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P&C Podcast: In the House of Champions with Monte Barrett

By Alliant

Joe Charles, Alliant Sports & Entertainment, welcomes former heavyweight boxer, Monte Barrett to the podcast. With a professional boxing career spanning over 17 years, Monte Barrett fought 48 times with 35 wins, 11 losses, and 2 draws showcasing his relentless spirit despite being undersized for a heavyweight. In 2019, Barrett was elected to the New York Boxing Hall of Fame. The two discuss some of his battles against top heavyweight champions and contenders and explore Barrett's post-boxing journey, highlighted by his non-profit dedicated to empowering the potential of the next generation of athletes. More information about the organization can be found at

Intro (00:00):
You are listening to the Alliant Insurance Podcast dedicated to insurance and risk management solutions and trends shaping the market today.

Joe Charles (00:09):
Welcome back to another Alliant podcast. I'm Joe Charles. Today I'm pleased to introduce heavyweight boxer Monte Barrett. It has been a great honor and pleasure to watch you through your professional journey. For all the folks who don't know you, talk about your experiences and how you got here professionally.

Monte Barrett (00:33):
Well, you know you're my guy. Me and Joe go way back. And how I got involved in boxing was I was in college playing football and around 1992 I met a man named Pops, Al Davis, and he introduced me to boxing. And I was already a street fighter; I was already in so many things that I wasn't supposed to be involved with. So, I was good with my hands. And I started boxing at 21, 22, which was very late for most boxers. So, I did very well as an amateur. I was 37-3 with 24 knockouts. I was ranked number four in the nationals. Things just took off. I went to Finland, Austria, all throughout the nationals. Started in Brooklyn at Star City Boxing Club. The great and late Jimmy O'Farrell, him and Al Davis, those two got together, they introduced me to Jimmy Glenn and it was all OGs. They all passed away now; these guys indented a great imprint in my life about discipline, obedience, hard work and dedication.

Joe Charles (01:34):
That's an impressive group of names that you just threw out there. For anyone who knows anything about the boxing industry, those are all notable names in the boxing world. So, you're working with some of the best managers, promoters, trainers in that era. You fought in a time where you had Mike Tyson as the main champion, you had the Klitschko, Holyfield, the list goes on. You could probably describe some of the folks that were ranked ahead of you as you were going through this journey.

Monte Barrett (02:05):
I never was intimidated but I would say if you look on record, on paper, it looks intimidating. I was in negotiations of fighting Mike Tyson when he passed me. He was going to get probably ten million for fighting me and he got a deal to fight Lennox Lewis for a hundred million. Me being in the same sentence of fighting Tyson was crazy. Me being at Evander Holyfield's house and training with him was crazy. Me being in training camp, hanging out with Lennox Lewis was crazy. I'm grateful that 18 years of boxing as a professional, I have all my faculties that I can stand here and talk to you for a conversation because a lot of things you take for granted.

Joe Charles (02:44):
It's a tough, tough industry. It's a tough profession, a tough way to earn a living. But I'm glad you're here; I'm glad to see you still got it all together. I can remember a lot of fun times with you going to some of the fights and seeing you climb through the journey. I recall when you fought Vladimir Klitschko in London, I think that was for the WBA championship and that was a war. That fight went on ten rounds. The place was rocking at Wembley Arena, or Wembley Stadium.

Monte Barrett (03:17):
That was my first big fight. Well, that was my second fight on HBO and I had trained with Lennox Lewis for that fight. He let me come to his training camp and bring my own sparring partners. And the deal was I could obtain his trainings, just give him a little bit of boxing. And I think I left all of my fight in the ring with him because he was Lennox Lewis, you know what I'm saying? I was in wars with him because I had a big ego, and most fighters have big egos. So, at the same time it was a lesson learned. So, by the time I got to Vladimir, I didn't have more juice, I was just fighting on adrenaline and heart, but I really couldn't carry out my plan. But Vladimir, he was a beast coming up at that time as well.

Joe Charles (04:03):
Who would you say was some of your toughest competitors? Who gave you the toughest battles?

