Behind every great fighter there is an equally great trainer!

By Coach Willis - 05/11/2023 - No comments

“Sit down, son. No one will ever forget what you did here today” – Eddie Futch

It is without question that a trainer can have a tremendous impact on the way his fighter performs. A great trainer can be the difference between his fighter winning and losing. Whilst it is without doubt the fighter giving and taking the punches, the trainer is there throwing every single punch along with his fighter. It is the fighter’s responsibility to get the job done but he would not be able to get this job done without his trainers guidance each step of the way.

In a world were there are an increasing number of sports it is hard to conceive a closer relationship than fighter and trainer. A great trainer is almost like a father to his fighter. During training camp, the union of fighter and trainer can last from anything from 8 to 12 weeks. Throughout this time a trainer eats sleeps and lives with his fighter. He’s there when the fighter’s happy he’s there when the fighter’s sad, it is also important for a trainer to realize what makes his trainer tick. This close relationship is what makes the marriage of fighter and trainer like no other.

A trainer has many roles other than teaching his fighter such as mentor, motivator, friend, and disciplinarian, all these attributes are vital in ensuring the trainer gets the best out of his fighter come fight night. A trainer must instil confidence into their fighter, preparing them mentally for the battle ahead, and removing any doubts that may arise entirely from their fighters mind. The trainer is the person that knows his fighter best; the trainer must know when his fighter’s fitness is at its optimum level and when he’s at his peak. They have to be able to keep their fighter going, regardless of how worn down and exhausted their feeling. On the other hand they must know when their fighter has had enough, and must understand when the fighter has reached their limit.

Two great examples of these opposites is the great Angelo Dundee sending out Muhammed Ali virtually blind in his Heavyweight Championship fight against Sonny Liston, Ali who had asked to have his gloves cut off, was sent back out, with his eyesight clearly diminished. Dundee refused to cut the gloves off yelling “ cut the bs, were not quitting now, get out there and run” knowing that Ali was getting the better of Liston. This decision turned out to be vital, a new star was born and Ali was crowned champion just a few rounds later. Dundee remained cool, without this there may not have been a Muhammed Ali. In stark contrast one of the greatest trainers ever, Eddie Futch knew when it was time for his fighter Joe Fraizer to stop, uttering the now famous words, “Sit down, son. No one will ever forget what you did here today”. This was at the end of the 14th round of the Thrillia in Manilla where Fraizer and Ali fought to near death, it was Futch’s decision to pull out Fraizer with just one round left as he knew his fighter had given his all, this decision may have even saved Fraizer’s life. It is decisions like this that make’s a trainer’s job invaluable.

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Freddie Roach, who is argubably the best trainer in the world at present is a great example of what a great trainer can do for a fighter. Just ask Manny Pacquiao, who after a few early career defeats and accusations of being one dimensional, has been transformed into the current pound for pound king. It is Roach who must be credited with these great feats, whilst it is palpable that these two fighters had tremendous skill to begin with, it is Roach who has honed these skills to a level where the results speak for themselves.

Another classic example of how a great trainer can help a fighter is brother Nazim Richardson, Nazim is great in the sense that not only can he create a game-plan, but he is the master at ensuring his fighter sticks to this game plan, coming up with a sound strategy is only half the battle. Bernard Hopkins coming off a  loss to Joe Calzaghe, in which Richardson was not the head trainer, faced Kelly Pavlik and was a big underdog. Hopkins with brother Naz back in his corner executed his game-plan to perfection and took Pavlik to school, to nursery in fact. Bernard’s greatest performance since defeating Trinidad was helped tremendously by the sound advice of Nazim Richardson. Shane Mosley will vouch for the impact Richardson can have, Mosley coming off his lacklustre performance against human punch bag Ricardo Mayorga, went to camp with Richardson. This resulted in a reinvigorated Mosley knocking out the seemingly indestructible Antonio Margarito; this again goes to show the impact a great trainer can have on a fighter.

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Now don’t get me wrong the marriage of great trainer and great fighter does not always work, just ask Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Ricky Hatton. Mayweather Sr. is a man responsible for crafting the skills of his son Floyd Mayweather Jr from a young age, who was arguably the most gifted fighter of this generation and Hatton was a four time two weight world champion. The two parted ways after just two fights, after a promising start, the relationship concluded with Ricky being dangerously knocked out at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, a lot of fingers were pointed in the direction of Floyd Mayweather, and questions were raised regarding his methods. This just goes to show that this combination does not always succeed, and there are many factors that determine the perfect relationship. Equally important in achieving the best results is for both fighter and trainer to be comfortable with each other, it is difficult to get the real bond of fighter and trainer in such a short space of time as was clearly evident with Mayweather and Hatton.

There are numerous examples such as the one above, I’m sure you could think of several where it does not quite work out as expected but what can not be argued is the pivotal role a trainer plays in determining a fighter’s success.

There is a well known saying that behind every great man there is a great woman, well if this is the case it must be said that behind every great fighter there is an equally great trainer.