RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

Up Close and Personal with Former IBF Cruiserweight Champion Alfred “Ice” Cole

 Interview by Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett

 “I gave people what they wanted to see – an action-packed fight.”–Al Cole

Sometimes in life it is what we don’t really see in a person’s life that can make all of the difference. Be it a well-founded family upbringing, faith in God, the burning desire to excel where failure is expected or injury and heart-breaking loss. All of it can affect one’s direction and purpose, but its how we choose to deal with it that in the end ultimately decides our fate.

I remember watching Alfred “Ice” Cole for the first time way back in 1990 as he was ascending the ranks in the cruiserweight division. That first glimpse for me turned out to be a first loss for him. Not too long after, I happened across him again, this time watching him reverse that first loss, over the course of which he impressed me as a skilled fighter with the potential to possibly one day become a world champion. From that point on I kept tabs on him, following his bouts where I could and later, quietly tipping my hat to a guy that was clearly hard luck and not the same fighter he had been when he faced the big boys at heavyweight.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time talking with “Ice”. I found him to be an affable, open and truly interesting individual, unafraid to discuss his success and failures and what was truly at the core of his becoming a long reigning world champion at cruiserweight from 1992-1997.

MP: Tell our readers of how you became involved with the sport of boxing and who were your earliest influences?

It’s kind of strange; I had no influences from a fighter’s prospect. I was just a kid on the street playing basketball. That’s really how it started. My friends kept fouling me and as guys playing around we’d get into “slap boxing”. So we started slap boxing with each other. When I was in high school they used to always say “hey man, you’re pretty good not having any experience”. I figured they were just trying to get me to go to a boxing gym with them so they could beat me up in the gym because I kept beating them up in basketball. I never took it seriously though. I thought boxing was stupid and dumb. You have to realize, I said I’d never do this. What kind of sport is this, getting hit in the face? They got a referee, and if you hit me, I’m going to hit you any way I can. The ref is going to say I can’t hit this way or hit that way. I don’t care if I hit you behind the head, in the knee caps; I’m going to hit you.

After high school I joined the Army. I was going to the gym to play basketball and I saw a sign that at that time I called no-vice boxing. It was novice but I called it no-vice. It was a sign for beginners in boxing. And so I was going to try out for the post basketball team, which at Fort Hood, Texas, which is the largest military base in the world. One of my friends suggested we try boxing, remembering people said I could box. To make a long story short, I went on to win the Fort Hood boxing championships for beginners. And that was with Kenny Adams. He wasn’t training me right then. It was like an elimination process. Like a whole bunch of dogs in a pit and who was strong enough to survive. I survived and we went from there.

MP: You amassed a 15-0 record before dropping a split decision to Leon Taylor, a fighter that had been in with some talented fighters. What happened?

Actually that was the only fight I was expected to really win. Probably six or seven of my first ten bouts were with fighters who were undefeated. They thought this would be one of my easiest fights. For my pro debut, I think my opponent was 5-3 and my second fight the guy was 8-0 with six knockouts. I had fought so many tough people that by the time I was 10-0. Up until Leon Taylor, everybody I fought, at most, had just one or two losses or they were undefeated. At the time Ron Katz was my matchmaker and I think his job was with Bob Arum and he’d weed the real good fighters out, so he gave me a lot of tough fights. I fought tough up and coming guys. So when I fought Leon Taylor that was the first fight that they gave me that he thought I was going to win. It was just a tune-up match and I was #1 and heading for a world title fight. That was a learning experience ‘cause I didn’t train that tough. I didn’t go to training camp and he beat me on a close split decision. He was such a slick-cat fighter. He was so slick, I couldn’t hit him. I didn’t train that great and he just took me to school, honestly. I learned so much from that fight.

