“I have been embedded in this local scene for so long that everybody knows me. I’m a white guy and I can fight a little bit so that makes me more noticeable.”–Tony Jeter
In the niche which boxing occupies in the sports world, there is only room enough for the superstars; only room enough for the spectacular talents and the bigger than life personalities. In the shadows, the business of boxing goes on much as it always has filled with fighters who will almost undoubtedly never know the bright lights of a mega fight. Middleweight Tony “Mo Betta” Jeter is 8-2 with 7 KO’s in a nine year professional career fighting exclusively in the DC Metro area. The 34 year old Jeter is hardly a newcomer however; he has come by his ring skills honestly honing those skills in over 800 amateur fights.
The amiable Jeter offers a thorough look at the cruel and ultimately unforgiving business of boxing. Jeter is a study in duality; on the one hand, he is a fighter rushing against time as he tries one last time to work his way into the TV fight he has always coveted, just one more fighter dreaming of gaining his shot. Yet, on the other hand, he is a local name navigating the dirty business of the sport as other fighters attempt to lure him into fights he knows he doesn’t need. He is at once seeking and sought after, hungry fighter and savvy businessman, eager charge and wise mentor. In an interview with Ringside Report, Jeter provides a window into the recesses of boxing as he tells of his journey in boxing; a journey that predictably is long and winding and yet, far from over.
JS: Boxing in the Beltway has a loyal and voracious following and you certainly seem to be a significant player in that region.
Me, I’m one of those guys. I am one of the most talked about guys whether they love me or hate me and there are a handful of guys, critics, but I am definitely a well known boxer out of this area. I can fight a little bit; I had a lot of amateur fights, but I think it’s my personality. People either love me or they hate me; there is no gray area.
JS: It seems like it goes with the territory in boxing overall. No matter whom it is some people seem to love what they do and others are not sold at all about their abilities. I can see that you seem to have a way of attracting attention on both sides of the equation.
Yeah, and I think it’s just a handful of guys. Overall, I think I am a liked guy and I am a known guy especially in this area. I mean, you’re talking about my having a nine year career with seven years of inactivity. What kills me is having people be as critical of me as they are. I mean, I’m 8-2 with a seven year layoff. You take Cory Spinks with a record of 19-0 and he is fighting guys who are 0-1 and they just call it building a record. You take guys that they take from the Midwest and we’re talking about blue chip guys or guys down south and these are like Olympic alternates and they’re 10 or 15 and 0 and they are fighting guys who are 0-1 or 0-9 and they’ve been stopped nine times. So, you can take a handful of guys in this area and they are just over critical; they are over jealous of me.
(Bumpus fought in 2001 and 2002. His last fight came on April 18th, 2002. His professional record stands at 6-0-1, 1 KO.)
Another loss, you take the James Shedrick loss; I was winning every second of that fight. At the end, my coaches looked at the scorecards and I had won every round. But, with a minute left I just got clipped. I had never been stopped before, but it just goes to show how in boxing that one punch can change everything. It’s a sport that doesn’t forgive easily, you know?
JS: Funny that you mention one punch as you are coming off of a one punch knockout yourself against Keith Gross. That fight came after a layoff of nearly a year, how did it feel to be back in the ring?
It felt good and there is actually some history between me and Keith Gross. He had actually come up to the gym a lot to spar. He didn’t come up to train, but he would come up to work because we have a ton of fighters here. He had sparred with me five times and I would say that four out of those five times he had got the better of me; I mean I struggled. It was weird; I thought we would go into the deeper rounds and that I would probably get him later in the fight. He had always given me problems, but to just walk out there and stretch him like I did was great; it was a good feeling.
One of his corner guys used to be a trainer here. There was so much that was into that fight. Take a guy like Gross; he was 3-1 with a loss to Erlislandy Lara who is, by far, one of the best fighters in the world. So, he is 3-1 and his one loss is to a blue chipper; a probable future world champion. I get him and I go out and take care of business. During the weigh in there was a lot of animosity and I’m not that kind of guy and I like him so I was sort of taken aback by the fact that they didn’t want to talk to me at the weigh in. I understand that we have to fight and I told his coach; it’s just a fight and ultimately I don’t dislike you all. One of us is going to win and one of us is going to lose. When the bell rang, he ran across the ring and hit me with a three punch combination. We thought he was going to stay on the outside, but he didn’t he engaged quick and ultimately that was his downfall.
