Fight Like Sugar Goes 12 Rounds On His T-Shirt Line, Sugar Ray Robinson And The Best Round Ever

fight like sugar girls
Round 1: Everyone has a passion in life, and when you get to know people in this world it doesn't take much time to figure out what those passions are.

Simply put, Paul Navarro knows his shit. When it comes to the fight game, that being of the boxing or the mixed martial arts variety, the man is a connoisseur. It was a humbling experience when I reflect on it now, as I used to pride myself as really being knowledgeable in the sport of boxing in particular. It's the quickened tone, the slightly crazed look in his eye and the sense that he's been wanting to share his thoughts with someone who cared that got me.

I've known that feeling many times, and I recognized it immediately.

The culture connoisseur that is KJ Kearney sat down with Paul to discuss what Fight Like Sugar means to him, who the best "Sugar" is in boxing history and his progression from being a former wrestler at Stanford to now being a person of influence in the fight game. Oh, and just because you came by to read this, we're hooking you up.

Head over to the FLS Shop and get 20% off any tee in the store. Just use the coupon code "TSFJ" when checking out. Don't say we never did anything nice for you. Now, learn something and enjoy the Q&A. —ETSF

You Don't Know - Wide

Round 2: Just in case folks don't get the brand name, please explain to the people what "Fight Like Sugar" means to you?

Fight Like Sugar is all about trying to be the best. The greatest boxer to ever live is Sugar Ray Robinson. He symbolized greatness, which is why throughout boxing history fighters have tried to wear the "Sugar" mantle, from Sugar Ray Leonard to Sugar Shane Mosley. Sugar's symbol of fighting dominance is so powerful that even one MMA fighter has taken on the nickname, Sugar Rashad Evans. But whether it's boxing or wrestling, Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu, Fight Like Sugar is about working your ass off to be the best there is.

Round 3: How does this translate to your new line of tees?

The tees are for the fighter in all of us. If you're in the fight game, then a lot if the quotes and artwork on the tees may be familiar and are motivation to keep reaching for the top while expressing who you are. If you're not prizefighter, the tees give off that flash and brash that fight fans see in and love about combat sports.

Round 4: You're definitely all about the fight game. From being a former Division I wrestler to reading stacks on stacks of boxing books to sitting in the front row of major boxing/MMA fights, what drew you to falling in love with fighting?

Man, that could take hours to explain! The short answer is that combat sports changed my life. Wrestling, through my coach, taught me that the greatest, most impossible things can be accomplished when you embrace the grind. Win, lose or draw, the guys that get up the next morning and prepare for another war, they're going to make it. In or out of the ring/cage/mat, that mentality is what gets you ahead. Combat sports taught me that in a physical way school never did.

The longer I grinded away on the wrestling mat, the more I appreciated the insane physical feats of guys like Mike Tyson, Royce Grace, John Smith. These guys practiced very different sports, but each was devastatingly dominant. I worked harder than I ever had or have while I was wrestling — everything since has been easy — and I was just okay. I watched fighters like Tyson and later Grace and couldn't help but wonder how hard they had worked to be that good. To the present, every time I see someone step into the ring or the cage, I take my hat off to them. They've busted their ass just to get there and have some serious heart and courage to actually go through it. They deserve nothing but respect.

Round 5: Who is the best "Sugar" of all time?

This isn't even a question. Sugar Ray Robinson, born Walker Smith, is easily the greatest Sugar of all time. Robinson had it all: knockout power in both hands, a granite chin, stamina for days, a high ring IQ, and he could even fight going backwards. He's as perfect a fighter as there ever has been.

Round 6: Do you have a favorite round of all time? Why do you love it so much?

That's a really hard question! I guess the answer depends on what type of mood I'm in. If I've been watching a ton of action flicks with drawn-out bar fight scenes I get bored of the face-first style of fighting. At those moments I think my favorite round is probably the first round of the first fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. I've said it before, but on that night, I truly believe that version of Ali could have beaten any man to ever live. He was at the peak of his skills, confidence and reflexes. No heavyweight has ever moved more gracefully in the ring than Ali did on that night.

But, you know, if I spend too many 14-hour days locked up in an office building with a lot of corporate suits, then I look for something else. When that happens, I think Round 10 of Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo is probably my favorite round ever. The brutality of that round is matched only by the heart and grit of these two fighters. I remember watching it for the first time in total disbelief that so late in the fight these guys had the gas and balls to fight like that. Just incredible.

In MMA, my favorite is definitely Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin (Round 1) — no one has ever been as slick and as dominating against real competition as Silva was on that night. He's the closest MMA has ever had to an Ali or Roy Jones.

Round 7: How do you categorize your brand? That is to say is it "streetwear" or "athletic apparel" or what?

Hybrid. It's streetwear for the gym. The shirts are made of great material that can take a beating in a gym — I know, I've been taking them to wrestling practice and cross-fit classes for weeks. But, obviously, they're cool enough for everyday wear on the street.

Round 8: That's an interesting contrast to how streetwear is normally perceived. Most dudes are just trying to look fly in their tee — not protect themselves from body shots! [Laughs]

[Laughs] I get that. I wanted shirts with cool enough designs that you would want to wear them on the street but that wouldn't fall apart after two gym workouts. Mind you, these aren't Under Armour shirts or anything like that. We print on American Apparel shirts made in the USA. They are soft and durable. Best of both worlds.

Round 9: So obviously the "MMA" guy would be attracted to your brand, but how do you get the non-martial artist to be interested in your work? Or are you just focusing on your core demographic of fighters?

Good question. Since I started the brand, I've had in mind that I wanted to create shirts "for the fighter in all of us." I think for most people, whether they've stepped into a ring or not, they've had struggles in life that mimic a fight. Some shirts are more fighter-specific, like the "I AM MMA" shirt. But others are more about having a fighter's mentality, having the courage to stand up when it matters, like with the "Rise" shirt, or pride in who you are, like with the "Hasta Muerte" shirt.

FLS Basic Front -Wide

Round 10: I got you. So, what brands are you a fan of — MMA-related or not — and why do they appeal to you?

Well, the truth is not any. There are some companies that come out with a shirt here and there that I like, but as a whole, none. Probably the closest would CF Athletic. They do some good stuff. Under Armour just came out with a new line of shirts, "Roots of Fight," that are pretty cool, but at $40 a pop, they're out of the price range for most regular folks and fighters (on the rise), unless you're Canelo Alvarez, who is sponsored by Under Armour and has been spotted wearing the new line at media workouts.

Round 11: So you’re trying to fill that void — make fighting-inspired tees that won’t break the bank?

That’s the dream!

Round 12: So with that being said, in conclusion, where do you see your brand in five years?

Grinding away at it. This year we're going to have two lineups. The first came out in Winter 2012; the next will be Spring 2014. Five years down the line, hopefully we'll be doing four lineups a year — changing with the seasons. But even as we're shipping out shirts at a steady clip, we don't want to lose a sense of where we started. Never lose sight of that grind or die mindset, you know? Can't get comfortable, even when you are. I've been following the fight game long enough to know that a champ has to train twice as long to stay hard and hungry, because life gets too sweet at the top. So even five years down the line our brand has to keep working like it's a contender.

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