After the fight, I was so fixated on Leon Taylor, where ever I went I saw him. Everybody looked like him! If I went to the mall, I saw him, or I thought I did. I’d ask myself what he is doing here. If I went to my hometown, I’d see him. I was so fixated. Everybody looked like him to me. I was so fixated on getting him back and winning, so that when we had the rematch, I totally destroyed him. It was one of my easiest unanimous decisions, almost had him out a couple of times. I was really focused and that helped me prepare myself. It helped me to bite down and use my craft, my boxing skills instead of just going in there and fighting. With the Leon Taylor rematch I learned how to be skillful and prepared in boxing. Before that, I was just outfighting and out hustling everybody. I’d wear you down because I refused to quit.

MP: After winning the vacant USBA Cruiserweight Title in a rematch with Taylor, you widely outpointed the dangerous Nate Miller, a man that went tooth and nail with the great Dwight Qawi and would one day go on to become WBA Cruiserweight champion. Did you believe at that point you were destined for a major world title?

I distinctly remember my manager at that time had mentioned the promoter had said after I had beat Leon Taylor in the rematch, there was a clause in my contract that if I had two losses in the first two years of our contract, the promoter would have the right to drop us from that contract. So, that fight with Taylor was supposed to be my last fight before the two year contract was up, but when I lost, they quickly made the rematch. If I had of lost that fight, I’m sure Top Rank would have terminated the contract they had with me. After I won the rematch, they gave me Nate Miller. Just after my first loss, I heard a lot of rumors. You see, back then I was with an outfit called Triple Threat. Myself, Charles Murray and Ray Mercer. If I had lost, they would have changed it to Double Trouble. They didn’t know I heard this. Everybody loves you when you are on top, but it’s the business of boxing. It’s all just a bunch of crap. With Miller it was time for me to swim or drown. At that time Miller was ranked #1. Today, I can tell you that Nate Miller was one of hardest punchers I ever fought.

MP: Even among all of the heavyweights you faced?

Yes. He was one of THE hardest punchers I ever fought.

MP: You won the IBF Cruiserweight Title in July 1992 unanimously outpointing James Warring, a fighter with the reputation as a big hitter at 190 pounds. How did it feel winning a major world title barely three years into your pro career against such a dangerous opponent?

A lot of people looked at that that way, but actually with me believing in God, with my focus and determination, I had no doubts I was winning. And I guess a lot of people looked at that as being something because James Warring was a big puncher and I was not known as a big puncher. I was known as a workhorse. Praise God, I was blessed to have a great chin! I’m thinking probably that was coming from football all my life, banging heads as a kid. My military background, my coming up as always the underachiever, I was always underestimated all of my life. It didn’t matter. Basketball, baseball, I always ended up being the most improved athlete. I realized I was never really the most improved; it’s just that the coach never acknowledged or recognized me.

I was just underestimated. But I would always work very hard. My heart and determination overtook the other people’s skills. When I fought James Warring I just knew I was going to win. I felt almost invincible. I would pray and believe God that I could do all things through Jesus Christ which strengthens me. I thought it was a pretty easy fight for me.

MP: You easily defended your title against the dangerous Uriah Grant, a fighter that went on to stop Thomas Hearns and at one point greatly troubled Bobby Czyz who was the WBA Cruiserweight titlist at the same time you held your title. The convincing win over Grant seemed to illustrate your strengths as a boxer, suggesting you had the skills and style to defeat Czyz. Was unification ever discussed with the Czyz camp or with Anaclet Wamba, the WBC champ?

All of them. I always wanted to fight everybody, all of them and they all avoided me. Actually I knew I’d probably never get Bobby Czyz because when I started out boxing after coming off as an alternate on the Olympic team, one of my coaches was Tommy Parks, who was Bobby’s head trainer. So, when I first started boxing, sometimes I was boxing with Bobby Czyz, beating him up in the gym. So I knew his trainer, when I tried to make the unification fight with Bobby Czyz, they never wanted to face me. I tried to get them even for less money. At that time cruiserweight wasn’t big, but by me beating Bobby would elevate me a little bit. The others would only consider fighting me only if they had every advantage, only if I’d go overseas and face them in their hometown. So, I had to make my mandatory defense for the second time against Nate Miller. So I would defeat him, then he would turn around and fight all they told him to fight, and he’d become #1 again. So it was between him and Uriah Grant. I kept beating them back, I beat them both twice. When I decided to vacate the title, a lot of people think I lost the title, but I actually vacated it, the same fighters I kept beating back went on to win the world title. Nate Miller and Uriah Grant went on to win world titles.

