By: Sean Crose
The list appears to be almost endless. Boxing and MMA gyms throughout the country have closed their doors due to health concerns regarding the feared Corona Virus. Cities and states have shut down all businesses that don’t solely cater to the basic mechanics of a functioning society, and gyms don’t fit the criteria needed to stay open.
“Effective midnight tonight,” Los Angeles based Fortune Gym posted on its Instagram account Monday, “all gyms and fitness centers have been ordered closed in LA.”
“With everyone’s health the priority,” posted Lawndale’s Combinations Boxing Academy, “and as per local health advisories we will be closed this week, March 15-22.”
“It is with a heavy heart,” Women’s World of Boxing stated, “that to prevent further spread of COVID-19, as an act of solidarity with our greater NYC community, Women’s World of Boxing will close as of today, March 15th and expect to be closed until at least March 31st.”
Some gyms have taken to adapting to this less than optimal situation, aiming to keep business going while maintaining client and employee safety. New York’s Church Street Gym has offered a very contemporary solution to the issue of mass quarantine.
“We will be LIVE STREAMING on Instagram your favorite classes taught by our most popular trainers,” the Gym has posted on its site. “If you can’t come to us, we’re coming for you!”
In the spirit of turning lemons into lemonade, Church Street Gym has decided to do a bit of self-promotion by way of free online samples.
“Gym membership,” the statement reads, “is NOT required to view and follow along with these workouts.”
Brooklyn’s famed Gleason’s Gym has gotten creative, as well, by posting the following:
“The first option is to have one of our Gleason’s trainers come train you at your home or location of your choice.
($150/50 minutes paid in advance)
2. The second option is having our trainer train you remotely through Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc.”
($100/50 minutes paid in advance)”
There’s a chance that none of the creativity provided by some notable gyms will take the sting away from the financial hornet that is the Corona Virus. Smaller, less well known gyms might fare even worse. The entire sport appears to be on hold for the foreseeable future, which means everyone involved in the business has been – like much of society – left in a kind of no man’s land.
By: Marley Malenfant
A phone call to a newspaper editor is all it took for a young Detroit native to work with some of boxing’s most brilliant minds and notorious businessmen.
John Lepak, 16 at the time, called Detroit Free Press editor George Puscus, boldly asking for an introduction to the industry.
Puscus granted Lepak three phone numbers—Kronk Gym trainer Emanuel Steward, promoters Don King and Bill Kozerski.
Puscus warned him that contacting Steward wouldn’t be easy.
Undiscouraged, Lepak made his calls but was ignored by Steward and King.
He made one last call to the name he was unfamiliar with, Kozerski. Lepak was then able to charm the veteran promoter.
He apprenticed under Kozerski. One of his earliest gigs was to walk the B-side fighters under Kozerski’s Fight Night promotions during less viewed fight programs like USA Tuesday Night Fights and ESPN Friday Night Fights.
This led Lepak to become a trainee in the original Kronk Gym. While fighting pro wasn’t his forte, Lepak’s Kronk Gym experiences ushered him to becoming a director of operations for the gym, assisting the promotions team, running Steward’s personal affairs and a lifetime of stories in the business. He said he is no longer a fan of the sport but spends time chronicling stories about the years he’s spent in Kronk Gym and the relationships he’s made in the business.
MM: What was growing up in Detroit during that time?
JL: Growing up in Detroit back then was… night and day to what it was today. Back then, Detroit was always in contention for being the murder capital of the world. [These were] different times. You had some very notorious street legends if you will, back then. You had this myth that the media created like this “White Boy Rick” story. You had guys like “Maserati Rick.” They reported that he was a bodyguard for Tommy Hearns and that’s not true. He was a member of the entourage at times but you know uhh… Rick was that guy wearing $2,000 suits back in the ‘80s. It was crazy, it was just different times and I was a kid. I wasn’t really around all of this then. A lot of these stories were passed on to me by a lot of those directly involved. For example, and not to say Rick by name, but he was very close to one of my mentors [Kozerski]. When Bill got involved with Kronk, he was a business manager. He was originally a photographer. He took the first press photo of Thomas Hearns. When it was presented to Bill for the opportunity to become the promoter for the Kronk team and also all the financial liabilities and risk that came with that, Bill took that on. When the late Mike Ilitch helped finance the fights and get things moving—on Monday when they’d calculate the losses for building up all of the young guys at the Little Caesars fight series, Bill would have to go out and cover these losses and we’ll just say it was brown paper bag money from the underground economy that would keep things floating.
MM: When did you know you wanted to get involved with boxing?
