Tony “Lightning” Luis, the current NABA-WBA Lightweight champion, makes his first title defense October 14 in Cornwall, Ontario. But that’s not the whole story. You don’t just walk in the ring and know how to fight. It takes years of sacrifice and a multitude of ups and downs to get where Luis has gotten. I had the privilege to speak with Luis about his early years, how he got involved in boxing, and how a computer malfunction ultimately made him a stronger person.
The GM’s Perspective: People see the bright lights, the glamour, and the money, but not the behind the scenes. What is your typical training regimen like, especially with a title fight coming up on October 14 where you, Tony “Lightning” Luis (24-3 8 KO’s), defend your NABA-WBA Lightweight championship at the Cornwall Civic Complex, when you face Giovanni Straffon (14-2-1 9 KO’s)?
Tony “Lightning” Luis: For instance, my last three training sessions for the week will be tomorrow (Friday) and that will be the end of a six day stretch where I’ve been going sometimes twice a day. That’s a combination of, a minimum, five boxing sessions a week (two to three hours) and half are my hard sparring days. I do my strength and conditioning in the morning which consists of long-distance running. Other days it could be sprints and interval training. Of course I incorporate a variety of sport specific strength training (weightlifting, plyometrics).
GMs: Do people really truly understand the work you do to get to the level you’re at today?
TL: I think the majority of people don’t because, simply, they don’t see it. They only see the final product on fight night. People always think so and so made X amount of dollars, but they don’t know that I went two months without pay to get to this moment here. Sometimes training costs money if you have to bring in sparring partners or you need to upgrade equipment…
GMs: For those unfamiliar with your story, how’d you get involved with boxing?
TL: I got my start as a young kid in martial arts. I was about seven years old when my dad put me in Karate. My dad was a black belt in three different disciplines and was one of my sensei’s.
I was in karate for about five years and pretty successful in a variety of karate and kickboxing tournaments. I was a blue belt at the time, but my goal was to get a black belt. I was close, but at around nine years old, my dad had an opportunity to go back to his roots and start teaching boxing again at a local fitness center.
For a few years I was juggling both; karate and boxing. When I got a little older I had to make a choice between the two and boxing got my heart. I discovered my dad’s old fight collection he accumulated over the years as a fan and once I started diving into his old amateur tapes I was hooked.
Photo courtesy – Liveco Boxing
GMs: What’s it like defending your title in your hometown of Cornwall? What can the fans expect when you get in the ring?
TL: They can expect speed, action and lots of intensity. I bring it every time. I love to entertain and put on a good show. The fans will get their money’s worth.
GMs: Tell me about the scoring error that directly impacted your route to the Beijing Olympics in 2007. How did you handle that? When you talk about mental strength and the ability to overcome, this has to be at the top of the list…
TL: If I would’ve won in the final, I wouldn’t have been guaranteed a slot in the Olympics, but I would have been given the opportunity to try and qualify. I would’ve had the chance to attend Olympic qualifiers and at least medal at one of them to try and make the team.
I won my regionals and provincials and three fights later I’m in the finals of the Nationals against the three year defending champion and Boxing Canada’s athlete team rep.
So, I’m ahead after half-way through the fight and after the third round he’s two points up…I bounce back and have a pretty good fourth round. And with twenty seconds to go in the last round (I’ll never forget it), they said their was a computer malfunction and the computers froze. And all the points in the fourth round never counted and went back to the previous score in the third round to determine the winner.
I was very bitter, but at the same time relieved. I knew the result didn’t define my performance or who I was as a fighter.
GMs: Since turning pro, you’ve held multiple titles, including the NABA-WBA Lightweight championship. Not many people are able to do what you do. What do you attribute as the driving force behind your success?
TL: I love this game. This game has taught me so much about myself, built my character, and has been my safe haven and refuge when I went through some difficult times in my personal life. It’s always been something to steer me back on track whenever life gets tough.
Photo courtesy – Liveco Boxing
GMs: You’re fighting in your hometown in a few weeks. And being a hometown champion, there’s probably more than one person that looks up to you. What does that mean to you?
TL: It’s humbling. A boxer’s life is a lonely life. Especially juggling a fulltime job, while training full time. I’m a substance abuse counselor at a youth treatment centre on a native reserve just on the outskirts of my hometown. I’ve been there for about five or six years. I have a very good relationship with my employer and he supports my career fully. I’m very blessed in that sense.
When I’m in camp I’m in my bubble. When I’m in camp getting ready for a fight, I don’t get out that much; work, home, train, work, home, train. I remember my fight in April, the first one in Cornwall, I went to run stairs at the hockey arena. There were few kids from a distance that recognized me and they asked for a picture and knew everything about my career. That’s where I got that reinforcement I needed. These kids’ eyes lit up. Sometimes we forget that people care and appreciate you. You get caught up in yourself you forget about the little things. This is what fuels me and makes me want to work that much harder.
GMs: Any final words or information about the upcoming title fight?
TL: For people out of town or those who may not be able to make the trip, Liveco Boxing will usually have a live PPV stream on their website. To our hardcore contingent fans that have supported me through and through and have been with me since day one, I am very grateful for that. For all the new fans introduced to the sport, I highly suggest you come out and check out the fight and have a good time. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
On October 14, I’m defending North American title. I’m ranked 12th in the world right now and this will get me one step closer to a world title shot. A world class event is happening in your backyard.