MP: You relinquished the IBF Cruiserweight title after five successful defenses to move up to heavyweight, something you hinted at doing a few years earlier after voicing a willingness to face IBF/WBA Heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. Why did you move up?

Exactly. You do know. You did your homework! Actually, people do not know, I fought a heavyweight before trying to get Riddick Bowe. I fought Mike Dixon. He went the distance with Bruce Seldon and he went eight or nine rounds with Ray Mercer. He was my first heavyweight fight. People think it was with Tim Witherspoon, but it wasn’t. People think I only kept the IBF Cruiserweight title for two or three years but I kept it all the way up to ’97. The only reason I vacated was because it was so hard for me to get quality fights at cruiserweight, plus I was getting much bigger. I’m 6’4.

MP: Did you find a big difference in the punching power the heavyweights had as opposed to cruiserweights?

Not to me because when I was a middleweight in the Army with Kenny Adams, I was always working with heavyweights, so I was used to getting hit by the big guys. Boxing heavyweights was like a walk in the part in that I was well prepared for the big guys having started out facing them as a little guy. I was used to going in hard with the big guys.

MP: The heavyweight portion of your career didn’t work out as well as your cruiserweight chapter of your career. What happened?

Nobody really knows this. About two maybe two and a half week before the fight I got into a major car accident. I totaled my car. Somebody was running from the police out in Pensacola, Florida, and they hit me and totaled the car. Two weeks later I was supposed to face Tim Witherspoon, and at this time, I knew I could not move. After I got out of the car, I was so pissed and mad at everything, I’m walking around, no problem. The next day, I go to the gym, I can’t move. My back is all stiff. My back is locked up. I had to stop and stretch, try to exercise it out, had somebody stretch me. When I started training again, after a round or two, I couldn’t move, so I couldn’t train. So the last two weeks before the fight, I was taking so many pain killers and muscle relaxers because it to me was the opportunity of the world. I’m about to fight a guy that was on a great win streak, the former WBA Heavyweight champion, and everybody thought he was going to knock me out. I figured I would out hustle Witherspoon, beat him out to the punch, and out box him. I wasn’t worried about his punch or his power. I knew I could take it. I was training to outhustle him, but after the crash I couldn’t move. I couldn’t pivot or throw those punches.

Before the fight I sat and talked with Rock Newman about how after I beat Tim Witherspoon, I was going to fight Riddick Bowe for the heavyweight world title. The win over Tim would legitimize me for going after the heavyweight title. Unfortunately, I couldn’t move or pivot the way I planned. Witherspoon did everything to me I was supposed to do to him. He out punched me, he out hustled me; he beat me to the punch. I just couldn’t move. At one point I hurt him with a body shot, he took a step back and spit out his mouthpiece. Everybody figured he was going to knock me out. He hit me with everything but the kitchen sink.

MP: He had a big right hand.

Yes. Surprisingly his left hook was more effective to me than his right hand.

MP: How did the loss affect you?

I just figured it was a really bad night for me, with the car accident and all going into it.

MP: You faced an up and coming, undefeated Michael Grant in 1997.

My next fight was supposed to be George Foreman. So leading up to it they wanted me to face this guy named Michael Grant who they say wasn’t that good. So we watched some tapes of him barely beating some southpaw. Mike was just a big strong guy; it was just about his stature. He really wasn’t that skilled, that good. We figured we could easily beat him. So they set-up that fight and after, I could face George Foreman. But the same thing happened as before. My back went out. When I fought Grant, I’m getting hit with everything. I saw the punches coming, but it seemed like I couldn’t move. After the Grant fight, I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t punching much; I wasn’t moving much, I wasn’t moving left and right. All of the muscle relaxers and pain killers I was taking for my back, I just didn’t know any better. They were affecting my reactions and my reflexes, and it makes your blood thinner and you can easily swell. You easily swell up, can be easily cut and then you bleed. All of this stuff I should not have been taking. But I knew I had to take them because I wanted this fight, so I could go on to face big name fighters for major money. The last couple of rounds with Grant I’m telling my trainer I’m just going to take it to him. I got caught with another right hand and it busted my eye wide open.

