Buddy McGirt Interview

By Jonathan Arouh on October 16, 2017
Buddy McGirt Interview
“If I went in there with my thinking cap on, I knew they couldn't outsmart me.” (YouTube)

Born in Brentwood, New York, in January of 1964, James “Buddy” McGirt was originally just looking for “something to do…”

It was 1983, and the Soviet Union was undergoing a transfer of power from the recently deceased Leonid Brezhnev to KGB chairman Yuri Andropov. Due to the Cold War, planet Earth had been enduring 38 years of tension, uncertainty, and great “Twilight Zone” TV show episodes, and it was time for some relief. Thankfully, a beautiful moment emerged when the newly acting leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov invited a friendly 10-year-old girl to visit his country in peace. The young lady, Samantha Smith, enjoyed a sequence of wonderful experiences while in the Soviet Union. She ended up having a great time touring, meeting people, and making friends with other girls in the Soviet Union.

The initial reporting of the cause of Samantha Smith’s wonderful trip to the Soviet Union was due to a letter that she wrote to the new leader of the Soviet Union. While this has generally been accepted, and never questioned as the truth behind General Secretary Andropov’s unexpected kindness toward Samantha Smith and the United States, I believe there is one other event to consider which may have procured this miraculous cultural exchange.

Just one year prior, in 1982, Long Island native and amateur boxer, James McGirt turned pro. A nice letter written by a sweet young girl is certainly persuasive, but so is a powerful left hook from a 147-pound man who handles 170-pound sparring partners like they were nothing.

Born in Brentwood, New York, in January of 1964, James “Buddy” McGirt, who was originally just looking for “something to do,” took up boxing and went on to become the IBF Junior Welterweight Champion in 1988 and the WBC and lineal Welterweight Champion from 1991-1993. Currently, James spends his time training fighters out of the Pullman-McGirt Boxing Gym in Northridge, California. On October 9th, 2017, I interviewed James “Buddy” McGirt.

How long have you been involved in boxing?

Since I was 12 years old, 41 years.

What drew you to boxing?

Really, just wanting something to do with my life. Growing up in New York, everybody was doing something, and I wanted to do something to make a better life for myself and for my mom.

What has been boxing’s biggest impact on your life?

It changed it a lot, since I’m able to, you know, live the life of a champion, travel the world. I think the greatest feeling of it was being able to do whatever I wanted to do for my mom. You know, if I got the urge to go out and buy her a car without her knowing, I go out and buy her a car.

Who do you currently train?

Sergey Lipinets, Andre Fedosov, and Adam and Hector Lopez.

How did you become their trainer?

Well you know, the funny thing is, I started boxing on my birthday, January 17, 1976. The very next day I wanted to be a trainer. Even as a fighter, I’ve always wanted to train.

What do you find most promising about Sergey Lipinets’ skill set?

He’s still learning, doesn’t have many fights, but he’s getting ready to fight for the title, he’s learning on the job. But it’s a pleasure working with a guy like that because he’s willing to learn, and he is a hard worker.

What about Andre Fedosov?

Well, the thing with him, I have to get him out of his bad habits before I can do anything, that’s the biggest challenge, is getting him out of at least a couple of the bad habits. See the problem is when you have guys that can punch, they think they’re going to knock everybody out, you’ve got to make them understand not everyone is going to go when you hit ‘em, so you’ve got to know, you have got to find a way to break ‘em down.

How about Adam and Hector Lopez?

They both, they have unbelievable talent, it’s just a matter of just building them up and keeping them on track which is not a problem because they’re hard workers.

What do you appreciate most out of a boxer that you are training?

When they listen, and when I try to get them to do [something], and it works. Some of these guys think that it’s not going to work, and I tell them, you don’t have to do it the same way I do it, the key is to get the same result

What bad habits do you see often of people, whether it’s a pro fighter, amateur or just someone working out?

Wow, a lot of guys focus more on offense more than defense, and what they don’t understand is, just as easy as you hitting a guy, he can hit you back, so you’ve go to be on your p’s and q’s.

Do you ever learn something from the person you are training?

Yeah, when I used to train Forrest and Antonio Tarver, those guys had unbelievable talent.

Who was the most receptive fighter to train that you have worked with?

Sergey is like that, Adam Lopez is like that, Vernon, God bless him, Vernon Forrest was like that. I’ve been fortunate enough that a lot of the guys believed in what I told them, and they went on to execute it.

How do you feel the fighters of today would match up against the fighters of your era in a match?

They wouldn’t last.

What was the best attribute of your boxing skill set?