JL: I wanted to box. I was intrigued by the sport and the business. Let me back it up, I was in seventh grade, and I actually told—and this is how I got my first interaction with some of Tyson’s people—I told my mom I was staying with my dad, I told my dad I was staying with my mom this weekend. I caught a Greyhound bus. Went to Atlantic City. [I] went to the Tyson-Biggs fight, got a poster, [and] found out who won hanging out on the boardwalk. I’m too young to get a ticket. I didn’t have any money like that or nothing. And I fucking came back to Detroit. Made it back in time. Nobody even knew I was gone. That was my first little adventure into boxing. That’s how I got cool with Mario Costa who owns the Ringside Lounge in Jersey City. Fast forward to… about the ninth grade, I decided I’m getting into this fight game. Some way, shape or form, I’m getting in. I was bit by the fucking bug. And so I called George Puscus, he was the Detroit News writer at the time and this was far pre-internet. He was the big boxing writer. I said, “I want to be in the boxing business.” And he says, “OK, Kid. What’s your story?” So I told him and he’s like, “Well, getting through Emanuel is difficult.”
Well naturally, I called Don King first. I talked to his wife. She was a very kind woman but I never heard back from Don. Not till years later. Years later, I did a lot of back-and-forth with Don. I worked with his right-hand man Sterling McPherson. Emanuel knew who I was but I wasn’t really on his radar yet. He noticed me but back then it was still…you’re talking Hearns-Leonard 2 time frame. So, there’s still some money rolling in, there’s still some action and nobody is fucking letting anyone through that door because god forbid you come in and take a couple of crumbs off of someone else’s table. A lot of people were hating and blocking you back in those days. So the last guy I call is Bill Kozerski and I didn’t know who he was. Still to this day a lot of people don’t know who is but he’s one of the best damn promoters in the history of this sport.
MM: What was the culture in Kronk Gym during your time there?
JL: I was in this unique position where Bill knew I was cool and I’m still a fan of Emanuel. [I was] still in awe of Emanuel, he could do no wrong. And, not to get into a lot of things, but they fell out financially. As did a lot of people in that business. And Bill kind of hip me to some things years later. But that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to have my Kronk jacket. I believed in the Kronk comeback. But I was still able to go and work for Bill. And by this time I started to take on a little more tasks here and there. I’m talking go-for shit. I’m going to the airport to go pickup John Davimos, Michael Moore’s manager. I’m coordinating the weigh-in. But I’m learning more about the business and because I’m still training in the gym, the fighters know me. So now I’m in this unique position. I’m the middle man for the fighters and the promoters and the managers. Since the fighters like me, I’m one of them but at the same time, I got my suit on and I’m going in the back office in the account room and I can get business done. I can convey or relay certain messages or things that are going on that these guys may have trouble doing.
MM: I saw your [boxing] record (1-0). Did you never want to have a career as a pro fighter?
JL: No. [laughs] My glory stories were in the gym. Like, sparring Mark Breland, or Marlon Thomas, you know guys like that. It was great. It was priceless. But my calling was the business. I stayed working with Emanuel. He convinced me to have one pro fight, which I’m glad he did. He’s like, “You gotta go get it out your system.” ‘Cause I already quit. He was like, “Go back. Get in shape. Just go knock some motherfucker out so you can go put a picture on your wall and nobody can ever take that from you.”
But my calling was the business. I already knew. Emanuel said, “I’m a teach you how to train and I’m a teach you this business.”
And I had Bill teaching me on the other side, the promotional business. Now Walter Smith would, we would always joke about this, he’d say, “Baby, if we could ever just get some money, people come down here and watch you shadow box, we’d all get a million dollars.”
I could move. They nicknamed me “smooth.” I could fucking move. I could move like $2,000,000 in that ring. But to put it all together, that just wasn’t my thing. I don’t bullshit. I tell people ‘I was one percent of the fucking talent of the guys I trained with.’ So I would have only went so far.
MM: How did you earn Emanuel Steward’s trust?
JL: When I was there, there was no one there. No one. Everyone had left. Emanuel was on the early stages of a very difficult financial time for him. And I had a business background. I had been working for my dad since I was a kid. So I knew how to run an office. I knew how to manage an office. And you know trust… growing up around the men I was raised under, if you weren’t to be trusted, you’d be in a ditch somewhere. And Lahney Perry, Mrs. Lahney, she brought me in the office one day at Emanuel’s house [He had disclosed some things]. Mrs. Lhaney was like, “Look, I can’t do this anymore. It’s too stressful. I can’t deal with it. I understand you’re excited. You think this is great. But this isn’t all that you think it is. And you’re gonna have to be willing to go sometimes weeks without money. It’s tough right now.” And I didn’t care. I was in. And she taught me the system that Emanuel used in his office. I became his, I guess you could say office manager so to speak. Because I was handling [everything]. It wasn’t a 9-5. It was a 24/7, 365. I ended up basically moving in with Emanuel. And it first Emanuel may have been testing me. He knew I was still cool with Bill. I’m not saying he was jealous of Bill but Bill was successful. Bill was promoting Michael Moore who was now the undisputed belt holder in the heavyweight division. Well, that was Emanuel’s fighter. But Emanuel didn’t have him anymore. We’re at this point we’re at the Laquinta Suites in Las Vegas training Jeff Fenech and ain’t nobody there.
