Dominic Breazeale has done some impressive things in his 30 years on this planet: qualified for the Olympics in 2012, scoring a trip to the White House and a photo op with President Barack Obama as a result; successfully gone from a college football quarterback to a pro boxer despite limited amateur experience; and established himself as a top prospect in a resurgent crop of American heavyweights. Last, but not least, he’s just referred to a 6-foot-1, 218-pound man as “little.”
OK, so when you stand 6-foot-7 and walk around at about 260 pounds, as Dominic Breazeale (16-0, 14 KOs) does, then it’s at least understandable how a man who's a half-foot shorter and 35 pounds lighter might strike you as being on the diminutive side.
The man in question would be Breazeale’s next opponent, Amir Mansour (22-1-1, 16 KOs), a stout dude who radiates menace like a forest fire does heat.
But while Breazeale has the clear size advantage, Mansour is no slouch when it comes to taking on larger men: In his last bout, against the 6-6, 250-pound Gerald Washington in October, Mansour battled hard, forcing his way inside on the taller fighter and earning a draw in a scrap that could have gone either way.
Breazeale expects Mansour to employ similar tactics when they meet Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“I’ve studied film of [Mansour's] last fight. He’s definitely going to try to do the same thing he did against Gerald with me—it’s the only thing a little guy can do in the big man’s world of the heavyweights,” Breazeale says. “He’s gotta work the body; he’s going to throw his looping shots.”
Mansour isn't the most accomplished boxer, favoring energy and aggression over technique, raw power over refinement. Tactically speaking, he comes on like a carpet bombing as opposed to a surgical missile strike.
But he’s also a dogged, determined workhorse, an in-your-face grinder with enough pop to make the opposition pay. Even in his lone loss, to former 200-pound champ Steve Cunningham in April 2014, he had Cunningham down twice, but was unable to finish him.
In short, he’s a rough customer—maybe too rough for his own good, according to Breazeale.
“He’s really like a big street brawler. I honestly think he’d be better at doing a UFC/MMA-type of thing than he would in professional boxing,” says Breazeale, who weighed in Friday at 252.8 pounds while Mansour checked in at 218. “I know he’s a real durable guy, but at the same time, he does unorthodox things that most boxers like myself can take advantage of, whether he’s jumping inside without throwing a punch or sitting down low.”
Breazeale and Mansour do have one common opponent to measure each other against: “Big” Fred Kassi, whose nickname is misleading, as the 6-footer is small for the division.
Both Breazeale and Mansour beat Kassi, but Mansour scored a seventh-round knockout while Breazeale got a 10-round decision in what was a difficult fight. Despite his substantial reach advantage, Breazeale occasionally struggled to control the range, allowing the shorter Kassi to get right up in his chest at times.
Four months after the fact, Breazeale says the Kassi fight was an important learning experience , especially now that he’s set to face the similarly built Mansour.
“I’m glad it worked out this way,” Breazeale says. “I was chasing Kassi around the ring like crazy. There’s no point in me being the bigger guy with the longer reach, chasing down the little guy with the little reach. It should have been the opposite way around.
“I’m always an aggressive type of guy, I’m always trying to engage in a fight. I’m still going to be the big, strong guy in the ring [against Mansour], I’m just going to do it in a comfortable, even more relaxed style rather than honing down on the pressure.”
On the flip side, Breazeale doesn’t believe Mansour has much to glean from the tape of his clash with Kassi, because he doesn’t think his 43-year-old opponent will be able to bully him into constantly moving backward, which Mansour was able to do against Kassi.
“A lot of times Kassi’s back was against the ropes, so it was only a matter of time before Mansour caught up to him,” Breazeale says. “That’s Mansour’s No. 1 goal: He wants to get you back on the ropes, because now you only really have two options—to go left or right, and most of the time, he’s controlling you by throwing those looping shots, so it worked out in his favor against Fred Kassi.”
It’s no surprise that Breazeale has been focusing on using his length and footwork to dictate the distance between himself and Mansour, intent on keeping his opponent at the end of his fists.
“I want to use my 81-inch reach in different ways, whether it be a long jab or a long right hand or even a long, sweeping hook,” Breazeale says. “I want him to play into my playbook rather than his.”
If said playbook leads to a Breazeale victory, he’ll be a step closer to a title shot—and perhaps another trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“For the longest time it was a goal of mine to be invited back to the White House as the heavyweight champ of the world, but Obama’s time is running short,” he says. “So I’m going to have look forward to the next president.”
For full coverage of Breazeale vs Mansour, visit our fight page.