by Al Alvir
The boxing business, like any other business nowadays, is appraised through social media and is essential in building. As a coach, my absolute instinct is to be private about everything. But social media is a tool for constant marketing and contact and, more importantly to me, a learning tool for my fighters. But I never, never aimed a message of attack at any one particular person unless I named him; if I notice a trend, however, I will probably note it whether or not one guy may have been a source of reproach. There has always been a method to my insanity, and I try to be precise with a specific intent. I recently posted a blurb status: “None of us aint shit. We’re in the grind just like everyone else in their respective work. We aint legends. The boxers don’t even make money from this shit. Most pros end up with jobs. Most coaches make shit money or failed as fighters. You see the same guys at the tournaments year in and year out, then people wanna hug you when you start winning. That’s fake shit. For one, don’t do that. Be humble and nice with everyone. The next person might know more than anyone you ever met. Popularity contests and ass-kissing for two, don’t do that.” I still mean it. It’s my typical vein of harshness, but I know that the most important asset for any of us is what is on the wall of our club: to “be humble.”
Boxing will have been the hardest undertaking that any serious boxer will ever set upon. Boxers know that this art is so difficult, so they develop superiority complexes of increasing levels. I’ve seen more elitist attitude and cockiness behind the scenes in boxing than I would have ever expected in such a blue-collar sport. As a child in boxing, I was oblivious to the snubs. Years later, I learned it was epidemic in boxing. As an old adult and manager of many boxers, I hope that boxers in my stable never seek an autograph and only take pictures with a famed boxing person to capture a moment other than “that time I was a groupie for some man who won’t even care who the fuck I am.” Conversely, I don’t want any young person to feel he can’t approach a boxer of mine in any situation. But I’ve learned that the sort of big-headedness that I speak about in boxing even happens in the Department of Sanitation (a pursuit in which they are arguably just “picking up garbage”); people “think who they are” without having real perspective of “who they actually are.” Through the difficult times in a boxers career, boxers form defense mechanisms that may actually be impregnable, not like their guards. Boxing will offer seeds of delusions to the tiniest of successes. Boxing, at its best, will force men to answer questions that normal people don’t have the violent luxury to ever know. As a studied coach, I know this, so my heart is with my guys – hundreds of whom I’ve built relationships with and only two of which I’ve learned to dislike before ties were broken. I have always said, “if I don’t like who you are, I don’t train you.” What I like is integrity.
I am the head coach of a small club. My gut believes we’re the best, but I am grounded enough to know that we are perpetually fledgling. I admire my fighters. And I learn their weaknesses. I find their skeletons all over the crevices of the gym, and I sometimes love my fighters despite it. Through the years I’m getting more and more skilled at learning guys’ expiration dates. I’ve had people steal money from me. I’ve had boxers promise me dues that I’ve never received. I’ve had boxers I believed-in, leave the club for a higher-profile gym – and, sadly, I become certain, only then, that they will never make it. See, boxers are especially selfish and take things for granted. It is almost a prerequisite. They have to care about their work solely, and they have to ignore some basic conditions – sometimes it’s pain, sometimes it’s loyalty. I don’t make any actual accounting for this, but our coaches have been thanked by fighters only a handful of times over our 5 years, yet each time it was like a jolt to my lungs and a pinch in my tear ducts.
EQBC was born the month Zurana Horton was killed in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I was a caseplanner at a non-for-profit agency working with families in drug-rehabilitation where Ms. Horton was registered. On October 21, 2010, Zurana Horton was killed shielding her children from gangbangers having a shootout just two blocks from my office. Because Ms. Horton was a client of my agency, the Administration for Children Services closed-down my job, and I was to be unemployed. During my work as a caseplanner, I was still training boxers, so I decided to put everything I had into what I loved most: boxing. I’ve always been inclined to teach and counsel, analyze and re-analyze. It just so happens that I was always infatuated with boxing. The little money I had, I put into boxing equipment and forming a business in which I had only 2 prospective members. I never borrowed a dollar, and I never applied for another job. I struggled. I always thought that I wasn’t going to do anything extraordinary, but boxing was the best chance I had at doing more. The irony of this all is that the 3 boys who were involved in the shootout were local boxers who trained out of a Brownsville club that was closed-down two years earlier. They each said that they wouldn’t have been gangbanging if they still had boxing.
Some guys have grand delusions that they will be millionaires because of boxing, yet they haven’t had one match. I always hope it’s true for their sake, but any promise is false without basis. Other guys walk into my club having boxed for several months, or even years, and say that loyalty is their thing. Each person has his story, so I cannot fairly judge without knowing it. But why do people come from other gyms, other trainers? Everything they do, I’m looking for expiration dates. I’m reading their cues. I’m advising for change. The sad thing is that borrowed guys are often broken even when they come from fine homes, fine coaches. From Timothy Bradley going to Teddy Atlas to Miguel Cotto serially hopping to Freddie Roach, these guys may have had honest falling-outs or broke their expiration dates just to put the same old soup in different packaging. I, personally, just don’t get it as a whole. Bryan Lamont said, “You gotta be an asshole to leave somebody who took you to high levels of success and when it’s time to make another big payday, you go to some millionaire coach to make him richer off of years of someone else’s hardwork. Free mittwork. Driving you around to spar at other gyms. Caring for you.” Maybe some fighters need big names to bolster their confidence. That indeed sounds broken to me. Materially, any decent coach is going to know what one famous fighter needs to do to beat another famous fighter. Does a gym-hopper fighter know the communication resume of given trainers? I don’t care how many champions any trainer has coached, but I’ll put some ad-hominid value in how many good fighters – champion or not – a trainer has actually produced from scratch. What does a Freddie Roach necessarily know that any low-level coach doesn’t? The answers are all hearsay or hypothesis. The fact is that any trainer worth the sodium in his blood will produce skillful, knowledgeable fighters and will pay attention to detail. Do you know a trainer’s I.Q? Do you know how much experience a trainer has retained over the experiences he has neglected? Do you know what a trainer has been through? Do you know his value, his integrity? Do you know how much heart and thought he will invest?
There’s something romantic about this thankless job. Good thing none of us ain’t shit.
Still, I will never rest my laurels there.