The former Olympic Champion and World Record holder in the 100 meter sprint Maurice Greene is a devoted boxing fan who has attended many world championship fights live and has met and befriended many boxers, including Mike Tyson who he once ran into while shopping.
Known as one of the greatest sprinters ever after winning the 2000 Olympic 100 final and setting the world record of 9.79, Greene is also known as one of the most entertainingly colorful characters of track and field. After one spectacular sprint on national TV, Greene quickly removed his running spikes and had a friend run out on track and use a fire extinguisher to cool them off, suggesting he had run so fast his feet were on fire. The Kansas City native Greene also wore a body tattoo that stated simply GOAT (Greatest of all time).
In the 100 meters, Greene undoubtedly was one of the finest athletes in history. He won four Olympic medals including a bronze in the 2004 100, was a five-time world champion, won three golds at the 1999 World Championships, won the 1999 World Indoor championship. He retired from athletics in 2008 and currently coaches and takes care of business interests.
Now 39, Greene, who appeared on "Dancing With The Stars" (he took fifth place), took time out at the recent Diamond League Adidas track and field event in New York City to talk about his love for boxing…
Ringobserver.com: What is your first memory of boxing?
Maurice Greene: "It would have to be seeing videos of Muhammad Ali boxing."
Ringobserver.com: What is the appeal of boxing for you?
Maurice Greene: "It’s a glamorized sport. The Heavyweight Championship fights always get a lot of big press and I guess, just to see two men get in the ring and to give their all for – what they used to go – 15 rounds is pretty tough."
Ringobserver.com: Were you at ringside for any Heavyweight Championship fights?
Maurice Greene: "Oh yes, I’ve been to a couple of them, couple of Mike Tyson, Tyson-Holyfield the first one. I’ve been to so many boxing matches."
Ringobserver.com: What’s a standout memory of being there live at ringside?
Maurice Greene: "It’s just the whole atmosphere is very thick. It reminds me of when I’m walking into the stadium during the Olympics, the atmopshere. Just to be around all the excitement is great."
Ringobserver.com: Your favorite boxers of all time?
Maurice Greene: "Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones, Trinidad. Now I like to watch Pacquiao and Mayweather."
Ringobserver.com: Who’s gonna win that fight – if it ever happens?
Maurice Greene: "Geesh (rolls eyes)!! I don’t know, you know, I mean."
Ringobserver.com: Do you want to see it?
Maurice Greene: "Of course I want to see it. But, I mean, it’s hard to say who’s gonna win. Mayweather is a defensive fighter. Pacquiao is an offensive fighter. I think whoever goes with the best gameplan basically. It’s gonna be tough."
Ringobserver.com: Who are some of the boxers you have been lucky to meet?
Maurice Greene: "Oh, I met ‘em all. Basically, I’ve met ‘em all. Everybody is different outside the arena, I got to see the person they are outside the ring."
Ringobserver.com: Do you have a Tyson behind the scenes memory?
Maurice Greene: "We were really cool. We were in New York one time. I was in – I can’t remember the store – but we were just in there shopping. And we just ran into each other. Hey, Mo Greene! So it was really cool."
Ringobserver.com: What do you think the sport needs to do to get back on top of the mainstream?
Maurice Greene: "Like every other sport, you gotta have the great matchups. You have to get people to go out there and publicize it a lot more. Just like every sport that has a hard time. The more good publicity you can get the sport, the better it is."
Ringobserver.com: Did boxing inspire you in your career?
Maurice Greene: "Of course it did. I guess that’s why I kept pacing back and forth (before getting in the starting blocks), they always used to say I looked like a boxer on the track, so it was good."
Ringobserver.com: Which boxers do you think would have made great track and field athletes, if any?
Maurice Greene: "I’m not for sure about sprinters. But when you have the heart of a boxer, when you have the competitive factor comes in, they are athletes. So who knows what they could have done."
Ringobserver.com: Do any boxers remind you of yourself?
Maurice Greene: "All the great ones [laughs]!"
Later during the day I overheard Greene make this interesting quote about U.S. sprinters regaining world honors from the current Jamaican domination by Usain Bolt, which could also be applied to boxing: "The heart of a champion is never how you win, it’s how you come back from a loss."