Old School Training: Joel Diaz and Timothy Bradley Turn Back the Clock
By Joe Pietaro
The clock ticks away on the wall high above the front desk at the gym with nary an eye on it. Time is of the essence, as the old saying goes, but there is a group of people nearby that are only concerned with three-minute periods.
“There you go, Tim,” Joel Diaz yells while leaning on the apron of the boxing ring. “Keep it up.”
The veteran trainer has planned each and every session during this seven-week training camp for Timothy Bradley, who is facing the undefeated Jesse Vargas for the WBO Welterweight Interim title on Saturday, June 27. And now that they are in the stretch run, the intensity is turned up and the time frame has changed from mornings to evenings for a very specific reason.
“The fight (itself) will be at night, so we switch up the workouts to mimic that,” says Diaz. “And the sparring is up to a full 12 rounds.”
BACK TO BASICS
Diaz, 42, had a promising fighting career cut short due to a detached retina and has been able to become one of the most successful and respected trainers in the art of pugilism since having to hang up the gloves. He works with a number of fighters including his brothers Antonio and Julio, but Bradley is his prized pupil.
Over the years, Diaz has made some changes to what he has done with the former two-time WBC and WBO Light Welterweight and former WBO Welterweight champion because “there’s always something new in the sport.” But when it came down to it, they went back to what worked best in the past.
“Along the road, we lost some of that (old school training),” explains Diaz. “We needed to get back to the way we used to train…doing the basics.”
And by that, Diaz means what boxers have done for decades – the medicine ball, jumping rope and the sledgehammer/heavy tires. “That opens up your lungs,” he says with a smile. “It works on your endurance and also your shoulders.”
These are the types of exercises that Diaz performed when he was fighting and he knows what worked best for him and has been conveying that to his trainees. He likes to get a fighter ready between six and eight weeks out depending on a few different factors, one being if he has to drop weight or not.
“In that case, we’ll get to the gym early to do some cardio so there’s no pressure on him,” the Mexican-born Diaz says. “And then I’ll closely monitor the first 10 days of the full training camp to see if there’s any fatigue. In that case, we take it down a little.”
But there are instances where someone is in the second half of the training camp and needs some extra recovery time to keep on schedule. “With Bradley, he looked fatigued one Wednesday, so I gave him the next day off. He came back on Friday and looked really good and trained hard (through the rest of the camp.)”
BASIC TRAINING CAMP BREAKDOWN
Each case is particular, but Diaz follows a certain formula for the most part for his fighters, one that looks like this:
HEAVY DAYS – Monday, Wednesday, Friday (sparring, heavy bag, speed bag)
*Sparring – begin in Week 2 with four or five three-minute rounds with a 30-second rest in between each. In Week 3, six-to-eight rounds. At the Week 6 mark, 10 rounds and then 12 the last week with a full one-minute rest in between.
LIGHTER DAYS – Tuesday, Thursday (technical skills, sprinting, sand hills, track or mountain run)
*Focus on the hand mitts and correct the mistakes made during the sparring sessions, flexibility bag, double hand bag, bobbing and weaving.
Saturday (cardio, stretching, shadow boxing, defensive movements, hand-eye coordination)
*Six-to-eight-mile hike at 4,000 feet elevation
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
Diaz puts a lot of thought into the sparring sessions and uses them as to not only gain a physical advantage, but a psychological one, as well. He brings in three fighters and will switch them out after one or two rounds, making his pupil go up against a fresh man after pre-exhaustion has set in.
“So when I talk to him afterwards, I tell him that he just finished fighting three guys,” he says. “And on the night of the fight, you’ll only face one.”
The strategy behind this is to spar while tired and to be mentally ready to do so. “Now we’re training for the last half of the fight,” describes Diaz, who has seen Bradley go the distance in each of his last five bouts.
Two of those fights just happened to come against no other than Manny Pacquiao, with Bradley winning the WBO welterweight title in a controversial decision (June 9, 2012) and then losing it in a rematch two years later. So it would be a huge accomplishment for Bradley to win back the belt he once had.
And Diaz is just the guy to lead him to it.
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