MP: In 1998 it looked like you handed then-undefeated Kirk Johnson his first loss in a bout that was ruled a draw. What happened?

Exactly. During all of this time, besides the car accident, I had never told one of the key things that happened to me. At that time when I was taking those fights and coming up short, no one knows, but my mom had died. In fact, at this time I had almost ten deaths in my family over the next few years. So when I was having those fights, working through the back injury, I wasn’t in the mental state where I should have been. I lost them all over a period of three years. It’s something I mostly kept to myself. Two of my brothers died, one of them within a month of losing my mother. My aunt, my cousin, my uncle, another cousin who was 22 years-old, she came home from college, told her mom she wasn’t feeling, good, went and laid down and never got back up. So I was going through this entire trauma, and they were offering me fights on short notice and I said “OK”. I just didn’t care. I wasn’t in my best shape mentally or physically. I was taking these bouts on short notice. Every three or four months it seemed like somebody died or was critically ill in the hospital.

When the Johnson fight came about, my back was still jammed up. Watch the last couple of rounds, I almost had him out. In fact, I don’t even see how they didn’t disqualify him. They gave him three warnings, and took three points away for low blows. After they take three points away they are supposed to disqualify you. I hit him in the first round and he went down. I don’t think it was really a knockdown, but I hit him and he went down. In the last round, I had him holding on for dear life. They had taken three points away, how are you going to call that a draw? In the rematch a few months later, I was on my way to knocking him out again. Over the first three rounds I figured I was boxing well, I’m thinking I was doing OK. Then I heard one of the commentators say “three rounds to nothing, Kirk Johnson.” I’m like, what? I shifted gears, I didn’t try to box him anymore, and I went straight to him and fought him. The commentators said they were surprised Al Cole is right there fighting him and Roy Jones, JR., who was there said “No. I’ve seen Cole in the gym. He can fight. Al Cole is a fighter.” I was outslugging him and I knew I was beating him. In the last two or three rounds, my back locked up on me again. You’ll see, in the last two or three rounds, I didn’t hit Johnson at all.

No matter how good the opponent was, you could see, I barely lost. It didn’t matter how good the opponent was. If he was number one or one-hundred and one, I barely lost. Except when I fought a southpaw. I went against Sedreck Fields up in New York. I barely lost. The guy was like 15-15 (Note: Sedreck Fields was in fact 17-15-1 at the time he faced Al Cole). They gave him a unanimous decision. The only reason that was, I believe, was because I had been in an argument with Ron Stevens, a match maker.

MP: You mentioned having trouble with southpaws. Corrie Sanders, Juan Carlos Gomez, and Sultan Ibragimov, all of them southpaws, managed to stop you where other, orthodox big hitters failed to. You found that style difficult?

Yes, definitely. Corrie Sanders was a fast, big hitter but he can’t take a punch. No one ever noticed that but every time he got hit he’d go down. But he probably had the fastest hands I had ever seen. By the time I faced Ibragimov, I think that Ron Stevens got in the way again. He didn’t want me to face Ibragimov. It was all personal. Back when I fought Sedreck Fields, he and I got into a bad argument up in the Hamptons. We got into a big fight before a bout and I was about to walk out, and I was the main event. Listen, I can be honest. I could lose to anybody, even if it is a unanimous decision, as when Hasim Rahman beat me. Rahman beat me by a 96-94 on all of the cards. That’s a close fight, correct? I am not getting blown out and I’m losing to a short guy like Sedreck Fields, who can’t punch. Now because of Ron Stevens, I’m suddenly losing. I truly believe that with all of my heart. Every time I was in a close fight somewhere up in New York, I’d lose. In Maryland, the match maker that made the Rahman fight for me, Ron Stevens called him up and tried to stop it. He called the commission down in Florida when I was lined up to face Danny Williams; he called up and told them to not let me fight. I had several bouts for various promoters that said Ron Stevens called and said take me off the card. Even when I had passed all the medicals, he told me he could still keep me from fighting, telling me he could give me an administrative suspension. He said he had the right not to ever let me fight in New York. That’s what it was. Even when I told him about what was going on, all those deaths in my family.

