Spend a few minutes talking with Money Powell IV and one might get the impression he’s simply a laid back, personable kid studying chemistry at Columbus State University. He flashes a smile and speaks politely while answering question after question.
But it doesn’t take long to see the confidence that the son of military parents — whom he lives with in nearby Fort Mitchell, Ala. — has when he talks about his grinding routine and relentless quest to become one of the best boxers on the planet.
Powell, 19, is not exactly a novice to the sport, having been exposed to it by his father (who also boxed) as a youngster and then putting on gloves for more than 80 competitive amateur matches starting at age 13. He tasted success quickly, winning a Junior Open Welterweight Championship in 2014, with USA Boxing ranking him No. 1 that year.
More amateur bouts followed, with an occasional loss, but with Powell also learning the ropes steadily and adding titles along the way. That included the Youth Welterweight National Championship in the 152-pound division, again making him tops in the nation in that category in 2016.
On Jan. 10 of this year, however, the 6-foot Powell, his family and coach made the major decision that it was time to sign a contract and jump into the professional ranks after receiving an offer from Richard Schaefer, chairman and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Ringstar Sports, which was launched last year.
Training hard at Game Bred Boxing Club under Coach Jason Jones, Powell tackled his first pro fight on April 9 in L.A., winning in a first-round knockout. His next fight should come sometime in June.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited recently with the freshly hired pro boxer at the gym that is almost like a second home to him. He discussed his “job” and the discipline and dieting and sweat and relentless drive that it will take to realize his dreams of becoming one of the boxing world’s true champions. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q. What do you like about boxing, the skill, the aggression?
A. I just like the fighting part of it. I’m not even an aggressive guy. I guess it’s just really fun to me. Some people like basketball or football. I really love to fight. And I get paid for it now, which makes it even better.
Q. What led to you turning pro?
A. When I met Coach J, we came over here to this gym. I had won a state title before meeting him, but when I started training here he took me from winning state tournaments to I won the regionals and then went to the nationals. My very first national I lost it, but I gained a lot of experience from it. The guy I lost to was number one in the nation at that time. So, yeah, I fought the number one guy and lost, but I learned a lot from that. Then we came back and kept training and training and training.
Then I won my first national tournament in 2014 and I was number one in the country then. And we came back and I won three other ones and I was number one in the country in 2016 at 152 (pounds). As a matter of fact, in 2016 I beat the guy that was number one in the country at 165. So I was number one at two weight classes then. That gave me the chance to go over to Russia and fight in the world championships.
Q. What’s your total amateur record?
A. I’ve got a bunch of wins and I know I’ve got 8 or 9 losses.
Q. Why did you decide to turn pro?
A. When you’re steady dominating the amateurs and you win the national championships, when you’ve won multiple tournaments, there’s really nothing left to win unless you want to go to the Olympics. And they changed the rules, where they take the headgear off now and a lot of people are getting cut in the Olympic trials. They were getting head butts and ripped open. So I was like if I’m going to take the chance of getting cut, I might as well get paid for it. I also had fought at the world championships in Russia. That’s just one step below the Olympics, so there was nothing left to do unless I wanted to keep repeating the same tournaments.
Q. Then you received an offer from Ringstar?
A. After the world championships in Russia, we came back and Richard Schaefer, who is the CEO of Ringstar, he saw me and liked me, and me, Coach J, my dad, my team here, we discussed: Is this the move we want to make? We had already been talking about turning pro ahead of time. When Richard gave us that opportunity, we said, yeah, that is what we’re going to do.
We were already confident in it because we train hard. We spar with good, solid guys. When you move over into the pros, you want to make sure you’re 100 percent ready and I feel like I’m more than ready to be in that arena. So I’m good and confident.
Q. You want to be ready so you’re not in over your head in the pros?
A. You don’t want to get over there and be over your head, and you don’t want to get over there and lack the confidence, because the pros are a lot different than the amateurs. In the amateurs you can take a loss and go home and fight again the next day, if they’ve got a fight coming up. But in the pros, if you take a loss, that’s bad. It’s really detrimental to your career. If you do take a loss, you want to take a loss late in your career when you’re already established and everyone knows you. When you start off, you just want to keep building your brand up until you get to the top. But we don’t have to worry about that. We’re working hard enough that we’re not taking any ‘Ls’ (losses).
