INTERVIEW: An Interview with Shawn Simpson, Chicago Bantamweight
By Steven B. Weinberg | Contributing Writer and Photographer
Published: September 04, 2018
Shawn Simpson is a Chicago bantamweight (8-0) who will be fighting on the undercard of the October 6, 2018, MatchroomUSA show at the Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Illinois. The entire card will be available for viewing on the DAZN mobile app. Shawn was a highly decorated amateur boxer, compiling an impressive 201-20 record, and was a 2012 Olympic alternate, a three-time junior national Golden Gloves champion, four-time National PAL champion, and two time U.S. Championship silver medalist. Shawn was kind enough to sit down with Frontproof Media at the start of his training camp for his upcoming bout.
FP: I’m here with Chicago bantamweight Shawn Simpson (8-0) ahead of his October 6 MatchroomUSA and DAZN streaming app fight at the Wintrust Arena. First, congratulations on being part of such a big card. How did it come about?
SS: My lawyer has a fighter named Anthony Simms and Anthony had just signed with Matchroom. Because the fight is here in Chicago, my lawyer was able to get in touch with Eddie Hearn and pull some strings and get me on the card.
FP: Was it a difficult process, were you aware of what was going on?
SS: Nah, it was an easy process. Once we learned they were going to have a card here it was hours later they told me I was going to be on the card. It was that easy.
FP: So you’re pretty excited to be part of the card?
SS: Yeah, it’s my first time being part of something like this, it is my first time-fighting at the Wintrust, and I think this is the first boxing card ever at the Wintrust.
FP: Yeah, it is.
SS: I was there a few months ago for a Chicago Sky game (WNBA), and it’s a nice arena, the seats are nice no matter where you’re sitting at.
FP: Better than the UIC Pavilion? (3 of 8 fights have occurred there.)
SS: Yeah, much nicer than the Pavilion. It’s more up to date.
FP: A few weeks ago there was the first press event with headliners Jarred Miller and Jessie Vargas. How was it participating in your first media day?
SS: It was nice, it was a great experience. It was my first time doing a press conference speaking in front of people like that.
FP: Were you nervous?
SS: Nah, not nervous, just first time doing it. The more I do it, the better I’ll be at it.
FP: You were previously promoted by Warriors, are you still with them?
FP: What happened with that? You had a couple of fights with them.
SS: Yeah, it was a mutual agreement to go our separate ways. No bad feelings or anything like that.
FP: Are you now promoted by Matchroom or simply on their card?
SS: I’m just on their card for now. You know, hopefully, after a great performance, I can work with them again.
FP: Have you noticed a difference at all in dealing with different promoters from a fighter’s perspective?
SS: Matchroom is more professional, you know. They’ve already gotten me, my opponent. They’ve already gotten me my fight contract. Other promotional companies – they wait until the day of the weigh-in to get me a fight contract.
FP: You don’t want to wait for that stuff.
SS: Yeah (laughing).
FP: So you know who your opponent will be already for October 6?
SS: Yeah, but I don’t remember his name. I’ve got six weeks to go, and I’m only in the first two weeks of training camp (laughing). I’m just doing floor work right now, and on Monday I’ll start sparring. I’ve got five weeks of sparring scheduled, and then the last week I’ll just be working the floor again until the weigh-in.
FP: You’re not familiar with your opponent, does that affect how you’re going to train?
FP: What’s your training schedule look like?
SS: Working the floor 3 days out of the week, sparring 3 days out of the week, and strength and conditioning on the days I don’t spar, and running in the morning.
FP: How many miles are you running?
SS: It depends on my body. Some days I may go 5-6 miles, some days I may go 3 miles, other days I may go 4 miles. It all depends on how my body is feeling, especially in the middle of a long 7-8 week training camp. And you have to know your body; you have to know when to rest it.
FP: Is your trainer Montell Griffin helping you adjust, saying run three today or run five today?
SS: Yeah, absolutely. He used to box; he’s been through everything – former WBC Champion – so he knows the ins and outs of boxing. So when I’m not feeling right, I talk to him and he gives me ideas or tells me what to do.
FP: Do you stay in shape all the time or get in shape just before a fight?
SS: It’s different. I stay in shape, but not fighting shape. If I go a long time without fighting, I will be in the gym every day; I never take off the gym, I’m just not sparring. I only spar if I got a fight coming up. I keep working the floor and avoid unnecessary punishment. What am I sparring for if I don’t got a date?
