- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2005

If they ever remake the movie ‘Hercules’ with an Irishman as the hero, Kevin McBride is the man for the role. The 6-foot-6 ‘Clones Colossus’ is an imposing figure with chiseled features like a figure from Mount Rushmore.

But too often in his bouts McBride moved like a statue and won more because of superior size and weight than any boxing skill, wearing down, leaning on and clubbing his foes into exhaustion. His superhuman appearance has seldom been matched by thrilling ring performances.

When he faces Mike Tyson in a scheduled 10-round bout tonight at MCI Center, however, McBride will have the benefit of two recently added assets: a much tougher training schedule and the aid of a hypnotist. Whether he can parlay that into an upset of Tyson and a subsequent title fight remains to be seen.

Tyson is well past his prime, after all, and coming off an upset loss last July to Englishman Danny Williams. Tyson claimed a knee injury in that bout hampered his efforts, but ring rust and lackluster training may have been equally to blame. Nevertheless, a McBride win over the 2005 version of Tyson doesn’t carry the luster it would have a few years ago.

Oddly, McBride was slated to face Tyson in last summer’s bout until Williams stepped in as a late substitute. Some say McBride’s people bickered too long over the $250,000 purse, but McBride’s hometown promoter, Rich Cappiello, claims Williams simply underpriced them to get the bout.

The frustration of seeing Williams not only get the payday but turn it into a title shot by beating Tyson weighed so heavy on McBride that he was inactive for more than a year. Now he has the match he always wanted but at a reduced price: $125,000 by some accounts, or $180,000 according to McBride’s camp.

So a win over Tyson would mean less in the heavyweight picture and gain McBride less money than last year because Tyson’s value has sunk. Yet the bout still carries the cachet of a big-time heavyweight fight.

Tonight’s result could still make Kevin McBride’s career and lead to better paydays and bigger things. Tyson can take this fight lightly if he wants, but Kevin McBride views it as his date with destiny.

The thing about McBride, 32, that strikes everyone is that he is a likeable, affable giant at ease in any situation and not one to use his size in an intimidating manner. In fact, McBride’s sociability may be the prime reason his conditioning trainer claims he’s never really been in decent shape until now.

Paschal Collins ought to know. He became friends with McBride when both were amateurs in Ireland. The kid brother of former super middleweight world champ Steve Collins, Paschal arrived in the Boston area with no place to stay about six years ago and ended up rooming with McBride for a year.

While Pascal’s own pro career (13-2) went in fits and starts, he spent lots of time in his brother’s training camps and has developed his own theories about preparing boxers. When McBride asked Collins to help him train for Tyson, Paschal saw it as both an opportunity to help his old pal and also introduce himself as a serious boxing trainer.

‘I’ve known Kevin for 16 years, and we’ve always been good friends,’ said Collins, sitting in a Modell’s Sporting Goods store in Brockton, Mass., as the fighter signed autographs recently. ‘I’ve been in training camps with eight world champs, so I’ve gathered some knowledge myself. I saw his training camp before his last Foxwoods Casino fight, and Kevin ran for two weeks with me then. All of his losses stemmed from not being in shape.

‘When he called me, I agreed to do this, but I told him, ‘Don’t mess around with me.’ I’m sacrificing a lot. too, I’ve left my wife home in Dorchester [Mass.] to stay with him.’

Every morning Collins, a slim middleweight, has been running his heavyweight pal six miles or more. McBride has been sparring on alternate days and also visiting a strength coach for weightlifting guidance. There are nutrition consultants — and the hypnotist, Patrick Brady, who has worked with several other boxers.

McBride’s sessions with the hypnotist have several aims, according to Collins. There’s the obvious goal of building his confidence and creating a mental attitude that won’t be cowed by the sight of the fearsome Tyson in the opposite corner.

‘Mr. Brady also wants to speed up his awareness,’ Collins said. ‘He believes he can get Kevin to a level where he is so ready for Tyson’s punches they will look like they’re in slow motion. He can also deal with the pain barrier better.’

Meanwhile, McBride’s popularity with his countrymen is one of his trainer’s biggest concerns.