JS: You think the sparring gave him the confidence to stand right in front of you?
I truly do and everybody says you have to fight these five people and this handful of people who go out under anonymous and club me out on these websites. But, nobody knew like he did that he had gotten the better of me in sparring. I tell everybody I have been in boxing for a long time. I have had a lot of hard amateur fights. I have been to Marquette. I have fought at that level. I tell everybody in sparring you have the big gloves and the headgear; it’s totally different. Once you take the headgear off and put on the little gloves it’s just a totally different sport because that’s when you’re getting hit for real. You’re getting elbows, you’re getting head butts, it’s just a lot different. I think he took those sparring sessions and he underestimated me, or maybe he didn’t underestimate me but the confidence was still there.
JS: I know you mentioned the considerable amateur experience you have. One number that jumps out when you look at your record is your age of 34. You didn’t even have your first pro fight until you were 25. Can you talk about your path to professional boxing?
I started boxing when I was about 15 or 16 and we just kept trying to make the Olympic team and to get there is just insane. I mean, the steps; you have to win the national title, then you go to the Olympic Trials, and then you have to win the box offs. Now, it’s even more complicated because then you have to win the qualifiers. So, not only do you have to go national title, Olympic Trials, box offs, but then you have to win one of the qualifiers now to get to the Olympics. We tried and tried to get the national title and next thing you know I’m 25 years old. We went to the National Golden Gloves in 2001 and I made it to the quarterfinals and that was it.
I got the call and we had Steve Nelson who had just broken up with Robert Mittelman at that point. He had Hasim Rahman at that time. We had Art Danzinger and them. We had JD Brown who was with Sugar Ray Leonard Promotions. And, we had Chris Middendorf and a couple of other little guys who were looking at me. Ultimately, I was 25 years old and I had to make a decision so we went with Sugar Ray. In hindsight, I probably should have gone with the smaller guys because they (Sugar Ray) got me for nothing so I was expendable. They didn’t put any money into me and they had just signed a deal with ESPN2 so they had one Friday every month for a year. So, that was their selling point. They could say, hey will get you on TV. But, at that point, they had Joe Mesi, they had Dunne, they had a bunch of big prospects, I was just expendable. So, that was my path. 800 amateur fights, kept waiting and didn’t win a national title and next thing you know I’m 25 years old.
So, I go up to Philly to fight on the undercard of Thomas Tate and Omar Sheika and I lose to a guy, from Philly, who was a really good fighter. You look at how they managed me and it was horrific. You have Ron Katz as the matchmaker and if you know boxing, you know Ron Katz so you are not going to be in an 80-20 or 70-30; with Ron Katz you’re going to be in a 50-50 if not the other way around. You know, so we were in a tough fight and I don’t think I was ready for that fight at that point so I take the loss. Boxing is a sport where you have to be 100 percent mentally and I wasn’t so I just drifted off. Now, at 34 years old, I have a couple of good years to get active and you know I can punch a little bit so that is one good thing I have going for me.
JS: The Gross fight came after an 11 month layoff and now Robbins comes up but it’s been another six months. If you had your way, you would much prefer to be more active at this point?
Definitely, we have a couple of fights lined up and we’ll see. Ultimately, I have to get passed these fights. Babie Girl Promotions has allowed me to jump on and that is a blessing that I am very thankful for. So, I would like to get through this and then keep it moving maybe head down south for a couple of fights. I have received a couple of calls from overseas so who knows, you know? Maybe I will pick up a regional title around here, but ultimately I have to get double digit wins so I can get a call for Shobox so my short term goal is to get double digit wins. It would be nice to be like 11-2 with 10 knockouts because with that double digit knockout record people can overlook those two losses. It works better for TV because they can justify that.