It’s me and Emanuel Steward. This is a true story. But Emanuel is like, “Come on, let’s go make some money.”
We walk over to this little bullshit-ass casino. Play blackjack and win a few hands. Walk over to Ruth Chris Steak House across from the old Top Rank offices and have us a nice steak dinner, a couple glasses of wine.
I listen to Emanuel hold court telling stories. He’s telling me all these legendary tales. He was telling me about strategies and things that went into certain fights.
So, I was nothing more than a tiny spoke in a wheel. In the big fucking wheel of the Kronk organization with Emanuel for that matter. But I was there when no one else was. So I’m a young, excited, ambitious kid. And I’m the only one there? I was a sponge! I soaked it all up.
MM: How did you transition in the promotional side of the business?
JL: Emanuel wanted to get back to promoting some shows because there was no Kronk team left. [He] never got back to having the big Kronk team again because he lacked the promotional power. And that is a credit to Bill Kozerski because without a good promoter, you ain’t building no product. There was several fights you would see “The return of Kronk! The return of Kronk!”
It’s one fight. You don’t hear shit for another year. Bill kept rolling. Bill was building Bronco McKart, Derrick Jefferson, Chris Byrd who eventually became Heavyweight champion after Michael Moore became Heavyweight Champion. Bill’s program kept rolling. Kronk… let’s be honest, after that breakup of what they call the class of ‘88, whatever came out of that gym again? It was a real Detroit born-and-bred product. So we’re getting ready to start what Emanuel called “Kronk 2.” And times were lean. We had Dannell Nicholson, who was probably the biggest name we had, who was being banked rolled by some real heavy hitters down in Chicago. And then we had Michael Clark who was a very talented lightweight at the time. And just a couple of other young guys. That was it. The gym was empty. We did a couple of small shows that were financial disasters. It was frustrating, I remember seeing Emanuel. Because at the time he didn’t like that title “Hired gun.”
I’m just speaking from my own viewpoint on this. But you go from being the man—Thomas Hearns’ trainer to all these big-time fights to Kronk dynasty—and then they’re branding you as the hired gun. I don’t care if you are working for [Oscar] De La Hoya or this guy and Chavez and Lennox [Lewis], [Evander] Holyfield. His love and his passion [are] what he built with Kronk Gym. So that’s where he was always happiest. At least from what I saw. If there was a title to this, I’d tell you to name it this. There is no barrier of entry to the boxing business. And that’s what makes it the greatest fucking thing in the world… but also the worst thing in the world. ‘Cause look, here I am, a fucking 16-year-old kid. I call a newspaper writer, and the next thing you know I’m working for Bill Kozerski and Emanuel Steward. What sets of qualifications did I have to do the shit that I did? But then at the same time, that also allows some moron to go watch some Youtube videos, buy him a pair of pads and some pool noodles and go to the gym and train some kid. Because that kid’s life is in his hands!
MM: I did a story a while back on Antonio Gates [entering the promotional business]. He played football for the Chargers and he’s from Detroit. What do you think of these guys trying to get into the game now that want to build gyms or may want to promote?
JL: [Laughs] I’m going to start with the best advice anyone ever given me in my life. Tom Vacca, the great matchmaker said, “You’d be better off, kid, buying a ringside ticket and a flight and a hotel room to every fight you ever dreamed of going to in your life, and you’ll come out ahead financially.”
So, Antonio Gates, I know for a fact, it wasn’t like he came up with this idea he was talked into this idea. Just like him and a series of people before and even after him, as this investor that buys into the idea. He’s going to be the next big thing. See, nobody ever holds these interviews accountable. And that’s the thing that frustrates me. After the collapse, let’s go back and talk to them. What happened? Why didn’t you stay in the business? How was your experience in the fight business, you want to share that? So why don’t they talk about the people you worked with that got you into this deal to begin with? Let’s see what type of things you have to say about those people now.
See, no one ever does the follow up. The story goes away and then it’s the next new thing to come along. Antonio gates—I know this for a fact—those fights lost a substantial amount of money. And I know that from the inside. My friend was a two-term commissioner. I still talk to Bronco who’s a commissioner now. I’ll tell you what Bronco said to me, and I don’t think Bronco will mind me repeating it and I won’t use the name of who he said it to, but he said this to one of the local players in the fight business. He said, “I won’t get off my fucking couch to come downtown on a Friday night to see your fights.”
