Michael Shelton – Reprint from Spinal Column Weekly

April 14, 2010 –

With a name like Rich Power and a nickname like “Super,” it seemed like destiny that the west Oakland native would become a standout in the boxing ring. Standing 6-5 and weighing 245 pounds, Power, 30, came home to southeast Michigan to defeat Ray Lopez in the third round by technical knockout on the undercard of the Showtime Super Six boxing event at Joe Louis Arena on March 27. With the win, Power remained undefeated at 11-0 in his young career. Power currently resides in San Diego, Calif., where he is training at the renowned gym, The Arena, to prepare for an upcoming venture into the octagon and trying his hand at mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting. It’s been quite a road for this son of an Air Force cadet who was born in Dover, Del. before living on different bases across the country — and even in Saudi Arabia — before transferring from the University of New Mexico to Western Michigan University and majoring in criminal justice and computer science.

SCN: You recently defeated Ray Lopez on the undercard of the Showtime Super Six boxing event. How special was it for you to fight and emerge victorious in that setting? How did you earn the nickname “Super”?

RP: It was a great opportunity to go out there and fight in the Super Six. It’s a pretty amazing event and doesn’t come around very often, so just having the opportunity to fight on it was pretty amazing in itself, and winning was a definite bonus. It was a good fight, I learned a lot and I was thankful for the opportunity.

(Lopez) caught me in the first (round) and then I began working him a little bit in the third and I hit him with a shot and heard all the wind knocked out of him, so I just kind of jumped on him. I knew he was hurting for a minute and didn’t want to give him a chance to breathe, and I kept working him and they called it.

(Regarding the nickname), one of the promoters actually would come watch me fight and train. I train really hard and I don’t really like to take days off, so he just pretty much kept calling me a super athlete.

A lot of heavyweights don’t stay in the gym that often … it’s hard to keep them in the gym. With me it’s hard to keep me out, so he was just really happy with it and just kind of called me “Super” all the time, and it stuck.

SCN: What was it like growing up with a father in the Air Force and living in different areas, not just across the country, but in some cases other parts of the world? What is it about living in west Oakland county that you enjoyed?

RP: When I was younger, it was a little tough (moving around to different bases). I have a younger brother who’s two years younger than me, and we kind of just got used to it. We kind of used it to our advantage. It helped us with meeting new people and being comfortable in situations where we were moving by ourselves when we got older. All of our family is kind of far apart, and we just make the time we have with each other when we get together. In the long run, it helped out a lot. We kind of adapted and got used to it and enjoyed it. Now we sit back and look at it as a blessing.

I just enjoy the peacefulness actually (of Keego Harbor). Detroit, West Bloomfield and Birmingham, they’re all kind of a crazy place to live, as far as those towns are where you can meet people and know them really fast. I just felt like when I was driving home to Keego, as far away as it was — I worked in Royal Oak, and it was a hike every day — it was nice to go (to Keego Harbor). It was silence in my place every single day. I was actually right on the water and it was enjoyable.

SCN: What inspired you to take up boxing and how did you get your start? Who were some of the fighters who inspired you?

RP: I started in college. I had boxed a little bit before and then wanted to pick it back up, so I walked in one day in college and just started working with some guys and then started fighting for Western Michigan. They have a boxing club. There was about 15 or 16 guys in a lot of different weight classes and we were all just kind of having a good time and a lot of us just ended up fighting. It was a way to get (rid of) aggression if I was having trouble in a class or something … I could just go in there and try to work out my frustrations and I actually got kind of good at it. One of the coaches at the time asked me if I wanted to fight in a competition coming up, and I did. I kind of just started winning a lot of them, so I decided to keep fighting.
Boxing is weird. It’s a really small community. It’s not like other sports, where there’s so many players and there’s so much going on. Once you’re in, you’re kind of in this small community and everybody knows each other, so it makes it really enjoyable and fun.

