He defended his belt of WBO European champion in light middleweight for the first time last Saturday in Ústí nad Labem. He skipped to the tenth place of rating in the federation and became, without any doubt, the undisputable number one in the professional ring. But the elite member of the Pilsen formation Qwert Boxing’s Štěpán Horváth (17-5, 7 KO) wants more.
Canelo Alvarez? He has two arms, two legs and one head. I have never met an opponent about whom I would say that he is better than me,” claims this thirty-three-year-old man self-confidently in our interview for Profiboxing.cz.
In the middle of September, he will watch the gala evening from MGM Grand in Las Vegas where the above-mentioned treasure of Golden Boy Promotions will try to win the belt of WBO World champion from his current holder Liam Smith.
It is the winner of this fight who will probably be in the center of Horváth’s interest next year. In the center of his journey which started last year but will definitely continue.
How does it sound to you – the title of the WBO European champion?
Well, it sounds great. I am happy that I succeeded in defending the title. That the hard work and preparations showed their results.
You look tired. Have you celebrated a lot?
We were celebrating yesterday (the interview was made on Wednesday), so I didn’t sleep much. I almost never drink, but I went there after being persuaded. But it is not my cup of tea, actually.
What do you think is more difficult – to gain a title or to defend a title? And the fact that you won before the limit and by points doesn’t count.
I wouldn’t say that the type of the match plays an important part. It is more about psychological state of mind and about your body. What is different is the preparation for the match because you have to move forward. With Filip (Miňovský) we had been preparing for something that I didn’t even try. It wasn’t my goal anyway. It was the same with the preparation with the trainer who helps me with my condition and thanks to whom I have moved forward as well. I had in my mind that it is me who is the European champion and that things were easier for me. The preparation is more difficult in my head. I don’t think that there’s a difference in my body. Right the contrary, I was better prepared for the training, I was regenerated and my body was ready for the match. More ready than in Pilsen.
So the biggest difference lies in psychics?
Yes, the way for the title. Because the way you have to undergo before reaching the title is the reason for why you’re doing it, why you like it. Everything calms down when you are in the ring, fighting.
You said that you had been training new things. Is it only the changing of the guard or is there something else you don’t to talk about?
Not only this. There are more
things which I can’t handle for a hundred percent. Sometimes I manage to do them while sparing, but there is at least a half of the year before me to do it naturally, without thinking about them. The moving of the guard is not the main thing.
And your dance after the match? Was it planned?
Not. I pick up my song every time. When I was on my way to my training session, I remembered this song. Once on New Years’ Eve, we partied on the melody of this song with some boys from Chomutov. I listened to it, visualized the match and had goosebumps immediately from the atmosphere.
What was happening in the ring, was happening like outside me. I have been remained about it by the people who asked me about the song and said they liked my dance. I didn’t know what they were talking about. And when I was watching the match again, I suddenly knew. When I saw that, I was angry with myself. But it was spontaneous.
But the kiss you gave to your girlfriend was planned, wasn’t it? It seems to be your tradition…
I don’t know actually. I was coming out from the ring, saw her suddenly and kissed her automatically. If I hadn’t seen her, I wouldn’t have been finding her. But I can’t plan this.
Sorry for leaving the topic of the question, but I am still full of feeling from the ring. This is what I think feel big champions. This time, I could read my opponent really perfectly, like if I was watching a slow version of a film. You know what will happen, what an opponent will do. You can see it inside your head and then react to it. I felt it this way when I was in the ring with Hafner and I am really happy for it. I will continue working on it. It is not about the style of boxing but about the moment when I was in that situation. I had the same state of mind as Muhammad Ali and champions like him.
So the punch thanks to which your opponent was in the counting had been prepared?
Yes, we trained with Filip that while going to the sidestep, I must attack my opponent’s ribs immediately. I must say that the combinations we had been training with Filip, worked out in the ring. He has an incredible tactics. It is not so important who is your trainer, people prefer different co-workers. But trainers must have certain attitude to the fight and give you something. And I do listen to my trainer. No one can compete against Filip, he is the world class.
