Former WBC super-featherweight champion Jesse James Leija (47-7-2,19KO’s) talks to Australian Hall of Fame promoter Peter Maniatis KO Boxing Show about epic fights with Azumah Nelson, Oscar
De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Mickey Ward, Kostya Tszyu, and rates the best.
AZUMAH NELSON (1st fight)
“My first world title bout and the atmosphere in San Antonio was amazing with 63,000 people and maybe 95% were cheering for me. It was an experience that is hard to explain with the emotions I had that night, and having a great fight with Azumah Nelson on top of that and maybe not getting beat was even better. I survived the fight, he didn’t knock me down, he didn’t hurt me, the fight was a war and it was a big relief that having the first world title fight in San Antonio with that many people puts extra pressure on you and I was relieved after the fight.
( The WBC super featherweight title bout was declared a twelve round draw on September 10, 1993)
“In my rematch with Azumah it was amazing but I had thought I won our first fight so I had to do the same thing in the second fight but not give up any rounds because I think I gave up one or two rounds in our first fight. I just put the pressure on him in every single round and finished the fight strong and I won the fight quiet comfortably.
( Jesse James Leija outpointed Azumah Nelson by scores 117-109,117-110,114-113 to capture WBC super featherweight title May 7,1994)
“I had four fights with Azumah, winning two, losing one with one draw. I went through forty three rounds of hell with Azumah Nelson because every round he had bad intentions with every punch he threw – and he hit so hard. There was just something about Azumah that he brought out the best in me. I was stopped in our third fight with Azumah. So in our fourth fight – I was still worried about Azumah Nelson. He is just amazing fighter. He catches you when you think you have him beat and he would come up with something different so you got to be aware every second of the fight you have to be prepared and be mentally ready to expect the unexpected.That was the great Azumah Nelson and I had the upper hand beating him in two fights and one draw and he beat me in one fight. I love to boast that I beat Azumah in the best of four.
OSCAR DE LA HOYA
“The fight was tough. I knew it was going to be tough from the get-go. We had such great training for that fight. I went away to 150 miles from San Antonio to the city of Corpus Christi and it was winter time and was real secluded where we had great sparring and as a matter of fact we brought in Richie Giachetti who had Larry Holmes and other fighters , to help out with our training so we were ready. I was sparring Roberto Duran’s nephew who was a hard strong puncher. I was sparring 147 pounders and my fight with Oscar was at 135 pounds. I was doing well with the sparring partners. I thought I was ready but when I got in the ring with Oscar it was a diferent story. The power he had and his left hook – it was amazing. It was a diferent story.
( Oscar De La Hoya stopped Jesse James Leija by TKO 3 on December 15, 1995 )
“I had three weeks notice to drop 17 pounds and get ready for the great Shane Mosley. He said not to long ago that I had given him one of his toughest fights at 135. I was just so proud that he had mentioned that I was one of the toughest fights he had at 135. and I only had three weeks notice for the fight. To drop that much weight – I was proud and glad that my trainers put so much into getting me ready for that fight.
(Shane Mosley stops Jesse James Leija by TKO 10 to retain IBF lightweight title on November 14,1998)
“Mickey Ward is probably one of the toughest fighters I ever fought.The toughness he had was incomparable to other fighters. He hit so hard – he was non-stop – always in your face. Every second of every round. He was just a great, great guy on top of that. We had so much respect for each other because we were both towards the end of our careers but I had the fight with Kostya Tszyu which was amazing and Mickey had the triology with Arturo Gatti.
(Jesse James Leija won a five round technical split decision over Mickey Ward on January 5, 2002 by scores 48-47, 49-46,47-48)
“I tell everyone that it was one of my best experiences visiting the city of Melbourne ( for Kostya Tszyu fight) and been treated so nicely by everyone. It was amazing. I always say to my wife, “ If Australia was any closer to the United States, I would move there in a second. “ Everyone was so nice and we had the best time of our lives – even though I was getting ready for the great Kostya Tszyu.
The people and the respect – it was amazing and even after we left we couldn’t stop talking about the best time we had and good good people. My wife and I would love to go back. The fight with Kostya was tough. I hadn’t sparred in one month because I had a rib injury. We went through the drills without hurting the ribs any more. That really hurt my stamina during the fight. I went after Kostya and he didn’t really hurt me. Never hurt me with any punch at all. I just couldn’t keep up the pace. It was a good pace in the fight and I was pushing the pace. Kostya was helping me push the pace. I got so much respect for Kostya and I know why he is one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. This guy was amazing. I am not saying I would of beaten him in a fight but the fight would have gone the distance or would have been a much better fight – but my rib at the end of the fourth round – I had been caught with a good punch to the rib and my dad knew the fight wasn’t going to last – so he stopped the fight.
( Kostya Tszyu stopped Jesse James Leija by TKO6 with Tszyu ahead by scores 60-54,58-56,59-55. on January 19,2003
for IBF, WBC, WBA light- welterweight titles)
RATING THE BEST
(1) “I would have to go with Oscar as the best. He is the only guy who stopped me in three rounds and I was ready for that fight. I had no injuries so I would say off the top of my head Oscar was the best.
(2) “Shane Mosley would be the second best. The speed he had and the movement he had also his defense. I went well with him but he was an amazing fighter. I talked to him just a couple of months ago. He is a great guy.
(3) “Kostya would be three. He was amazing. They are three to pound for pound fighters. I was able to be in the ring with those guys and that is the proudest achievement on my part.
FUNNY AZUMAH NELSON STORY
“Here is a great story about Azumah Nelson. It’s the first fight ( which was a twelve round draw) I have with Azumah Nelson and he comes into San Antonio a month before the fight. I am at the gym where we were both trainings at different times. I trained from 4 pm to 7 pm. Azumah trained from 7 pm to 10 pm. I am at the gym training one day when Azumah Nelson walks in. One of his trainers comes up to us and says “ Azumah Nelson wants to know if you want to spar with him. He was playing“ Mind Games”. I said no thank you – we will wait for the fight. That’s what he was doing – playing with my mind. He saying – I am not worried about you – we can spar if you want. I thought – this guy is good. I mean – who does that.
“Thank you for the interview Peter Maniatis” said Jesse James Leija