When Evander Holyfield throws his support behind you, you’re the real deal. That’s exactly what Brooklyn’s own Justin Biggs is. Learn more about the undefeated fighter with the bright future.
On a pleasant 80-degree spring day, I arrived at Gym X Boxing, situated in the budding Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York. I decide to wait for Justin Biggs outside, as opposed to standing in the humid gym. I can hear loud reggaeton, blaring from a Pepsi-blue 2018 Honda Accord, conveniently parked in front of a bodega. The engines of the two coach buses parked across the street are no match for the boisterous children leaving out of the Jesse Owens School (P.S. 26). A young girl passes by with a box of Little Caesars pizza in one hand, while toting a basketball in the other–balance that I can appreciate.
Walking in the opposite direction, wearing a dad hat and a smile from ear to ear, Justin approaches. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” said the 26 year-old Biggs. “No problem, take your time,” I shoot back.
Justin Biggs (4-0, 3 KOs) is a dominant fighter, at the super welterweight class, soon to become a household name. That dominance is balanced by the humble spirit and demeanor that exudes from the hard-hitting brawler known as “The Brooklyn Torch”. The 2020 Olympic-hopeful was gracious enough to sit down with We The Fans Sports, and give an inside look on a few things that have shaped his life.
When did you first realize your passion for boxing?
You know, I was pretty much born into it. I had a brother, he was a boxer. He was around 10 years older than me. He was like a child prodigy, so my dad would train him. He would take me to the gym with him. You know, it would be like after school. I would run around, hit the bag. I was like “Yo, this is a cool thing!”. [So] me growing up, I thought that everybody grows up to be a boxer.
Who would you say is the biggest inspiration in your life?
In my life, you know, I have to say my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, above anyone. Another person that was a big inspiration to me was Zab Judah. I would grow up watching Zab win titles and everything. I’d be around him in the gym a lot. I didn’t watch any other sports, so basically to me he was like Kobe Bryant. Kids in school would be like “Oh you see that game with Kobe?” and I’d be like “Oh did you see that fight with Zab?”. [So] I didn’t even know who Kobe Bryant was, I knew who Zab was first. Thats how it was for me.
Speaking of Zab, your trainer is Yoel Judah (Zab Judah’s father) . How did that come about?
My father and Yoel were very close. Basically my dad and my brother was around Zab, one of his main spar partners. They worked very close together. My dad, he passed away three years ago. He also was an extreme inspiration to me. He put confidence into me, the skillset at about age 19. He died when I was 23. So even then, he was putting a lot into me, talking to me about boxing, instilling in me different techniques. Now Yoel has taken over, but every day I think about him. Without my father– You know, I should have said that even before anybody. He was really my biggest inspiration.
Finish this sentence: If it weren’t for boxing, I would be _____
If it wasn’t for boxing, oh wow. I think I’d probably be an actor. [soft chuckle] Probably an actor or I don’t know, maybe a rapper or something. That seems pretty fun too.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your journey of boxing?
For me, it’s trying to– A lot of times you look up to people. I looked up to Zab and right now I’m signed to Evander Holyfield. I looked up to my brother, so a lot of issues were if my life didn’t fall exactly like their path, I felt that it wasn’t for me. So if my brother won the golden gloves per se, I’d feel as if I lost, I’m not as good, this is not for me. It’s learning that everyone has a different story. When I learned that, I’m like you know, my story is supposed to inspire another kid in a different way. That was the biggest hurdle to me. Learning that I lost, I have to pick it back up and try again. I’m not perfect, but I can get better and come back the next day
You mentioned Evander Holyfield, so how did that come into play? How has it been having a legend of that stature in your corner?
Having Evander Holyfield there is amazing, because I remember I was feeling very down about boxing. You get bad decisions. Sometimes you’ll beat a kid, and theyll give it to the other kid. Basically, Evander … my father brought to me a book on Evander, and the book was about how Evander didn’t do well on amateurs like that. Somehow, like the last minute, he won a tournament, beating a kid that he couldn’t beat before, and made it to the Olympics. In the Olympics he knocked everyone out except for the last guy, but he got a silver medal, because he hit a guy when the bell rang at the same time. They basically cheated him. So sitting there knowing he was a big reason why I continued to box, and learning that in the future, God had a plan for me to be one of his proteges is amazing. It’s like wow, this all was written you know.
I understand your sister boxes as well. How important is it to you that female athletes receive equal support and respect as their male counterparts?
I think it’s very important. I think they have equal distractions. They’re the same, it’s equally as hard for them. You have a lot of phenomenal athletes that are females, they need to be seen, because it’s all about inspiring people and inspiring the next generation to feel as if– I’m a kid and we all feel weak and helpless sometimes, and waiting for God to let something fall in our lap. But a young girl can say, “Oh, I can be like-” I don’t wanna say anyone’s name … “This negative celebrity, or I can be like an Aida Biggs [my sister]. I can be like Claressa Shields, or Serena Williams.” If there’s only two or three positive female athletes or females doing anything, they’re like the chances of me being that is slim to none. The more there are, it seems more realistic. I grew up around a lot of fighters, so I knew that it’s realistic for me to grow up and become a boxer and do well. I’m around nothing but world champions.
Depression has been a major issue in our community lately. How do you keep it all together? How do you maintain your mental health and stay grounded?
I went through a very tough part of my life, especially when my father was dying . He died of cancer. I was very down, but I just found little muses throughout the day. A lot of times, we have to count our victories, even if they’re small victories. At one point, I was like wow, I don’t have any electricity or have any water. You know what I’m saying? In my house, there’s no A/C. It’s hot in Florida. I’m doing B2B sales, so I was very depressed. Then I said, “You know what?” “In this time and age, being an African-American, I’m twenty-something years old and I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not in jail. I have an opportunity. I’m not in a third world country, where I hear bombs coming down or anything. You know, I’m alive.” So just count those little victories throughout the day, and pick yourself up, and go try hard, and say that I can change. Tomorrow, as long as there’s a tomorrow, it’s like a reset button in a video game. So ok, I lost, I’ll go tomorrow and make something out of it.
Ok, this last one is a bit of a haymaker. Tonight is Game 4 of the NBA Finals. I have to ask that question, MJ or LeBron … who ya got?
I think they’re different uhhh, positions. I mean, they’re both great players. I look at the stats sometimes and Lebron’s breaking every stat. But MJ won more rings and things like that. LeBron’s been to the Finals eight times, but only has three rings. His career is not over you know. If we see how this ends, then I’ll be able to really tell, but much respect to both guys. You know, maybe they’re equal. I just feel like Jordan was a little more clutch, but then again his team was constructed a lot better.
Biggs returns to the ring on June 30th, for a bout in Raleigh, North Carolina. Following that, on July 28th, he’ll be at King’s Theater in Brooklyn, NY for another main event. Stay tuned to We The Fans Sports, for updates and all related information. Also follow Justin on Instagram: @bigtimebiggs.