1.Have you ever been afraid in the ring?
ICEMAN: I don’t know if I’ve actually been afraid but I’ve certainly been concerned many times. One of the amazing things about being a boxer, in particular a professional boxer, is that we develop an internal mechanism that allows us to deal with stress and fear and intense concern in different ways than a non-boxer might. We may feel a brief sensation of fear but it is quickly overruled by the realization that we don’t have time to be afraid because we have an immediate threat in front of us that needs to be dealt with almost instantly. Fear would see us ran away but we all know this is not an option so, instead, it instantly converts into something else.
I’ll say this, though. There have definitely been times when I’ve been in the ring where I felt my life was in danger. I could feel things and sense things that I knew weren’t normal and weren’t right. But as crazy as it sounds, unlike most normal situation where that might occur, as a fighter I’ve always felt my job in those instances was to hide it to the best of my ability and just deal with it myself and let the chips fall where they may.
2. Have you ever lost to an opponent and rooted against him when you saw him in future fights?
ICEMAN: I was always of the mindset that if I won or lost against a particular guy I always wanted to see him do well from that day on because if I beat him and he wins later on I can feel like I defeated a good fighter. It’s a psychological thing. You don’t want to lose to people who are then turning around and losing to someone else.
3. When you’ve experienced a robbery on the cards, did you ever have the urge to blast the judges or the sport verbally in interviews or the post fight interview?
ICEMAN: Yes, 100 percent. I can remember in 1988 in the National Golden Gloves final at 165 pounds, The fight was on ESPN and I definitely felt like I won it. The crowd felt like I won it, my cornerman felt like I won it and the announcers felt that I won it. It would have been a dream come true to win that title and as I was bouncing around that ring before they announced the decision I was literally on Cloud Nine. It was almost surreal. I was about to be crowned with the title I had dreamed about winning since I first put on boxing gloves. When the decision didn’t go my way I literally sunk to one knee and all the energy drained out of me all at once. I felt like crying but, looking back on it, it never occurred to me to blast the judges and, as a matter of fact, that thought literally never entered my mind until one minute ago when you asked the question. I guess subconsciously I’ve always known that no decision has ever been overturned in the amateurs and it would have been just a waste of time. I walked around the arena in a daze for a while after that fight. Not outwardly angry, more just in disbelief at what happened.
But when I was interviewed by different media outlets that night and in the coming days I went on a couple of rants against the system, definitely.
4.What is the biggest regret in your career?
ICEMAN: Absolutely the biggest regret in my career was listening to my first trainer and manager and his opinion on making weight and how to box as a professional. I trusted him because he had a very strong name in the boxing world and I figured what he said was the gospel of the sport. After I learned so much more as a fighter over all these years I realize that his advice and directives were completely wrong.
On my end, as a young professional I could certainly have been more disciplined in my eating habits but the truth of the matter is that I was like a lot of boxers in that I really had no idea at all what to eat and how to properly cut weight. It may sound funny now but I can remember way back then thinking that when I went into training for a fight I would drink Hawaiian Punch instead of soda and would eat a cheeseburger instead of a Big Mac as a way to cut calories.
The old expression, “If I only knew then what I know now” certainly applies to myself and most boxers from my era.
5. What would you say is the accomplishment in your career that happened that surprised you the most?
ICEMAN: I can’t really say anything surprised me. I mean, I trained hard for a lot of years to make things happen. With that said, I can say that a couple surreal things for me happened. As an amateur I fought and defeated a great boxer by the name of Darin Allen who may have been one of the best and most accomplished amateurs ever in U.S. history. He was the defending world champion at the time and I always felt it would be surreal to fight him and it was. I won our first fight in the 1988 Eastern U.S. Olympic trials and the feeling at the moment the decision was announced is something extremely hard to justly describe.
As a professional I think it was just the fact that I was a professional fighters who had some sort of recognition factor going for him. When I was a kid watching boxing on TV every weekend with my father it was a thing where anyone who fought on TV was a star to me. I mean, meeting guys in person who were never above 10 bout club level guys was almost the same to me as meeting top contenders or champions.
So to have been a professional boxer and having been on television and having been in newspapers and magazines is pretty amazing and surreal to me. It was the goal when I first started boxing but it’s still kind of surreal that it actually played out like that for me to some degree.
6. Was there ever a point in your career when you wanted to quit boxing?
ICEMAN: Absolutely. 10,000 percent. After I lost to Kevin Watts in 1990, after I beat Jose Vera later in 1990 and again before I fought Drake Thadzi for the IBO title in 1998. I can honestly say that I hated boxing and what it was doing to me physically and mentally during those times and I was ready to get out.
Those were the three times in my professional career that I wished it would all just end.
7. Your famous quote: “The wait in the dressing room before a professional boxing match -that last hour- could be enough to strip a man who never boxed before of whatever pride, desire and heart he THOUGHT he had” – Iceman John Scully, April 2002
What exactly runs through your mind as you wait in the dressing room before a fight and is it different things before every fight?
