"It's hard to stop cold turkey."
Boxingtalk caught up with former World Champ, "Jesse" James Leija, who has stayed busy since his retirement from boxing. From Knockout Sausage to buidling homes to baseball leagues for kids with disabilities, Leija is giving back to the community in a big way. Check out what Leija's been up to as he demonstrates why he is recognized as a champion both inside and outside of the ring.
BT: James, thanks man I appreciate you taking out some time to talk to us.
JL: No problem Brad, my pleasure to do it.
BT: James, bring everybody up to speed with what you have been doing with yourself.
JL: Actually I took some time off after the Gatti fight. It was the toughest thing to do in my life...stepping away from the ring. Now I know why so many fighters come back. I have been fighting for 20 years and it's like an addiction. It's hard to stop cold turkey.
BT: James, I talked to Roy Jones Sr. about this earlier in the year, he talked about the same thing when boxers can't just stop. Roy said it's almost like a fighter has to detox off of boxing. Kind of like a drug addict would have to detox off of drugs.
JL: It's tough man. The best way to explain it is when fighters become fighters, they do it to get out of the projects and poverty. We do it through the sport that will take us out of poverty. With me, I wasn't poor but I was married and the first few years it was really tough for us. Now knowing where I have been and what I achieved, a fighter doesn't want to go back to poverty or the projects. I don't need the money, but I don't want to go back to struggling either. A lot of fighters that are broke and fight just for the money get hurt. Those are the guys that get hurt. I fought the best fighters in the world. I didn't beat all of them, but I beat some of them. I would probably still be fighting if I didn't have the injuries holding me down some.
BT: So let's move forward, what's the latest with you?
JL: Well several things. One of the things I am doing is having my own line of sausages. It's called Knockout Sausage by Jesse James and we will distribute it all over Texas. Quay foods bought a whole bunch of sausage that distributes in the Chicago market and they will distribute it up there. Plus, we will have it here in Texas at H.E.B. stores. One of the other projects that I have is building homes on the south side of San Antonio. Also, I started "The Miracle League". It's a baseball league that is for kids with disabilities. We are very excited about this. It will give kids themselves who have disabilities a chance to actually play in a baseball league of their own. The city donated 4 acres to us and we raised about 1 million dollars to go towards it. They had a council meeting the other day and it was approved across the board. I also have an ankle and knee brace company going in the works as well. I am staying busy with all of these things...plus my endorsements with Coca Cola, Sprint, Power-ade, and career planning.
BT: Is there anything in the state of Texas that James Leija is NOT doing (laughing)
JL: (Laughing) Well one thing that I really enjoy about being retired is the time I get to spend with my kids. I am involved with my youngest son's football team.
BT: Let's talk about this boxing gym you are about to open up in San Antonio.
JL: We should be opening up within the next couple of weeks. I am going to sign a marketing agreement with Everlast. All of the gym's equipment will be Everlast. I am marketing the gym towards white collar people and kids and women who want to do it as fitness, not necessarily for boxing. Plus I will have the fighters that I manage and train as well. I will have certain trainers assigned to clients, and also I will be training but I can't be there all of the time. We are excited about the gym opening up.
BT: I am interested in what your thoughts are on the Jermain Taylor/Bernard Hopkins fight. People seem split down the middle on this one Jesse.
JL: As close as that fight was, I thought Bernard Hopkins won that fight. Whatever happened to you having to "beat" a champion to beat a champion? I thought Hopkins won the fight by a few rounds. Bernard is not the most liked fighter out there. He isn't a "True" HBO fighter, Jermain is. You have to look at all of that stuff, even though I hate to say it. There are too many circumstances involved. So many things going on behind the scene. When they do it again, the truth hopefully will come out.
BT: James, talk about the upcoming Roy Jones/Antonio Tarver fight. What are your thoughts on this fight and do you think Roy Jones is too old?
JL: If you're not ready for a fight, you still should be able to take a punch. Roy was knocked out both times. I would be worried about this if I were in Roy's camp. A couple years ago, being beat twice in a row wouldn't have happened. Roy is a fighter though and that's what fighters do, they fight.
BT: James, thank you very much for talking to Boxingtalk.com
JL: You're welcome, anytime.
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