In September 2012, Malik Scott was 35-0 and gaining steam in the heavyweight division. Four fights and 18 months later, he was 36-2-1 and facing a career crossroads.
Not only had the 6-foot-4 Philadelphia native suffered his first two professional losses, but he was knocked out in both: a sixth-round TKO by Dereck Chisora in July 2013 and a 96-second stoppage by current heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder in March 2014.
During a four-fight, 13-month stretch, Scott also battled Vyacheslav Glazkov to a split draw, while his only triumph was a second-round TKO of journeyman Grover Young, who entered their January 2014 bout with a 7-12-1 record.
After getting blitzed by Wilder, Scott needed to do something to flip the script on his career. And his promoter, Tom Brown, wasn’t afraid to drive home that very point.
“Coming off the Wilder fight, I sat down with Malik,” Brown says. “I said, ‘You’re not going to get on U.S. television again until you do something.’ I said, ‘First call that comes in, we’re taking it.’ Malik agreed.”
That call did indeed come, and it was courtesy of Australia-based power puncher Alex Leapai. Leapai—then 30-5-3 and coming off a fifth-round TKO loss to champion Wladimir Klitschko in April 2014—offered Scott a fight on Halloween night, but in the former’s native Queensland.
“I said, ‘Malik, I’ve got a deal to fight Leapai in Australia, and we’re taking it,’” Brown says. “Malik said, ‘Get it done. I’ll beat this guy.’”
But while Scott was in training for the bout, he received the devastating news that longtime friend and promoter Dan Goossen died in late September from complications from liver cancer.
“Dan and Malik were very close,” says Brown, Goossen’s brother-in-law. “I could go into Dan’s office, and Malik would be laid out on his couch for half of the afternoon sometimes.”
With a heavy heart, Scott traveled to Australia, fought in Goossen’s honor and earned a lopsided 10-round unanimous decision over Leapai—this despite suffering a broken right hand in the second round.
“I fractured my right hand real bad, so I really beat Leapai with one hand,” says the 35-year-old Scott.
He also beat Leapai without regular trainer Joe Goossen by his side, leaving him to lean on childhood mentor Fred Jenkins.
“Joe Goossen was tending to the death of his brother and really couldn’t train me at all,” Scott recalls. “I knuckled down, trained myself and beat a heavy-handed fighter who was looking for one shot all night.
“I had to overcome many battles against Leapai, but I stared adversity in the face and passed every test.”
Nearly a year to the day from his victory over Leapai, Malik Scott (37-2-1, 13 KOs) will return to action against 6-foot-5 southpaw Tony Thompson (40-5, 27 KOs) in the main event of Friday’s Premier Boxing Champions card from The Venue at UCF in Orlando, Florida (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Despite his advanced age and two losses to Klitschko, Thompson is a dangerous opponent, one who has stopped more than two-thirds of his 40 victims. Brown is aware of that fact, but he’s convinced his guy has turned a corner and will be more than ready for whatever Thompson brings to the ring.
“There never has been any doubt about Malik’s toughness,” Brown says. “Tony Thompson is a big, tough, talented southpaw who is coming off some pretty good fights. But Malik says, ‘I’m going to stop that old man.’”
Scott shares that opinion.
“I’m in the underdog position in this fight,” Scott says. “But Tony Thompson is fighting the best Malik Scott. This is another opportunity for me to steal the show, and I’ll do it in grand fashion.”
For complete coverage of Thompson vs Scott, visit our fight page.