In his Showtime Championship Boxing debut unbeaten middleweight prospect J’Leon Love outpointed rugged spoiler Derrick Findley over 10 rounds on Feb. 23. In doing so, the Dearborn Heights, Mich., native moved to 15-0, with 8 knockouts. Love, a 25-year-old boxer who emulates the style of his promoter, Floyd Mayweatehr, and trains at The Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, has been rewarded for that win with the opening spot on Mayweather-Robert Guerrero pay-per-view broadcast this Saturday.
Love will take on tough veteran Gabe Rosado, who unsuccessfully challenged Gennady Golovkin for the WBA middleweight title in his most recent bout in January. Here’s what the very personable Love had to say on various subjects including his early years at The Kronk gym, working with the late Emanuel Steward and now being in Las Vegas where he’s a part of The Money Team.
Anson Wainwright: You open the pay-per-view broadcast of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero event when you fight Gabe Rosado. Tell me about that.
J’Leon: We’re looking at Gabriel Rosado (as a test, and) it should be a good one. He just fought for the (WBA) title against (Gennady) Golovkin and me; I’m a young prospect, 15-0, making a step up. It should be a good one. I know he’ll come to fight. I’m definitely coming to fight. I’m going to be in shape. I’ve seen him fight and he shows a lot of heart when he does put on a performance. It’s just making that step and this is it. It’s something I’ve been waiting on a long time.
AW: It’s the kind of fight that will take you to another level, as you said. It’s a step up fight and with it being on Floyd’s pay per view, it will get you some attention.
JL: Oh yeah, any pay-per-view fight is a big one. Just to be on a Floyd Mayweather undercard is great, as Floyd Mayweather is my promoter. My manager is Al Haymon. I have a great team that takes me to the top and puts me in these good positions, and you can never forget God. I put him first in everything I do. I just go ahead and train. It’s going to give me good exposure and I’m going to put on a good show and let the world know I‘m good for it.
AW: Your last fight was on the undercard of your good friend Ishe Smith’s world title win. Could you talk about your fight with Derrick Findley?
JL: Oh man it was a tremendous fight. I fought Derrick Findley, another tough, grueling fighter, come forward, relentless pressure. I showed I have the talent. I can box. I’m a very smart fighter. I use my brain in there. It was a good fight. He took me the rounds, I went 10 rounds for the first time, something I needed. I’ve been scheduled for 10 rounds before but never got that far. I showed I can fight under pressure. Whatever it is, I can adjust and do what I have to do to get the ‘W.’ Like I said I’ve been waiting on this chance all my life, I’ve been sitting here watching Pay per view show’s for so many years and here I am opening up one. It’s a blessing to be in the position I’m in. I do what I do and I’m definitely not taking it for granted.
AW: There wasn’t too much going on at middleweight a few years ago. Now it’s thriving again. What are your thought’s on the division?
JL: The Middleweight division is stacked with tons of talent from the UK, to back over here in the States, from all over. It’s definitely keeping the game alive with some pretty good fights. It’s all about taking these fights, matching these guys up. We’re not taking any easy test, we going the old route, the best fighters fight the best fighters and that’s what I’m down for. I come from an old-school gym, Kronk gym in Detroit, so I grew up learning about Thomas Hearns, Milton McCrory, Steve McCrory, all these different fighters who paved the way for us. Tommy Hearns with Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, those guys fought each other and some of the best fighters in the game; you know we’re taking that route. I have a great promoter and he’ll put me in great position and we’ll go from there.
AW: What was it like having Floyd Mayweather working your corner in your last fight?
JL: We did what we were supposed to do. We got the victory, which was most important. You can’t get any better advice than from a guy who’s actually been in there and been in the position we’ve been in. Certain situations in certain rounds, he knew what I was going through so he gave me nothing but the best advice.
AW: Can you share with us what it was like being a part of the Kronk gym.
