When Keith Thurman looked at an ESPN camera after stopping Luis Collazo in July and challenged Floyd Mayweather Jr. to “Come take my ‘O’,” it was electric in the way that only the best boxing callouts and occasional “Macho Man” Randy Savage promos can be: a heady mix of adrenaline, honest exuberance and good old-fashioned showmanship.
Keith “One Time” Thurman may have been lacking in fringe and sunglasses, but the spirit was there, nonetheless.
A good callout can do many things, even if getting a fight isn’t often one of them. It certainly can fire up the fans. It can help put a boxer in the spotlight. And sometimes, it just allows fighters to practice an art as central to the game as left hooks and right crosses.
Antonio Tarver: “The callout game is a forgotten art. There’s not enough fighters out here that are going to stand up for what they believe in and take those risks that’s going to catapult them to the next level. Everything now is scripted. I come out with my own hands and feet as a man and stand up and say this is my own opinion, this is how I see it. They’re fewer and far in between. They’re a dying breed in the game of boxing.
“The things I did with Roy Jones were legendary. The thing with a good callout is you’ve got to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. I called Roy Jones out because I was the mandatory and he was ducking and dodging trying to fight guys other than me. When he won the heavyweight title [in 2003], I was there and I snatched the micropohone when he was celebrating his biggest victory. I said, ‘How can you be the heavyweight champion of the world when you ain’t even the best fighter in Florida?’”
B.J. Flores: “I think the champions are going to fight who they want to fight when they want to fight them. You have to be in good position to be able to call somebody out.
I’d have to say Antonio Tarver is the best. He got Roy Jones to fight him. He was the mandatory, but it just seemed like there were a lot of ways Roy could have went around it. Antonio set up press conferences and just showed up everywhere that Roy was and really made life difficult until Roy fought him.”
Austin Trout: “I called Miguel Cotto out a year before we actually had the fight [in December 2012]. It really had nothing to do with me being there, calling him out. The callouts don’t really work to be honest. Once in a while it does.
“Like how [Shane] Mosley did to Floyd when he walked into the ring [in September 2009] and said I want that fight. That was really entertaining, but you have to have a certain level of status to be able to pull that off. Not just anybody can jump in the ring and say, ‘Look, you need to fight me next.’ Also the person who’s fighting has to have a certain level of status to even care.”
Sergio Mora: “I don’t like calling out people. I’ll insinuate, but I wouldn’t go ahead and call out because it’s not my style. When I won the world title [in June 2008] I had a couple of guys who called me out, but I didn’t think much of it. I felt flattered. I felt like I was the guy to beat.
“I like the way Keith Thurman calls people out. That’s a [guy] you’ve got to fear. When Keith Thurman talks about fighting somebody it’s not in a disrespectful manner, but you know he means it. It’s like ‘Yeah, pay attention.’”
Carl Frampton: “I’ve been calling out Scott Quigg for probably three years now. When he was British champion he wouldn’t allow me to box for the British title. He didn’t want to fight me then. He’s still making excuses for the fight with me and him not to happen. A lot of people in the States might not know who Scott Quigg is, but it’s a big fight in the U.K. and Ireland.”
Daniel Jacobs: “I think what makes for a good callout is you have to say something to get under their skin. Obviously you want them to feel like they have to prove something by getting in there with you.
“Nine times out of 10 when you call someone out it’s because you actually want to fight and make it an exciting fight. Peter Quillin has been one of those guys who I’ve been calling out for a while.
“Social media now gives guys a lot of outlets to get their voice heard. But if you go down the history of the sport, there’s been tons of guys who have done it. Muhammad Ali is probably the king of callouts. We’re just following in those footsteps, and hopefully we can do it gracefully.”
Deontay Wilder: “I think what makes for a good callout is a guy in the top 10 who’s ranked in whatever belt you have calling you out. I don’t think somebody at the bottom should be calling out somebody at the top. Once you get into the top 10, you earned the right to call out the champion.
“Some guys, it depends on the person and what they’re trying to accomplish. Some guys just want to be heard and get in the limelight to build fans. Some guys don’t care, they just want to whoop you. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can’t. Overall, it’s entertainment if that person does it right. If both parties are doing it right, at the end of the day it’s entertaining for the fans.”
Paulie Malignaggi: “Through the years I’ve been involved in so much trash talking, I don’t know if it’s ever worked or not. I definitely think it hypes up stuff and it works in promoting and it works in getting fans riled up to see a fight, but honestly I can’t tell you if I got any of my fights because of callouts.
“When I was a prospect I used to call everybody out. There wasn’t anybody I didn’t call out. I don’t know if fighting Miguel Cotto was part of that or not. I don’t know. I can’t say if it really worked or not 100 percent.
“In the end, calling out really comes down to the power your team has. At the time, I didn’t have that type of team that had the power to get me the fights I wanted. I just had to take what I could get. At that point I realized the callout was a bunch of BS. It’s down to what your team can do for you, not what you want to do. If you have a team that’s better off shining shoes than they are promoting boxers, you’re kind of beat. But until then, I was calling everybody out, their mothers and everything.
“I remember certain other prospects calling me out and getting mad about it. I wanted to fight them, too. I was so passionate about boxing at the beginning of my career, I took everything personally. It made it fun. Now you realize it’s such a business you lose that excitement toward that kind of stuff. It makes things fun, it makes thing exciting, but there’s never a time when people sit down at the negotiating table and say ‘Let’s make this fight because this guy is called out with this guy.’ Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works as much as fans want to believe that’s how it works.”