And besides being the European champion, you have reached the tenth place in the rating of the federation. It looks like everything goes as it should.
I don’t think about this at all. I don’t care whether I’m tenth, twentieth or thirtieth. Of course, better ranking has some advantage but for me, the quality of my environment is more important. I would think about it only if I were the best in the world. I don’t think that there’s something to celebrate. There’s a long journey before me. I made a small step in Pilsen, the bigger one is still there to be done. I have to fulfill ten circles of visualization, I have fulfilled only to so far. There are eight more ahead and after fulfilling them, I can finish my career. (laugh)
Anyway, from the practical point of view, the rating plays a significant role. It is important for those plans you are talking about. Without having you place in the ranking, you can’t fight.
Well, of course. It is our manager’s job and I believe Miloš Veselý and Marek Švajner for 100%. There are incredible. And so is our Qwert team. However, it is difficult to deal with some things. The pressure which I must overcome is incredible because everyone things that my conditions, facilities and trainers are great. It is true but without the right approach, everything would be nonsense.
Everything is connected.
Exactly. When someone thinks that I am a millionaire, I explain him the reality. (laughing) I am just a normal boy who is still waiting for his big amounts of money.
On the other hand, you are now far away from what you were two years ago.
Definitely not. Two years ago, everything was really bad. Well, it wasn’t bad actually, I was doing everything I could. I was doing everything I could. I was the head of the boxing place, I was training children, parents, women, men, A class, B class, condition boxing. I even built the boxing place on my own. And at the same time I was writing my bachelor’s thesis. But I never cried. I was happy for what I had but I knew that it was impossible to continue like this for a longer time. It would have meant giving up my career.
I understand. You have mentioned that you are actually under a big pressure wanting a success, in past three months you participated in two difficult fights and a difficult preparation. Are your closest plans more relaxing then?
Yes, I have got twenty days of vacation within which I would like to relax actively. I must do something, otherwise I have a great problem to return back to the process of training thanks to water in body. Of course, I want to relax a bit – on Tuesday, my girlfriend and I are leaving for the island of Crete where we are going to relax at the seaside for eight days. I am looking forward to it a lot and I take it as the best thing I could have won – but I won’t spend all the time only by doing nothing.
Do you plan to train on the beach, Rocky-like?
Exactly, I will relax in an active way, because then I will have to train again.
Was your next match in Brno, as it was planned before Ústí, or abroad?
No, definitely in Brno. We will see what will come next. There are some plans, of course, but I don’t see deep inside it. There have raised some speculations about the world title. But I want to participate in the match when I will have a chance to win, not only to participate in it. There is a difference between doing something in a hurry and doing something in the proper moment
You have mentioned WBO World title. The fight for this title will take place in the middle of September at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The current champion Liam Smith seems like heading only to give the title to Canel Alvarez. Do you agree with it? Or does he even have a chance to win over Alvarez?
I have studied a lot. I think I have never boxed with anyone like Canelo. He doesn’t know what he will have to undergo. I think that Alvarez is far cry from where Smith is. It is like a competition between a common car and Ferrari. He might surprise us all because he is from a boxing family, they have their tactics. Liam’s style can cause various problems to his opponents. But Alvarez has a different level of quality and Smith won’t probably touch him. I can’t imagine the match but I am looking forward to it. If I fight against Smith, I wouldn’t see my chances tragically, he is just other boy with European style. But I don’t say I would defeat him. But Alvarez? He is someone different.
This is why I am asking. Doesn’t this duel break your plans? I don’t want this to sound bad, but the idea that the most profit-making boxer defend his title against “a” Horváth from the Czech Republic, it sounds almost like a sci-fi…
This is more like a dream. If I were told that, I wouldn’t sleep for a week and persuade myself whether it is true or not. everyone has two arms, two legs and one head. I will tell you one thing. Whenever I fought against someone, I never said: “Oh my god, he was so amazing.” No, the blokes weren’t better than me. They only had something that I couldn’t have that time. But it wasn’t about their boxing skills. I think that I have something that a man must be born with me, a talent and a feeling for it. There are different aspects at the same time. For example when Alvaréz punches, he really punches.