Why? Why, when the A-side blows out the B-side? The A-side is basically forced to sell tickets to be on the show. The majority are mismatch blowouts. Again, in the last 15 years, name me a fighter who’s come out of a program here that’s done shit? You can’t say Tony Harrison because he went with PBC. He went with Al Haymon. K9 [Cornelius Brundage]? No. K9 because of “The Contender” and he left Detroit, he did his thing. Who else? Vernon Paris? Vernon Paris is a prime example of a young fighter or a young prospect who had some talent and, who was built upon these shows fighting a very weak, B-side opposition. He fought Zab Judah and instead of beating Zab, he gave Zab his seventh birth or eighth life in the fight game. And Zab is my man. Zab is one of the few guys I talk to on the daily. I talk to Zab at least once a week. But it’s a fucking joke. I don’t follow boxing in Detroit like I used to. No knock against these young guys. I just don’t see where this is going when you got a guy who’s 39-0 in Detroit but he’s 0-9 on the road. And maybe that’s an extreme but there’s some reality to what I just said.
MM: I saw you said the other day, guys in Hip-Hop, besides J. Prince, who else has done anything with this?
JL: Oh man, they all wanted to be players. And J. is my man. Like J. and I always got along great. Antonio Lenoard was a good, good guy to me. You know J., and again this is just talking about certain circles that you walk in, a lot of people get into this petty gossip bullshit I’ve experienced a lot in boxing, especially in Detroit… I’ve had people say things about me and I never met the person. But I remember when Winky [Wright] beat Sugar Shane [Mosley]. But it was just J.’s booth and Winky’s booth in the back corner of this club and J. welcomed me in this circle. And back then, if you knew J., like… you weren’t getting close to them. J. always showed me so much respect. J. was a gentleman amongst gentlemen. Another man of high integrity. And him and Antonio were two special people to me as far as who I’ve met in my travels in boxing.
MM: You write a blog documenting your time in the Kronk gym called the “Kronk Chronicles.” I read the story about your time working the Tyson-Lewis promo in Memphis and how hard that was. Do you plan on writing a book?
JL: Umm… it is kind of in the works. Here’s the thing. Humbly speaking, who the fuck am I to write a book? Like what kind of stories do I got? In the business, I was a tiny spoke in a mighty wheel. I just played my part. As far as my experiences, I’m just a gatekeeper to some great tales. Nothing more. My best friend Darryl and I, we tinkered on the idea for a long time. I’ve had a couple of documentary deals presented to me based on the Kronk Chronicles. But to go into the Kronk story, I mean please who am I? I was there for a couple of years out of the entire time frame of that great dynasty. But you gotta be willing to go to the dark places and not a lot of people are willing to go there because they want to protect the shiny gold. But I’m sorry, you gotta be able to go to those dark places and that’s why a lot of my writing hardcore places. I had talked about that but I backed out. I had two deals. One was an ESPN 30 For 30 and another was a company overseas. Darryl and I are creating a concept. We’re not trying to air out anyone’s personal business. There [are] just certain things you keep close and you take them to the grave. It is what it is. But we’re trying to find a platform to talk life and boxing, and how it interacts. Right now we’re kicking around the notes and then the concept of maybe putting a podcast together. Bringing on people like Shannon Briggs and other interesting people we’ve met in our travels. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a lot of interest in the new school of boxing that’s happening that’s being covered enough. I mean my god, there’s a 1,001 Twitter reporters right now. That ain’t me. But we’re trying to piece it together. I got to find that place where I’m comfortable to go there.
By: Hans Themistode
Fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr, Manny Pacquiao or even “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali became got to their position with God given talent and hard work. One of the most important and obvious factors in making them who they are, is the gyms that they were associated with.
Today, both fighters and trainers choose the best of the best in terms of boxing facilities. Mendez and Gleason’s gym, which are located in New York, are world renowned. The Mayweather boxing club which has made its home in Las Vegas, Nevada, has played host to many former and current champions.
In the Lawndale section of Carson California, lies a newly opened gym. One that has already garnered plenty of attention from both casual individuals who are looking to stay in shape, as well as championship level boxers.
Photo Credit: Lucas Noonan
Welcome, to Combinations Academy.
The facility itself is a spacious and gorgeous one. It is stocked with the typical amenities that are associated with a boxing gym. Several rings, plenty of punching bags, treadmills and even a sauna can be found inside the facility.
Although these resources are top notch, they can be found at your local boxing gym virtually anywhere. What makes this gym different however, is the sort of teaching provided by Marvin Somodio.
Somodio isn’t your typical trainer. He has worked closely with eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao and his hall of fame trainer, Freddie Roach. He hasn’t just spent time on the outside looking in, Somodio has also paid his dues in the ring as well.