My thinking was to always outsmart the other guy, if I went in there with my thinking cap on, I don’t give a shit who you were, I knew they couldn’t outsmart me.

What match was the most fun for you?

It was a fight early in my career. I fought a kid named Sugar Boy Nando in Miami. I was just like, I just knew that there was absolutely nothing he could do, to really beat me. And I just went in there and I had fun with him, I stopped him, but it was just like, it was early in my career, and that day in the dressing room I was just like, “there’s absolutely nothing this guy can do that is really going to give me any problems.” I just said, I got to get in there quick, because it’s too good to be true.

How did you know it was going to be like that?

I was boxing a middleweight, out of New York named Kenny Stiles. I was only 147 pounds and Kenny was about 170, and we sparred in Miami one day. And an old guy in the gym just loved me he was just like “boy you can fight.” He goes “you can handle those big boys like they nothing.” And after boxing one day with Kenny, I was like “what could this guy (Sugar Boy Nando) possibly do to me?”

Who was your most challenging opponent?

Frankie Warren, when we fought for the title. He was the first guy to beat me. I still have nightmares about that fucking guy. And I beat him for the title, but man, oh man. He’s one guy that I would love to see again. ‘Cause he was the first guy to beat me, and then for a year and a half I was haunted by that loss, until I got the title fight, and it happened to be against him. Getting over that first defeat…but believe it or not, when I lost to him, I walked from the arena to the hotel, and when I got to the hotel I put it behind me already.

How long was the walk?

About a mile, mile and half. By the time I got to the hotel, I put it behind me. I asked my manager “Who am I going to fight next?” and he just looked at me like, “What? You just fought—an hour ago.” And I’m like, I got to erase this loss man. I got to get back on the W. I had thirty straight wins, yo.

And then you beat him when you fought him again?

When we [first] fought, it was just a ten-round fight. And then, what happened was the [IBF Junior Welterweight] Champion had to vacate the title, he (Frankie Warren) was number one and I was number two, so I got the title fight.

And that’s how you got the title in 1988?


What is your perspective on the Golovkin-Alvarez fight.

I was happy with the draw, we could go one point either way. It all depends on if you like aggression or if you like the boxing. But it’s a fight that I would definitely sit down and watch again. I got to really honestly tell you that Triple G surprised me.

In what way?

The way he, just after five or six rounds, the way he, he changed the pace of the fight. But when he changed the pace, he kept it.

What fights would you like to see happen?

I would like to see Terence Crawford and Keith Thurman or Errol Spence. And that’s pretty much it. There’s not really guys out there that excite me anymore.

Who would you like the Lopez Brothers to fight next?

It really doesn’t matter, but uh, Adam just had food poisoning, fight got cancelled, and then after that he got chicken pox. I just like to keep them on the pace that they’re on right now, keep them busy.

And how about Andre, who would you like to see him fight next?

I’d just like to see him get a tune up fight, just a fight to keep him busy. I guess it’s been over a year, almost two years since he fought I believe.

When is Sergey’s IBF title fight and where can it be seen?

November 4th, at the Barclays, it’s on the Deontay Wilder card. It’s on Showtime.

What is something people don’t know about you, that they might be surprised to learn?

Wow, the older I get, the more emotional I am. I cry at the drop of a dime. My kids call me a cry baby. Like if I see one of my kids do something good, like in sports or something, I just start crying…

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Pete The Sneak 04:06am, 10/18/2017

    Has always been a class act through and through.. Cheers to you Buddy!

  2. wal man 05:52pm, 10/17/2017

    How odd but I was just thinking about Buddy McGirt this week! He was a favorite fighter of mine and I remember this time he fought a ten rounder with…some guy…who also wasn’t going to do anything to him until Buddy sustained a biceps tear about halfway thought the fight and then he had to box with only his left hand the rest of the way. Now this guy is going after him hammer and tong and Buddy is ducking, jabbing and dodging. Still hitting and not getting hit.

    He wins the fight and during the interview you could see his biceps just rolled up into his are like a window shade. That HAD to hurt but Buddy’s voice was calm when he was asked about the injury. He said something I’ve never forgotten and have often repeated. He said; “Anybody have this (injury), ah pity ‘em.”

    Buddy McGirt, tough, tough fighter. Glad to see he’s doing well.

  3. peter 11:44am, 10/16/2017

    I remember the light-heavyweight, Jimmy Dupree, and I were watching McGirt spar in Bufano’s Gym. I don’t remember who he was sparring—maybe Nino Gonzales.  McGirt made a subtle, fleeting, beautiful, rarely-seen, defensive move, and Jimmy and I looked at each other and smiled with appreciation.

Leave a comment