Q. Were you nervous going into your April 9 pro debut?
A. You know, the strange thing about it is I thought I would be a little bit nervous. But I had been waiting so long to have my fight that I felt pretty calm. It felt like another day at the office. Like when you check into work, that’s kind of what it felt like for me. When I’m in there with sparring guys (training) that I know are really good, it just gives me that much more confidence when I get in a ring and fight.
Q. Do you scout opponents?
A. You want to get an idea of who you’re fighting so you know what to prepare for, like if you’re fighting a really tall guy or a short guy or a big puncher or a guy that’s really fast. When you’re lucky enough to find footage on your guy, that’s when you can study him. But if you can’t study him, then just be ready for whatever. And we’re ready for whatever comes our way.
Q. What was the name of the first pro opponent you beat?
A. Todd Timpleton. He actually was a nice guy. He was a really, really nice guy.
Q. Is that what you find with most fighters?
A. Yeah. With most guys in the ring, it’s business. Out of the ring, they’re normal people. There’s nothing serious. It’s not like you’ve got to walk around with a mad face and want to fight everybody. Most guys you talk to, you wouldn’t even know they’re fighters unless you ask them, because nobody runs around and says, ‘I’m a boxer,’ all the time. Like I said, when you get in there, it’s your job. When you get out of the ring, it’s a normal lifestyle. We go to the movies and everything just like normal people.
Q. Do you earn a paycheck every week?
A. Oh, no. Every time I fight I will collect my check. But most guys know they don’t get a lot (of money) when they’re first starting out. It’s not like some massive paycheck. But for me, I still stay with my parents, and I’m still really young, so I just save my money up so when I do move out I’ll have plenty enough money so that I’m good to go.
Q. What does it take in general to get ready for a fight?
A. It’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. The fight, that’s the easiest part because the training and the diet and all of that stuff is hard. We train twice a day, depending on what we’re doing, probably six days a week. I rest on Sunday. Saturday is usually not as hard as the rest of the week.
Q. The diet is a big thing?
A. The diet is something you want to stick to because when you’re cutting the weight, it sucks. But that’s toward the end of camp (before a fight). You do all the work in camp so that the fight’s easy.
Q. So you eat pretty healthy?
A. When I’ve got a fight coming up. I’m not going to say that I’m a vegetarian or anything like that (normally). I’m a pizza freak. (laughs)
Q. But when you’re getting ready to fight, it’s a lot of veggies and chicken?
A. Basically, if it’s green, it’s good, and there’s chicken and mashed potatoes. A lot of the stuff that makes it taste good, like the butter, you’ve got to take it out. I just eat the potato by itself. With the salad, I literally just eat the leaves. And there’s your fruit and stuff. But you’ve got to eat it at certain points in the day so that you can get the best performance at the gym when you work out.
Q. What did you eat to celebrate after your first pro victory on April 9?
A. I ate a large pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut with a side of cheese sticks. (smiles) I had been waiting for that. But, really, when I got off the scale from cutting the weight (to reach the fight category weight limit), I had Gatorade and water. We went to Olive Garden and I got some spaghetti. But I wasn’t too hungry after that, because you’re stomach’s so small after you cut the weight. You’re not super hungry like you usually are. You can eat something small, like an apple, and be full.
Q. How many hours in a week’s time do you spend training?
A. About 30 a week. That’s a lot.
Q. You’re in college now, but turning pro is becoming more of a priority?
A. Yes, because it’s more demanding now. When I was an amateur, I’m not going to say you could slack off as much, but in the pros, everything really does count. You can’t afford to slip up here at the gym because it can mess you up in a fight, and you don’t want that to happen. That’s the time you’re really supposed to shine and do good and keep moving forward. But if you’re like half-stepping it in the gym, there’s a high chance it’s going to show in a fight, especially as you start moving up and fighting more quality opponents.
Q. So when is your next match?
A. The next tentative date is in June. When they give us a concrete date, I’ll tell everyone for sure, because a date can change. You never know what can happen.
Q. So in your next one, you’ll fight a much tougher boxer?
A. Oh, not yet. Because I’m early in my career they still try to move you on with guys that shouldn’t give you that much trouble at first. That’s how it is. When you first turn pro, they want to build you. Slowly but surely, the guys will get tougher and tougher. It’s like playing a video game and starting out at level one and then working your way all the way to the ‘boss.’ And when you get to the boss in boxing, that’s when you’re fighting for the world championship.