Photo Credit: Lucas Noonan
“When I was in high school, I was maybe 15 years old, a friend of mines invited me to the gym to watch his training,” recalled Somodio as he reminisced about his start in boxing many years ago. “I liked it so much that I ended up getting into my first amateur fight the following week. After some hard work I made it on the national team.”
Although he found success as an amateur it didn’t take long for Somodio to realize that becoming a full time boxer was not in the cards for him.
“Soon after my amateur days I turned pro. I won my first two fights by knockout but in my third fight I almost got knockout out,” said Somodio while laughing. “I learned my lesson.”
Becoming a professional boxer didn’t turn out quite how he wanted it to but it was a blessing in disguise. Somodio turned his attention to the training aspect of boxing. It was at that point where he would meet two men that he would forever be linked to.
“I used to work at a boxing gym in the Philippines. Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach came to our gym to prepare for Miguel Cotto and that was the first time that I met them. Freddie asked me to become an assistant trainer for him. I agreed and we had a very good relationship.”
Even the most successful of relationships often times don’t last. In the case of Marvin Somodio and Freddie Roach it was simply bad timing.
“We all have priorities in life and I have my family now,” said Somodio as he explained his falling out with Roach. “I was spending too much time at the gym. I have kids and I wanted to balance my schedule. I just needed to take a break to spend more time with my family. Roach understood completely and I am always welcomed with open arms if I go back to Freddie.
A return to Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao could lead to plenty of success in the ring, but it could also lead to being overlooked. Through no fault of his own, Roach casts an undeniable shadow wherever he goes. He has helped guide Pacquiao and several other elite level fighters to championships. The love between Somodio and Roach will always be there, but he wanted to set his own path, which led to him opening up the Combination Boxing Academy.
“The idea to open a gym came from a friend. He wanted us to open up a gym together. At the same time I wanted to see if it was going to work for me and see if I can be a great trainer. The gym is opened to everyone. I teach classes from beginners to elite level fighters.”
Amongst those elite level fighters are current WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, former WBC Super Middleweight champion David Benavidez and current WBC Welterweight belt holder Shawn Porter. The latter two names have spent time recently in Somodio’s gym preparing for their respective title fights. Benavidez will be challenging Anthony Dirrell for his WBC strap while Porter will be looking to unify titles with Errol Spence Jr.
Training in the same gym has seemingly helped both fighters as they have recently sparred together in the ring. Somodio won’t break the unwritten rules of speaking on sparring sessions but he did give his take on what he witnessed.
“They are both great fighters and the sparring session that they had was very competitive. They pushed each other to the limit.”
The Combination Boxing Academy is receiving a ton of attention. Although Somodio has been around the sport for years, he is still as motivated as ever to continue his hard work. For Somodio, his goals stretch far beyond just the boxing ring.
“My main goal is to produce world champions. I simply want to share my knowledge about boxing. It is a great sport. It is not about just hitting each other. It is an art. Boxing brings people of all cultures together. The reason why the gym is called Combination Boxing is because through boxing people and nations come together.”
By: Bryant Romero
Well respected trainer and former professional boxer Simon Bakinde is now 17 years since he left his native France and now living in New York and training professional prize fighters at the Mendez Gym in Manhattan, while also guiding the careers and managing a couple of prospects he’s looking to develop as world champions. Simon has come a long way from the young fighter he used to be who was looking for an opportunity when he first came to America, to now managing and training fighters out of New York. Simon was an up and coming Cruiserweight prospect looking for glory when he first stepped foot in America; however his opportunity to make it big here never came, and he instead found his calling as a trainer. Boxinginsider recently caught with Simon as he reflected on his past life in France and how he got to this point.
“The year I dropped out of college, I was wondering what I was going to do in the future,” Simon said.
“I realized that I didn’t want to be in the office all day long. I love physical activities, training, fitness and other things, so I said ‘I got to do something,’ but I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
While still contemplating on what he wanted to do for his future, Simon turned to his uncle for some guidance. His uncle insisted that he get into a sport, which Simon did, so he tried soccer for awhile, but he hated the team aspect of it.
“I hated losing in soccer because the teamwork situation was a little of a problem for me. When we lost I hated the fact that it was everyone’s fault. I wanted to make sure that if anything goes wrong it’s my fault, it’s no one else, so I give everything I got,” Simon said.
So his uncle suggested perhaps track and field, which is a more individual sport. With his lone wolf mentality, Simon figured out that he wanted to become a boxer.
“I said I’m going to do boxing, so I went to a boxing gym, the closest one near me in a suburb near Paris,” Simon told me.
“I met the coach and I tell him ‘Listen I want to be a professional fighter and I want to be a world champion.’ And he said, ‘Listen all that is possible, you just have to work.’ So I said, ‘no problem we’re going to put the work in.”