I had a manager’s point of view on my mind. That if you are not a title challenger officially, why would you fight against someone from the Czech Republic when you can earn money against opponents from overseas? And to be honest, sometimes even the position of a title challenger is not enough for a fight like this.
We might try a different way, we will see what will come next. Of course, if it will be Alvarez who will have the title, no one will take it from him. The only chance will be a steel. You are right. But maybe, Liam Smith will surprise us.
On the other hand, if Smith wins, his price will be different as well...
That’s right. An awkward situation. But we won’t solve it by ourselves.
On the other hand, there’s quite a chance that he might give up his title then. And go to the middleweight class.
Exactly. We’ll see. But I definitely wouldn’t refuse his offer. There are some things beyond belief. People would say that I will be defended, but… It is similar to those who saw Michael Jackson and started to lose their consciousness. Just to fight in a place like this against an opponent like this one. This is my vision of my future. What can you offer when you want to stay here in the Czech Republic? Nothing. That is why I want to train outside the Czech Republic and to fight there as well. Then you can share your experience with them as a trainer, you can show them how they should do it. We shouldn’t think that we are the cleverest – we are only a small country, boxing wasn’t born here.
And when someone like Arthur Abraham wanted to fight against Gilbert Ramirez at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, even when his stable won the auction because it was his dream, why couldn’t Štěpán Horváth make his dreams come true, right?
Exactly. Right. A few years, who would say that I would have a possibility like this? Many years ago, I was the national champion. Once I was asked about what I would like to reach. I said that if I had the possibility to fights for the belt of the European champions like Kony (Lukáš Konečný) at home, it would mean a thing for me. And look where I am now. I am open for anything, I am not afraid of anything. If you are happy inside, you don’t have to worry at all.
I have good memories about America as well. What is good and what is wrong? Many things that happened to me in my career have turned out to be good eventually. Without them, I wouldn’t be there where I am now. I have repeated it so often that some people considered me to be completely mad. But I knew I was right. When some loses and can’t overcome it, he is not a champion. Everyone must survive troubles. Even the biggest champions were once defeated. The one who can’t lose shouldn’t enter the ring. He should play football.
At the end of our interview, I have two questions about your brother Jacob. Why weren’t you in the ring with him?
I’m not really comfortable watching his fights, I didn’t want to damage my concentration. He might think about some things after his fight in Ústí and change them possibly. I honestly think that my brother is a great fighter but his career is still in its beginnings and he needs many more fights. But it doesn’t mean that it is too late for him.
I am happy to have my brother in my team because I know no one who could watch his opponent with such a big attention as my brother does. He sees incredible things and it helps me. However, his preparation is not so good. Because the older he is, the less he listens. Things are sometimes difficult with my brother. He still has things to improve and we will see how his future will be. But I definitely won’t be with him in the ring. I have already told him – I will prefer to have a fight every day than to be with my brother in the ring.
Am I right when I think that he didn’t let you discuss with him the fact that he decided to fight only a week his tonsillectomy, as we declared after the duel with Honza Korec?
Exactly. I was nervous all the time. My brother is a crank. After tonsillectomy, you have a scab and there’s a vessel close to your tonsils. When your body moves fast and under pressure, there’s a threat that the So if it had happened during the training or during the fight, you can imagine what could have happened. Kuba knew about the danger but it didn’t stop him. He is not normal, he is completely mad.
Was your mother, who is nurse, nervous as well?
Quite the opposite, actually. She has an extremely positive and strong personality, she has never evoked negative feelings in us. She would never think of forbidding Kuba from the match. He wanted to fight, so he did. She switched on the TV at home, ate chips, relaxed. And when we arrived home, she shared her opinion about all fights with us, she didn’t say a word. It was just cool.