I have a good team with me. I have Tom Langley, SR., who has been in the game for 35 years. He has sat at Don King’s desk. He is one of the best cut men in boxing and he has worked a bunch of big fights. I have Charles Dent training me and this guy Charles Dent is going to be the Freddie Roach of this area; mark my words and remember that name. This guy is going to be the guy, he is good. So we have a lot going that is going to help us in this fight. And, we’re looking forward to getting to that ultimate goal which is to get to double digit wins and then to get some kind of shot on ESPN2 or wherever. But, at this point at 34 years old, I’m not an Olympian and I have two losses so I’m going to be an opponent in a big fight. So, I have to go in there and make it happen for myself.
JS: After your win over Pete Guthy there was some talk about you moving on to a major fight in the Beltway against one of the other more well known fighters from that region. The talk came up again after the win over Gross. Is that something that would still interest you? Is there anyone in particular that you would be interested in fighting in the area if that opportunity came about?
Who are we talking about locally that is going to bring in some money, you know? I tell everybody, I beat Mike Pasqual in 1999 in the Golden Gloves Championships. In 2000, I won against the head bangers in the finals of the Golden Gloves open class. So, I don’t need to prove that I’m the baddest guy locally. At this point, I’ve done that already. Now, I need to be smart. A lot of fighters, they don’t have the brains to say this fight here doesn’t make one bit of sense. I’m going to be paid peanuts and I’m going to go out and be in a war and ultimately it isn’t going to do one thing for my career. As an amateur, I did that. To go out and win a Golden Gloves open class title and 147 and 156, you know what I mean? You are talking about two of the most competitive weights in boxing. And this is DC Metro area, it’s not like Tennessee or North Carolina, there are some thoroughbred blue chippers coming out of here. But, there are some guys around here where if the money is right, of course I would jump on it.
But, ultimately, I have promoted. I promoted and made the matches on my own card two years ago so I have been on both sides. I have promoted two professional shows, a few amateur shows, and my wife owns a 24000 square foot facility that houses some of the best fighters in this area. So, I’m sort of pipelined into the local scene. So, to fight some of these guys, you see what I’m saying? Does it really make sense?
We are going to the fights tonight and there are a couple of fighters on there that, I’m not even going to mention their names, because they don’t even deserve to have their name mentioned. But, they sort of talked their way into a fight by talking trash. But, in this game, when you turn pro, you are trying to get to the money and the championships. Those two go hand in hand. Being the local tough guy is not something that gets you there. But, there are some guys where if they wanted to fight (me) here and I knew I could sell tickets and that it would benefit me the promoter, than we would do that in a heartbeat. Why should I fight one of these guys that badmouths me and benefit someone else for 1500 dollars? It just doesn’t make sense.
MZ: I know that you want to be more active in the ring. But, you do a great job talking too. You are a great pitch man. How important can that be in helping you to get to your ultimate goal in the ring?
I have been embedded in this local scene for so long that everybody knows me. I’m a white guy and I can fight a little bit so that makes me more noticeable. So, you’re going to know who I am. I don’t know if some of the promoters are turned off because I’m the type of fighter that has some brains and that understands the business side and can think on his own. In 2001, when I was with Sugar Ray Leonard Promotions and they took me up to Philly to fight Kwame Bumpus when I was 3-0, I had no business sense then. In hindsight, I think; why am I going to Philly to fight this kid that I have already heard stories about him knocking Aaron Mitchell out in the gym? So, why would I go and fight this kid in Philly where, if it’s close, I’m not even going to get a decision, you know? So, I am that type of guy now and I think a lot of people locally are turned off by that. So, they don’t give me a chance and I think ultimately I can fight a little bit, but I’m realistic.
A lot of these fighters when you talk to them, they are so unrealistic. I have a couple of years, at best, I have to get active and try to get some wins and then maybe I get the call overseas and I can get a 10 or 15 thousand dollar payday, but that’s the goal. But, I’m going to do other things than boxing which I have already started to do. There are three matchmakers in Maryland and I am one of them. I’ve only done matchmaking on two cards, but I do have my license in Maryland as a matchmaker. That is a cool thing to be an active fighter and have a license as a matchmaker in Maryland which is one of the most difficult states in which to get a license because it’s such a thorough commission.