JL: I grew up in the Kronk, where some of the greatest fighters trained. There was so much talent that was under the radar, some great amateurs, some great pros, all those guys in one gym makes a great gym. I grew up there in Detroit. You know I fell in love with the sport watching on TV and went down to the Kronk gym and the rest is history. That’s what showed me (the way to a pro career). I’ve been in some good dog fights, even just sparring, old-school sparring, which is great. It just made me the animal I am. I can be a smart boxer but I can be a dog and sit and bang. I’m just a fighter, I can do everything. At the end of the day the Kronk made me the fighter I am today.
AW: Sadly, several months ago Emanuel Steward passed away. What was it like being around him?
JL: Well, I grew as a kid at the Kronk, playing basketball, going to the gym in the basement. I travelled all over the world with Emanuel. I learned a lot about the business and the right and wrong things by being around him. A great man, definitely a man who’d give you the shirt off his back or give you his last dollar. Just to see a man who was so influential in the sport of boxing, he brought up so many great fighters and paved the way for so many guys like us who are trying to come up from Detroit. It’s a tremendous loss for the sport, there will never be another Emanuel Steward but the younger kids who had a chance to see him work and watch him analyze fights, break down fights as the rounds went on, there will not be another Emanuel Steward but there will be another type of Emanuel Steward. Some kid will come. Just to be in his presence, to be around him and to learn from him was a blessing. So we definitely lost a great person in the sport of boxing but he lives on through us.
AW: Who was your boxing hero growing up?
JL: He wasn’t real, but Rocky. I think everybody liked Rocky. But then when I actually got into boxing it was Marvin Hagler. He was a gutsy guy, he went to anybody’s backyard; he went to the UK and just fought guys. It went from Marvin Hagler to Gerald McClellan, a beast from Detroit. He came from nowhere on the scene, he had a killer right hand and was getting guys out of there until his devastating fight in the UK with Nigel Benn. He suffered a very bad injury that caused him to never fight again and that almost killed him. I like old-school fighters and now I deal with Floyd on a one-on-one basis, almost every day. I soak up so much watching him train. Right now Floyd is the top guy.
AW: As you touched on, you have a personal relationship with Floyd. Could you share some of that with us?
JL: So many people have a different opinion on him. They see him on TV, some people say he’s cocky, arrogant, this and that, but I mean the guy’s a great guy. It’s a blessing to have him as a friend, a promoter, give me advice whether it be the sport or in life. We travel, go to different states, he shows us a good time, whether it’s going to California, staying there to go to a game court side, taking a private jet to Miami, hanging out there, different things. He always takes care of us. We do different things here in Vegas, whether its hanging out, movie nights, he rents out the theatre, they shut it down, we go and watch whatever movie we want. Last year he rented out the whole amusement park at Circus Circus (casino in Las Vegas). That was crazy. Not many people do that. It was a great opportunity.
AW: Can you tell us about yourself away from boxing?
JL: We go shopping. Right now I’ve got a deal with Yaya Mayweather. We’re searching the internet for a pair of shoes ‘cause that’s the deal we made. She’s right here, mad at me! (Laughs) Other than that I’m on the internet searching for sneakers for her, just hanging out. We go paintballing, we ride the four wheelers, we do a whole bunch of things.
AW: What about your modeling career?
JL: I don’t do that anymore. I got beat up. I got cuts on my face so I probably wouldn’t be a good model at all (laughs).
JL: I appreciate all the boxing fans. We get so many people who come to the gym, write to me on face book, Twitter, instagram. I appreciate everybody, it’s a dream come true. Even (for someone) to say ‘I’m a fan of J’Leon Love’ is something I never thought would happen. I’m definably blessed. So all the boxing fans who follow from the UK to the States – the UK has some of the greatest fans and some of the greatest fighters – we just appreciate all the fans around the world.
AW: Anything to say to Gabe Rosado?
JL: You know I’m young, I’m not one to talk. I’m coming to put in work and that’s it and May 4, I will be victorious, hands down. We will be 16-0. Be prepared. I’ll be prepared and let’s go and put a show on for the world.
Video: Dominic Verdin and Daniel Morales