FP: What weight do you walk around at?
SS: Well, since I just fought on July 21st, I’ve been walking around at 125. But if I go a long time without fighting, 4-5 months, I probably get up to 132.
FP: So at 132 you need to get down to 118, what’s that 15 pounds? No big deal?
SS: (shaking head No)
FP: It’s because you’re young!
SS: (Laughing) – it’s crazy because I can only lose like two pounds a workout no matter what.
FP: Wow, I gotta start doing a boxing working out. I’ve got a gut I got to lose. What are you doing to lose the weight?
SS: I change my eating habits. I drink a lot of fluids like Gatorade and stuff like that. On a diet, I cut that out and stick strictly to water, no juice, none of that. No fried foods, strictly baked chicken with the skin off, fish, salmon.
FP: Any potatoes or carbs, things like that?
SS: What I do for the week – me and my team look at the schedule and how many weeks to the fight and what weight I have to be each Friday. So each week we have a weight limit and what I try to do is lose more weight that I’m supposed to so that weekend I can have a cheat day and gain the weight back and be cool for when I come back to the gym on Monday.
FP: What’s your cheat food?
SS: It depends, I’ll probably eat a taco or something like that.
FP: Do you have a favorite taco place here in Chicago?
SS: Oh man, I can’t remember the name right now. It’s really good; it’s on 35th and Halsted, it’s one of Rick Ramos’ restaurants (Ramos is a boxing trainer at Body Shots Boxing Club) – it’s Martinez’s, it’s a like a little grocery store with a restaurant in back. It’s really good.
FP: It seems like the grocery stores always have the best tacos in the back, I don’t know what it is.
SS: Yeah, right (laughing)!
FP: So you’re born and raised in Chicago, whereabouts?
SS: Over east, off of Stony Island. I went to CVS – Chicago Vocational High School.
FP: You’re 24, that means you graduated in 2012. Have you been boxing full-time since?
SS: Man, I’ve been boxing full time since I was eight years old.
FP: How did you get into boxing?
SS: Well, my grandfather boxed in the Army. Then my uncle boxed in the penitentiary. He fought Roger Mayweather in the penitentiary and beat him.
FP: No kidding? Have you had a chance to meet Roger Mayweather?
SS: Yeah, I met him.
FP: Did you bring that up?
SS: No, but my father did (laughing). I’m not a people person like that. If I don’t know you, I won’t say much to you. . . I’ve been to Floyd Mayweather’s house, I’ve met a lot of people. I used to train with Nate Jones, who worked with Floyd, so that’s how I met him. And then my older brother used to box. My father put him in boxing.
FP: You’re the youngest of four? All boys?
SS: All boys, so you know how that works (laughing).
FP: So it’s sort of in the family bloodline to be fighters?
SS: Yeah, but I’m the only one that actually that took it this far. My brother was actually a really great football player. He got done with boxing; he did football. He was an all-state running back at Hubbard High School.
FP: You don’t have a job to supplement your income, boxing is it right now?
SS: Boxing is it.
FP: When your dad and your uncle got you into boxing, were you going through the Chicago Park District or private clubs?
SS: Nah, I wasn’t going through the park district. I started out at Bessemer Park, but there wasn’t really no kids over there, you know. So then I went to Stateway at 35th and State. But they tore down all the projects over there, so we went to 47th and Federal and Robert Taylor Park with Jeff Mason and Frank Giff and all them. That’s who I was working with.
FP: How long have you been with Montell?
SS: Three years in February.
FP: How did you start working together?
SS: When I was 10 or 11, I’d work with Montell before, then I stopped training with him. Then like three years ago my dad hit him up and asked: “Can you work with him.” We worked together for a little bit in the amateurs. We’ve been together for all but one of my professional fights.
FP: Montell is a veteran of 59 professional fights, numerous belts. What’s he able to bring to your training that’s helping you?
SS: Intelligence. His boxing knowledge. He knows the ins and outs. In the corner, his knowledge in the corner in the fights is just perfect; his instructions are right on cue. There’s a lot of coaches that freeze up, and they forget what they tell you.
FP: Is he helping you navigate the business side of boxing at all?
SS: I have a whole team for that, my dad
FP: Your dad is your manager?
