Exclusive Interview: James Leija

By Chuck Dowling


Exclusive Interview: James Leija

People keep making the mental error of thinking that "Jesse" James Leija is ripe for the taking if you're trying to make a name for yourself in the ring. This train of thought has not been working out too well for prospects as of late, just ask Francisco Bojado. Bojado fought Leija a fortnight ago on HBO, and was soundly beaten over 10-rounds. Leija knows time is ticking and he wants to get big fights now. More specifically, the former WBC champ at 130 pounds wants Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, and he wants him bad. BOXINGTALK caught up with "The Texas Tornado".

BT: When I called you earlier you said you were in the gym training some younger fighters?

JL: Yeah, I have a couple of young fighters. My 5-0 heavyweight had to retire. He was 6'5" 250, and a police officer in San Antonio, but he had a cataract. I have a featherweight that is undefeated in 17 or 18 fights named Danny Flores. I also have an undefeated Jr. Bantamweight, named Gabriel Elizando.

BT: Are you their main trainer?

JL: No, one of my trainers train them, my dad helps out, and I help out. Three or four of our guys work with them. Hey, I also have an amateur heavyweight named Isaac Ruiz that is 6'4" 255 lb. He?s Hispanic

BT: Sounds like you guys like big heavyweights.

JL: Yep

BT: Bro, in your last fight when you went down in the 2nd, I for real thought it was the beginning of the end. Bojado is a young tiger, but as soon as the next round began he started fighting like he was the one losing the fight. What went through your mind when you were on the canvas?

JL: Well you know what? He hit me and I went down. It was a good shot, but when I got up I was not hurt at all. I was more upset that I got caught with something that I knew was coming, but I was not hurt at all because right after I got up I went straight after him to show him I was not hurt at all. In the third round I started to take his heart away with those good body shots.

BT: I talked to your manager Lester Bedford earlier and he said Team Bojado has not contacted him regarding a rematch. When he lost to Rubio, he got him back in the ring. Do you think they'll call you looking for that fight eventually, and is it something you'd be interested in (because your manager does not seem to be)?

JL: I'm not interested. I want a big fight. I'm not really getting ahead by fighting Bojado. It helped me out, it was a great fight. But it was more a chance for him, fighting me because people had started to kind of think of me as a gate-keeper or stepping stone. That?s why Camacho tried to fight me.

BT: Yeah, I was going to say speaking of rematches, Hector Camacho Jr. kind of went out like a little bitch against in your fight with him when he tried to basically quit his way to victory. How would you like to get him back in the ring?

JL: That's going backwards. I don't prove anything that way. I want to fight guys that challenge me. That's why I fought Delahoya, Tszyu, and Azumah Nelson. Camacho would not be a challenge. I want to move up, not fight guys I've beat already. If I fought Bojado again, I'd beat him again. Then what do people say "Well you beat him again." That does not do anything for my career

BT: You've made it no secret you want to fight Gatti next. As a matter of fact your manager told me that's the only fight you are looking for. Putting your eggs all in one basket is how he put it. Is this true?

JL: Well, I mean I don't know if it's putting my eggs in one basket, but I've proven myself and done everything that has been asked of me. No-one wanted to fight Delahoya, so I stepped up to the plate. Nobody wanted to fight Mosely, and I fought him on 3 weeks notice. Bojado, Camacho, everybody they want me to face, I fight. Now I want Gatti, I've wanted that fight for years. It?s not that I dislike him, I'm friends with Gatti. I just want to fight the best.

BT: I think the boxing community would agree that that would be a very exciting fight, but there are a lot of people clamoring for Gatti/Mayweather. Why do you feel you should be the guy to win the Gatti sweepstakes?

JL: I don't know if the Mayweather fight will come off. I think they'll have too much trouble making the fight. Too much stands in the way. I'm not sure Gatti will fight him if he can't get paid. It only makes sense if both make money, so if it's not Mayweather, I think I?m next. I deserve it more than Spadafora or anybody else they've been looking at.

BT: What do you feel you could exploit about "Thunder" Gatti?

JL: Well I know he has trouble with guys that move and give him angles. He's always had trouble with boxers but I can box and slug. Ronnie Shields would have a perfect game plan for the Gatti fight. What makes him good is he's so strong and has a big heart so you can never count him out. But the guys he lost to Robinson and Manfreddy that box have beaten him. He had trouble with Branco, the Italian. I think he needs somebody who will trade punches with him like Ward and Dorrin because he's so strong.

BT: Delahoya-Hopkins is coming up and everybody has their own opinion. A lot of people feel that Delahoya does not have the power to bother Hopkins during their fight. You have tasted Delahoya's power first hand, albeit at 135 lb. (Leija lost a WBO title fight with Delahoya via 2nd round TKO in 1995). What is your take on the fight?

JL: I know it will be a difficult fight for Delahoya to win, but if anybody can come up with the stuff to fight Hopkins, it's Delahoya. He had good game plans against Vargas, and Trinidad. People said Vargas was too strong and big and look what he did. People were surprised when he came out boxing with Trinidad. If anybody can beat him it's DLH, but he will have his hands full.

BT: Alright, well you certainly showed the world last time out that anybody who thought you were through better think again. Is there anything else you want to say to anybody?

JL: I've always been the type of fighter that has matched myself up against the best fighters in the world. Look at my resume. I always match up with the best. I've won some and I've lost some, but I always give 100%.