Monte Barrett (04:08):
Well, first person that really was my biggest foe was Monte Barrett. I fought against myself so much, emotionally and mentally that I drained myself in a lot of cases. But for the most part, as far as opponents, I would say I had a top three: David Tua, David Haye and Eric Kirkland. Those would be my top three guys. Eric Kirkland was a guy that I fought from a three-year layoff, and he had one loss, but he was 22-1, and we fought on ESPN. And the crazy thing about this guy, Eric Kirkland, nobody even knows who he is right now, but this guy was smaller than me and he had the heaviest hands in the world; it was like he had bricks in his hands. So, I had to fight him from a three-year layoff. I had that spout with Joe DeGuardia, so I was off for three years. So, coming back, it was all or nothing. So, now I go to fight Eric Kirkland in New Mexico somewhere, and the first punch he hit me, I was ready to quit. I was like, “I didn’t sign up for this. This is hard. What am I doing in here fighting this guy?” This guy had talked so much junk about me, it just made me want just stay in there. I got to a place in the fight, probably the second or third round, I was like, let me just find a way to lay down, trying to find somewhere just to fall, to be honest with you. But I wanted to go dramatic, like, “Oh, Monte really got stopped,” you know? Because I didn't want to seem like I quit because in my mind I gave up already. I was like, “I'm not doing this no more,” because I was off for three years. So, you don't train as much, you don't run as much, I'm not getting hit for three years. My face is like tissues, soft, everything hurts. So, he beat me up for 10 rounds. Every time I'm trying to lay down, he kept hitting me. But I knocked him out in the 12th round, that was to say that was the resilience, that was the dog in me that even though I was looking for a way out, God wouldn't let me quit. I'm just built different. And that fight was a testament to me like, “Listen, even when things get hard and you feel like you can't go no more, you got to keep pushing, you got to keep going forward, we’re right there.” And all along I was right there.

Joe Charles (06:19):
Wow, that's an unbelievable story. But you're not a little guy. I mean you're what, 6’2”, 6’3”? The biggest opponent you fought was Valuev, how tall is he?

Monte Barrett (06:28):
I'm a little guy compared to the heavyweights I was fighting in that era. But like all the guys that I fought, most of the guys were 6’5” and they’re better. I was a small heavyweight, like Evander Holyfield, but Nikolai Valuev was 7'2", 335 pounds. That was a big fight, because he was leaning on me a lot and a lot of people don't know that Don King wanted Valuev to be bigger than life. So, what he did was he cut the ring down to 14 feet. So, I've been training for this fight to fight in the 21-foot ring and originally it was 21 feet. So, when I get there, the day of the fight, I see Faulk like, “Why is the ring so small?” I was talking to Stan, my manager, he was like, “I don’t know”. He called Don King and Don King said, “I can have the ring 14 feet because that's the minimum regulation for the WBA” and I was like, “Wow.” So, he was like, “Listen, you're just going to have to deal with it.” And he gave me an extra $20,000. But you know how Don King is, he had an angle of everything.

Joe Charles (07:26):
There was nowhere to run. That guy was very intimidating. I remember being at that fight, it was in Chicago and I just said, “Wow, Monte's in for a long night, this is going to be a battle.” But you left it all in the ring, that's for sure. You fought like a warrior; you rocked him a few times. We thought he was going to go down. I don't know how he stood some of those shots that you gave him. So, would you say he was your toughest fight?

Monte Barrett (07:51):
One of my toughest fights would be Eric Kirkland, David Tua and David Haye. Those were mentally, physically and spiritually tough fights for me because of the realm of the fight or fighting David Tua at the end of my career with this guy having 97% ratio of knocking out opponents.

Joe Charles (08:10):
So, you won that fight, the David Tua fight, and which belt did you win once you beat him that night?

Monte Barrett (08:17):
I won a WBA, and I won a WBO. We fought twice, the first one was a draw, that prompted the second one. I won the first fight though he did admit to it that I did win. But on the scorecard they headed a draw. So, we went back to New Zealand and that was really good. That was a great experience because I won in his country and it takes a lot to win a fight in somebody else's country.

Joe Charles (08:39):
You've done a lot of great things in the boxing world. I know that at one point you were trying to organize a union for the fighters. I've had conversations with the Boxing Commission and the New York State Commission about trying to form a union and I was glad to see that you were the guy that actually was trying to organize it yourself.

Monte Barrett (09:02):
Yes, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, he brought me in. He was a president and he made me the treasurer and assistant to him. And I had a voice at that time as far as the relationships with other fighters. It was a good movement, but it didn't go that far because we needed support from the athletes. One thing about boxing, it is a selfish sport, not just the fighters. I think the fighters become that way because of the promoters. The promoters take so much from the fighters. You hear the stories about Don King and this person and that person and that person. So, when a fighter feels like that, they get stingy, “I just want all my money, I want everything, I want everything.” Whatever's meant for me is never going to miss me. So, I helped a lot of people, I gave a lot of money away. I went broke trying to make people happy, and I got it all back, and then you go back and forth. I thought it was a great movement, but we didn't have the support from the boxing world. If we would've had the support, it would've went big because you have no 401k, you have no life insurance, no health insurance, you have nothing. So, when a fighter career is over, that's it, he’s got to hustle, he’s got to grind. Most of the guys are in bad shape. They can't start a business; they don't have the education.

