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Friend of boxing Holt McCallany talks similarities in acting and fighting

The veteran actor has been involved in boxing, both on the screen and off, for many years.

NY Giants Justin Tuck 3rd Annual “Rush For Literacy” Celebrity Billiards Tournament Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Rush For Literacy

Boxing can be that acquired taste, let’s be honest.

It is something of a red light district sport, what with it featuring two people hitting each other. Thus, it can be useful and important for us in the sport to spotlight people of a certain ilk outside the pugilism realm, because it confers a level of respect for the sport.

It was with that in mind that I invited actor and friend of boxing Holt McCallany to the Everlast “Talkbox” podcast, and he came to the Everlast studio on Tuesday.

Holt learned to box as a kid when he saw his little brother learning to box and getting big for his britches, and then got deeper into the sport when he played trainer Teddy Atlas in an HBO movie. He said his series “Mindhunter” will be back in August.

Producer Charlize Theron let that drop during a hit on Howard Stern’s show, McCallany told us, as he sat next to WBC mensch Jill Diamond.

We talked “Mindhunter,” which is set in the 70s into the 80s, and sees McCallany playing agent Bill Tench, as he figures out a new way to try and get into the minds of serial killers. Netflix is the platform for the program, which was a worldwide hit when it dropped in 2017.

And we also talked fighting. Diamond told us that the WBC and Hublot got together and had a fund-raising gala. Monies raised go into a fund to help fighters down on their luck. “They raised over a million dollars,” Diamond told us. And that fund is overseen by a board, and all the funds go to fighters, she said.

McCallany classes up the show with his baritone, and deep and hearty chuckle. He informed us that he learned so much about life from shadowing Atlas. He was around Atlas while the Staten Island native was training Michael Moorer, who in 1994 downed Evander Holyfield to snag the heavyweight championship.

“That was kind of a magical night,” he said, and he was in the mix when Moorer lost to George Foreman, and then re-gained a crown by defeating Axel Schulz. He appreciates the memory of being present during such heady times.

Then he played Patrick Leary on “Lights Out,” the FX show which became a cult fave right quick. That was in 2011, and he told us that executives back then were not as sharp in measuring ratings. They didn’t so much value DVRs then, and McCallany thinks that if the show were available and dropping today, it would have had a second season. But everything, they say, happens for a reason.

We meandered a bit, as one can on a podcast; I touched on how the sport is faced with head winds in seeking to gain market share. Hello, it’s two people hitting each other. But there is a need for organized prize fighting, because some folks are built for this. They would do it in warehouses and alleyways if we didn’t have structured pugilism.

The actor, who will be grand marshal of the International Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend, in Canastota, NY, said that he keeps up on current fights. He was there for Atlas’ new guy, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a light heavy champ, for his last bout in Philly. He was impressed by Gvozdyk’s total package — in skill and looks, mentality, the whole nine.

McCallany was asked about elements of acting and prizefighting which might overlap. You want to push yourself and learn from aces, from people who are above you on the ladder, he shared. He trains and spars, he said, and he will work with younger guns, because they push him. And he knows full-on how fortunate he is to be pushed to be his very best, by stellar craftsmen like David Fincher.

“When you surround yourself with people who are really talented, in whatever sphere of life, you are going to improve. And that’s I think the key to the whole thing, as long as you continue to grow, continue to improve, as long as you continue to grow a little bit better this year than you were last year, there will be a place for you.” Savvy stuff, solid words of wisdom from this Manhattan native.

The actor and fight guy recalled that he feels so privileged, because he’s been surrounded by those aces. Like in 2010, when he did an amateur fight at Gleason’s Gym, and was cornered by Brooklyn legend Mark Breland, an ex-champ who now trains WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Wilder on May 18 will show his goods at Barclays Center in Brooklyn against Dominic Breazeale, and McCallany calls himself a fan.

Then, I sought to try and get some storyline tidbits for the “Mindhunter” season two. He shared that they will traffic in the child murders which had Atlanta on edge in the 70s into the 80s. You can watch season one on Netflix, and rest assured you are supporting a solid being in McCallany. He told us that “people are fascinated by serial killers,” and we watch such fare to help us comprehend why some folks give in to their darkest impulses. And there is some overlap with boxing. It is foreign to most of us to put it all on the line in a ring, risking injury or worse.

Feel free to dive deeper into the chat, we hope and think the session is entertaining and thought provoking.

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