But, back to Babie Girl Promotions, Cassandra White has done a wonderful job. You are talking about a DC Boxing game that has been non-existent for five years. She has basically been the driving force behind DC boxing. And to do anything in DC is tough because it is so expensive; there is nowhere to park and to rent anything is going to be twice as expensive as anywhere else so she has done a great job. I feel privileged to fight on this show. You have some big names on this card. Seth Mitchell, I feel, is going to be the Heavyweight Champion of the World if they keep handling him the way that they are. Obviously, they need to keep bringing him along, but he’s young for a heavyweight; he’s like 28. So, they need to keep bringing him along taking baby steps, but if they can position him then you never know.
Then there is Henry Buchanan who is right there going against Clarence Taylor and hopefully they can position him for maybe a top ten ranking or something. You have Thomas Williams who was a blue chip amateur and then you have me and, if nothing else, I’m entertaining.
JS: Of course, PED’s and boxing have crossed paths in a very public way this last year. As a fighter who is inside the sport, what is your take on the issue? How big of a problem does it represent?
In all sports, at the top level, there are guys doing something. You take any sport and everybody is trying to get that edge to be better than the next guy. You take five people and they are all great, but somebody has to be the best. So, how do they get there? They are all at that same level, so I think a lot of people do it. Do I think it’s bad? I don’t know, I have never done a drug in my life so I can’t say whether it’s good or bad. I know that ultimately there are guys in boxing who have been doing it and doing it for a long time; that’s for sure. But, do I think it’s a bad thing? I don’t know, but I guess if you are not allowed to do it then I guess it’s cheating so in that sense I guess it is a bad thing. But, when you are at that top echelon level I think a lot of them do it. These guys have personal trainers and you take a guy like Fernando Vargas and his guy was a known steroid dealer, you know? So, how can you be surprised that that dude tested positive? When they knew and his trainer got caught when they raided his gym. Ultimately though, if one guy is doing it and the other guy is not then it’s unfair.
MZ: I was an athlete; I played Basketball at the D1 level in college and there were some guys who maybe crossed some boundaries in terms of PED’s back when I was playing. But everyone took supplements. How much credibility do you give when these guys test positive and then turn around and say that it was just a supplement that they got at a CVS up the street?
Well, you know when they say that that is bullshit. Ultimately, that is just a crock. Everybody is doing some form of supplement whether it’s Fedrin or who knows. This is 2010 not 1940 so everybody is doing stuff to enhance and get better. And ultimately, if you’re cheating you are stepping over that line that they’ve drawn where they say this is the stuff that you can’t do and it’s bad so you shouldn’t do it. It’s unfair, but do I think a lot of people are doing it? Yes, I think so, especially at that upper level. You take these local club levels and it’s not as prevalent at the local level. But, you step up to that next level where there is millions of dollars on the line and people are doing it, yes. And, I think it’s unfair of course, and should people be doing it? No.
JS: Between fighting, promoting, and matchmaking; you seem to be well on your way to being able to do just about every job in boxing so, with that in mind, if you were running things how would you like to see this situation handled? Do you feel that random testing is warranted?
You could probably do that, but I will tell you this; right now what we need is a national commission that governs everything. Right now, you have various state commissions each with different rules.
MZ: We know that Manny Pacquiao, for instance, did not want to agree to random testing too close to the date of a proposed fight. From the perspective of a fighter, what would you do in that kind of a situation?
It’s hard for me to say because I have never been at that level. I could see how it could affect you because boxing is 90 percent mental. So, if that is going to affect Pacquiao mentally than, yes I can see where he is coming from when he says I don’t want to take it ten days beforehand because last time I bled or when I fought Erik Morales that is what caused the loss. But, I don’t know, you are talking about fighting 12 rounds at the elite of the elite level and maybe it does affect them and maybe 10 days is just too close.
JS: And, even if it’s just in his head, in a way it doesn’t matter because if it affects him mentally than it can and will affect him physically.
