Known as The Ultimate, Paul Vaden had success in and out of the ring. As an amateur he amassed a 327-10 record, still considered the highest winning percentage in amateur boxing history. His professional career, however, was marked by both triumph and tragedy. In 1995, Vaden, a 3-1 underdog, took Vincent Pettways IBF Light Middleweight title. Four months later he would lose that title to heated rival Terry Norris. Vaden would fight on but it was a 1999 bout with Stephan Johnson that ended in tragedy and basically ended Vadens career. Fifteen days after the bout, Johnson died of injuries sustained in the ring. Vaden was never the same and soon retired from the ring. Unlike so many fighters, success has followed Vaden after boxing. Today he is CEO of Multi-Paul Incorporated. He also spends time on community outreach and volunteering for the San Diego Chapter for Juvenile Diabetes Research, the Jackie Robinson YMCA, and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs. He also speaks to corporations about the personal commitment and drive that enabled him to achieve success in his boxing career, his business career and his personal life. Vaden calls this commitment to discipline “Answer the Bell. Check him out at PaulVaden.com
SM: Paul, thanks for talking to me. Could you tell me what Multi-Paul Inc. is?
PV: Before I retired I created Multi-Paul, because I always wanted to be a multi-dimensional and talented guy. At least I try to be now. Multi-Paul goes beyond the ring. Corporate speaking and motivational speaking is a big part of it. Right now I am also completing my book and that will be followed by a play and musical. There are a lot of things I’m going to be starting through the ‘Answer the Bell Foundation. When I started Multi-Paul in 1995, while I was still fighting, I was always looking for other avenues after the boxing game was over. If you just say that I was a very talented and accomplished boxer, then I haven’t done my job. First of all I have been thoroughly blessed and am extremely thankful for that. I have always tried to be a very good person.
SM: When did you start the “Ultimate Workout?
PV: I actually created that as a hobby. Shawn, to be honest with you, when my son was born, I wanted to be around for him. That was my only child and I wanted to be there for him. Around 1997 I was thinking of a plan and I wasn’t in any hurry to get back into the ring. I was always a very ritual orientated guy. Back then I use to get up in the morning, run on the golf course and then read three newspapers. By 11am I went inside to watch “The Young and the Restless. This was my routine. The joke that my wife had was that I was around the house too much. I really started to think and plot about what to do next. Not for a business but for a hobby.
Tae Bo was big at the time and I started to think about doing something totally different. I read on the back of a Tae Bo disc where a woman who had taken the class said afterwards that she no longer felt intimidated when walking alone after the class. When I read that I thought that’s really false security because it’s a great workout but it doesn’t put you ahead as far as self-defense. The journey was always what I loved about boxing. Most people don’t see that journey and I wanted them to see it. I was so scared to start the “Ultimate Workout because I didn’t know if I would be able to do it and if I could do it, would I be able to do it well. My first guy I tried it on was a homeless guy in his thirties who was a recovering alcoholic. I worked him out and I was able to talk to him and change him. I knew I would never see him again but what was important was that I loved doing it. That’s where it all started. I started making flyers and coming up with different ideas and developed a good number of clientele. I loved doing it so much I didn’t go back to the ring for eighteen months. I put the hobby on hold and finally went back and that’s when the Stephan Johnson fight happened. I knew after that what my calling was. After I retired I knew what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it first class. Right now I am also with the Quallcomm Company. I head their global health and wellness initiatives. I devise budgets and try to get people to embrace physical activity. It’s an extreme blessing and I don’t take it for granted.
SM: Were you always a health-conscious guy and with such a positive outlook?
PV: I was definitely always positive. I believe in finding a way to win. I believe in the physical and mental aspect of it. I try and get a message to people. Not everyone can covey that message. I want to use what I have experienced to help touch in a lot of ways.
SM: When did you start boxing?
PV: I started in 1976. Muhammad Ali was the reason I started to box. You have Superman, Batman and all the Superheroes. Muhammad Ali was my Superhero. And he still is. When I first saw him I couldn’t explain it but it was like something I had never seen before. I was always a mama’s boy, still am. I got my start at the Jackie Robinson YMCA. My father wanted me to get involved there. I took a tour and in the back there was a boxing ring. I asked if I could get involved in boxing and my dad thought it was a joke. My dad gave me a two week trial period. Around that time I saw Sugar Ray Leonard fighting, the Olympics I think. Leonard was a huge inspiration to me. And I just kept boxing and got good at it. I did the additional things that needed to be done to become a world champ.
