There are few more quotable and loquacious personalities in boxing than Lovemore N’Dou. As a leading contender in the white-hot Light-Welterweight division, the self-styled ‘Black Panther’s’ persistence knows no limit. Despite close points defeats to Sharmba Mitchell and Miguel Cotto, the 33 year old will not be denied, and in his forthcoming clash with Isaac Hlatshwayo has the perfect platform to build another run at the division’s champions.

I caught up with Lovemore this week to talk about his future, the division and more….

I noticed your recent tune bout was cancelled, what happened to that bout?

There were some legal problems, they couldn’t get a permit for the opponent and it was too late to get a proper replacement so the card was cancelled.

But you still have the exciting prospect of facing Isaac Hlatshwayo coming up next month?

Well there are some problems with that fight at the moment too, I’m still owed money by the promoters, D-Rush Promotions, for my last fight for them and I don’t see why I should fight when they still owe me money.

So the fight is not going to happen?

No, the fight will probably go ahead but probably on a different date and with a different promoter and I want to fight Isaac. There is a family issue to take care of, he beat my cousin Philip N’Dou and he didn’t just beat him, Philip ended up in hospital, so this is a personal affair. And Isaac has already been making noises about what he’s going to do to me, but I like that! What he’s going to find out is he may have beat one N’Dou but he’s not the going to beat the second one the REAL ‘McCoy’.

I see Philip is scheduled to fight our own Jason Cook, how is Philip, will he be ready for that fight?

Yeh, I heard about that, I’m sure Philip will be fine. He’s out of hospital and everything so he’ll be OK. But I don’t really know how he is beyond that.

Back to your fight with Isaac Hlatshwayo, it has some sort of eliminator status doesn’t it?

A defence of the IBF Pan-Pacific title, I’m already ranked third highest by the IBF, of course Ricky Hatton fights the American, Stewart and then the winner of Kostya v Sharmba Mitchell for the title. But Kostya is avoiding me, Hatton is avoiding me. They’re all avoiding me!

There are a growing number of sceptics in the UK critical of the progress, or lack of it, in Ricky’s career, and it seems earning mandatory status is no guarantee of fights coming to fruition either. WBO and WBA shots have both fallen through in the past. So it might not work out as planned?

Hatton is a good fighter but he’s over-rated and needs to prove himself. He needs to fight a top 5 light welterweight, a credible fighter like me. We made an offer to fight him but he turned it down.

Plenty of people would say that is a fight that, win or lose, Ricky should have taken 12 months ago. Has he stagnated this year?

I can understand Frank Warren wanting to protect him, he’s earning well off him but in the end he’s not doing him any favours he needs to see what he’s really about; does he really have it? What I don’t understand is how Stewart is ranked above me. Sharmba knocked him down three times and many people thought I beat Sharmba – only politics stopped me winning that fight and yet Stewart is ranked above me. I don’t understand it but I have to look forward not back.

Your probably one of the busiest fighters on the circuit, is that how you prefer it?

To me its best, I like to be busy, I can maintain my sharpness through activity and I’m not one for being off for six months. I don’t understand that, look at Tszyu he’s 33 and hasn’t fought in over 18 months. Then he puts his body through that tough regime and he gets injured. It’s OK when your 20 or 21, but once you get to your thirties it’s different. People say to me, ‘why don’t you just sit on your ranking until you get your shot, why risk that?’ But I don’t want to do that, why wait six months or even six weeks if I’m not injured during a fight I could fight in two weeks.

Lovemore, you mention your age, do you have a time limit on your career. Often when I talk to fighters they’ll often remark about wanting ‘to be out by 30’, or ‘two more years’…

I enjoy it too much to think about retiring, I love the sport, I love to fight. I’m the next Bernard Hopkins. He’s my inspiration, my motivation.

Of course, Ricky Hatton isn’t the only world-class Light Welterweight in the UK. Junior Witter is now very highly ranked and is as high as #3 with the WBC, would you consider facing him, have you heard much about him?

Junior is a great fighter, a very elusive type of opponent but I’d beat him, he has the perfect style for me but he has the perfect style to upset Ricky Hatton too!

So you’d be prepared to fight Witter then?

I’d fight Junior tomorrow, anywhere. No problem.

Another Light Welterweight contender, Miguel Cotto emerged from the pack recently, knocking out Kelson Pinto, did you see the fight?

Yes, I’ve seen the fight and Cotto was very good. But when I fought Cotto you saw how good Lovemore N’Dou can be, I gave him his toughest fight yet, it was a great fight but I came in on 12 days notice for that. And then the rib injury. I’d have stopped him if not for the rib.