My management company also sponsored Lennox Lewis and I really look up to him. I believe he’s a really smart fighter and he’s done a lot for the sport. I just like the way he worked in the system … Lennox did it really well. He hoarded away all of his money. He was very smart with it. He wasn’t like every other fighter who was just tossing it away and spending it frivolously, so I kind of aspire to be like that. One time he actually got offered about $40 million guaranteed to fight (Vitali) Klitchko and he said he wouldn’t come back after about a three- or four-year layoff to do it, because he had already made his money and did what he needed to do in the sport and felt comfortable not fighting anymore. A lot of people said that was silly and crazy, but I actually really respected that. He did what he needed to do and was smart with his money and didn’t need to go back and fight like a lot of these guys who are fighting when they’re 45- or 46-years-old. I think that’s insane, personally.

To be quite frank, I didn’t watch (the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr. fight on April 3). I’m a huge, huge boxing fan. I follow it very, very vigorously and I just didn’t have any desire to watch the fight. It was a fight that should have taken place 10 years ago. Don’t get me wrong — they’re both still amazing fighters, and they still have a lot to offer the sport; but for me, I just wasn’t that interested.

I’m extremely excited about the (Floyd Mayweather Jr. -Shane Mosley fight on May 1). Bernard is still an amazing fighter. I don’t think Jones has it anymore. If you’re in the Hall of Fame already, you don’t need to fight anymore. There’s a lot of guys in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Hall of Fame and they’re still fighting. It’s like, when’s enough enough? It’s a tough sport, I want to grow up and be able to hold my kids and play with my kids one day, and I don’t want to be sideways when I’m doing it.

SCN: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in boxing, be it during training or in an actual fight?

RP: I think as far as training goes, it’s just the mental toughness. You never, ever enter a fight 100 percent, so you’ve really got to get over that because it’s part of the game.

With that being said, the toughest thing I’ve ever had to overcome in the ring was definitely that knockdown (against Ray Lopez). I actually don’t remember hitting the ground or standing back up. I remember looking at the ref and gathering my thoughts and going, “I’m OK now.” I got knocked down in the first round and he just hit me with a really good overhand left. He was fighting orthodox, and he switched to southpaw and he just threw that punch really fast. I didn’t see it coming. He hit me right on the head.

That’s probably one of the best things I enjoy about being a heavyweight — no matter if you’re winning or losing, you always have to keep your guard up because we’re not light guys and we hit really hard. That’s why in this division they always call it “a puncher’s chance.”

SCN: We understand that you recently moved out to San Diego to train at a facility called The Arena, not only to work on your boxing, but to also make the transition into a mixed martial arts fighter. Has boxing helped you with your mixed martial arts training? Tell us more about the training you’ve been doing at The Arena.

RP: Yeah, (it has helped) 100 percent. I’m still learning a lot of the ground stuff, but as far as boxing, it ties in really closely with Muay Tai and kickboxing because it’s the same kind of generality, where you throw your punches. It’s the same thing as throwing kicks or using your hips and your feet. You generate power that way.

In that aspect, the foundation and the mental attitude I have from boxing has definitely carried over. As far as the conditioning aspect, it’s not a big change. You’re just kind of using different muscles. When you initially get out here, you feel a little weaker than some of the guys, but in week 2 or 3, you’re feeling just as strong because you’re used to that kind of pressure and that kind of push and that kind of fight.

We do extensive jujitsu and wrestling training. We actually have an MMA class, it’s just geared towards fighting on the ground, being able to stand up and push-guard, which is when you’re on your back and you’re trying to pull away from the guy and stand back on your feet. We work on using the cage to our advantage. It’s actually pretty amazing. My roommate is the silver medalist from the 2004 Olympic Games in freestyle wrestling; so needless to say, we have some of the best wrestling in the country and we actually have one of the best jujitsu guys on the planet, Saull Xandri Roberto. It was kind of a no-brainer, moving out here.