SM: You had a great amateur career with 337 fights and 327 of them wins. You must have fought all the time and had little time for anything else?
PV: A lot of the tournaments back then were week-long tournaments. I got five to six fights sometimes in a week. We went all over to box. My dad taught me some simple facts of life back that I always remembered. He said it’s a lot easier to get into trouble then get out of it. It seemed simplistic but it always stuck with me. I just never wanted to disappoint my mom and dad. I never wanted to make that call from jail to see if they would come and get me.
SM: Let me ask you about your title win over Vincent Pettway in August 1995. You were behind on all scorecards going into that final round weren’t you?
PV: Well yes, but I really have never brought that up. Everything worked out like it should have worked out. I never thought I was behind. I guess that’s the positive aspect I have. It’s what I dreamed of since I was eight years old. There are so many people who will never get the opportunity and so I am truly blessed.
SM: What was all the bad blood between you and Terry Norris before you guys fought in December 1995?
PV: You know what’s funny about that and I’ll just say this and take it a step further. “Terrible Terry Norris, I have nothing but tremendous love for him. I wish him nothing but heaven and great things. I went through a period when I was wrong. I learned my lesson and it happened the right way. For whatever reason and it’s not really important, but I wish him nothing but the best and when I see him I greet him with love and openness. I am honored and privileged to have shared the ring with him. He’s a hall of famer and a great four-time world champion.
SM: Was he just the better fighter or were you prepared for that fight?
PV: There are a lot of things that happened before that fight. But I’ll just say that the right thing happened. Some people said I was scared. But that makes no sense because if youre scared you find the exit route. I lost so much weight for that fight. I got to the point where there was just nothing there, nothing left. The right thing happened. I have a lot of respect for Terry.
SM: Is the Stephan Johnson fight, on Nov. 20th, 1999 in Atlantic City still hard to talk about, what did that do to you?
PV: It caused my exit from boxing. It also took me to a point where I was scared to live. I went through a horrible time in that year, 1999. I would also lose two very important people to me to suicide, my cousin and my uncle. That was just a terrible year with that and the Stephan Johnson fight. The worse thing that could have happened to me would be something like that. I just never dreamed that I would ever have been in a situation like that. So I was really done as a fighter at that point. I remember being scared of death lurking out there for me, trying to get me back for what had happened. I just knew death was trying to get me. I remember
requesting all these tests from my doctor because I was convinced I was going to die. I needed another fight to answer the question as to whether or not I was going to die in the ring. I just had to come back and find out the answers.
SM: Was that the reason you took the Jose Alfredo Flores fight on April 15, 2000 in Las Vegas?
PV: That was the only reason. It was one of the hardest training camps I ever had to do. I had to lose a lot of weight. It was tough emotionally as well. I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I remember getting hit in like the fourth round and fighting back. But the interesting thing was that I was fighting to live. The last quarter of the fight or so I was competitive. When I heard the scorecards I was sad I lost but happy that I was alive. There was no doubt that it would be my last fight. It was after that fight that I began to recuperate emotionally and started to generate good things as a person, a father and as a businessman. That’s why my book is called “Answer the Bell. It’s for people who are dealing with aspects in their life, that are facing challenges or when they are feeling underwater. They can put in that mouthpiece, get off the stool and answer the bell.
SM: Have you been involved in boxing after you retired or any future plans to?
PV: I love boxing but I don’t have any real passion to be involved in the boxing game. A big reason is because I hate to see dreams unfulfilled. There are such few people who get to reach that pinnacle and I would hate to see people work their tails off and fall way short. That would break my heart because I like to see people win.
SM: Paul, any final words?
PV: The amount of support has been unbelievable. I truly thank everyone for their support and loyalty and they really inspired me when things were tough and I needed to keep going. And my works not done, I feel like I have just begun, and hopefully you’ll see brilliant things from me. Boxing has been very hard on a lot of people but I’ve retained all my faculties and am in excellent health. Good things are happening for me now, I have been truly blessed.
SM: Paul thanks for speaking with me.
PV: Shawn, it’s been a pleasure, take care.
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Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV