You get the feeling Tavoris “Thunder” Cloud didn’t grow up blue collar or white collar, he grew up no collar. His shirts were probably hand-me-downs with no buttons or sleeves, just a few sizes too small and some frayed edges.
Born in Tallahassee, Cloud is from the old school, that dark place where the best fighters always seem to come from, a place where you grew up sharing a bedroom with two or three other kids, some who were actually part of your family.
Listening to Cloud, it’s easy to see him putting in 40 honest hours a week to feed his family if that’s what he had to do, if it hadn’t been for the fight game and his knack for bringing mayhem into the ring with him.
Cloud (23-0, 19 KOs) , who hasn’t fought since last June when he stopped Yusaf Mack in eight rounds while defending his IBF light-heavyweight title for the third time, will make a fourth title defense Feb. 18 against Gabriel Campillo (21-3-1, 8 KOs) of Spain at the American Bank Center Arena in Corpus Christi, Texas.
His fight with Campillo is part of a SHOWTIME double-header featuring former world champion Paul Williams (40-2, 27 KOs) going against hard-hitting junior-middleweight Nobuhiro Ishida (24-6-2, 9 KOs) of Japan in the main event.
For Cloud, this fight is a chance to get his name out there again, show the world what he can do if given the chance.
“I’m going to put on an exciting show just like I always do,” Cloud said on a recent conference call promoting his fight with Campillo. “There ain’t gonna be any duckin’ or dodgin’. I’m going straight for my opponent. I just hope my opponent is ready, but I think he is. On Feb. 18, I’ll be there doing my thing.”
Cloud sounds like a guy who likes things simple and straight forward, someone who just wants to fight the best light-heavyweights out there and make enough money to take care of his family.
“This is my job, this is my profession, this is how I support my family,” he said. “I’m not going to over-think the situation. My goal right now is to get into the ring on (Feb. 18) and do my job and defend my title and go home to my wife and kids.”
It sounds pretty simple and easy until you realize Cloud’s promoter is Don King, and King is anything but simple and easy.
“We’ll take on anyone and everyone as quickly as possible, one right after the other,” King said on the same conference call. “We haven’t been getting the TV deals because most of the fighters out there are afraid to face him. Tavoris Cloud is the best in the world and if you don’t believe it, then you’d better come in and disprove that. We’re ready to take on any one of (the top light-heavies) and maybe two or three of them on the same night.”
Asked if he needed to win this fight big to keep his name in the hunt after such a long layoff, Cloud said it’s important to win every fight big.
“It’s always important to put a stamp on the fight,” he said, having stamped on 19 of the 23 guys he’s faced. “I just believe that people respect knockouts more than they respect decisions. Those are the type of fighters they like.”
They’re also the kind of fighters King likes. Asked who he would like to see Cloud fight next if he gets past Campillo, King didn’t miss a step.
“I’d like to see him fight Bernard Hopkins,” he said. “That’s the best name out there. That’s the oldest name out there. It’s a name that has credibility. Tavoris, I have the utmost confidence in him. I believe in him and everything they do they’re going to try to separate him from me if they can.”
Not without a fight, they won’t. King is still the most entertaining promoter out there, and he doesn’t go easy when someone threatens his livelihood.
As for Campillo, this will be only his second fight in America. A southpaw, most of his fights have been in his home country of Spain.
Asked why he thought he could beat Cloud, Campillo said through an interpreter that there were three reasons he would win. He had “better physical conditioning, more speed and more intelligence.”
You could hear King laugh in the background.
“Tavoris comes to fight,” King said. “No matter what happens, he comes to fight and this is what the people want to see. A fighter that fights. That’s why they call them fighters.”