Simon would start putting that work in the gym for the next two years and he competed in 15 amateur fights with just a lone defeat. Simon recognized that he had some talent in this boxing game; he decided to turn pro after just two years in the amateur ranks, but with no guidance from an experienced manager or a promoter backing him.
“I turn pro with no gameplan without any money behind me, with no manager, my coach was basically my manager,” Simon said. “He had no connections, so he was just letting me take fights left and right.”
Simon realized that he wasn’t getting the right guidance to his career, which resulted in some early losses. So he decided to make a change and added a different coach to his team, but he would soon see the dark side of the business of boxing.
“That coach was actually stealing money from me. He was lying on the contract and once I realized he was getting money under the table, I started to think about going somewhere else,” Simon told me.
After arriving to the States with a plan to make it big in boxing in America, Simon was looking for fights and he even fought for free on some of the promoters cards to just show them what he had. Unfortunately, Simon came to the U.S at a time when European fighters weren’t getting much shine compared to today. Simon was unable to break into the U.S. boxing market and after three years of waiting with literally no fights; he decided to train people instead.
Simon would develop friendships and partnerships within in the boxing world which have resulted in young fighters from France coming over to train with him. He’s learned from the mistakes that he made within his own boxing career and has made sure that that fighters he trains or manages will get the best guidance possible for a the most successful boxing career they could have.
He currently trains light heavyweight prospect from Paris Fredric Julan (10-0, 8 KOs), super lightweight prospect Yurik Mamedov (10-1, 3 KOs), and guides the career of Romain Tomas (7-1, 1 KO). I asked why these 3 guys came a long way just to train with him and do these 3 have what it takes to become a champion?
“I think these guys came to me because we create trust. Trust is number 1 no matter how much knowledge you have, or how much money have,” Simon said.
“The fight game is a sport with a lot soul and a lot of heart, a lot of emotion, so you got to make sure that people trust you fully.
“I created a comfort zone where people can trust me, but also get results.
“I think they have what it takes to become champion because they have dedication and a lot of faith in them and they work hard,” Simon said.
Simon was a defensive minded fighter in his younger days and as a trainer considers himself to be a tactician and that being the smarter fighter with a right strategy can overcome a lot of what a fighter deals with inside that ring.
“I am a tactician. Defense first which is my culture since I was very defensive fighter myself,” Simon said.
“Skill, technique, and all these things without strategy is very limited to me. Strategy can overcome a lot.
“Strategy means you’re a thinking fighter, you have plan a, plan b, plan c, you have more than one gameplan,” he said.
By: Sean Crose
The abandoned building which once housed the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit has been destroyed by a weekend fire. Detroit police suspect that the incident may have been the result of arson. The building, which was known as the Kronk Recreation Center, once contained one of the most iconic gyms in boxing within its basement. From that gym’s confides, stars such as Thomas Hearns emerged. “What this building brought for me was a chance at life,” Hearns told the Detroit Free Press from the site of the blaze. “I got a chance to become somebody out of this building right here.” A call came into authorities Saturday night reporting the fire. Detroit’s fire department was subsequently unable to save the structure.
The Kronk Gym was the creation of Emanuel Steward, one of the fight game’s great trainers. Known as the Godfather of Detroit’s boxing scene, Steward not only helped give the world Hearns, but also trained such notables as Wladimir Klitschko, Andy Lee, Mike McCallum and Lennox Lewis. An electrician by trade, Steward started training amateur fighters in the recreation center’s basement in his spare time. By the time Hearns turned pro in the late 70s, however, it was clear Steward had found his true calling as a top tier trainer.
Steward went on to train literally dozens of champions in his basement gym. Kronk fighters could usually be noted for the fact that they wore the gym’s famous gold trunks. Steward passed at the age of 68 in 2012, yet by then the gym had closed been closed since 2006 (a new Kronk boxing facility was created in a former church). Still, Steward’s daughter, Sylvia Steward-Williams, told The Detroit News that her “father’s heart lived in that gym.” Ms. Steward-Williams added that “he’d still pay for the (property) even after we moved out because his heart was so much with those kids who wanted that space to train.”
According to the Detroit Fire Department, flames were already emerging from the second floor when help arrived. “We surrounded the building,” Deputy Chief Dave Fornell told The Detroit News, “and then the roof collapsed.” One firefighter was reportedly injured in the blaze and taken to be treated for an ankle injury. Thankfully, no one was reported severely hurt or killed. Firemen tried to fight the blaze for around four hours. “We are listing the fire as suspicious,” Fornell stated, “and it is an ongoing investigation.”
