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Interview with David Lemieux’ Former Trainer Russ Anber

Quebec Scene Special: Exclusive

by Hans Olson

Since the age of 9, David Lemieux was trained by Russ Anber.

Among boxing circles in Quebec, it was assumed that Russ would guide David along to the pinnacle of the sport, and up until April this year, they were well on their way to doing so.

When David suffered his first career loss to Marco Antonio Rubio, everything was supposed to change. It appears everything has changed, even more than expected.

Late last week, it was announced that Russ Anber would no longer be training David Lemieux. I spoke to Russ on the phone Friday evening at length, and he cleared up a lot of misinformation that had been floating around since the news broke.

Thanks again to Russ for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with Boxing Insider. Russ, can you tell me what happened, and what led to the split between David and yourself?

Russ Anber: Well basically we’ve been trying to, I guess for lack of a better word, turn David around since the Rubio fight. I’ve been trying to get David to understand just what it means to compete at a world class level, what it means to be dedicated and to focus your entire being and your life into your sport. I don’t think that’s any different in any walk of life. The guy who becomes president of Chrysler Motors, or Ford, or heads a TV station, or anybody who succeeds in their respective walk of life—does it because they’re dedicated to their craft. They achieve success because they’re dedicated to gaining success, and becoming the best in their field. I don’t care what it is. Nobody reaches the pinnacle just by kind of laying around in their basement. And that was kind of the message we wanted to get out to him. After 5 months since the Rubio fight of going back and forth with this, of letting him know what my plan was, what I wanted him to do, him kind of agreeing to it but really not buying into it if you know what I mean…there just wasn’t that belief that that’s what he wanted to do. Basically what took me 5 months to realize after extinguishing all of my efforts was that David and I, while we may be very, perhaps similar in character, and while we’ve spent a lot of years together—-I mean, I’ve trained the kid since he was 9 years old—we are on a definite, different, philosophical level when it comes to boxing and to the way it should be done. From all aspects. Not only from training, but in the way a fighter’s career should be managed, the way his image should be presented, everything. We were just on a philosophically different level. At the end of the day, what took me 5 months to realize was that, try as I may…David believed that he’s got the recipe for what will be best for him, and so it only seemed fair that I afford him that opportunity to do it the way he wants to do it, and not waste our energy—both mine and his—of going through petty arguments and head-butting at the gym, and head-butting outside the gym and having a different view and arguing about it, you know that was just wasting energy. So I thought the best thing to do for his career, and for my mental sanity(laughing), was to just let him do things the way he wants to do them. So you essentially stepped away? It wasn’t like he fired you…you basically said “this is what’s going to be best for you” and took yourself out of the picture?

Russ Anber: Yes sir. Now Marc Ramsay is stepping in as David’s trainer from what I understand. Is that correct?

Russ Anber: Yes he is, and you know he’s doing it with my full blessing. There’s really no hard feelings here with David. I mean, I’m sorry…I would have loved to have continued that. It’s a great story, I’ve had the kid since was 9 years old and I certainly feel that I could’ve been the man for the job, but it’s not important what I’m feeling…it’s important what he feels. He thought his way was right, and it may very well be, and I think my way is right…and it may very well be. But we don’t know that. I told David and I assured him that he has my blessing. Marc is a good guy, Marc is a good friend of mine. I work with many of Marc’s fighters in the corner with him. We work closely together. This is not going to hinder our relationship, and I hope that little shock that David is going through right now might scare him straight if you will and maybe make Marc’s job that much easier. I’m certainly not closing my door to David or for that matter putting up any barriers for him in his boxing career. Do you think that Marc is going to do certain things to change what maybe David feels you weren’t doing, or do you view Marc maybe just helping David with what he wants to do?

Russ Anber: I don’t think anything actually other than the fact that David right now is at the point where he has to be the one dictating his discipline and not having to have that force fed down his throat by me or Marc Ramsay for that matter. Again, I’m not trying to peg David out as being completely out of control. He certainly is not, and nor has he ever been. He also hasn’t been at 100%. So we’re in that area where we need to improve that, and he has to improve that, and I don’t care if he’s with me, or Marc Ramsay, or anybody else…if he’s not ready to do that for himself, then there’s no coach that’s going to be be able to have any greater success until the fighter’s ready to accept his role and execute it. In some of the French Canadian press, they had mentioned that David was doing a lot of partying, a lot drinking…do you think something like that has contributed to what you feel is him not performing to the best of his abilities, or is that something that’s being overblown?