‘I’ve kept him out of the bars, and basically babysat him for six weeks,’ Collins said. ‘It has been the most stressful six weeks of my life. I’ve been keeping him away from people, even his girl.’

Everything has gotten steadily better, Collins said, especially after the first day of training at D.W. Field Park when McBride’s Brockton trainer, Goody Petronelli, gave the two Irishmen confusing directions about where to do their running. Hoping to shock his pal with a six-mile run right off the bat, Collins and McBride got lost and ended up going nine miles or more before they found their way back.

‘He did the nine miles that first day, cursing me and getting sick and everything, but he did it,’ said Collins. ‘In that first week he couldn’t keep up to me, but now he runs right along with me, which is saying a lot for this big a man. He’s doing things today he couldn’t do three weeks ago, and his energy level is good.?

Said McBride: ‘Paschal has been keeping me going in the right direction, and I’m feeling a lot faster in the ring. I’m definitely excited the closer the fight gets [because] I’m getting a chance to create sporting history for Ireland.

‘I’ve never really fought anybody who was anybody before, so I was training just to make ends meet. This is the first time I’ve ever had six weeks of intense, hard physical work. I’ve had good sparring, lots of work with my strength coach, and I’m enjoying the hypnotist. We’re leaving not a stone unturned.’

McBride even has some added motivation. Three weeks ago, Collins took him to a boxing card in Dorchester, the section of Boston where they live, and McBride found Norman Stone, manager of WBA heavyweight champion Johnny Ruiz of Chelsea, a city just north of Boston.

‘Stoney give me a handshake and promised me if I beat Tyson, he’ll match me and John Ruiz for the WBA title, probably right in Boston at FleetCenter,’ McBride said. ‘What more incentive do I need? Now I know if I beat Mike Tyson, I can make a lot of money down the road, and even fight for a world title in Boston. Can you imagine the way the Irish will turn out for that?’

McBride, inspired to box by his father, Kevin Sr., won the all-Ireland amateur crown and a spot on the 1992 Olympic team. When he turned pro it was with great fanfare as the latest Irish heavyweight hope.

Turning pro under the aegis of London promoters Frank Maloney and Panos Eliades, McBride started 19-0-1. But in February 1997, he was stopped in five rounds by Louis Monaco in Las Vegas at a time when Monaco was 4-6. Six months later, McBride went nine rounds with Germany’s Axel Schulz in Berlin, before being stopped. Since Schulz had been impressive against George Foreman, that loss was not considered a big surprise. But a TKO in three rounds eight months later by a fighter with a 15-16 record was viewed as proof McBride was not of championship caliber, and the Maloney/Eliades group dropped him soon after.

McBride took a year off, then won three bouts between 1999 and 2001. But after being stopped in five rounds by fringe contender DaVarryl Williamson in January 2002, McBride reassessed his career and eventually landed at Petronelli’s gym. He has had seven straight wins since, including a five-round TKO of Kevin Montiy this March that was most notable for the way the ESPN2 announcers degraded his hand speed and plodding style.

At 5-10, Tyson will have problems getting inside his larger foe, but might not McBride have trouble hitting his shorter foe?

‘I’ve watched tapes of when he fights taller men, like Buster Douglas,’ McBride said. ‘He always comes forward — you never have to look for him. The next thing he’s going to feel is the canvas.’

Trainer Petronelli agrees, of course.

‘Years ago Tyson was one thing, but now he’s slowed down, and he’s completely different,’ he said. ‘Boxing is physical but also probably 90 percent mental. People like Tyson can’t really change their style. He’ll come after Kevin in the first three rounds, and we hope to catch him coming in and counterpunch. Kevin has a good chin, and is also the best heavyweight body puncher I’ve seen. … Kevin will wear him down, and stop him with hooks and uppercuts inside.’

When he was 12, McBride told his father, a butcher, that he’d love to fight Tyson someday. His dad told him if he dreamed about it enough it would happen. McBride is dedicating this fight to his late father, and though he has foregone Guinness for the duration, he is on record as saying that after a win he just might ‘drink Ireland dry.’

But that’s only after he has shaken every hand and raised a thousand pints in Boston.

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