Boxing trainers are a strange breed. There is nothing in the world of sports to compare.
We mostly pay attention to them while they’re on the stage at a press conference, seated next to their fighters, telling us their guy is going to whip the other guy.
Or, we see them in those fight-promotional television and internet documentaries telling us their guy is going to whip the other guy.
Or, we see them during the fights, in the corner, trying to tell their guy HOW to whip the other guy. Now that’s the good stuff. This is where we the see the gamut of emotions, from calm and collected, to ape man crazy.
But how much do we know about these trainers? That’s what we’re going to try to find out in a new video series for RingTV.com called “Trainer’s Corner.”
In the first edition, we visit with one of the most eloquent and seasoned veterans of the corner, Hall of Famer Joe Goossen. He’s been working with fighters for 44 years. He started when he was just 16 years old. Goossen has been to the mountaintop and he’s trudged through the valleys. Check out his odyssey on the video.
No two trainers are alike, but they all have one thing in common. It’s an addiction.
Legendary Mexican trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain puts it this way, “You don’t know what I feel when one of my boxers is an amateur and wins the Golden Gloves, wins the district. I get him to the pros and he wins the world championship. I cannot describe the emotion. It’s an indescribable emotion. There is no money in the world that can repay you that joy.”
Maybe this is why they suffer through a seemingly impossible task.
A trainer is not just a coach. That’s probably the easiest part. He also must have the skills of a parent, psychiatrist, doctor, nutritionist, scheduler, strategist, philosopher, and physicist.
A physicist? Yes, they have to work through complicated equations. Here’s how Angelo Dundee described it, “I just put the reflexes in the proper direction.”
Here’s another example of a set of variable factors with which a trainer must deal – wrapping his fighter’s hands. Each fighter’s paws are different. How much padding is required for maximum power and effect balanced against how much padding is required for protection? Some fighters have tougher, stronger hands than others. On fight night, all this must be approved by the various boxing commissions. It’s a complex formula. And I have yet to meet a trainer with a PhD.
Trainers have no guaranteed pay day. They depend upon an agreement with the fighters with which they have invested, in most cases, years to get them into position to make it to the “promised land.” But what happens when a fighter is finally in position to cash in, but unilaterally decides there’s a better “answer”, as in, a better trainer out there? Well, the one who has been with him all those years is screwed, that’s what. It happens all the time.
On fight night, the promoters, managers, television folks, referees, judges, venders, ring announcers, ring girls, etc. all get paid. The commissions mandate it. But trainers, if you can believe it, are not covered under these rules. The trainer must wait for the fighter to write a check out of his purse. If that fighter loses, well, that can turn into a precarious situation. There might be a few “zeroes” missing from his check.
My personal favorite trainer’s role is that of philosopher. Cus D’Amato singularly defined the humanistic essence of what each fighter faces when the bell rings. He said, “The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponents, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.”
Yes, D’Amato’s words define the trainer’s role, to help his fighter overcome and conquer.
In “Trainer’s Corner” we will attempt to find out how these people got into such a risk-versus-reward business in the first place, learn about their particular methods and philosophies, and hear about their greatest disappointments and accomplishments.
For the boxing aficionado it should be a joy.
Video / Alan Massengale and Daniel Morales
Photo / Holly Stien-Getty Images
Alan Massengale is an Emmy award-winning sports caster, who has done hundreds broadcasts for boxing, his favorite sport. Follow him on Twitter @AlanMassengale1