So the rib injury impeded you? You must be frustrated that you came so close and then an injury prevents you maximising the chance?

I would have stopped him in the later rounds but even with the injury and the short-notice I still gave him his hardest fight but there is no point worrying about it. What’s done is done; I like to turn the negative into a positive if I can.

Its obvious from scanning your record that you make the 140 limit quite easily, often weighing 137, 138 for fights – is Lightweight (135) a possibility for you, could you make the weight?

Not really, I’m a pretty muscular guy and would have no fat to burn to get down the extra weight and I would be very weak as a result. I’m comfortable at 140lbs.

So the plan is to pursue the 140lb champions and contenders, starting with Isaac Hlatshwayo and then onto the winner of Tszyu/Mitchell v Hatton/Stewart?

Yes, that’s the plan, the IBF have been very good to me, they believe in me and they think I can become champion. But the Cotto fight was for the WBC International title so anything’s possible, but the WBC you would think would have me in their top five having fought Cotto but I’m way down their top 15?!

Kostya Tszyu on the horizon then, he’s returned from injury have you seen or heard how he’s looking? I hear he’s started sparring again ahead of the clash with Sharmba Mitchell?

From what I’ve heard he’s looking good and I expect him to knockout Sharmba unless the ring rust is a factor, yes he’ll stop Sharmba. Though it is nearly two years since he (Tszyu) fought, Sharmba has no heart but I suppose if it goes the distance, I don’t know, maybe Sharmba can win.

Obviously any potential Tszyu v N’Dou clash is a big fight in Australia?

In Australia it is the fight everyone is talking about and even the Americans are starting to talk about it now, Kostya Tszyu v Lovemore N’Dou is a big, big fight. I believe I would beat him and I believe I would stop him. But you never know, even on short notice I’d fight him, although I’d prefer six weeks notice for that fight.

It must be great to be part of such a talent-laden division, so many possibilities and mouth-watering clashes?

Yes, the Light Welters is probably the best division out there, so many top fighters. I just hope for a time when the top guys start mixing it up in the division. Fighters like Hatton. And look I’ve nothing against Hatton, he’s a great fighter and I’m sure he would love to fight anyone. But Frank Warren is protecting his own boy, he earns a lot of money off him, so he protects his asset but he’s not doing his kid any favours.

I wish we’d had the chance to see the Vivian Harris fight…

(Interrupts) You’re right, that would have been a very good fight Harris v Hatton but politics get in the way, although I thought Vivian did himself no favours in that one. He should understand that it’s all about being marketable and in the fight Hatton was the marketable fighter. It boils down to who sells tickets.

To be fair that was an instance when Frank Warren was prepared to pay Harris the purse he wanted around three quarters of a million.

Harris was offered very good money, I would have fought Hatton for half that amount but Harris was too demanding and now he has to go and fight the German.

Otkay Urkal, a fight he could lose, especially in Germany, I’m told the first clash was very close.

True, he should have realised that if he beat Hatton the money would have come to him, but that’s Vivian; he talks more than he acts. When its time to fight he disappears. He says he’d love to fight this guy and that guy, but when it comes to it there is always an excuse.

Some of the others are the same; Gatti won’t ever mention my name. Floyd Mayweather won’t ever mention my name, he was given two names by HBO (for his recent debut at 140lb), mine and DeMarcus Corley, he chose Corley. Why is that? Because it was easier that’s why, it was the easier move for Mayweather.

I guess Arturo Gatti has earned some slack with the fights and performances he’s given the fans over the years but it would be shame if he held up the WBC picture?

I have total respect for Gatti, he’s proved himself but the Ward fights were perfect for him, they were perfect for each other. You could put them in a ring anytime and the same thing would happen. But Gatti is very beatable, he’s predictable and you can see his punches coming. Floyd would outbox him and possibly stop him and that’s what I would do too, out box him.

But Gatti wants no part of Mayweather because he knows he’ll struggle which is why he wants some easier pay days first.

Gatti v N’Dou wouldn’t need much selling would it!

No because we both come to fight, it would be a great fight but I would whup him easily.

Anything else you’d like to add in closing?

I’d just like to wish Ricky Hatton good luck for Friday, I hope he wins and to Kostya Tszyu in November, I hope he wins too. Then I hope one of them gives me a shot. That’s all I want, a shot.

Thanks very much for your time Lovemore, its been a privilege.

Any time. Take care.

So if Junior is reading this, or Floyd or Arturo or…whoever…looks like Lovemore is going to be calling you out for a while yet!