By Jackie Kallen
Is Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood, CA the best gym in the country? I have spent a lot of time there, and from what I have seen over the years, the boxers who train there religiously seem to have an edge.
Maybe it’s Freddie Roach’s presence and the way he carefully oversees everything that goes on. Perhaps it’s the good blend of assistant trainers who help polish up the fighters they are in charge of. Or maybe it is the atmosphere, with guys like Manny Pacquaio, Amir Kahn, Vanes Martirosyan and Paulie M in the house. Add the up-and-comers like Shawn Porter, Michael Dallas and Jose Benavides and you have the Harvard of boxing gyms.
Wild Card reminds me of the early days of the Kronk Gym in Detroit. Only the toughest of the tough could hang there on a daily basis under the watchful eye of Emanuel Steward. The same can be said for this crowded, sweaty gym situated over a laundromat. There is magic in the air.
Jimmy Lange, a 154# jr. middleweight from Virginia, is finding out first-hand just what it’s like to mix it up in Freddie Roach’s talent-studded, old-school environment. With a fight coming up on September 10, Jimmy decided to head to the west coast to test his skills and up his game at the home that Pac Man helped build.
“I was pleasantly surprised how welcoming and helpful everyone has been,” said Lange today after finishing up an intense workout. “No one treated me like an outsider and no one acted like they had something to prove. We all share the same goal–to be the best at what we do.
“These are world-class boxers and champions, and everyone shows respect and concern for one another. It’s an honor and a pleasure working here.”
Not every boxer who has come to Wild Card has shared Jimmy’s attitude and confidence. Many a man has been humbled by the level and intensity of the sparring and the large array of name fighters. Some take a beating and never come back. Jimmy was comfortable from Day One, which is a testament to his mettle.
Jimmy has been fortunate enough to work with Freddie’s main trainer–Eric Brown–and is learning new things daily. Eric used to run my Gym (Galaxy Boxing in Detroit) and I know first-hand how dedicated he is.
“Jimmy works hard,” said Eric. “He will spar with anyone we put him in with and I can see a big improvement from the day he started here until now.”
During the weeks he’s been at Wild Card, Lange has sparred against guys bigger than him with undefeated records, and he has also worked with guys who have extreme speed and dazzling hand skills.
“This is a great experience for me,” he confided. “Everyone here in this gym has tremendous talent and excellent work ethics. There are no slackers here.”
There are a lot of boxers who are big fish in small ponds and beat up on everyone in their gym. I’d like to see how some of them would do if they climbed into the ring at Wild Card.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? After 42 professional bouts, Lange is hoping to sharpen his game, add some new weapons to his arsenal, and allow the magic of Wild Card to rub off on him.
The results will be evident on September 10.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen