Exclusive Interview: “The Pit Boss” John Hackleman

By Percy Crawford


Exclusive Interview: “The Pit Boss” John Hackleman

"I think Tyson would knock everyone out if he went to MMA"

PC: Welcome to Boxingtalk.com John!

JH: Thank you!

PC: Congratulations on the Tito Ortiz win. As Chuck’s trainer, was this the most satisfying victory for you?

JH: Thank you. Um, they all are. No one more than the other. Tito was great, redemption against Horn was great and Couture was great. This was just another fight, but it was a great one, but just another one.

PC: Chuck seemed to have the attitude that the knockout would come eventually. Tito was a lot more resilient than in the first fight. Did Chuck know he would have to be patient coming into this fight?

JH: Yeah, definitely. It was part of the plan. If you start rushing against a guy like Tito, you’re going to get taken down real quick and put on your back. We relied a lot on the jab and lateral movement and we went back to a lot of boxing basics that we modified for MMA.

PC: Tito kept his hands real high early on in the fight. Was it an adjustment that you made in the corner between rounds to make Chuck go to his body early in the third round?

JH: I mentioned it in the corner, but we had already planned that for the fight. We noticed he kept his hands real high, so we knew we were going to go to the body. Chuck actually did it a couple of times in the first round too. We started doing rights to the body, which was the plan going in. We wanted to land some hard rights to the body and then come up with the overhand right.

PC: Going back to the first round, did you think the fight was going to make it out of the first round or did you think Chuck had him?

JH: Nah, I didn’t see a KO happening in the first round. When he had Tito on the ground, he was covering up real good. I didn’t think he was going to stop him in the first round.

PC: You’ve been with Chuck a long time. With all the recent success he’s had, do you have to keep him grounded or is he the same guy you met years ago?

JH: He’s exactly the same, exactly the same. He’s no different today than he was 15 years ago when he used to drive up here in that Honda 250 and was sleeping on the couch. He treats all his friends the same. He has all the same training partners; unlike some fighters who switch camps every other fight. Chuck still has the same gym, the same sparring partners and the same training partners that he had since day one. Chuck hasn’t changed. In fact, the whole camp goes over there a week in advance for his fights. We spent Christmas together and hung out and trained. He’s no different. The only difference is he drives up now in a brand new Ferrari and I keep time on a $15,000 Rolex, so that’s the only difference. The money is not quite like it is in boxing yet, but it’s getting up there.

PC: I know you say every win was your most satisfying one, but what’s your favorite Chuck knockout?

JH: Shit, my favorite Chuck knockout. That’s a hard one. Which one? I loved the Couture one, but I love Couture, so I hated to see him go out that way. Tito probably, cause I know Tito wasn’t hurt that bad. I don’t like to see guys get KO’d cold; especially a guy like Randy. Tito went down and the referee stopped it and he got up and he was fine. Yeah, that was probably the most rewarding one. Nobody wants to hurt anyone in there.

PC: My favorite would probably be the Jeremy Horn rematch knockout.

JH: Yeah, I didn’t like that one at all because I could see Jeremy was hurt real early. I actually wanted to run on the other side of the cage and throw in the towel for him, but he was just taking a beating; I didn’t like it at all. Chuck didn’t want to hurt him anymore, but the referee couldn’t stop it because he was hitting back and his corner for some reason didn’t stop it. I didn’t like it. It was rewarding getting the win, but I didn’t want to see a warrior like Jeremy Horn losing that way.

PC: I’m sure it’s going to shock a lot of people when they see you saying you don’t like to see guys get hurt, being the deadliest striker in the game’s trainer.

JH: Chuck doesn’t either. In fact we love Jeremy Horn and Randy Couture. Randy came up and trained with us. I’m real close with the Team Quest guys. No one wants to hurt anyone though, it’s just a sport. It’s just like tennis with knockouts.

PC: Chuck is 37 years old, but he hasn’t taken much punishment in his career. How much longer do you think he could compete at this level?

JH: I think it’s up to him. I go to boxing and in boxing, the speed guys go down quick because they rely on speed and that’s the first thing to go. Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones and Prince Hamed, those guys relied on speed and they don’t last as long. The guys that rely on power, like Earnie Shavers and George Foreman, lasted because the power is the last to go. You have power until you are 50 years old. I think Chuck relies on his power, his chin and his aggression. He can last as long as he wants. He’ll probably want to go another 3 years.

PC: The UFC just signed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Is that the fight you want to see Chuck take next?

JH: I don’t know about next. It’s up to The UFC, but definitely down the road. I think he’s ready right now for Quinton, but I don’t know if it will happen next or not. Chuck or myself doesn’t really care who’s next. Chuck’s ready for anyone right now.

PC: You are a registered nurse and The Pit boss. How do you balance the two?

JH: I don’t really work as a nurse. I haven’t worked as a nurse since Chuck has gone crazy with his career. I just don’t have time. I keep my license and I use my nursing if one of my fighters gets cut or just needs some medical stuff; I help them out. I haven’t worked as a nurse in a hospital for going on 6 years now.

PC: I heard you have some pretty nasty hands too. If you were in your prime against Liddell, who wins?

JH: Thanks. I think it depends on the role. If it’s boxing, probably me, if it’s kickboxing, probably me and MMA obviously Chuck. Chuck tells everyone I could still beat him, but there’s no way. There’s no way. He just says that out of respect, you know? We still work out and stay in shape and do our old school training.

PC: That was my next question. Do you still get in there and mix it up with those guys?

JH: I do a lot of stuff, but I don’t like to spar with my fighters or my students because to me, it crosses the line. Whether you going to go too hard on them or too easy. I’m supposed to be their trainer, not their sparring partner. What if I hurt them in training or worse, they hurt me? It’s just a line we don’t want to cross. I don’t want to bang with my guys and risk one of us getting hurt. I just put together their training regimen and I train them. I’m happy with that role.

Hey you know who I just talked to last week, Earnie Shavers.

PC: Really how did that go?

JH: Good. He called me from England where he lives at now because he heard I was a big fan of his because I’m all about punching power and he got my number and called me. He’s the greatest heavyweight puncher of all time. He’s a really great guy to talk to.

PC: Speaking of puncher’s. Is that natural punching power that guys like yourself, Chuck and Earnie Shavers have or is that something you could teach?

JH: You can make it better. You can make it harder. You can build on it, but a punchers a puncher will always be a puncher. If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Ali was never going to be a puncher. You either have it or you don’t; just like a chin. You either have a chin or you don’t. Guys with the most heart in the world that don’t have a chin, they’re going to bang until they get caught and then they’ll go out. Then you have guys with a solid chin and no heart, will get hit and not go out, but will just basically quit. Chuck has a granite chin and a humongous heart. He’ll never quit. He won’t get KO’d; he’s never been KO’d. He’s been tagged pretty solid. In his fight against Guy Mezger, he got tagged and he’s been tagged in some kickboxing matches, but he’s never really been hurt. He’s got a chin.

PC: Tito actually caught him with a nice right hand and I think he got comfortable with trading with Chuck and it was the beginning of the end.

JH: Yeah, that’s a bad thing to do. Somebody made a big mistake there. At the end of the day, when Chuck trades with anyone, even Quinton Jackson or Wanderlei Silva, Chuck’s chin and power are going to override both. Wanderlei has a good punch, but he doesn’t have the chin Chuck has. If they start banging with each other, I think Wanderlei will go down a helleva lot quicker than Chuck.

PC: You are a former pro boxer. Do you still watch boxing and if so, who are some of your favorite boxers to watch? 

JH: Oh yeah. Right now, I like Winky Wright. I love Pacquiao, everyone loves Pacquiao. I love Barrera. I’m not too crazy about the heavyweights right now with the whole Russian thing going on right now. I like Byrd, just because of his attitude. I’m not really a fan of the boxer/runner, but I like the fact that he would get in there and bang with the big guys and he would weight right at 200 pounds. Everyone loves Arturo Gatti. I didn’t like when he switched over to try and be a boxer. His banging is what made him famous. I would probably say Pacquiao is my favorite right now.

PC: Any of the other Pit fighters we could be on the look out for?

JH: There’s a few. I have a guy who is actually a teacher at my gym right now, Glover Teixeira. He just knocked out some killer over in WEC; one of Team Quest top guys. He knocked him out cold. Dana White was right there at ringside, so he’ll probably be coming into The UFC pretty soon. We call him “Iron” Glover Teixeira because his idol is Mike Tyson. Out of all the fighters, MMA or kickboxing, he loves Mike Tyson. He got to meet him because Mike Tyson came into the dressing room before the Babalu fight and Glover met him. He was so excited. Tyson is his favorite fighter of all time. Glover is a BJJ (Brazilian Ju Jitsu) guy so everyone thought he was going to wrestle and he put this guy to sleep with a left hook. I have Antonio, who is a 135 pounder. He is actually Chuck’s roommate. He’s a killer coming up; I think he’s 13-2 now. I still have Von Flue who’s fought in The UFC a few times. Right now, to be honest, it’s Chuck. It’s kind of like Kronk gym when Tommy Hearns was there. There were other good fighters there, but Kronk gym was all about Tommy Hearns. Then he retired and Emmanuel started taking over other guys. Chuck’s been with me 15 years, he’s probably the nucleus of the gym right now.

PC: Which do you think is tougher, a boxer going to MMA or a mixed martial artist going into boxing?

JH: Ah shit, that’s a good one. I think it would be harder for a boxing guy to go to MMA because of all the wrestling and stuff. It’s so much striking going on in MMA now a lot of guys can’t come over and just bang. The biggest thing with a boxer would be them thinking it’s a boxing match and within 2 seconds they would be on their back and can’t get back up. You have to modify your stance, your punching and your strategy. If a MMA guy goes to a boxing coach for his standup, it’s not going to be affective at all. Boxing hands isn’t going to work in MMA. A boxer would have to modify it. If they already have the punch…like I think Tyson would knock everyone out if he went to MMA. He has that low stance and I bet he could pick up wrestling pretty quick. A natural guy like Roy Jones would be really good in MMA.

PC: I appreciate the interview John. Is there anything you want to say in closing?

JH: I love boxing. Boxing is probably the main stay of our training and we just combined it with everything else. I think boxing guys picking up on MMA training methods is a great way to cross train and get well conditioned.


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