I WAS blessed with a long and successful career, during which I fought a lot of top names. Back in the 1980s, it was a wonderful time for the heavyweights, and I boxed six heavyweight champions in total. We were all together, [fighting] in a round-table. There was me and Tim Witherspoon and Greg Page and [James] “Bonecrusher” Smith. The top promoter [Don King], he had every fighter and he matched us up together. My best night was when I won the WBA title beating Greg Page. I was young then and fast, but I also had great experience.
I had worked with Muhammad Ali, and he taught me a whole lot. I sparred him for the second fight he had with Leon Spinks. The first spar I ever had with Ali, I was just 16 years old, and he broke my nose. He told me I had fast hands, it was just a matter of me knowing what to do with them in a fight.
The championship fight with Greg Page, he was a little cocky at that time. He and I had boxed before, five times as amateurs, and he beat me three times. He was taller than me back then and he had a longer reach. Going into the [title] fight, he said he was going to knock me out. But I told him that I was a different Tony Tubbs now, that I had grown up and matured a whole lot. I told him to get ready for a surprise.
He was slick and Greg had power. The thing is, speed overcomes power and I was slicker than him. I was also faster with my hands and I was able to tease Greg a little bit during the fight. Whenever he threw a right hand, I would slip the shot and then counter him. At other times, I would block his shots. See, Ali, he really had taught me so much. I give Ali the credit for me being able to beat Greg Page.
People were calling him [Page] the new Ali, but as good as Page was, he was still using amateur moves as a pro. I said to myself, ‘Man, I know how to keep my hands up. I know how to target the body.’ It was 15 hard rounds but I was glad it was 15 rounds, because after I got the win I felt like a true champion. You go to school in boxing, and you graduate with being able to do the 15 rounds. I knew I’d beaten him [when waiting for the decision]. I won a unanimous decision and I wasn’t even all that tired at the end of the fight. It meant so much to me to be the world champion. People would come up to me in the street and tell me, ‘Well done, champ.’ That means you have done something good with your life.
In 1985, that was my time. That was my night. I think they should bring 15-round fights back today. You had a real fight with 15 rounds. After the 10th round [against Page] I was getting stronger and I took over. I was in great shape. Greg underestimated me, yeah. It was a technical fight with real skills from both of us. I had picked up so much knowledge as an amateur and from Ali. I had overtaken Greg in terms of speed, experience, know-how, and on that night, I had the desire. That win changed my life and I’ll always remember it.
(Tubbs was talking to James Slater.)