Style, either you have it or you don’t. Tommie “Big Poppa” Speller has it and it comes in a variety of forms. In the ring his style is that of a fighter who is looking to knock you out. When he is not in the ring, you can usually catch him ringside giving them a run for their money as the best dressed man in the house.
But Tommie Speller’s story goes deep than a hard right hand and a fresh pair of shoes. Like most who grew up in Philly, his road wasn’t an easy one. After a lifetime of fighting in the streets, Big Poppa brought his two handed attack to the professional boxing ring in October of 2006. His career started off strong scoring three knockouts in his first three pro fights. There was some controversy to follow and now a stretch of inactivity for Team Poppa. Some were starting to wonder “where is he at?”
Big Poppa recently took the time to clear the air and go in depth on how he got started, what has been happening in his life and what he looks forward to next in the ring. Read closely because Big Pop drops a few bombs and a few names in this exclusive interview!
PK: Big Poppa, thanks for taking the time. Let’s get right into it. It has been a little while since we last saw you fight. What’s going on these days?
BP: Nothing too much, just taking a little time off but working on a few different styles and things. Doing what I got to do so Big Poppa can keep doing what he was doing which is knockin’ jokers out.
PK: How did you get started or what was it that got you interested in boxing?
BP: As a kid I used to fight for my sisters a lot. I did a lot of fighting in the neighborhood, coming home from school fighting every day. I just grew up fighting and I always thought I was good. As I got older I figured I wanted to fight for a living because I was always good with my hands. When I got older my grandfather put me in the gym and it was on from there.
Later on in life I got caught up in the street life selling drugs and messing around with guns and so forth. I ended up in the penitentiary and was incarcerated for 5 years, came home but went back for violating parole. I was training; my mind was already set for what I would do when I got out. When I did get out, I stuck to the game plan and started getting into the gym even more. I had a little amateur background but that didn’t play out too well because I have a professional fight style. A lot of the judges and referees told me as an amateur that I would be good as a pro. Sure enough when I turned pro and not trying to sound arrogant, I did my thing, the thing that makes me Big Poppa.
PK: Which brings me to your Pro debut, I was there that night and you scored an early knockout win, what was going through your mind?
BP: I basically thought this is my job, this is what I do. There was a good feeling about it because of the crowd but it was a lot different because I was in a professional atmosphere. I right away I knew this is the real deal, this ain’t practice. After the 1st round I settled down a little bit, Greg (Robinson) had a little talk with me, after that I blocked everything out of my mind and did what I had to do is knock him out.
PK: Let’s talk about the current fight game, the Philly fight game in particular. There have been a few talked about fights for you recently, some speculation out there but recently they haven’t seemed to go through. Is there anyone in particular out there who you have your eye on or you think has their eye on you for a potential fight?
BP: Hopefully I will step back in the ring around August, there are some things I am working on and I really want to do. Next time you see Big Poppa it’s gonna be even more of a threat. Right now I am having some trouble with opponents but there are still some good fighters around who will fight me and could make it a good fight. As far as me having my eyes on anybody, I had my eyes on Tony Ferrante, but me and Tony are good friends, the fight was supposed to happen but I can’t argue the fact he didn’t want that fight because of a friendship.
If it ever had to happen I think me and Tony would be a good fight. Besides Tony, me and Black Gold, Jameel Wilson. I definitely want to fight Jameel I think he is a good fighter and it would be a good fight. Some people don’t think he hold any true weight anymore but you have to remember that at one time he was a top fighter out of Philadelphia and a state title holder. We are good friends and I am not saying this with arrogance. Do I think I can beat him? Yeah I think I can beat him, can he beat me? Of course, in this game it’s a 50/50 chance, anything can happen. I can’t talk bad about him. We trained and sparred against each other. It is something I really just want. We would give a crowd a good show and I think Jameel would be all for it. Jameel has a great style for me and I have a great style for him. We will see how it goes.
PK: It sounds like there is a lot of respect for him, you say some doubt Jameel’s status but I think he is far from washed up.
BP: I don’t believe he is washed up at all. I need a fight like this, I am working my way towards a state title fight, he has already been there and he knows what it takes.
PK: All of your fights have been on Power Productions cards. Is there an official deal in place or more of a fight by fight take it as it comes thing?
