Exclusive: Maurice Hooker Talks Winning WBO Title, Terence Crawford, Getting Respect

Even after winning the WBO junior welterweight title, Maurice Hooker still can’t believe he’s actually a world champion.

Hooker’s life and career changed on June 9 when he made the trip from the U.S. to the United Kingdom to fight Terry Flanagan for the then-vacant title and Hooker came out on top with a split decision victory. Two weeks have passed since winning his first world title and his newfound fame and world champion status still feels surreal in the eyes of the 28-year-old father of nine.

“It’s still a dream. It’s funny, I was at the gym recently and a guy walked up to me and was like, ‘Man, you’re Maurice Hooker, world champion.’ I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and he asked if he could take a picture and shake my hand. It’s something I got to get used to. I thought, ‘Damn, you want to take a picture with me?’ It’s getting there, but it still feels like a dream,” Hooker said.

Part of the reason it feels like a dream for Hooker were the long odds Hooker faced when he accepted the fight. Add in the fact that Hooker, a native of Dallas, was traveling to Flanagan’s backyard of Manchester, England and Hooker was looking as much as a -800 betting underdog. Regardless of those odds, Hooker knew he had to take the fight.

“When I got the offer for the fight, me and my team sat down and knew it was a fight to take [even if it was in the United Kingdom]. Plus, it was for a world title, I wasn’t going to turn it down. The plan was to go for the knockout and not have to go to the judges. [Terry] and I get going and he got to grabbing and fighting dirty. But, yeah I thought I won the fight. It was a good fight,” Hooker said.

Hooker’s journey to the top started back in 2011. His debut fight against Tyrone Chatman, who came into the fight with a 7-1 pro record, ended in a draw, one of three draws Hooker would have in his career thus far. Although Hooker would never truly taste defeat in the ring, not all of his fights ended in victory. His last such fight was in 2016 when he fought former interim lightweight champion Darleys Perez on the undercard of the first Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward fight.

After winning his two fights after that fight against Perez, the title fight against Flanagan came to him, but it ended up being perhaps the most difficult fight of his career. After a physically grueling battle in front of a hostile, pro-Flanagan crowd, many had thought Hooker was actually the winner of the fight. But when the fight ended and the scorecards were tallied up, it was announced that Flanagan won 117-111 on one of the three scorecards. At that point, Hooker believed it was all over for him as he thought he was going to lose.

“I just thought, ‘Ah man, they’re gonna rob me. I can’t believe it.’ Everybody used to say once you go over there, you got to get the knockout. It was a good fight, a very tough fight. I thought I won, but once they said the one score in favor of him, I thought they were going to rob me,” Hooker said.

But once it was announced Hooker was the new world champion, he dropped to the floor in jubilation as his team rushed on top of him to celebrate. Hooker wasn’t just feeling happiness, but also a sense of relief after thinking he was going to lose.

“It was a little bit of both [sense of instant gratification and of relief]. I couldn’t believe it, I’m a world champion! When they announced it, my knees just got weak. It’s so many years, I spent training and sacrificing and everything just paid out that night. It was a good feeling,” Hooker said.

In a way, the fight was a bit of a passing of the torch for Hooker. The previous titleholder, Terence Crawford, held all four major titles at 140 lbs. Until he moved up in weight to challenge for the WBO welterweight title, which he did hours after Hooker’s win when Crawford stopped Jeff Horn in their fight in Las Vegas.

The two had trained together for some time and Crawford even congratulated Hooker for winning the title, but the new WBO junior welterweight champion believes he’s down one against Crawford since beat Horn in less than 10 rounds to win his WBO title while Hooker had to go to a split decision to grab his WBO belt.

“We were in camp together for a long time and we both fought on the same day. He told me before the fight, before we broke camp to go get that belt, it’s showtime to step up and show the world who you are because he believed in me. We trained together and he told me [after the fight], ‘Good job Mo, now it’s my time.’ Me and Terence have always been in competition like who is the fastest, everything. He’s up one because he won by knockout and I won by split decision [laughs],” Hooker said.

Crawford isn’t the only one to congratulate Hooker on his win. Boxers, fans and pundits worldwide reached out to Hooker to congratulate on winning the title. It’s a new feeling for Hooker getting that kind of respect, but its respect he believes he was owed a long time ago.

“It’s a good feeling being recognized by boxing. I’ve been in the ring with a lot of champions and to me, it sounds a bit cocky, but it’s about damn time I got my respect, my acknowledgement and I’ve been fighting for a long damn time,” Hooker said.

Although it was widely reported he would participate in the World Boxing Super Series junior welterweight tournament set to begin later this year, Hooker and his manager told Fightful that is not the case, but that it was one of many options being considered for Hooker. But for now, Hooker wants to relax and spend time with his family before thinking about his next fight, soaking in every moment now that he has achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a world champion.

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