Joe Charles (10:15):
Yeah honestly, I totally understand. I was around a lot of boxers, a lot of time with you, a lot of the promoters, I'd sit back and I'd see the disparity. You'd have different levels. You'd have a guy who was making $10,000 for a fight and you have guys that are making millions for a fight and there was no way to help the guys that are at the lower level or the mid-level. I spoke to the Boxing Commission, talked to New York State, they asked me to help them with an insurance program. There was a point where boxing in New York was suspended because there was a fighter who died in the ring. And I helped organize an insurance program for the fighters and they contacted me to help put together a program so boxing could resume in New York State again.

Monte Barrett (11:06):
What I was going to say to you, it's like an oxymoron. So, think about it, you’ve got fighters that are making $10,000 or $5,000 and you're asking them for money. They're holding onto that little bit of money and then you got fighters who are making millions of dollars, and they are so used to the way they deal with their own money that they don't want to let it go, so we're stuck in between. So, when Eddie and myself confronted, “Let's do this,” we started doing things like you said, through the Athletic Commission, having these meetings and trying to get fighters on board. Nobody wants to give up anything, like, “I am not worried about insurance, I'm not worried about life insurance, I'm not worried about health insurance, I'm good. I’ve only got this little bit of money. This has got to stretch me.” Because most of us come for nothing, so it was never a balance. And then the most important factor was that they had to turn boxing into an NFL, NBA, into a league. And a lot of promoters would have to relinquish their power and that wasn't going to happen.

Joe Charles (12:04):
That's one of the things that I saw with a lot of the promoters, that they would contact me for insurance for some of the shows and they didn't understand that they didn't have the proper coverage. They always tried to negotiate to try to get reduced limits and I made it a point to say, “This is what your contract requires, and this is where you need to be in order for the show to happen.” And I'd recommend more coverage because I saw that they had an exposure, and it was the last thing that they wanted to hear. But we had to dig our foot in the sand and say, “If you're going to do this, you need to do it the right way. I'm not going to do it unless you are willing to get what's required per your contract.” But it's a tough sport and the folks that are running it, it's all about their bottom line. But I was glad to see that you were trying to make a difference. You had the platform, you were the guy that all the fighters respected.

Monte Barrett (13:03):
Right? Even now it's just my age limit. I can communicate with the younger kids and the older guys like we have something in common. So, that's my balance with the boxing world. I've always been a standup guy and a man of my word and that goes a long way.

Joe Charles (13:20):
So, I was going to ask you, so what are you doing now? I know you've written a book. Tell me a little bit about the book.

Monte Barrett (13:25):
So, I fought Luis Ortiz, I lost that fight. What happened was, I got dropped and I took a knee. The referee had called the fight. For a referee just to call a fight when I just took a knee, I was like, it's time for me to go. I said, I can do two things. I can stay in and make this money and get the crap beat out of me, or I could just bail out right now and start doing something little. So, I left the game of boxing. It was hard in the beginning, I'm hustling, I'm grinding, I'm trying to make ends meet, this, that and the other. And I was doing a little bit of everything, but I knew that I had a bigger purpose for myself. I knew that I had dreams and I committed myself to prayer. But where I'm from then to today is a big, big difference. I have a nonprofit called House of Champions Champs Camp, and I'm helping the young youths build their dreams. My wife and myself have partnered up and we have a building in South Carolina and we have opened a gym, hopefully I think November, December should be the date. And we had a lot of support, and I did a show in January in this rural town called St. George in South Carolina. Joe, when I tell you that it only had one stoplight and we had 400 people come to this boxing event for these kids. We had 100 kids participate in this event. It was a really nice event. We had a halftime show it was really good, and I got a special guest. So, every show I have I bring somebody different up, support the kids so the kids can see that dreams do come true. You can and you will, if you believe that you can do it, you will do it. I want to get these kids off the streets, I want get them in the ring and I want to get them back in the classroom. We have a curriculum called BAD (Balance, Angles and Defense) and it's believe all dreams and it's about life. It's about understanding that you are a champion. We all have champions inside us within and how do you get to it? We get to it by support, first and foremost. You're only as good as your support system, your family, your friends, your loved ones, whoever supports you. That's how you become the best. Then what? Then what you do is you apply your hard work, your dedication, you’ve got to be disciplined. So, that's where we are right now, that’s where I am.