That’s what I’m saying. Boxing is so mental; if there is one thing that is messing with your mind than that’s it. You’re talking about these guys possibly getting hurt badly, I mean it happens. Boxing is an unforgiving sport. One bad thing or one punch and that’s it and when you are talking about 20, 30, 40 million dollars that is serious, life altering money. Plus, you have boxers that are so ritualistic that they wear the same socks. And then you have Marquez drinking his own urine. I haven’t done that and I will never do that, but I can understand it.
But, maybe Mayweather is just being smart and building this up to like a 100 million dollar fight, but I think he may have some trouble with Mosley. I think Mosley is going to give him a go. I was training in 2001 and Hasim Rahman was the heavyweight champion of the world and he was there; Keith Holmes was in there, William Joppy was in there, Sharmba Mitchell was in there, Jermaine Fields was in there. We had all these champions in there and we were all training at the same time. Shane Mosley came through when he was on the press tour for the De La Hoya fight and he came in and he bench pressed like 400 pounds and Hasim Rahman couldn’t get it off the bench. That was before the Balco thing and this dude, the bar was bending and Rahman couldn’t get it off the bench! It was insane! I couldn’t even lift the bar and the plates were just stacked on, I was like holy crap!
JS: We spoke to John Ruiz a couple of weeks back and he spoke eloquently about the ways in which boxing does a lot to help and even save people who might otherwise struggle to find their way in life, but that that is often overlooked. You have had a long road in the sport filled with starts and stops, but can you put into words what boxing has done for you? What keeps bringing you back?
Any kind of sport can give you dedication and focus and discipline. You take a kid who doesn’t have a good family situation and no support and he is just running wild out on the streets and something like this can help; it’s helped me to stay out of trouble. Not to say that I haven’t had some trouble, but ultimately I have never done a drug in my life and I’ve been able to progress in life and maybe without boxing, I wouldn’t have. Before I started boxing I was heading down the wrong way; I was getting in trouble in school and stuff like that. I think boxing has helped me to stay focused and keep myself on the right path and I think it does that for a lot of people. Not five minutes before you called, I was talking to one of my coaches Charles Dent, and I said you are helping a lot of kids out.
Mr. Langley, the first day I walked in he took me as a 15-16 year old kid and showed me that this is hard work that requires dedication, but here are some things that can happen; you can go to national tournaments, you can meet kids from all over, you can travel, and that kept me coming. It also allowed me to do good in school and it allowed me to try to do the right thing in life, to try to be a productive citizen, and that’s what boxing does for a lot of people. Not saying for everybody, everybody is not the same, but ultimately boxing, like any sport, helps by giving people focus, dedication, and discipline.
And I met my wife, my beautiful wife! Who owns this beautiful gym where I train! I mean, I met my wife at the gym, go figure. She’s a graduate of UVA and I have a Prince Georges County High School education. She has a degree from a major school, so two opposites, but the boxing connected us. So, I think boxing has done a lot for me. Hopefully, once I am through fighting I will be able to do some other things and be able to help people. Ultimately, boxing, as brutal and unforgiving a sport as it is, it does help. You can mentor; there are so many positive things that can happen. Boxing, let me tell you, is a rough, rough sport, but there are some positive things that come out of it.
Professional Record: 8-2, 7 KO’s
Date Opponent W-L-D Location Result
2001-01-25 Ervin Fuller 1-1-0 Glen Burnie, USA W TKO 1
2001-02-07 Donald Beynum 0-1-0 Washington, USA W KO 3
2001-03-30 Curtis Wilkens 1-5-0 Dover, USA NC NC 2
2001-06-29 Richard McCombs 1-0-0 Washington, USA W TKO 1
2001-10-05 Kwame Bumpus 1-0-1 Philadelphia, USA L UD 4
2005-10-07 Lawrence Frisby 3-8-0 Millersville, USA W TKO 2
2005-12-02 James Shedrick 3-4-0 Millersville, USA L KO 4
2008-04-18 Pete Guthy 1-3-2 Pikesville, USA W TKO 1
2008-09-19 Chris Cook 3-14-1 Millersville, USA W UD 4
2008-11-14 Darrett Crockett 6-20-0 Millersville, USA W TKO 2
2009-09-26 Keith Gross 3-1-0 Fairfax, USA W KO 1