Lionell Thompson talks fight with Ryan Coyne on NBC Sports Network

David Hopper of 8CN caught up with light heavyweight Lionell Thompson (14-2, 9 KOs). The 28-year old from Buffalo, New York will fight Ryan Coyne (21-1, 9 KOs) this Saturday at the Resorts International Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. The fight will be televised live on NBC Sports Network.

DH: How has training camp been going?

LT: Training camp has been going great. I’ve been sparring with like seven different southpaws, crusierweights, guys that are fast, young and upcoming undefeated professionals, guys with good power, good speed and good skills. I actually stopped like three of my sparring partners. Sparring is going great. My weight is good. I feel good. I feel strong. Actually my weight is at 178 right now. I could make weight tonight, but my strength and conditioning coach said to relax and take it easy. We don’t weigh in till Friday.

DH: You will fight light heavyweight contender Ryan Coyne, who is coming off his only loss as a pro. Have you been watching film of Coyne? If so, what do you think of him?

LT: Actually I haven’t watched any film of him. I’ll leave that up to my team to do that. I feel we have a great game plan. I’m looking forward to fighting. I know Ryan is going to give it his best. I’m coming to give my best. I feel like boxing is about skills. I’m going to be ready to go out there and display skills. Be smart and be first. I’m ready. I haven’t seen too much on Ryan Coyne, but from what I’ve been told it should be an interesting fight.

DH: I read where you said that Coyne has been “built up” and “protected.” Are you not impressed with the level of opposition he has faced thus far?

LT: Actually, I didn’t say that. Somebody else must have said that. For the record, those weren’t my words. My words were that I’ve been in the ring with some of the best professionals. My only loss was to Sergey Kovalev, the light heavyweight champ of the world. I’ve faced decent opposition. If you look at my last fight, I fought the 2008 Olympian. I gave him his first loss. I’m not really too sure on who Ryan has fought but one blemish I do see on his records was against Marcus Oliveira. I believe he got stopped. I heard he was taking a beating the whole fight. I’m not worried about who he lost to or he fought. I just know what I got to do come Saturday night. I’m pretty sure Ryan Coyne is coming to give his best. I’ll be ready. I’m in tip-top shape. I’ve been sparring 20-minute rounds in camp. I respect Ryan Coyne as a fighter. I’m training for this fight like I was fighting for the world title.

DH: Thank you for clarifying that you did not say that about Coyne. The press release also quoted you as saying, “A lot of people are picking Coyne or that it’s a 50-50 fight at best. A lot of people don’t know how good a fighter I am but they will Saturday night.” Did you say that?

LT: Yeah, I said that. People are saying it’s a 50-50 fight, which is fair, I like to fight fights like this. It motivates me to go out there and dominate.

DH: You have two losses, the first was a split decision loss to Nicholson Poulard, which you felt you won.

LT: That wasn’t even a loss. I don’t consider that a loss. Anybody that was at the fight saw that I beat that kid every single round. He didn’t win a round. He didn’t get knocked out because he was always trying to head butt me. That was just a horrible experience, a horrible fight. It was a hometown job in Montreal. I lost the first three rounds before I even started the fight. Nicholson Poulard is a clown. He’s a clown. You can’t even put him in the same sentence as me when it comes to boxing.

DH: You were then stopped by Sergey Kovalev, who later went on to become the WBO light heavyweight champ. Since your loss to Kovalev last year, you’ve  won two straight. Do you feel like you’ll carry some momentum from those wins into your fight with Coyne?

LT: Well, I’m in shape and ready to go. I haven’t seen much of him [Coyne] but I’m pretty sure he’s a good fighter. People say you can watch tapes and this and that but I don’t know how Coyne is going to fight on fight night. One thing I can guarantee you is that I’ll be dominant and I’ll be victorious. As far as carrying the momentum into my fight, absolutely, I’m still in fight shape and I’m ready to go. I’ve learned a lot from my fight with Kovalev, things I was doing wrong. My last fight with [Yathomas] Riley, we were researching him and saw that he was a big puncher like Kovalev. He’d done knocked down everybody. But he couldn’t stop me and he couldn’t hurt me. I believe that was because I’ve been in there with Kovalev, a super puncher. Now he’s light heavyweight champion. These last two fights, I haven’t really been phased by these guys power. Now I can just walk them down and do what I want. I’m not sure how strong Coyne is. I’m not worried about how strong he is. I just know what I have to do to pull out the victory Saturday night.