“It’s just sad,” stated Hearns, “to see that people didn’t value this place like we did.”
by B.A. Cass
A three-punch combination, ending with a left hook to the head, is what it took for Jesus M. Rojas to knock out Claudio Marrero. After Marrero hit the canvas, he sat up, shaking his head. He then put his arms over his knees. He seemed more shocked than wounded—as if the idea that a man could knock him out was something he had never considered. The referee started the count. Marrero got to his knees but after that did not attempt to stand. Yeah, you know, shit happens, he told his coach, German Caicedo, after the fight. This is boxing. Anyone can get knocked out. It was Marrero’s response to losing, rather than the loss itself, that first made Caicedo consider whether he wanted to continue training Marrero.
That night, Marrero texted Caicedo to see if they could talk. But Caicedo was at the airport, about to board a red-eye flight to Miami. He had to be back at his gym the next day to train Luis Ortiz for his now cancelled fight with Deontay Wilder. Caicedo and Marrero planned to speak when Marrero returned to Miami.
Marrero’s reaction to losing the fight was not the only reason Caicedo was frustrated. Although Marrero trained hard, he seemed to be letting his modicum of success go to his head; often, he could be heard talking about his “millions, ” and when people asked him about the fight he said it was “easy money.” Marrero also disregarded the entire fight plan. They had trained for a pressure fighter by “being first with your jab, counterpunch if he attacks, if he doesn’t attack, you’re first on your attack, and then you’re stepping around, stepping aside, holding your ground,” Caicedo explains. “Instead what he was doing was jumping around, running straight back into the ropes, surrendering and allowing Rojas to come in freely with no attack.” Marrero seemed more concerned with entertaining the crowd than winning. Multiple times, he dropped his hands and taunted Rojas.
Back in 2013, Marrero had lost in a similar fashion to Jesus Cuellar, who pressured him from start to finish. He handled that a little bit better, being a younger fighter, but he still lost by unanimous decision. After his loss to Cuellar, many people were saying that Marrero couldn’t handle pressure. But Caicedo stuck by his fighter, allowing him to maintain a residence in the Caicedo Sports facility. “He promised me he wouldn’t do that again,” Caicedo explains, “that he would better himself. He wouldn’t let his head get big. He would focus. But they were right all along. He couldn’t handle pressure. He can’t handle a little bit of success because his head gets big.”
After the fight with Rojas, Caciedo assumed Marrero would be back in Miami the next day, on Saturday afternoon. But Marrero didn’t return from Las Vegas until Tuesday. So you’re on vacation, Caicedo thought. Taking pictures in Las Vegas, partying with your friends. The loss didn’t affect you at all. Because of his training schedule with Ortiz, Caicedo wasn’t able to catch up Marrero until two days later. But he had already decided to let him go.
How did he break the news to Marrero? “Frankly,” Caicedo says. “I told him I don’t want to train you anymore and I don’t want you in the gym. I’ve got nothing personally against you other than this, but this is a big one. I can’t forgive this one.”
Caicedo realizes that anyone can lose. The loss isn’t what got to him. “He doesn’t have to be a world champion. I would have never kicked him out of the gym if he said to me, I’m so sorry, I screwed up, I fell apart, I was thinking about my son, I was thinking about losing, I didn’t want to lose. I completely screwed up. Then you say, shit happens, I get you. But that’s not what he answered when he answered me. What he answered was, you know, it’s no big deal, man. I just got knocked out, the same way I knock people out, they knock me out. It is what it is. We’ll try again.”
Not with Caicedo he won’t. Now Marrero will have to try again with someone else as his coach. He’s got to rebuild his reputation, which won’t be easy. He’ll be taken as an opponent and most likely won’t be treated as the A side.
Caicedo still thinks Marrero can become the undisputed. But he’s got to make that his goal and not lose focus when he gets a little bit of hype, a little bit of notoriety. “When he is completely ignored and not spoken about and is not the man, he’s the most humble, hardworking boxer—forget about in the gym, in boxing,” Caicedo says.
It’s important to remember Marrero is only twenty-eight. He has years ahead of him as a boxer—and potentially even good years if he takes Caicedo’s advice and goes back to being the humble, hard-working boxer that Caicedo first knew.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch
By: Brian Strahan
Mexico, has its own California. Baja California. A feral peninsula, encompassed by the Pacific Ocean to its west, and the Sea of Cortez to its east. At its tip, bordering that other California, lies Tijuana. A city known in the past as much for its pull of Hollywood celebrities, who could gamble in relative anonymity, as it was for criminality, which eventually, morphed into a city more associated with cultural growth.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
It was here that Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez came close to suffering his first professional defeat. An opening flurry of victories as a 15-year-old, came at something of a canter. Similar to the only man who would ever defeat him – Floyd Mayweather Jr – Canelo had a family in his corner. Just not his own. Not far from his modest home in Juanacatlan on the fringes of Guadalajara, his brother Rigoberto introduced him to Chepo and Eddy Reynoso.