Russ Anber: Well, I’m really glad that you asked me about that Hans. I dispelled that in my opening remarks at my press conference today and I thought that whoever wrote that was really looking just to stir the shit if you ask me. It’s uncalled for, and almost slanderous to a point. I think it’s really unfair to have painted David with that brush. He’s got his certain faults. Of course, he’s a young kid. He’s 22 years old, he’s the #3 contender…he was the #1 contender in the world. Of course he will go out and he has girls. Girls walk to him, and come on…you can’t take that away from the kid. You can’t knock the kid for that, and if he goes to the club and has a drink, I hardly think that that’s reason to say he’s on partying 24 hours a day. I dispelled that, and I think that it’s completely wrong and whoever did it was just executing as far as I’m concerned, really irresponsible journalism. Good to know. It’s good to clear that up. If you’re to look at David and where his career is going—they’re talking about him fighting Alcine. I know in the past you said that you felt that maybe he was being moved too quickly into a title eliminator. Do you feel that he was being pulled into a few different directions by a few different people?

Russ Anber: It’s possible, it’s possible. I don’t know who those people would be and I wouldn’t be able to cite you any examples. I know that the people in my circle, David’s close friends that I’m in contact with, I don’t know that they were pulling him in that direction. I don’t know if there was somebody, or who it was. What I will tell you is after the Rubio fight it was my plan—-and I wasn’t going to waver from this—was that regardless of who David was going to fight in his next fight, even if it meant fighting your sister Hans (laughing), David was going to go to 4 months of training camp for this. When I say training camp, I mean he would have started the first 2 months training at home, and then move to a camp away from here for the next 2 months. A 4 month dedication to the sport, and I still believe that to this day. If they are talking about an Alcine fight, which I was never made aware of, my answer to anybody who proposed that fight whether it be Alcine or anybody would have been “okay, that’s fine. The fight’s going to happen? You’re proposing it to me today? The fight will happen in February.” Did you ever get the feeling that there was frustration on the promoter (Groupe Yvon Michel) or David’s point of view that he wasn’t back in the ring quickly, if not just to get the bad taste out of his mouth from the Rubio loss?

Russ Anber: I can’t say that I felt anything in that regard from David, and I’d have to say that Groupe Yvon Michel all along said that they would support whatever decision I made. As far as they were concerned, and what they told me, they respected what I was going to do. I really didn’t have a problem with that. How are you doing with all this? You personally. You’re working in the corner of Sergio Martinez. You’ve got Kevin Lavallee. A lot of good stuff going on…how does this affect you one way the other going forward as a trainer?

Russ Anber: It has nothing to do with me as a trainer. The only thing that I wanted, and I’m glad you knew about the Martinez thing…that’ll lead me to answer the question a little easier. In terms of going forward as a trainer and with my other fighters…when we went and we were organizing the Martinez training camp, I told Anthony, the guy that works with me, that I want to bring Kevin Lavallee to the training camp. And he said “well you know Russ, this is for David. Let’s just concentrate on David, let’s get this done with David. You know, Kevin’s young you can worry about him later, blah, blah blah.” And I said “Anthony, listen to me. Right now, what kind of a message would I be sending out if after 5 months of head-butting with David—that the fighters know about—the guys in the gym know that we’re head-butting…David’s in the gym, not in the gym, in the gym, not in the gym. What kind of message would I be sending, that as a reward for that, you get to go to the #3 pound for pound fighter in the world’s training camp after head-butting for me for 5 months?” And somebody like Kevin Lavallee who’s a workhorse, I mean this guy’s an animal when it comes to training, I tell him “you’re not coming to California.” I didn’t think that was the right message. So I told Anthony, “there’s no way we’re going if Kevin’s not coming.” So, we did bring Kevin and the proof of how fruitful that was was that 2 days after being in the Martinez camp, Martinez nicknamed Lavallee “Maquina”…Machine. Because of his work ethic. You know, that was important that Kevin realized that his hard work was going to pay off. And it was also important that fighters around me realize that regardless of your status—David’s the #3 contender in the world— if you’re not going to do things right…then I’m not going to be part of it. Is Kevin going to keep that nickname? Sounds like it fits him!

Russ Anber: I don’t know, maybe! It was really nice that Martinez gave that to him. It was quite an honor man, it was really nice. I’m going to focus on doing that, and I enjoyed my work with Martinez. Martinez sent me a message the other day about this, he heard about this, and he said that I’ll be part of his team now and in the future. He’s a great guy, a great, great man. It’s hard to find a classier guy than Sergio Martinez right now huh?

You couldn’t fill a phone booth with classy guys like that from this sport. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful guy, and I’ve been blessed that our paths crossed.

Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hansolson

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