Posted on | March 9, 2007 | 1 Comment
Travis Kauffman Interview: The Great White Hope
By: Rich Bergeron
Undefeated Heavyweight Prospect Travis Kauffman (7-0, 5 KO’s) is primed to notch another win in a match against Joe Stofle (10-9-2, 9 KO’s) on Saturday, March 10th at The Riveredge Hotel in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The young heavyweight only became devoted to pursuing the sport of boxing after a run in with some schoolyard bullies. “My Dad owned his own gym when I was like 9 or 10, and I used to go in all the time and mess around. I had a couple exhibitions against my brother, and he was three years older, but we weighed the same,” he explained. “My grandma died when I was like 10, and she was the core of our family. She kept everyone together. So, I quit boxing for a while. My dad was keeping an eye on us more and had to stop putting us with grandma all time. Later when I was about 14 years old in the ninth grade, I got jumped by a group of kids. One of them was an amateur boxer, but he was nothing big. My main focus was revenge, and I wanted to get ‘em all back one by one. I was only able to get one guy, though, the boxer. My dad was putting on the regional and state Golden Gloves, and he heard that this kid was entering it. So, I was like OK, I wanna fight him. ‘In ring or on the streets, I want to fight him and get him back,’ I told my dad. My dad wanted to make sure it was in the ring. I fought him and beat him. I’ve been at it ever since, and I started getting really serious at about age 17.”
Kauffman’s father is just one of a few role models he looked up to when he was younger. “Steve Little was a big role model for me. He passed away in 2001, and he fought Michael Nunn for a title once and won a split decision. He was like an uncle to me. He and my dad grew up together. Just because of the kind of boxer he was and seeing how much he gave back to the community. That’s my goal when I become somebody big, and I want to give back not only to my community, but to the world. Steve had a big heart, and he was always someone who influenced me,” he said. “Hassim Rachman is another guy I idolize now. He’s a good friend, and he always gives me good words of wisdom. He always tells me, ‘All your so-called friends, leave ‘em alone.’ He’s someone I idolize, and he’s a big influence in my life right now. Not only that, but my father as well. He raised me and my older brother by himself as a single parent. He’d work a full time job as a business owner, take me to the gym, this, that, and whatever else, and he kept doing it, and he still does it to this day.”
Kauffman has two main focuses as a boxer: to be a champion and to make money. “Like everyone else, I wanna be the champion of the world, unify all the titles, and make money,” he said. “I want to make millions, but my main goal is to become heavyweight champ of the world. Anybody can become a millionaire, but not everyone can become Heavyweight Champion of the World.”
Asked about his style, he pointed to a couple well-known legends. “I’m more of an Ali-type, and some people call me the white James Toney,” he said. “I’m more of a boxer/counter puncher, but it depends on who I’m fighting. Anyone who goes in there with me knows I can fight. I’m orthodox, but I can fight southpaw. I’m versatile, and I can adjust to anybody. I fought internationally a lot in the amateurs.”
As far as how he’s feeling going into this weekend’s match-up, he’s anxious to prove what he can do. “I’m always ready, whether I’m in shape or out of shape, I’m always ready. This is what I do for a living,” he said. “I’m a born fighter. If it’s tomorrow, three weeks from not, or last month, I’m always ready.”
He compiled a 52-12 amateur record and was ranked number one when he turned professional. The Olympic field had been whittled down to Kauffman and Mike Wilson, and he opted out of the trials to turn pro.
He points to his solid record and his pro debut January 26th of last year. He explained that his last fight was September 9th, and that’s been his longest layoff so far. “I don’t want no more layoffs like this,” he said.
Preparing for a fight is primarily a matter of conditioning for Kauffman. “Mostly just getting in shape and staying in shape. I have all the talent in the world, and I believe I’m one of the best heavyweights out there,” he said. Hassim Rachman and Monte Barrett are my friends, and they tell me I have what it takes to be a champion someday. So, as far as boxing, I know I have the talent, but I choose to live my life on the outside of boxing, too. Boxing comes easy to me. I’m 21 years old, and I have almost a one-year-old son. It’s tough to stay focused being so young, and there’s a lot of distractions, but I try my hardest to stay focused.”
Asked about what his favorite punch was he gave the classic answer: “Whatever one I hit you with.”
He makes a point to refuse to underestimate his opponent. “People who don’t know anything about boxing might say the guy’s record isn’t that great, so why am I fighting him? He’s a puncher, obviously, and he’s got nine knockouts. All his losses are to guys who are like 22-1 and 16-0. The greatest percentage of his losses are against guys who had great records,” he said. “People question me about it, and my last fight was against a guy who was 2-1, and that guy didn’t come to fight. People are always saying, ‘You ain’t fighting nobody,’ but I’m 21 years old. You look at the guys fighting for Heavyweight titles and they’re 27 and older. Right now I think all the champions are over 30. I just wanna move up smart and do it the right way. There’s no need for me to rush. Yeah, I was ranked number one in the country as an amateur, but now this is the pros. I don’t worry about who I fight. They can put the best in there, and no matter who they put in there, I’m gonna perform the best.”
As far as his best and worst fights, he points to one opponent. “His record was 3-9, and Top Rank told me not to fight him, even though I’m not with them, they used to get me fights. He was real tough, a guy named David Cleage,” said Kauffman. “More so because my son was born the night before. He was a rough and rugged guy, and I didn’t get enough sleep before the fight. I was fighting on about three hours sleep, and I went the whole fight southpaw. It went all six rounds. I just wanted to prove I could do it, that I could beat whoever they put in front of me. No matter if I had three hours, no hours, or 10 hours of sleep, no matter what.”
He also considers the fight with Cleage as his best fight so far in his career. “I boxed the best I think I ever boxed in my life, and not only that, but I did it southpaw. I was on my toes, dancing, and sticking my jab,” he said. “I could go out and KO him like everyone else, but I didn’t want to knock him out at all. My first few fights only went three or four rounds, but when it comes to a guy who’s gonna last, I won’t know what to do. So, I want to get as much experience as I can, just in case there’s someone out there who’s gonna be able to take my punch and go the distance. I just wanted to feel what it’s like, and since then I’ve had two or three that didn’t go six rounds.”
Looking outside the ring he calls his son the best accomplishment he’s made so far. “He made a huge difference in my life,” he said.
Given a chance to offer some final thoughts, he appealed to all his supporters to keep the faith. “I want everybody to continue to believe in me, and I want everybody to know my name’s GW hope for a reason. We have our guys out there like Joe Mesi and stuff like that, but I don’t think he’s much at all. He’s a tough fighter, but I just want people to know, I’m gonna be the best. Fight News Unlimited, I want to give you guys thanks for doing the interview, and I just want people to keep an eye out for me. 2007′s gonna be a great year for me, and I’ll continue to get better.”
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