DH: Kovalev has quite a knockout streak going and he has been stopping top guys, such as Nathan Cleverly. Was Kovalev the biggest puncher you’ve ever faced?

LT: He can crack. I’ve never been hit that hard. I’ve been in the ring with some professionals. That was my first time being down as a professional. Actually that was my first time being down ever. I’ve never been down before. Kovalev is a special puncher. He lands his punches right on the button where he can get the full leverage of power.

DH: You’ve said you don’t know much about Coyne, but what do you the fight fans can expect from your matchup with him?

LT: Since the Kovalev fight, I’ve been working. I’ve been learning how to fight everybody. I’ve been working on landing my jab hard and stiff. You’ll see a lot of things from me. You’ll see boxing, pressure, inside work. You’ll see me come forward, you’ll see my throw bombs, you’ll see a lot of work to the body. I’m excited and ready to go. I got quick hands, good defense. My work to the body will be very effective, very effective. I’m going to put it all together.

DH: You have sparred with a number of the biggest names in boxing today, including Chad Dawson, Lucian Bute, and Carl Froch. Talk some about what you have taken away from sparring with some of the best?

LT: These guys showed me how to settle down and become a real professional, how to relax. I thought I was the only one who got nervous before a fight, but I see that it’s everybody. Even being in there with Kovalev, he let me know that this was a fight, a life and death fight. You’re either gonna get knocked out or you’re gonna fight. I learned how to relax, take my time and break my opponent down, make everything count. When I punch, I try to punch through them. Whenever they get hit I’m gonna let them know they’re gonna either quit, get knocked out, or fight. That’s the only options you got. I learned a lot from those guys. I sharpened my defense up.

DH: Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson have emerged as two of the top light heavyweights. It looks like a fight between them is destined to happen. Who would you favor to win if Kovalev and Stephenson were to meet?

LT: I would have Kovalev knocking Stevenson out in probably the first few rounds. I don’t think Stevenson is good enough to beat Kovalev. He makes too many mistakes. Kovalev has that one-punch knockout power. He can catch you one time and the fight could be over. Stevenson can punch but a lot of his opponents he’s fought are scared of him already. Stevenson takes a little bit more time to hurt his man. He don’t have that one-punch knockout power that Kovalev. When he fights he comes straight forward, and when Kovalev fights he comes straight forward. I think Kovalev is more seasoned as a professional. His defense is a little better. If they were to fight I’d have Kovalev winning in the first few rounds.

DH: Their success has helped generate more interest in the light heavyweight division. It seems the division has been a little down over the last several years. Obviously Chad Dawson had a good run at light heavyweight though. Do you feel like you’re in a division where there’s an opportunity to become a star as more people are taking notice of the weight class?

LT: Absolutely, there’s gonna be excitement in the light heavyweight division. There’s gonna be a lot of money to be made. There’s gonna be a lot of exciting fights and I plan to be right there at the top. That’s why I’m working hard. I was told that Coyne had a built-up record. That’s what I was told. I was told that when he stepped it up a little bit, he got stopped. I’m not too familiar with Marcus Oliveria. I’ve been told he’s good but he’s not no world beater. That’s what I’ve heard. That being said, I just go out there and dominate and do what I have to do to win the fight. I’m gonna take my time and break him down. I’m gonna take my time and be smart.

DH: I read that you were college educated. Where did you go to college and what did you study?

LT: I went to Buffalo State University and studied physical education.

DH: You are promoted by Main Events. Main Events is the reason you’ve been able to fight on NBC Sports, right?

LT: Yeah, absolutely, I want to thank Main Events and NBC Sports for giving me this opportunity.

DH: What do you think of the Pascal-Bute light heavyweight matchup next month?

LT: I’ve been in the ring with Bute. I think Bute will win by late stoppage. Pascal gets tired and Bute is a very good puncher to the body. You just gotta be careful because Pascal is dangerous the first couple rounds. He’s strong and he swings wild punches. I would have Bute winning if he keeps his defense tight, keeps coming forward and works the body.

DH: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing or say to the boxing fans out there?

LT: I want to thank everybody who supports me and believes in me and still believed in me after the Kovalev fight. I thank Main Events, I thank NBC Sports, and I thank you for wanting to interview me.  I’m going to give a great performance. My Facebook is @lionelllonnieb.thompson. My Instagram is @lonniebthegreat.

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