Joe Charles (15:38):
I love it. I mean these are the type of things that a lot of athletes need to do. Once they're done with their professional careers, give something back to the youth. It goes a long way. So, I'm so happy that you guys are doing such great work in the community.

Monte Barrett (15:54):
Yeah, we’ve got a website,, we’ve got info at and we're looking for support, so anybody could log onto the website. We need as much support as we can get at this point in time. I didn't have the support from my family. I had the support from people around me. When I was in high school, I had support of my other friend's family. They embraced me, they’d seen something in me, they poured into me, they covered me and they protected me. I've been through a lot. Then I was in a car accident when I was 16, I was in a coma for a month and a half, and just involved in all the street violence and collision. And then, I got involved in boxing and it’s not guaranteed you're going to come out in one piece, you know what I'm saying? And now I'm here, I'm not just surviving, I'm thriving. Every day I wake up, I work out, keep myself in mental, spiritual and emotional help. It’s for me, my life is about a holistic approach. So. this is where I am right now.

Joe Charles (16:53):
I love the stuff you're doing. So, anything that I can do to help, you know I'm here. I just have a few things I wanted to ask you. So, to go back to boxing, what improvements do you think should be made in order to improve the experience for professional fighters?

Monte Barrett (17:13):
I would say one the biggest improvement is protection. You’ve got to find somewhere for somebody to be for the fighters because fighters can't defend for themselves. They already defend inside the ring, but outside the ring, they're lunch meat. When I say that, meaning that they need protection, they need a union, they need a delegate, they need someone who's going to have their back. They need someone who's looking out for their best interest because most fighters, most athletes wind up with no money. I'm not going to say names, but I’ve got a couple friends that made hundreds of millions of dollars, and they're not doing the best. And not to say we all need money, but $50 to $70 million, no way in ten years I'm going to be broke. I think the state of boxing, the way boxing is now, it's really doing well as far as ratio, as far as the money. Every ten years the talent gets less but the money grows higher because the protection of the fighters and the athletes. So, the only thing I'd be able to say is protection, because you can't do anything by yourself. With a team, you could do so much more. So, I always have to say, form some type of organization that will look after your best interest.

Joe Charles (18:30):
So, that's not your manager. I guess it would be your investment advisor, your broker?

Monte Barrett (18:38):
So, you have some good managers out there. I'm not going to sit up here and throw dirt on everyone. You have some managers who do really look out for their fighters, but then it's more bad ones than good. So, it holds a bad rap for the ones that are good because I know I had a few managers that took advantage of me because I didn't know any better, because how am I supposed to know what the deal is with all the negotiation and what's on the table. And a lot of fighters are not in the room anymore. So, as I'm talking to you, maybe you could put in a position for a fighter to be in a room. But the only thing about that is sometime them being in the room, just their presence in and them not knowing or having the education, it doesn't make sense. It's still not doing enough because they need to be educated.

Joe Charles (19:32):
So, let's say you sign a deal for $3 million, the promoter gets a million, the manager gets a million, Monte Barrett gets a million?

Monte Barrett (19:43):
Yeah right. It doesn't go like that. So, what happens is HBO will go to the promoter, HBO says how about $3 million, Joe. Facilitate this card, so it's a main event, a co-feature and minimum five fights underneath. Now, it's up to you to facilitate that with the Athletic Commission, with travel, expenses, everything that comes with the show. Transportation expenses and food allowances, whatever. Now the promoter looks at the $3 million. He said, “Well how am I going to make my money off of it and get the most out of it.” So, what he does, they probably take what they feel like they want and then they negotiate from that point on. So, they go to me, I'm the main event, “Hey Monte, I'm going to give you X, Y, Z and I'm going to give your opponent X, Y, Z,” and they work out the deal. Then they go to the co-feature and then after that they just split it up with the undercard. But as you know, a lot of promoters steal straight. So that $3 million they got, they’re only dealing with $2 million, because if you won't take the fight, the next person will and they will tell you that. They'd be like, listen, “This is all I got right now. If you don't want the fight, then that's fine. I'll give it to somebody else and what’re you going to do?” Alright then I'm going to take the fight. Because you'd rather be with than without.

Joe Charles (20:59):
Exactly. Sounds like you've been in that situation before where a promoter comes to you with not the best offer; there's more money that he can offer.

