information on ‘Find A Dream’. Please visit http://www.findadream.org/