In anticipation for the upcoming release of “12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym: Boxing and Manhood in Appalachia,” we are checking in with some of the most accomplished and respected boxing figures from the state of West Virginia. These are road warriors, guys who fight anyone, anywhere, anytime — Appalachian underdogs of the squared circle. Their toughness mirrors the toughness of West Virginia. Today’s guest is no different. Around my way, he’s simply known as “The Beast.” And, although he was born in Argillite, Kentucky, you can’t talk West Virginia boxing without checking in with “The Beast.”
During the course of his professional career, he’s scored 26 big wins (22 coming by way of knockout). He’s fought in Canada, Germany, Poland, Las Vegas, all over the United States. He’s squared off with some of the greatest heavyweights of his generation, never backing down from a challenge. Kirk Johnson. Andrew Golota. Ray Austin. BJ Flores. Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield. He’s fought them all. Please welcome to the “Lo’s Gym Blog,” one of Appalachia’s toughest customers, Jeremy “The Beast” Bates.
In “12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym,” I write about West Virginia’s unique ties to boxing history. Your story is, of course, included in the book. How would you like to be remembered as a West Virginian / Appalachian professional boxer?
JB: The biggest hurdle I had when turning pro was opportunities. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s nobody was putting on boxing shows so I had to stay on the move. I’d like to think I was a part of bringing professional boxing back to WV. I would like to be remembered as a good time to come watch – a giant show that was entertaining, because It was “just a show.” A lot of people don’t know, and I’m proud of the fact, that I maintained a full-time job throughout my amateur and professional career except for two years when I moved to Parkersburg (WV) and had a few sponsors that allowed me to train full-time.
You certainly enjoyed playing the bad guy. Are you saying “the Beast” was just a persona?
JB: I figured out really quickly that no matter what I did, I could not make everyone like me. But with just a small amount of effort I could make everyone hate me and if people hate you they buy tickets to come and boo you. I’ve been boo’d and heckled more than any other fighter in the history of WV but I loved it all. I always loved when people would meet me out somewhere. They could not believe I was an intelligent nice person. I would always explain I just said and did those crazy things to sell tickets.
Over the course of your career as a professional boxer, you’ve faced some top-notch heavyweights (Evander Holyfield, Andrew Golota, Kirk Johnson, Ray Austin, BJ Flores, etc.). Who was the hardest puncher, toughest customer? Give us a few stories.
JB: Kirk Johnson hit me the hardest. Andrew Golota was the meanest. But Evander beats them all 99 out of 100 times. Evander didn’t have a weakness, he did everything great and he has one of the best chins in the history of this sport. I know that for sure!!!
Of your 26 professional wins, 22 have come by way of knockout. What is the key to your success as a KO artist?
JB: Go in hands high behind a jab, use what you have, and when you smell blood jump!!!! In the beginning sparring partners told me I hit hard but I didn’t knock people out. So I studied the best punchers in the world and looked at how they trained. I watched thousands of videos and mocked their movements and used those same combinations a million times on the heavy bag. I also studied what muscles were used in punching and I became the strongest around at exercises using those muscles. I worked very very hard in the gym!!! I wasn’t a born puncher or fighter I just took what I was naturally okay at and made myself good at it.
What, in your opinion, could be done to improve the boxing scene in West Virginia?
JB: I think it’s moving in the right direction. Boxing is a science that takes years to learn. The resurgence that came about in the early 2000’s should start to produce seasoned fighters in the next few years.
I recently interviewed Deontay Wilder’s trainer, Jay Deas. He said, “It only takes one guy” to break out and change the perception of fighters from the so-called Southern Circuit. Do you think West Virginia’s day is coming?
JB: We’ve already seen an upset or two from WV fighters on national TV and in Vegas. Do you think Mike Snider was expected to beat Bellows? WV is starting to be competitive in national fights, and it comes from paying your dues, spending those years in the gym and on the road.
*On June 20th, 2017 Mike Snider (Fleming, West Virginia) knocked out Lanell Bellows at the Sam’s Town Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bellows is promoted by Floyd Mayweather’s Money Team promotional company. We’ll be checking in with Mr. Snider soon.
Thanks again and best of luck, champ.
JB: Thank you. Good luck with the book.
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