Former WBO Champ Michael Bentt Talks Boxing And Video Games
Some define greatness by looking at one’s body of work. If that’s true then former WBO Champion Michael Bentt’s resume reads like the encyclopedia entry for greatness: five US National Championships, four New York City Golden Gloves, holder of the WBO Heavyweight Title, Bronze Medalist at the inaugural Goodwill Games in Moscow and Pan Am Games. He is a 1988 Olympic Trials runner up, and is an elected Alternate in the heavyweight division, an unprecedented achievement in that weight class. After boxing, he entered acting and has been screened opposite Will Smith (Ali) and Johnny Depp (Public Enemies), two cinema heavyweights. Today, Bentt sits down with us to discuss boxing game, Fight Night.
So Michael, does Fight Night simulate the boxer process in the ring?
For the most part. The game captures the pomp and circumstance of a major boxing event: popular boxing personalities calling the fight, high end fight venue such as the MGM Grand, and entourages. All of those elements are more or less accurate. Though, seeing the key trainer reminding the fighter about strategy wouldn’t have hurt. Those moments are in every fight, no matter the level.
From a boxing point of view, are there any flaws in the game?
The biggest flaw is the portrayal of Muhammad Ali’s style. Ali was a, ‘make him miss, make him pay’ kind of fighter. I find the game version of Ali to be more of a Joe Frazier/George Forman hybrid. Both those fighters were seek-and-destroy, Sherman-tank-types, where Muhammad was a clandestine Stealth Bomber. Ali fought from a distance and controlled said distance with constant movement. So, the rendition of Ali isn’t entirely true to form.
What is your favorite video game and why?
I am a massive baseball fan. My favorite video game is Wii Baseball. I’m also a recent convert to Madden NFL Football. The graphics and interaction of both games seem more lifelike than the boxing gameFight Night Champion I played earlier.
I know you have a son. Does he play video games?
Absolutely. Though, my son is a bit of a perfectionist because he’s on the Autistic Spectrum. Video games are a way of challenging him with trial and error, teaching him all the important lessons of micro self-regulation while navigating the world and its macro disciplines.
When you see games like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and Fight Night, what do they say about the impact of boxing on popular culture?
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and Fight Night are clear indicators of the relevance of the sport on deeply personal levels. When we play them, no matter what part of the world we happen to be, it is personal, as we get to experience, play out, and express that side of ourselves in healthy simulation. The games are proof of the sport’s lasting relevance as an art form. An art-form that impacts, influences, and fosters the pursuit of excellence. I believe in everyone of us, the fighter is present.
Why do you think people gravitate toward boxing?
I’ve trained Academy Award nominated actors, TV, stage actors, producers, Grammy Award-winning musicians, and prominent attorneys in what AJ Liebling referred to as ‘The Sweet Science’. All of them expressed the same desire to intimately get in touch with their primal, boiling parts. It’s something we need to release, and boxing does that.
What principles has boxing taught you about your life, personally?
Most fighters are defined not by who they beat but who they lost to. The art of boxing infuses each fighter with a very specific type of resilience. The greatest principle that boxing has taught me is discipline. The discipline not to judge. If I had never won a boxing match in my life, the lessons of training, sweating, bleeding and crying with people who looked nothing like me speaks volumes not to an overall colorblindness but an overall appreciation for the sameness underneath. And no one likes it, but losing and coming out wiser, bolder and empathetic is the definition of growth.
When you were boxing, was there someone you wanted to fight but never got the chance?
No. My career as an unprecedented amateur and truncated professional was gratifying enough for me.
What made you go into acting after boxing?
After retiring from boxing, I enrolled in a Pennsylvania community college. As a Film and Television Production major, I took an elective acting class and got struck by a bolt of lightning. To me, acting is boxing, only turned inside out and without the mask of invulnerability. It’s a continuation of the inner challenge.
You trained Will Smith and played opposite him in Ali. What did you learn from him?
You also worked with Johnny Depp. What did you learn from him?
I learned from Johnny that the search for character is ongoing and doesn’t stop, even when the camera is rolling.
What was it like working with Michael Mann?
Like studying at The Actors Studio and USC or NYU film schools for years.
Does it bother you to see someone you personally defeated, is immortalized in a boxing game (Tommy Morrison)?
Some of us lose when we win and some win when we lose. Life is like that.
Floyd and Manny- Do you think the fight destroyed boxing as some critics suggest?
Did Wall Street’s massive three card Monte completely eradicate people’s trust in that system? Everything experiences dips and climbs. As such, boxing will always be a major part of the human experience because we need the outlet.
What makes Floyd Mayweather the best boxer in the world right now? Or is he?
In terms of his mastery and disciplined expression of the craft, absolutely; he is the best. Though, the fact that he doesn’t step on the gas when dominating an opponent provides ammo for Mayweather’s haters. But in this era, Floyd is the definition of the craft. Which he is to hit and not get hit. Some of us like meat and potatoes and some like caviar. I appreciate all fighters, but my palate leans towards caviar.
Where can people find out more about you?
People can go to my website www.michaelbentt.com