There were plenty of places I could have gone, but The Arena was just a good fit. The owner is fantastic and once you walk in, they kind of just make it feel like a home. From day one, it’s been like a home.

SCN: How did you become interested in MMA, and what it’s like to make the adjustment to the sport? When do you think you’ll officially step foot in the octagon and fight, and do you see yourself balancing both sports?

RP: It’s kind of tricky. Some boxers don’t like it at all and some love it, so it’s kind of a mix-up out there.

I believe in the boxing realm, but I really respect all types of fighting and I wanted to learn and do this while I have the opportunity.

I believe I’m a really, really good athlete and I can do anything if I just buckle down and work at it. I’ve been here about three and a half months and I think my skills have gone through the roof from day one. I was a lost soul and I had no idea what was going on and every day I started feeling a little more comfortable, so I wanted to give it a shot and say that I did this, too. I don’t want to look back and go, “Man, I wish, I wish, I wish.” I came down here for the opportunity.

I’ll never leave boxing. That’s my heart, soul and passion and everything I really love to do. It’s something that I really want to excel in, but in maybe six months I’ll step into the ring … people really want to see how good a boxer is in an octagon. The UFC just signed James Toney to a three-fight contract, so I want to go out there and test my skills with the best in the UFC, Strikeforce, the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting), or wherever it is. I feel like with a little help from these guys, I can definitely stand up and work with them. My ground game still needs work, but if somebody in the UFC or the WEC or something like that wants to stand up and bang with me, I definitely like my odds in that.

SCN: There’s a lingering debate between fans of boxing and MMA about the legitimacy of the sports. Having trained in the ring and the octagon, what’s your take on the directions each of the sports are heading in? Do you think that professional MMA will eventually be sanctioned in Michigan like pro boxing currently is?

RP: I might get a little slack from this, but I believe boxing was kind of stagnant, probably a couple of years ago. I just think fighting is fighting, and we need to respect all types of it; but MMA got people interested in fighting in general, which I believe helped out all kinds of fighting. I think (MMA) brought new people back to boxing, because if you look at the way boxing goes, it’s a lot of older people now watching boxing. There’s not as many young kids coming around being boxers as there are kids that want to do UFC, and that kind of sucks. For me, I believe that’s just the facts.

I hope (professional MMA is sanctioned). I hope everybody at some point is willing to just step back and make a change and say, “You know, all these guys are professional athletes.”

The guys that are fighting in Michigan and that are doing amateur (fighting) — I’ve been to a couple of their fights. I’ve got some friends who fight MMA in Michigan and they’re just as good as some of guys out here, if not better than some of them, so they deserve the right to be able to fight in their hometown just like we have the right to fight in our hometown. It’s a good feeling and everybody should feel that every once in awhile, instead of traveling around and having to fight in different cities and different states where you’re not known. I hope they get to fight for their home crowd one time and have it be a pro-sanctioned bout, everybody deserves to have that.

SCN: What are your ultimate hopes and goals as a fighter? When can our readers see you in action again in the area?

RP: I definitely want to be world champion. One of the coolest things I think right now is that my coach is also Vitali and Vladimir Klitchko’s coach, so he gets to hang around the world champions and then hang around me, and I have the opportunity to talk to the guys … they’re getting on the older side, but they’re just absolutely amazing fighters and they’re two of the strongest guys I’ve ever met in my life, with some of the best work ethics ever and that’s why they’re world champions and that’s what I’m shooting for. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to be the best or think I could be the best.

With that being said, with boxing in mind, I want to be a world champion one day or get as close as God will let me.

MMA is a little different. I just want to go out there and test my skills and fight some really good guys and kind of get an idea of where I’m at.

As far as fighting again, I believe I’m going to be fighting in the beginning of June and I don’t know if it’s going to be in Michigan or not. I hope so. I love fighting in Michigan. I love the crowds. They make me feel at home. Hopefully I’ll be back there to get another “W” for the city and the state.

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