ICEMAN: It’s generally different things before every fight, largely depending on how well you prepared for the fight. If you go into that dressing room feeling like you cut corners and are under prepared it can be one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s like an extended psychological torture. The craziest thoughts enter your mind. I have had thoughts that many other I have spoken to have also had. Really irrational stuff.
As an example, I’ll tell you that I kind of have a running joke going with Vinny Pazienza where I tell him if he ever gets a text from me saying “Make the call” that means that I am in dressing room with a fighter who isn’t mentally prepared and I need Vinny to call the fire department with a false alarm so they can come and put a stop to the show because the guy wants out! We joke about it but we can do that because we both understand what it means. Being in a dressing room before a fight is an experience like no other. It can be like the walls are suffocating you and you just want to escape it all.
Conquering the dressing room before a professional fight is a huge aspect of becoming a successful professional fighter.
8. How do you overlook all the corruption and underhanded tactics the sport has endured over the years that has driven it’s popularity down and still love it?
ICEMAN: For me, it’s simply a case of the friendships and the competition and the thrill of it all overruling the people in it who have the potential to sour it all. We have to go into each situation knowing there’s a dirty, conniving person in the grass somewhere nearby and for better or worse, I think we’ve all just accepted it and them as a part of the game.
9. Do you ever wonder what life would have been like had you never even picked up a boxing glove?
ICEMAN: It has never even crossed my mind. I knew literally from my first day in the gym that this was a till the end situation for me and I really feel it’s literally worked out the way it was supposed to. I mean, if I’m forced to answer the question I would guess and assume that I would probably ended up as a youth counselor or a gym teacher. Something along those lines.
10. Has boxing hurt your family/social life or has it actually made it better than it might have been if you had a regular job all those years during your career?
ICEMAN: As a boxer I’ve had a unique life in many ways and I think its made things better for me. Working 9-5 was never something I wanted to do, even before I started boxing. I can remember as a kid wanted to be a big rig truck driver when I got older because I figured that way I could be on the road and do what I wanted and sleep in the cab of the truck and eat when I want and go to sleep when I want.
I am sure that’s also why I never even entertained the idea of getting married until after my career as a boxer was over because I knew from early on that very few women could or would want to deal with a fighter and his life and his schedule. I also knew that the way boxers get in the weeks before fights, it wouldn’t be fair for a female to have to deal with all of that. Most people want to be in a situation where they get weekends off and nights off and holidays off but for a professional prize fighter that’s often not even possible. So your life affects other people’s lives and it’s not always in a glamorous or exciting way.
11. Boxing is such a dangerous sport, did you ever fear for your physical well-being?
ICEMAN: I can honestly say that I spent my whole time in my boxing not worrying about the long term affects of it. As someone who still spars today at the age of 50 I am still not overly concerned. I always figured it like this: If I have to worry about what boxing will do to me in the future then I shouldn’t have bothered getting into it in the first place.
I do remember very well during the course of 1982 and 1983 when I was 14 and 15 years old I used to get tremendous headaches on a daily basis. It seemed to me, actually, that it was one big headache that lasted for several months without a break. Yet never once did I consider stopping boxing.
I never told anyone about the headaches. Not my mother, not my father, not my coach.
I figured I’d rather just deal with the headaches and the misery they brought than tell someone about it and end up not being able to go to the gym anymore.
12. Frank Bruno once said “Boxing is the toughest and loneliest sport in the world.” Do you agree with that statement?
ICEMAN: I agree pretty much, yes. The thing is this. You have your trainer and your cornerman and your teammates and your family, friends and fans but when you are in that ring and some guy is in there with you trying to knock your head off and you have 10 ounce gloves on and no headgear, well, that’s about as lonely of a place as you can get in a room full of thousands of people. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and ten million thoughts running through your head all at the same time.
It’s definitely not for everyone, you’d better believe that, no matter how tough and willing someone may think they are before they have to experience it.
13. Looking back, what was the best thing about being a boxer and having the career you had?
ICEMAN: I’ve often thought bout this and I can honestly say there are several things that are tied for first place, aspects that are irreplaceable. First is being recognized as a boxer. No matter what level you’re at, journeyman or world champion, there’s something special about being a professional fighter that can’t ever be taken away from us by anyone. On top of that are the friends we’ve made, the places we’ve gotten to see and the camaraderie with other boxers.
I always look at all fighters pretty much in the same light in a certain way. No matter who they were or what they’ve accomplished, they were there. They’ve done something that even their most vicious critics and haters can never take away from them.
14. Looking back, what was the worst thing about being a boxer and does anything bother you to this day?
ICEMAN: I would say that everything is kind of tied together in terms of my regrets. Being in a wrong out-of-the-ring relationship early on, dealing with a hard headed manager and sub-par trainer, me not knowing early on about proper nutrition and training to be a professional, listening to advice from someone who I ended up knowing much more about fighting than they ever could dream of. It’s all intertwined. Sometimes thinking about certain things makes me angry but at the end of the day I’ve always used my bad experiences as a way to prevent boxers I’ve worked with to avoid the same ones in their own career.
So all my mistakes and miscalculations and faults have not all been in vain after all.