In his own words:

I grew up in a rough Irish Catholic family. My father was a big drinker—a steel construction guy. My older brother left the house when he was 15 and he joined a boxing gym. So a couple of years later I followed him. I went to the gym where he trained and spent some time there with him and got to see him fight. So when I was 15 I started boxing too.

So, I’m working the heavy bag a lot, feeling pretty good about myself, when one day I get into the ring with this little Italian guy, and he knocks me from pillar to post. So I go home and think “I don’t want this,” and go back to hitting the heavy bag. But this time when I was hitting the bag I was thinking how in real life someone is going to throw punches back at me. Two months later, I asked to be set up with that kid again, and this time he couldn’t do what he did the first time. Six months after that I won the middleweight championships of the New York state Golden Gloves.

Before the Holmes match I had 25 fights with 23 knockouts. I never got tested. I never went the distance. I had great sparring, but it’s different when you’re in the ring. I would like to have seen a few more looks—more styles—before meeting Holmes, but Don King wouldn’t let it happen.

I didn’t fight for 13 months between the Norton knockout and my fight with Holmes. I mean, if you took a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in a game in 13 months, and you put him into the fifth game of the World Series, how do you think he would do? But the bigger picture is this: All those guys that I wanted to fight before Holmes, most of them are walking on their heels today. Maybe God was looking out for me.

I had a great time boxing. I enjoyed the trip. Holmes and I are great friends today. And we’ll always be a part of history.

I made a lot of mistakes, but I’m trying to make up for them through my charity work. I go to an orphanage twice a week, along with other charitable work. I have a 10-year-old, I’ve got a 14-year-old, I’ve got a 23-year-old, and I’ve got a great wife, and life is perfect. I’m a very happy man.

I was a young kid who got fame really quick, but who didn’t have the foundation to support it because I had a lousy upbringing and so that’s why I struggled. I couldn’t stand my managers because they were using me as a tool. If I had someone managing me who was really on my side and who really wanted to go the distance with me instead of getting a quick payday, I believe I could have been heavyweight champion of the world.

Because of the situation I grew up in at home, boxing became an outlet for me—a way for to express my anger. That’s what I grew up with—anger and fear. So then, as I started winning fights, I’d see my picture in the paper and that really motivated me to become a professional fighter.

I never paid attention to all that ‘great white hope’ stuff surrounding the Holmes fight. I had a bunch of guys I grew up with come out to training camp with me to help keep things normal, because there was a lot of craziness in the buildup to the fight.

I also did myself in. After Norton and all the way up to Holmes I was drinking. I mean—it’s hard to even think about now—I drank all the way up to the Holmes fight. Beating Holmes, who is one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, is a tough enough thing to do, but with my management problems and being inactive for so long and all that drinking, well, that’s almost impossible.

It’s when I retired from boxing that I really learned how to box. Back when I was fighting I would come right after you. When I got older I learned how to play with the guy—make the guys miss, step to the right, hit him with a body shot. Life was moving so fast for me when I was young that I didn’t digest a lot of what my trainer taught me. I’m doing stuff now when I spar than I was able to do back then, and I still box 25-30 rounds a week.