SS: Something like that. He’s more, my dad. Everything goes through him. I have an advisor named Antonio Gooch that works with Peter Quillin, Kid Chocolate – he’s my advisor. And my lawyer Kevin Wayne and he does all my deals for me; he makes sure everything is good as far as contracts and things like that. And then I have a cut man from Florida, Joe Pounce that he’s really supportive. If I’m not in training camp and I want to get away from here, he’ll fly me down to Florida, and I’ll stay with him, and he’ll train me.
FP: Whereabouts in Florida?
SS: St. Petersburg.
FP: Oh, ok, so you’re right near where Keith Thurman is.
SS: Oh yeah, - I’ve sparred Keith Thurman!
FP: You’ve sparred Keith Thurman? How’d that go?
SS: It went all right. He wasn’t trying to kill me, because I’m little. But he did hit me with a body shot, and I’m like “man, this dude is strong.” He didn’t even try to hit me hard, and I felt it.
FP: (Laughing) How much do you think he weighed when you sparred with him?
SS: I'm not going to say that (laughing). He was up there though.
FP: So you’re a decorated amateur, close to 200 wins, numerous national championships. You’re about to get into your ninth professional fight. As a fighter what do you see as the difference between stepping up from the amateurs to the pros?
SS: I don’t know yet. The only thing I can think of . . . The difference is probably the rounds. You know having the conditioning and the stamina to go 6, 8, 10, 12 rounds. In the amateurs, you’re only fighting three rounds three minutes. That’s nothing, especially when you’re fighting, you know, though fighters, Mexican fighters on top of that who don’t stop coming.
FP: Your advisor is associated with Peter Quillin, how did you hook up with Peter?
SS: After the Olympic trials in 2011, I came in second, I lost to Ra’sheed Warren, I was his training partner. So we went to the World Championships in Colorado Springs.
FP: You were a junior in high school? Wow, was it tough getting off of school and stuff?
SS: Nah, my dad, I told you my dad took care of everything. He talked to the principal, and then we went and talked to the Alderman, and everything and I got out of school. I missed a lot of school - traveling. I was 17 years old traveling the world. I went to London for the Olympics, and I went to Germany, Russian, Ukraine, Ireland, Argentina, Puerto Rico, I’ve been everywhere by 17, 18 years old.
FP: What’s the biggest shithole you’ve been to?
SS: Russia (Laughing)! It’s because we were in a part of Russia where it’s cold 24/7, it snows all year long. Our food was cold, but our drinks were hot. What we do in our rooms is take our juices and set them outside on the ledge and let them get cold from the outside. Then one day we went to grab our juices from the window, and they had holes from the birds poking at them. (Laughing).
FP: So you met Peter Quillin’s team back in 2011-2012?
SS: Yeah, at the training camp for the World Championships. He was a really great guy, a really cool dude. I kept in touch with him. Actually, I went a whole year without fighting after my pro-debut in 2015, and he actually got me my second pro fight in New York. And he paid for all the expenses as far as my travel, my opponent, my purse, everything. So that was, you know, a great, great thing. After that, we’ve just been really close ever since.
FP: He’s had a lot of success on the business side of things. Is he helping you on the business side?
SS: Not yet, but that’s what we’ve been talking about. Sooner or later we’ll get to that; I will be paying attention, asking questions and things like that.
FP: You had a year off between your first and second fight, you fought four times in 2017, and you're about to have only your second fight in 2018, why the layoffs?
SS: (Exasperation) Me being a little guy (laughing). Like I said before, Warriors and me had the mutual release, so that took some time. At first, I was supposed to have more fights, but Warriors was really busy and couldn’t do anything for me.
FP: So Warriors wasn’t getting you fights?
SS: After the first year, no. So we all had a mutual agreement. We plan on working together in the future but as of right now, you know, they had a lot going on. Me being young and still being a prospect in my career, we felt like we had to get going and couldn’t wait anymore because we already took that year off.
FP: I’ve had an opportunity to see you fight live twice. On a lighter side, in one of the fights, you were wearing some black, hairy, trunks, you know what I’m talking about?
SS: (Laughing) Like the gorilla?
FP: Yeah (laughing)– those had to be uncomfortable. Were those uncomfortable?
SS: (Laughing) Nah, no, they weren’t hot. I try – because I am a small fighter – I try to do - something with my uniform or wear a mask to do something, you know, to promote myself, to be seen a little bit more, do something different.