After those bouts with Kirk Johnson, I finally found out what was really going on with my back. I had this fan that would come into the gym to watch me train and he noticed something was wrong with the way I moved, seeing me somewhat limp when I walked. As it turned out, he was a physical therapist and personal fitness trainer who today trains “50 Cent”, Mr. Jay Cardiello. He showed me exercises for my hip flexors and in effect extended my career. Jay is, to this very day, a great friend that was recently featured in OK Magazine, Women’s Health and Muscle and Performance, among others.

MP: You fought as recently as a few months ago. Do you plan to continue?

Actually, I wasn’t planning on fighting, and I’m not making excuses. I hate saying it because it sounds like I’m making excuses, but a week before that bout I was in the hospital with pneumonia. I really don’t know. I was very frustrated. The only reason that I fought is because today’s fighters are not really all that great. They’re not that good. Don’t look at my age, look at my ability. I have never been a partier. I am very health conscious. It’s been my heritage, my background, me being Jamaican and where I grew up. It’s about eating the right fruits and roots, all natural and holistic. I’ve never defiled my body. And I’m still able to get in there and do it. Today, if somebody wants some tough hard sparring they call me or they bring me in camp at the later stages when a fighter is in better shape. If some guy is beating me up the first week, the second week it’s even, the third week I’m beating him, the fourth week they get rid of me!

MP: How do you wish to be remembered?

As a workhorse. A guy that gave it his all. I was never a big knockout puncher like Mike Tyson or Roy Jones JR., the kind that was killing people, beating them up. I was once told be somebody “You’re the guy on the card that everybody is going to remember. They might not remember your name, but you are the guy that is going to raise them to their feet, because you are going to get hit, and you are going to hit.” I was a crowd pleasing fighter. I gave people what they wanted to see – an action-packed fight.

Alfred Cole

Nickname: “Ice”

