Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Corner (II)

Quick note: Your friendly neighborhood Scribe will be a part of a NBAToday.net Roundtable tomorrow. Hopefully, this will be second of three non-Scribe efforts you will see before the weekend arrives. Guess who feels giddy?

As the last piece for the Norman Einsteins where you got to read deeper perspectives from the interviewees, I thought you may appreciate this month's deleted scenes from "Know Your Corner". Good times, good times. Again, many thanks to Ashley Theophane for taking the time to share his insights.

Besides getting your body ready for the fight, much of training involves building a primary strategy against your opponent.
When you are training for a fight you have to get your body is supreme conditioning and building a strategy for a fight is as important. You have to focus on your own strengths but look at your opponent’s weaknesses and certain bad habits they have.
I would say it is more important to focus on what you will do in a fight but your strategy can always fail so you have to have plan B and C just in case.

Is there a point during training that you prepare for anything to go wrong? (Example; dealing with a cut that continues to bleed)
I have only had cuts in training but I have trained with some of the World’s best and none of them have done any training or prepared for a cut. Thinking of negative aspects is something we would try not to do. Your corner would just try to keep you focused on the job in hand if that happened but negative stuff is kept out of the build up as you just want to be thinking of positives and believing in yourself.

Could you describe your mentality during a bout as you are trying to concentrate on the opponent while your trainer gives instructions? Do you actually hear him shouting to you or are you too focused to hear him?
Different trainers work a corner differently. I have had Harry Keit, Francisco Guzman, Johnny Eames, Isola Akay, Lou Fosco and John Tiftek in my corner. They all have experience in big fights so what they say you would take in. If you don’t respect your trainer’s advice, he should not be in your corner.
When I go into a fight I do what I do, but if my tactics are not working, I will take on board what my corner tells me. Sometimes your trainer’s advice can be the difference between a win and a loss. George Benson was probably the best tactician of the last 100 years. He worked with some of the World’s best and read a fight like no other.

My mentality during a fight is focused on executing my strategy and looking at my opponents weaknesses and capitalizing on it.

Typically when a television camera shows a corner between rounds, the conversation is typically one-sided as the trainer and assistant (occasionally the doctor) are talking to the boxer. Have you ever found yourself wanting to engage back in order for him to understand what’s really going on in the ring?
Sometimes you want to, but you have 60 seconds and you want to relax and recuperate for the next round. Sometimes your corner might ask how you are, but there is not much time to have a conversation about tactics. The team would know what the plan is and they can see some things that you can’t, so you have to trust in their eyes.

Despite preparation leading to a bout, is there a fight in your career where truly felt that you wouldn’t have gotten through without your corner? What was it that they said or did that helped you forge through?
The fight that comes to mind is when I beat former World champion Demarus “Chop Chop” Corley. I had fought in London late June and dislocated my finger bone. So preparing for the fight with Corley was not ideal. I couldn’t use my right hand for five weeks and when I did I was in excruciating pain. I did 9 rounds sparring with World number one Dmitriy Salita and World number ten Francisco Figueroa. I broke down in one of the sessions due to the pain in my hand. I was in great shape and believed that I could win. The first two rounds I showed too much respect to Corley and I was apprehensive with my right hand, but Harry Keit and Francisco Guzman told me to show him no respect and gave me some great advice through the rounds. I ended up winning the fight and I owe a great deal to them for their great advice through the bout.

Much was made about Joe Santiago’s background prior to Miguel Cotto’s fight with Manny Pacquiao; being that he was never a fighter himself before becoming a trainer. From a fighter’s perspective, do you think someone of his background can help during the fight, despite the lack of in-ring experience?
If I am correct, the great trainer Eddie Futch was never a pro boxer, but is one of the most respected trainers of all time. (Scribe: Despite amateur success, Futch actually never fought professionally due to a heart murmur. However, he trained four of the five men that defeated Muhammad Ali) I would rather have a trainer who has been through what I have been through with training, losing weight and fightin,g but sometimes a trainer can learn through being in the gym anda,ssisting other trainers. I wouldn’t have hired him if I was Cotto but each to their own.

Piggybacking off the last question, can he have long-term success? If yes, what can help him along the way (especially as over time, trainers can gain enough trust to build a stable of fighters)?
Watching the fight. I think Cotto’s tactics where terrible. He did much better when he boxed Manny Pacquiao. When he traded he got tagged and eaten up. It will take time but if Joe Santiago is a good trainer, his stable with grow.

You’ve had tremendous successes in your career, but I can imagine that you’ve seen plenty of guys (maybe gals, too) who have hit a certain wall that impeded progress. Just as much as some trainers can make fighters, is it possible that the hard-luck guys are handled by the wrong corner men or does it all still come down to the fighter?
My career is well. I have beaten former World, English and African Champions along the way. There is still much more I can achieve. I am half way through my journey, so big fights inspire me. It has been a slow year boxing wise. Since I beat Demarcus Corley it has been hard to get fighters in the ring with me Stateside. My team has tried to get fights with Zab Judah, Juan Diaz, Carlos Quintana, and Victor Ortiz to no avail. Perseverance is the key.

I think it is all about the fighter. A trainer can add to a fighter’s game and advice him well but the fighter has to execute the plan and stay calm under pressure. Look at Jermain Taylor; he is a talented fighter but something is not there. He has always had a fitness problem and now it is all starting to take its toll. Some trainers can ruin a fighter, so it is a balance. The key is for there to be a relationship as the fighter needs to trust the trainer. If there is no trust, there is nothing.

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