Monte Barrett (21:10):
Don King says to me, “I got this fight, this fight is for $250,000.” I'm like “$250,000. This is a million-dollar fight.” Well, you are going to either take it or leave it because if you are not going to take it, somebody else is going to take it. And I know I haven't fought for a year, I'm hurting right now. What am I going to do? I'm going to take that fight, and that's what I did. And then he throws little side bones, “Here you go, $20,000 for having a ring small.” You know what I'm saying? It seems like a lot but it's not. As I can tell you stories; the story is that there's no protection for the fighters. It's not like that for all fighters, I'm not saying all fighters because you got some fighters that have great protection because they have a Shelly Finkel. So, Shelly Finkel took a liking to Zab. He did really well by Zab. He got Zab in the right fights and then what happened is, Mike Tyson took a liking to Zab and once Mike Tyson took a liking to him, he told Shelly, “All my fights that I have, I want Zab Judah on all the cards, and I want him to get a minimum of $500,000.” So, you got Mike Tyson, the king of the ring, the king of boxing, telling the promoter, well Shelly was the manager, look out for the fighter. That’s support, like Gervonta Davis and Floyd Mayweather. Once you have somebody like that on that level to look over you, you got the support you need. So, Shelly managed myself and Zab as amateurs, and when I was going to turn pro, I was like, “Oh, this is a no brainer, I'm going to sign with Shelly.” I go to Shelly's office. Shelly said, “You're a great guy, Monty, but you're not built for the heavyweight division in boxing. Your life is too easy, you got it too good.” I was like, “What?” I was 25 at the time when I was about to turn pro, my heart was broken because I felt like, wow, the guy was giving me like $4,000, $5,000 a month. We go on these training camp voyages, he would give us $3,000, $4,000 for the stay. I'm thinking that he's a friend, it's like family. And what he was saying was, “Monte, you're not starving enough, you're not hurting enough, you're not hungry enough.” So, I wasn't just hungry, I was starving. But I also had my own business at the age of 21. So, I was making money, so I wasn't dependent on just boxing. I was making around $10,000, $11,000 a month with what I was doing. So, boxing was extra, but for him it looked like I wasn't hungry. Every time I fought one of Shelly Finkel fighters, I tried to destroy them. I fought Dominick Guinn, destroyed him. David Tua, destroyed him. 25 years old, and what he said to me put a dent inside my dreams. I thought I was going to be on the Shelly Finkel team. He took a really good liking to Zab and next thing you know, Zab had to deal with Showtime because of Mike Tyson and Shelly. He had the support.

Joe Charles (23:57):
Wow. I tell you, the stuff that you shared just now is very, very interesting. And I hope for any young listeners who are thinking about getting into the sport, that they pay attention because there's a lot of things that could be learned here. So, any kid who wants to join your program, what are the steps? What will they need to do to be part of your organization?

Monte Barrett (24:21):
Well, for one, the building is in 107 North Parler Avenue in St. George, South Carolina. And what's going on right now is we have boxing matches. The most important thing I'm focusing on right now is two things: the building getting renovated and the boxing matches to keep the movement going with the kids. They can get into contact on social media, on Facebook, Instagram, they can go to the website, and they can sign up. They can get in contact with me on my social media and they can ask me about the next steps. The one thing I'm doing in my gym for the kids, I'm starting a podcast and I'm going to have them run it. I'm going to show them how to tell their story and give them the space to tell their story because a lot of kids have a lot to say but don't have the support to say it.

Joe Charles (25:11):
The ultimate goal for these kids - are you looking to help train some of the kids to be professionals?

Monte Barrett (25:18):
Well, the ultimate goal is for them to be successful in any direction they go. I'm using boxing as a tool because boxing was a tool for me, right? When you’re on a team, even though you get in the ring by yourself, it's a team that works to get the job done. You have a trainer, you have an assistant, you have coaches, you have cut man; it's a team, it's a teamwork. So, I want them to be successful. This is a platform they can learn how to prepare themselves for their future. Whether they're going to be a doctor, a lawyer, sanitation worker, whatever they decide to do, that's on them. But I'm going to show them support at the ages they are, whatever age they come, I'm going to show them that with support you can go a longer way than by yourself. I gained a lot of my support from outside my home and that was just that, so maybe I might be able to offer another kid the same thing that I had, support outside the home.

Joe Charles (26:11):
Wow. Look Monte, I could talk to you all day long. You know how it is when we get together. It's a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Anything I can do to help, you know I'm here.

Monte Barrett (26:27):
Okay, well next time we see each other we are going to be in barbershop getting shape-ups. Love you Joe, you know you my guy.

Joe Charles (26:33):
Once again, I'm Joe Charles and for more information visit us at I'd like to wish everyone a great day.


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