FP: Do you have anything planned for October 6th yet?
SS: I don’t know yet. I’ll probably try to think of a mask or something I can come out with. I think my uniform is going to be pretty basic. I mean, it isn’t going to be basic or really flamboyant, it’s just gonna be nice (laughing).
FP: You’re a Chicago fighter, you’ve been here your entire life. How is the Chicago boxing scene? There’s a bunch of guys out of Garfield Park; you’re over here on the east side of town if you want to call it that. We haven’t had a big professional show here in a while. We’ve had smaller, club shows. But now that Matchroom is coming here, what’s your assessment of boxing here in Chicago?
SS: I think that Chicago boxing is very underrated. There’s a lot of great fighters, great talent here. We just don’t get recognized as much as Ohio, Washington, D.C., California, Texas fighters. I don’t why, but we have a lot of great fighters. We have me of course, and Kenneth Simms, and Josh Hernandez/
FP: Josh Hernandez hasn’t fought in over a year, right?
SS: I think he’s fighting next month, September 22 at a Bobby Hitz show. He’s a great sparring partner for me. He gives me some great work. Great friend too. We have other fighters, Cristian Williams. People haven’t heard of him yet, but he’s a great professional. He was a top amateur with me. He was ranked number 2 once. We were actually in the same weight class, I was ranked number one, and he was ranked number two.
FP: Both out of Chicago then?
SS: Yeah, we had to fight each other at the nationals, in the championship. We trained together and were friends. As far as boxing – he’s like my best friend. You know you gotta fight each other, you be like “Ah, man.”
FP: How was it having to fight your best friend?
SS: It was tough, but it’s boxing. It’s a business. It’s nothing personal.
FP: There’s no problem finding sparring partners here in Chicago?
SS: Nah, there’s no problem finding sparring partners. You’ve even got, well he doesn’t live here anymore Nate Gallimore and Josh Greer, they’re great fighters as well.
FP: Are you a fan of boxing as well a boxer? Do you watch it on television?
SS: The big fights.
FP: Ok, so we got a big one coming up with Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. Who do you pick?
SS: I pick Shawn.
FP: Shawn . . . Why do say that?
(Montell Griffen shouted from across the room “Cause he’s big and strong!”)
SS: (Laughing) Shawn is just awkward. He’s an awkward fighter. He’s one of those guys that no matter how good you are he’s going to be a tough fight for anybody. He’s like just one of those awkward fighters. I know Shawn. Me and Shawn were roommates before, at the Olympic training center, we were roommates. So I got to know him, and I’m really close to him and his father. I know a lot of people (laughing).
FP: The other big one is Triple G and Canelo.
SS: I’m going with Canelo.
FP: How come?
SS: I just like Canelo. He’s nice. He doesn’t fight like your typical Mexican fighter. He’s slick, fast, strong. I think this time he’s going to get Triple G. I thought, after watching the first one it could have been a draw. I thought it was draw, and I just watched it last week, and I was like, Triple G won, but you could have given it a draw because Canelo won the first three rounds and the last three - to me. Triple G won or it was a draw. Canelo didn’t win the first fight.
FP: Wrapping up, two final questions. What are your favorite things about boxing and what are your least favorite things about boxing?
SS: My least my favorite? It’s probably having to wait so long – having a 7-week, 8-week training camp. I really hate that. I’m like “can’t the fight just come already?” When you are training, it is cool for a minute, and then you have to go week after week after week, you just want to go. I just want to fight. Like right now, I was just putting on my Snapchat “Man, I got eight weeks left until I fight.” My favorite part is the fighting. That’s what I like. Once you get in ring, that’s where the fun is.
FP: Any last thing you want to say about October 6th?
SS: I hope everyone can come out. I have tickets for sale, you can come up here to Clarence Griffin’s Windy City Boxing Club, 2150 S. Canalport and pick up tickets. Or, you can hit me up on my Instagram at Shaw_Simpson2, or follow me on Facebook at Shawn Simpson and my fan page which is also Shawn Simpson. I also have a website which I just launched a few days ago Shawn-Simpson.com, and I also have tickets on sale there.
FP: Ok, so we’re expecting an exciting fight on October 6th.
SS: Yeah, I try to put on a great show every time I get in the ring.
FP: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us, and we’ll all see you on October 6th at the Wintrust Arena.
(All Photos: Steven B. Weinberg/Frontproof Media)