Division: Heavyweight

Professional Record: 35-15-3, 16 KO’s


Date Opponent W-L-D Location Result

1989-03-25 Lorenzo Thomas 1-1-0 Las Vegas, USA W TKO 3

1989-04-25 Guy Sonnenberg 8-0-2 Las Vegas, USA W UD 4

1989-05-27 Jack Basting 9-4-0 Bismarck, USA W MD 4

1989-06-24 Aundrey Nelson 2-0-0 Atlantic City, USA W PTS 4

1989-08-15 John Beckles 2-0-1 West Orange, USA W TKO 4

1989-09-12 Drake Thadzi 14-1-1 Atlantic City, USA W PTS 6

1989-10-20 Harrison Pearson 2-0-0 Atlantic City, USA W KO 5

1989-11-14 Luis Castillo 3-1-0 West Orange, USA W TKO 3

1990-01-07 Ed Mack 7-0-0 Atlantic City, USA W UD 6

1990-03-22 Jerry Dorsey 7-3-0 Atlantic City, USA W TKO 3

1990-05-03 Tommy Richardson 8-4-0 Newark, USA W TKO 5

1990-06-12 Chris Collins 2-4-0 Fort Bragg, USA W TKO 5

1990-06-24 Keith McMurray 12-7-1 Atlantic City, USA W PTS 8

1990-08-05 Jesse Shelby 19-8-1 Atlantic City, USA W UD 10

1990-09-27 Matthew Brooks 8-2-1 Stanhope, USA W TKO 4

1990-12-13 Leon Taylor 12-4-0 Atlantic City, USA L SD 10

1991-03-08 Leon Taylor 13-4-0 Atlantic City, USA W UD 12

vacant USBA Cruiserweight Title

1991-05-09 Nate Miller 18-2-0 Newark, USA W PTS 12

USBA Cruiserweight Title

1991-07-25 Frankie Swindell 19-5-0 Atlantic City, USA W TKO 11

USBA Cruiserweight Title

1991-09-25 Mike DeVito 11-6-2 Stanhope, USA W TKO 3

1991-12-12 Govoner Chavers 9-2-1 Atlantic City, USA W TKO 6

1992-07-30 James Warring 14-1-0 Stanhope, USA W UD 12

IBF Cruiserweight Title

1993-02-28 Uriah Grant 22-9-0 Atlantic City, USA W UD 12

IBF Cruiserweight Title

1993-07-16 Glenn McCrory 30-7-1 Moscow, Russia W UD 12

IBF Cruiserweight Title

1993-11-17 Vincent Boulware 26-4-1 Atlantic City, USA W TKO 5

IBF Cruiserweight Title

1994-07-23 Nate Miller 23-3-0 Bismarck, USA W UD 12

IBF Cruiserweight Title

1995-03-18 Mike Dixon 15-16-0 Pensacola, USA W TKO 8

1995-06-24 Uriah Grant 23-10-0 Atlantic City, USA W UD 12

IBF Cruiserweight Title

1996-01-12 Tim Witherspoon 43-4-0 New York, USA L UD 10

1996-11-22 Matthew Charleston 23-7-0 Tampa, USA W KO 1

1997-06-20 Michael Grant 24-0-0 Atlantic City, USA L RTD 10

vacant International Boxing Council Heavyweight Title

1998-05-08 Carlos Monroe 11-5-0 Atlantic City, USA W UD 10

1998-09-04 Derrick Roddy 18-13-0 Atlantic City, USA W TKO 3

1998-12-08 Kirk Johnson 26-0-0 New York, USA D PTS 10

1999-03-20 Kirk Johnson 26-0-1 Tacoma, USA L UD 10

1999-10-29 Brian Nix 10-4-0 Montreal, Canada W TKO 8

2000-02-19 Corrie Sanders 35-1-0 Brakpan, South Africa L TKO 1

World Boxing Union Heavyweight Title

2000-04-27 Frankie Swindell 37-19-2 New York, USA D PTS 10

2000-09-14 Terrence Lewis 27-7-0 New York, USA L UD 10

2000-12-08 David Bostice 24-2-1 Las Vegas, USA L UD 10

2001-05-25 Jameel McCline 24-2-3 Norfolk, USA L UD 10

2001-08-04 Juan Carlos Gomez 32-0-0 Las Vegas, USA L TKO 6

2002-01-26 Sherman Williams 18-6-1 New York, USA L UD 10

2002-06-29 Vinny Maddalone 15-0-0 Atlantic City, USA W UD 6

2002-08-31 Sedreck Fields 17-15-1 Bridgehampton, USA L UD 10

2003-01-30 Jeremy Williams 39-4-0 Portland, USA D PTS 10

2003-03-01 David Izon 27-5-0 Las Vegas, USA W UD 8

2003-08-22 Joe Lenhart 11-18-3 Las Vegas, USA W UD 6

2003-10-30 Lance Whitaker 26-2-1 Coconut Creek, USA L UD 12

vacant NABA Heavyweight Title

2004-03-11 Hasim Rahman 35-5-1 Glen Burnie, USA L UD 10

2005-03-03 Sultan Ibragimov 14-0-0 New York, USA L TKO 3

WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight Title

2008-09-05 Joey Abell 20-2-0 Karlstad, Sweden W SD 6

2009-09-04 Timur Ibragimov 25-2-1 Karlstad, Sweden L UD 6

Advertise Now On RSR

Purchase Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime

Watch The Trailer For Family Secret

Leave a Reply