12 Rounds With … Ryan Karl

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Texas native discusses Friday night's FS1 fight, rebounding from his first career loss and how exactly he got his famous nickname.

Ryan "Cowboy" Karl celebrates a TKO victory over Malcolm Terry in September 2015. Karl returns this Friday night on FS1. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

Ryan Karl alternates workouts at his home in Melano, Texas, with those at the Houston-based Plex Gym alongside current and former 154-pound world champions Erislandy Lara and Jermall Charlo. 

“Cowboy” Karl (14-1, 9 KOs) shares trainer Ronnie Shields with Charlo and Lara. He served as primary sparring partner for Lara’s final week in advance Lara’s successful title defense against Terrell Gausha last month.

Karl is coming off a unanimous decision over Carlos Winston Velasquez in July. He rebound from a ninth-round stoppage loss to Eddie Ramirez in February. Karl will meet Kareem Martin (9-1-1, 3 KOs) in a 143-pound match on Friday from Dort Federal Credit Union Center in Flint, Michigan.

Former 168-pound champion Anthony Dirrell battles southpaw Denis Douglin in the main event of the card televised on FS1 and Fox Deportes (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT).

Karl’s enters the ring just over a year after the death of Shields’ former assistant, Todd Harlib, who was 48 when he unexpectedly passed away on November 8, 2016.  Karl was very close to the popular cutman, who last teamed with Shields when Karl scored a fourth-round stoppage of Jose Felix Quezada in New Mexico on Sept. 27, 2016.

With your fight happening just over a year after the death of your former assistant trainer Todd Harlib, what thoughts run through your mind?

Todd had a lot of faith in us fighters, telling us how it was and what he really thought. He was always on your side. 

I was never worried about getting cut in a fight because I thought, and he thought, that he could stop anything. I will always miss Todd and remember Todd.

What do you recall about Harlib and Shields working your corner for your September 2016 stoppage of previously unbeaten Jose Felix Quezada?

I was always very confident with Todd, and Todd was always very confident in me. I knocked Quezada down twice in that fight, and Todd was a big inspiration for me that night as in every fight. I really trusted Todd. He was the best in the business.

What have you learned from your loss to Eddie Ramirez, and how critical was the shutout unanimous decision in the comeback victory over Carlos Winston Velasquez?

Eddie came in and he did what he was supposed to do. It was a good day for him, and I take nothing from him. I’m not making any excuses, but we were far from our best that night. We learned a few things that night. I had a severe sinus infection and had scheduled surgery for after the fight.

There was fluid trapped inside of my head and I would get hit with a jab and lose balance. We found out during the fight that we should have had another round of antibiotics before the fight. We had the surgery after the fight, and that fixed everything.

For the last fight, I could breathe good, for a change, and was completely healthy. As far as the Velasquez fight, I had a cut in camp and limited sparring in order to limit the injuries, so we decided to relax, go back to the basics and box. I was clear-headed, and I feel the same way right now.

What do you know about Kareem Martin?

He’s shorter than me with shorter arms, and both of my sparring partners are about his height. He’s a good boxer with a good amateur pedigree, and he’s going to come in to win. He’s been fighting at higher weights, but I don’t necessarily think he is much bigger, physically, than I am.

I don’t think he’ll be stronger as far as punching power. It should be a good fight, but I see myself winning. I’m okay with a decision and I’m not going to go in there just looking to get the knockout. Do I think I’m going to stop him in the middle to later rounds? I do.

How did you get the nickname “Cowboy?”

Well, because I’m a cowboy. As an amateur, 12-years old or so, going to all of my amateur fights in San Antonio and Dallas, I would wear jeans and a cowboy hat to all of my fights.

Everyone would go, “Yeehaw, here comes the cowboy!” It was funny when I first started boxing, but then, it was something that stuck. 

There would be a big crowd around the ring whenever I would fight. I never took offense to it, of course, because that’s who I am. 

Going to all of my amateur fights in San Antonio and Dallas, I would wear jeans and a cowboy hat to all of my fights. Everyone would go, “Yeehaw, here comes the cowboy!” 147-pound prospect Ryan Karl on how he got his nickname

So you have a training commute from Milano, Texas, to the Plex Gym in Houston?

I train at the Plex and I train at home in Milano, which are about 2 ½ hours apart. Three days a week I’m at the Plex sparring and the other days I’m at home working out.

How demanding and inspiring is the atmosphere at the Plex Gym?

We sparred Lara for the final week of his camp for his last fight with Terrell Gausha, because we’re the same height and reach and everything. That was a surreal experience since Lara’s the trickiest guy I’ve ever been in the ring with. He’s awkward, he’s slick and his range is unreal.

With Charlo being a former world champion, and likely, soon to be again, that’s a great atmosphere and it’s great being around all of them. I’ve been sparring with Semajay Thomas and Justin Pauldo, and that’s going great with a lot of solid sparring.

Who is your boxing hero?

When I first got into boxing, my favorite fighter was Ricky Hatton. I loved Ricky Hatton. I’m also a huge fan of Floyd Mayweather, and anybody that isn’t is just jealous in my opinion.

Floyd is remarkable in what he’s done.  I’m a big fan of all of those rough and tough guys, like Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward. They have the hearts of lions.

Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would …

I’d be working with my hands in some fashion, either some kind of ranch work or manual labor. I love working outside and just being outdoors.

What is your favorite punch to throw, and in what fight or fights do you feel you executed it to the most desired effect?

At heart, I want to say it’s my straight right hand, because that’s probably my strongest and most exciting punch as a fighter. 

But my favorite punch is my jab, and when I put them both together, they work really well. I thought the Quezada was a good example of that.

Do you have a favorite boxing movie?

Price of Glory, where the father was training his sons and said you have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans, and more American than the Americans.  I used to watch it all the time.

If you could have dinner with any four people, living or dead, who would they be?

Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Jesus Christ and my Dad, Darrel Karl.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I would bring the world back to Christ, if possible. I would bring Christ into everything. Bringing God back into our country, into schools, into families and homes.

Mothers and fathers staying at home with their children, and, of course, that would lead to more peace and less racism.

I try to walk in a Christ-like manner. I’m far from perfect, but I try. If we all came back to Christ, that would do it all.

For a complete look at Ryan Karl, check out his fighter page.

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