By Al Alvir
Coaches get broken. Their hearts become more damaged than anyone may know. Years of promises gone awry. Some of those promises gon’ stray. Boxing, more than any other sport, has an aspect of loyalty – ironic of a one to one sport. And in no other endeavor does it get tested more.
The relationship formed between coaches and their fighters is not just about time spent together and bonds built, but it has a tangible effect on fighters’ skills and performance. Over time, trust is built between the coach and the fighter and the team, and the coach’s acumen for application fitting to each specific fighter shouldn’t ever be underestimated. The way a fighter needs to be spoken to, the drills a fighter needs more than others, the mistakes temporarily allowed only to him in order for him to learn better, are each small examples of what, when done well, is cultivated by trust.
Boxing is a science that simply needs attention to detail. It’s an individual sport in which each individual is autonomous and whose responsibility it lies on to follow the proper strategies and mechanics. Different coaches lend their strengths and resources, but a fighter’s attributes will never be held back at any place more than another UNLESS the opportunities are not given or one coach is just clueless. When you’re a person who moves from university to university, you fail at any of the detail needed to excel. You become a serial quitter. Gym hoppers carry that badge of dishonor. Bryan Lamont of Eastern Queens Boxing Club pointed out, “Doctors don’t hop from one Ivy league college to another to get different teachers’ takes…”
If Freddie Roach opened a Wild Card near your local competitive boxing gym, what would indicate that there’s better coaching or a better chance at the Wild Card? That’s the mentality of short-cutters and it’s based on a famous logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc. In other words, it’s a belief that because Manny Pacquiao went there and became a champion, the next person who goes there will become a champion. It’s absurd. It’s ignorant. It’s simply an unfair assessment. Boxing lends itself to track records and fight records that are often irrelevant to the levels of program quality. There are an array of more logical fallacies this train of stupidity falls on. Gym-hoppers are always the first to board that train.
Acquiring skills in boxing is not like crossing out things on a bucket list. Sure, a fighter can borrow tricks from an assortment of trainers, but historically this tactic has never – never – worked for a fighter to change teams. It has only ever worked when one coach didn’t afford his fighter opportunities or new challenges. Look at these boxers: Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Andre Ward. They’ve each had only one team since they started boxing. On the other hand, Mike Tyson may have made the worst mistake when he left his original team. He started losing when he became a coach hopper. Every fighter who has gym-hopped (not from a fall-out or lack of opportunity) hasn’t found success, rather a place to blame other than himself. The formula for good boxing will always come back to intelligence and fundamentals practiced hard. There is no other place to do this than home, the place where relationships and camaraderie has been developed and trust and loyalty nurtured. Like friendships, one doesn’t turn on his friends for a set of other friends who may or may not be better in whatever ways. What then would be the point of building relationships if you would abandon at a whim?
When a fighter switches teams, his foundation becomes weakened. He starts to do drills that negate each other. He ends up making mistakes that are worse than any mistake he had made before. His new coach will say something negative and make the fighter doubt things he had been taught years before. And if he can’t trust his coaching, no coach can trust his worth as a fighter.
Loyalty tells you who to trust. Loyalty tells you that you should definitely not turn pro. Loyalty keeps you away from the snake.
See, coaches get broken, and who cares. Fighters break themselves.
*The manipulation of fighters is well documented in movies, books, and documentaries about boxing, but the dirtiness didn’t quite hit home like it had when one locally known trainer told my fighter’s father that “a fighter should try out different gyms and see different coaches.” This coach was featured in a documentary in which he was snaked by a promoter who put in a “pro” coach to train his fighter. Imagine, he was portrayed as the good guy. I’m shaking my head.