Sports

Exclusive interview: The Contender’s Tarick Salmaci speaks with the Maroon

Tarick “The Arabian Prince” Salmaci, 32, made a national name for himself as one of 16 original contestants on NBC’s The Contender. A steady boxer who relies on a disciplined jab, Salmaci impressed the show’s hosts with his boxing sense and professionalism in the ring.

A boxer since age eight, the 32-year-old Salmaci (20-2) has a hearty list of career accolades, including being an Olympic Trials finalist as an amateur, winning the North American Boxing Organization Middleweight Championship as a pro, and being ranked as high as fourth in the World Boxing Organization. Having been promised a world championship shot, Salmaci waited as neither his promoter nor manager ever delivered. Disillusioned with the sport, he quit to go back to school, eventually becoming a successful real estate agent.

Though he lost in the first round to then-17-year-old Juan de la Rosa, he also landed the straight right that knocked his raw, aggressive foe out of the tournament. Now leading the online poll (link through www.tarick.com) that will return the leading vote getters for the championship fight undercard, Salmaci says he’s in better shape and more mentally prepared than he has ever been in his career. Trying to get the chance that he feels was taken away from him, Salmaci is “ready for everyone.”

On finding out he made show: I was actually—wow—when I found out I was on the show I was a little surprised because I was out of the game for three years. I went through a lot in boxing. There’s no national commission no union for the fighters, I was given a lot of false promises. I was rated top 10 and given some championship fights, but both times the fight was cancelled on me. I went through a lot in my pro career mentally. Mentally. more than physically. A lot of anguish Three years ago I had enough.

On why boxing found a way back into his life: I went to the University of Michigan and got my degree, did well in real estate, had my daughter—I was happy. As time went on, I always had that missing link of what could have been. I love the sport of boxing; it’s just the business side of it. So when I was told about the chance, I had to try and see what I could do. I didn’t think I would get picked because I’d been out for three years.

It’s the one-on-one competition I love with boxing. You can’t blame no-one else.

On his difficulties with Juan’s wildness: It was too much too fast. To get my timing back, train, to drop 25 pounds, it all caught up to me. I was drained from all of it. He didn’t beat the real me. Since then I’ve stayed in the gym for seven months, preparing for my next fight. Hopefully now I have the chance to be voted back.

On the pressures of coming back: It’s hard not knowing who you’re going to fight, but it doesn’t worry me now. I’ve got my mind back. I don’t care who I fight, I’m ready for everyone.

The interviews and distractions will slow down hopefully. In a week, I’m going to be 100 percent focused on my fight.

On how critical this upcoming fight is: Very important. Very important to my career. This is the biggest fight of my life right now. I’m going in there to win. A win in this fight, and a lot of other doors will open up, roads I plan on taking.

On why he should be voted back: I think I deserve my shot because I’ve paid my dues in this game. I also put Juan out. I was the lead patrol who hurt his ribs, cut him badly enough to knock him out of the show. I didn’t get voted back the first time, but hopefully I’ll be voted back and get my chance now.

On leading the current balloting: It’s great. It shows that I have a lot of fan support out there. It shows that I’m a for—real-kind-of-guy and that I really want this.

On the presence of corruption on The Contender: None. It was fair. We had a great time. All of them gave us a great opportunity.

On what didn’t come across in the show: They had me quiet on there. They didn’t show my personality too much, where I was making jokes, having fun, and enjoying hanging out. Every episode was three days, and they had to cut it down to 40 minutes, so people didn’t really get to see my funny side.

All the guys also were laughing and having a great time most of the time. I’ve made friends for life on that show. I went in saying I wont make friends with these guys that I’m going to fight them and beat them. But they didn’t show us hanging around in our bedrooms, joking all the time.

On having his family watch him fight: It was the first time my daughter [age two] had seen me fight. I was a little worried about how she would react at first, but she came and saw me before the fight and it was fine. She didn’t really know what was going on.

On whether or not he will keep fighting after The Contender: Of course. 100 percent. I’m going to continue my career. I got my shot. Now I can’t say that I didn’t get my shot like before. Better late than never.

I’m not finished. Hopefully you vote me back on and let me pursue my comeback.