Q. How many times will you fight in a year?
A. My minimum right now is six. Early in your career, you want to fight a lot, get your name out there, build yourself up and collect your money. But the higher you get up there in ranking, your fight number (total matches) goes down because the guys get tougher and you need more time to train in camp. You get paid a lot more; it’s more business. To be honest, the business side of it takes a long time because they’ve got to set everything up perfectly. This guy might want this much money and this guy might want that much money, and they have to do all of this negotiating. Like I said, the fight is the easiest part.
Q. What’s your frame of mind when the bell rings to start the fight, just total focus?
A. Yeah, I’m really focused. I’m focused on everything I need to do to beat this guy. Usually, when it rings, a few seconds into it, I know if I can beat the guy or not. It doesn’t take long. It might take 10 or 15 seconds and I already know if I’ve got you.
Q. What do you see, something in his eyes?
A. No, it’s not that. When it starts, you can see how the guy sets up. Usually, you can throw two or three punches and I already know if I’m going to beat you or not. Or I know you might be a little more challenging. It’s the little things you can see. The more experience you get, it’s easier to point out.
Q. How much of your success is your natural skill and how much of it is your coach’s work with you?
A. Coach J is the one who has helped me get to where I am now, him and my dad and my mom, too. Coach J helps me with my skill set and everything here and helped me get better.
Q. What’s the toughest or most challenging part of boxing for you?
A. I would say the discipline that it takes to come into the gym, because I come here nearly every single day. A lot of time I’m like, I want to go to a movie or do something with my friends. But I’ve got to remember that I’ve got to train. I sacrifice a lot of stuff. Like I’ve been boxing six years and I’ve been to one party and that was a birthday party. So boxing takes up a lot and lot of your time. But if you want to get to the top, you’ve got to be willing to put the work in.
Q. What do you enjoy the most about boxing?
A. The winning and fighting. (smiles) Because when I come to the gym my favorite part is to spar and hit the mitts. If I could, I would do that every single day.
Q. Does it relax you?
A. Yeah. When I come to the gym and I’m mad, I’m sad, that’s what I do. I’ve done that so long now that it’s second nature. It does help me with things that go on in life. Boxing is always what I resort to to help get away from everything else. And, of course, when I’m happy I come to the gym.
Q. Do you have any mentors or heroes?
A. (Retired boxer) Roy Jones Jr. He was the one that made me want to box. Roy, how amazing he was in the gym; that’s what really sold me. We went down to his gym to spar and he came here one day to bring his guys to spar. He is my favorite fighter of all time.
Q. The bottom line, you take it one day, one fight at a time?
A. Yeah. Sometimes I think about it and I know I’ve got a long, long way to go. But you’ve got to remember that time doesn’t stop for anybody. So I might as well do it now ... like Muhammad Ali said, so I can live the rest of my life as a champion.
Q. Has anyone talked to you about ‘what if’ you do lose at some point in your pro career?
A. That’s always the possibility. But you know, I’m never going to let that sidetrack me. Even in the amateurs, when I lost, it never stopped me from working hard and I would take a loss and bounce right back like nothing happened. Some guys take a loss and they’re really devastated. But it’s not about how you get knocked down, it’s about what you do when you get back up. Not only in boxing, but life in general, everybody hits those hard points in life and are like: Dang, what am I going to do now? It’s really about the comeback, like what are you going to do? Are you going to sit down and just give up and say this is it? Or get back up and make something out of that loss. Because you can learn from anything, no matter how bad it is.
Q. Where do you get that grounded nature from? Your parents?
A. My mom and day probably, and I think it’s just who I am in general. That’s how I’ve always been, just a laid back, cool guy. That’s why some people don’t believe that I box. I remember when I was in ninth grade and told people that I box, and nobody believed me. They said you’re too nice and too cool to be a boxer. ... But most of all, none of this would be possible without God. I pray all of the time, because I know I wouldn’t have nothing without Him.
Money Powell IV
Hometown: Born in Hanau, Germany, his military family spent time at bases there and in the U.S.
Current residence: Fort Mitchell, Ala.
Education: 2016 graduate of Central High School in Phenix City; attends Columbus State University, currently studying chemistry
Family: Parents, Lisa and Money Powell III (his father a retired U.S. Army engineer); two brothers, Quantavious and Princeton, and sister, Tyneisha
Leisure time: Since he trains so much, when he does have time, he relaxes with friends and enjoys a movie occasionally