Tyrone Spong discusses his combat journey, PED controversy, and future

Tyrone Spong (Photo by Pedro Gomes/Getty Images)
Tyrone Spong (Photo by Pedro Gomes/Getty Images) /

Tyrone Spong started as a championship kickboxer, fought twice in MMA, and is undefeated as a boxer. He talked to FanSided about his experiences. 

If you’re a professional athlete and you screw up, it will play out publicly, and judgment proceeds. If that screw up is a failed drug test for PEDs, then your name will take a massive hit, and the tag of drug cheat is a hard one to lose. The case of Tyrone Spong is no different.

Spong is a combat sports veteran who has competed professionally in kickboxing, MMA, and boxing. He has a total of 132 fights under his belt. Spong started as a championship kickboxer. ESPN cited his kickboxing record as 91-7-1, with 60 KOs. The actual figure is hard to nail down due to bad record-keeping early in the sport’s history.

Spong is 2-0 in MMA and holds a record of 14-0, 13 KOs in boxing. Last October, Spong received his big opportunity as a boxer. He was selected to fight undefeated and undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk as Usyk prepared to make his heavyweight debut. This was Spong’s shot at an elite boxer and a chance to prove to the boxing world that he’s a true contender.

Instead, Spong’s dream fight turned into a nightmare.

Days before his scheduled bout with Usyk, news broke that Spong tested positive for Clomiphene. Just like that, he was off the card and replaced at the last moment by Chazz Witherspoon. In boxing, Spong became an afterthought—just another up-and-coming boxer that tried to rig the system and got caught using PEDs as a shortcut.

That’s the way most would see it at first glance, but there was more to Spong’s story than just his PED positive test.

Spong, born in Suriname, spent most of his life in the Netherlands and now lives in Miami and started kickboxing while living in Amsterdam. Spong had a prolific kickboxing career, but he retired from the sport after suffering a severely fractured leg in his last fight in 2014 against Gokhan Saki.

Spong’s injury was gruesome and occurred as he delivered a kick to Saki’s shin with his right leg. After delivering the blow, his leg immediately snapped. Spong questioned if his time in combat sports was over, and he entered a deep depression.

“Of course, the moment that that injury happened, the moment I was laying on the floor, the only thing I thought was s**t, is this it? Is it done?” Spong told FanSided.

Spong added, “I became very depressed and just dangerous. This is the best way I can describe it, you know?  A little bit self-destructive as well. I think in that time to get over it, I probably needed to seek some help, you know. Maybe, but being a stubborn guy that I am I, I didn’t. But hey, we overcame it, you know. I did it on my own strength, and you know, it helped me grow a lot as well. I grew a lot from it and became even stronger than I then already was mentally and physically as well.”

Tyrone Spong offered his perspective on the most controversial moment of his career

Spong bounced back with two consecutive victories in the world of MMA. He trained with the famed Blackzilians MMA group out of Florida. He’s friends with many of the fighter he met there, including his good friend Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva, to name a few.

It was during Spong’s time with Blackzilians that he met world-renowned boxing trainer Pedro Diaz. Diaz was the longtime trainer of the Cuban National team before defecting.

“And then Pedro Diaz came into the Blackzilians to help some of the MMA guys with boxing,” said Spong. “And this is kinda the story of my life role. I started training with Pedro a little bit because he came in, and after a few rounds, he called Glenn [Robinson], and he was like, ‘yo, you have this one guy here in the gym, Tyrone Spong. He needs to box.’ I was doing my boxing training with him while I was doing kickboxing. And then after, you know, after the leg injury, I saw that as a sign. I was already at that time world champion in kickboxing. And I saw it as a sign to do something else.”

From their, Spong started boxing professionally in 2015 and compiled 14 consecutive victories in four years. That’s when the Usyk opportunity came into play. Before what would have been his biggest fight, Spong found out through the media that he tested positive for a PED.

“Nobody called me or my management, nothing,” said Spong. “I had to read this s**t on social media. Nobody informed me like, Hey, what went wrong or whatever.”

Reading the news of Spong’s failed drug test was enough for many boxing fans and pundits to dismiss him as just another cheat, but Spong’s case isn’t that simple.

Reporting from Boxingscene.com revealed that Spong passed a drug test administered by the Illinois State Athletic Commission on Sept. 16. He then failed two VADA tests on Sept. 22 and 26 but passed a third VADA test on Oct. 2.

He received two failed tests sandwiched in between two clean tests, which makes little sense. Regardless, Spong was pulled from the Usyk fight and replaced. He hasn’t fought since.

“The only thing I got was a warning,” revealed Spong. “I’m not going to call names. You know, I don’t want to burn any bridges or whatever, but I want to speak my piece and say the truth to the fans out there. And for all the media and the writers that don’t judge, if you don’t know the whole story. Like I got a letter that if I kept bashing them [VADA] and making them look bad, they would sue me, you know. Like, that’s how deep it went.”

Spong’s case isn’t the typical PED case. He has clean tests, including the last one from VADA, that lend credence to his honesty and failed tests from the most reputable drug testing sports non-profit organization on the planet. What do you believe? Was there a conspiracy? Were the tests tainted in error? Unfortunately, the truth is scrambled up in this mess.

The pandemic has kept Spong out of the ring, but he has been staying in shape in his home gym and training with friends Rashad Evans, Thiago Silva, Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik, Anthony Johnson, and Greg Hardy.

Spong wants to fight. He’s open to offers outside of boxing but still sees boxing as his primary focus. Damage has been done to his name, but enough time has passed and the circumstances of his controversy were convoluted. Spong has talent that has been noted from some of the best boxing trainers in the world including Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Roger Mayweather.

At 35 years old, Spong is running out of time, but he’s ready to give his all to cap off life in combat sport.

“We’re going to make the last part, the best part,” said Spong. “You know that’s my mindset.”

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