BP: Right now me and Greg Robinson (CEO of Power Productions) are working on something. My original contract is expired I gave him what he wanted he gave me what I wanted. Me and Greg have a great level of respect for one another. He was my original trainer before I went over to Bozy’s.
I don’t plan on leaving Greg. There have been some other offers but I am the type of guy who tries to stay loyal. Greg has been loyal to me but in boxing you gotta go where the money is. I am quite sure Greg would respect that. Right now I am still apart of Power and still fight under Power, me and Tyric and us guys. I am not under contract at this point but we are in negotiations. You can never tell how things might end up.
Some guys will give you some money so they can have you as one of their fighters but I don’t feel that Greg would just put me out there over my head just to make money and not care weather I am winning or losing.
PK: What is it like training at the Bozy’s Gym, in your words and through your eyes?
BP: It’s rough, it’s like a real dungeon, and the name speaks for itself. It is a private owned gym. Nothing fancy about the gym, we have the basics, ring, punching bags, speed bags and such, we got the music jumpin’, it’s a strict work environment. There is no one down at the dungeon who can’t fight. It makes you think about nothing but trying to be the best. A lot of top guys come through there that is why this gym is so reputable. Everyone knows that Bozy is a hell of a trainer. No one will doubt he is why Pooh and Demetrius and them are at the level they are at. They been there since they were small. It’s real hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter, it is what it is. Some cold blooded dudes down there, man.
Now I am training with Demetrius Hopkins, Rasheem Brown, Farah Ennis and all them. All those guys down there can fight. I am still have some work to do but the level of fight game in there, that is what is getting me through and I am doing real good over there.
My uncle Chauncey is also in my corner, I love him to death. He sees a lot of the things that I don’t see. He is in the gym after his day at work with the head trainers. When I am outside of the gym it’s still like we are still in the gym because my mind is on boxing. We talk about things go over things we need to work on, work on the pads and so forth and so on. Chauncey is a real blessing he is there day in and day out. He is a part of team Poppa and we want to take it all the way.
PK: What’s Big Poppa looking for in the long run?
BP: In the long run, no doubt with all seriousness I got to become champ of the world. My mom passed away. Now everything I do in boxing is in her remembrance. Now I want her to rest in peace and for her to know through all my troubles and struggles in life that I tried out to be successful. I gotta make that come true, every fight my son is with me, my wife is out there in the audience, and my grandfather, the first guy to ever put me in the gym is there in the front row watching his grandson fight. I want to see him enjoying that moment for me before anything has to happen to him. Me and my wife had our moments but we are back together and she is down with Team Poppa. She and my family period give me that drive. With the condition of my health she makes it worth my while waking up every morning. I give all my praise to God first and foremost.
PK: You touched on your health situation earlier, can you elaborate?
BP: Yeah we can talk about it a little bit, I was just diagnosed with stomach cancer. It is nothing major or life threatening. I am under the doctor’s care and they are still running tests and they tell me things look good. When I first found out the news, I had to step back on a fight because of my health. I didn’t want to do anything except be by myself or with my family. Now, I am mentally back in the game. Physically I am getting back in the game. I have a few appointments coming up and my wife is helping me but like I said it is nothing life threatening. I don’t want to speak too fast on nothing right now.
PK: Well I definitely wish the best for you and hope that everything turns out positive with your health.
BP: I definitely appreciate that, Keith
PK: You are known for your skills in the ring but you are also known for your skills putting an outfit together. Where do you get the threads Big Pop?
BP: Awwwwwwww man, know what? I shop at so many stores, if I told you that, we’d have everyone in the industry wearing suits. I like to shop different place, one of my favorite spots is Boyd’s. Yeah I like to go to Boyd’s. Anywhere else I can’t tell you. If you ever want some Gators I’ll tell you to go down South Street. You let it be known that Big Poppa and his wife are ready to get remarried again!
PK: I think we covered a lot, is there anything you want to add before we close?
BP: Just to keep God first in your life. Other than that I just want everyone to know that Big Poppa will be back on the scene in a fast minute and they gonna have problems Keith, problems! I’m ready to take over the Super Middleweight division. Anybody who thinks they do it in that division, I say call me, get in touch with my promoter, get in touch with my team. I am ready for anybody out there, that’s just the attitude I got. They know Big Poppa so they know what they are in for!
PK: Thanks for your time Big Pop, look forward to seeing you soon.
BP: No Doubt, I appreciate it Keith! Alright homie!
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