From the Julian Magdaleno Gym, were the father and son team trained the flame-haired Canelo, his route was plotted. Impressed by his speed of thought and power, the Reynoso’s didn’t feel, but knew he was ready. Such was his ferocity at the 2005 Junior Nationals, in the southern, busy city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez; no one his age, apart from the foolhardy, wanted to face him.
Turning professional at such a young age, is no big deal in Mexico. Other nations may scoff at the youthful age that boys are thrown in amongst men to fight. But Mexican boxing can point to the robust nature of their success, rooted in the tough start they allow their young boxers. Mexico can boast having more than 150 professional world champions in its pugilistic history. Only the United States can champion a stronger record.
So, there was nothing unorthodox in Canelo facing fellow Mexican Abraham Gonzalez in his first fight; Gonzalez three years his senior. That chasm in physical development, a lot wider in teens then a corresponding chasm for even marginally older boxers. It mattered little, however. A total knock out in the fourth and final round for Canelo.
Little changed for his second fight against Pablo Alvarado, very much his elder at 26. It was, physically and literally, man against boy. Again, an irrelevance. Alvarado lasted two rounds before Canelo ended his night.
The third test of this fledgling career would prove more demanding. Miguel Vazquez – again three years his senior – may have been making his professional debut, but he had genuine potential. Potential that he would go on to fulfill. But this welterweight fight was out of reach for a fighter who would go on to win a multitude of titles. His only defeat in a valiant 2013 unification loss to Mayweather by majority decision. Still though, against Vazquez, Canelo was made work. The split decision went his way.
Pedro Lopez, a month later, didn’t offer a similar challenge. Back in Canelo’s hometown of Guadalajara, Lopez, a fighter from the former colonial city of Tabasco, had little vigour to offer. Another knock out. It would be the beginning of a trend in a career that bore little fruit.
So on to the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana. Perhaps more famed for its seminal Friday night dose of Lucha Libre; the Mexican variant of professional wrestling. With its spirited masks and costumes and comic-book style heroes and villains; it appeals to the masses as a sport and entertainment.
On June 17th, 2006, there was substantially less of the fanfare for the meeting of Canelo and Jorge Juarez. Not that the night itself was sedate. Hector Velazquez, a Tijuana local, and a solid career fighter, was the main draw. After he discarded compatriot Guadalupe Hernandez in a deeply one-sided affair, the crowd simply dispersed.
The undercard, as Canelo and Juarez were, came after the main event. Perhaps not the most carefully structured running order. What it meant was a sparse attendance and a quieter atmosphere, despite Juarez being a local. But three victories from eight against a relative unknown, was not enough to keep seats filled.
Maybe they should have stayed. What was missed was Canelo being tested. That was the function of Juarez. To try the properly strong Canelo against someone who would hold firm. Where some previous opponents had struggled to match his intensity, Juarez used the physicality and experience that came with his 8-year advantage. Canelo tired in the fourth-round bout and Juarez made connections.
If he didn’t quite school him; Juarez was in his element. This was as evenly matched a welterweight contest as there could have been. Juarez would have more defeats than victories up until his retirement in 2011. In 2015 Juarez returned but has had eight defeats on the bounce since.
Still though, the two came together at a time and a night when there was nothing to split them. The triumvirate of judges scored it 37-39, 38-38, 37-39. A one-point difference anywhere along the way could have meant another easily forgotten victory for Canelo. Or it could have meant Juarez being the only person outside of Floyd Mayweather to defeat Canelo in his professional career; to date.
How much relevance it will have on Saturday, who knows? But it has relevance for Juarez. And not because he can dine off a former glory. But because he showed he could match someone who was on his way to becoming one of the world’s best.
WBC Minimumweight Champion Chayaphon Moosri goes 46-0!
By: Ken Hissner
Too many times the Thailand boxers have built up records and WBC Minimumweight champion Chayaphon Moosri at 46-0 (17), is no exception.
In Moosri’s third bout he won the vacant WBC Youth title fighting an opponent who was 0-1 in March of 2007. He defended it 8 times. Several of his opponents had records of 0-0, 0-1 and 1-2. In December of 2009 he won the interim WBC International title and made 2 defenses. Then on January 2011 he won the vacant WBC International Silver title over a 7-5-2 opponent and made 3 defenses beforere-winning the vacant International title in November of 2011 making it 5 defenses.
In November of 2014 Moosri wins the WBC World title from a 14-4-1 boxer from Mexico and made 6 defenses. In his 46 fights he has defeated 29 opponents with winning records and 14 with losing records along with 2 debuting opponents and a 15-15-2 opponent.
Moosri is 31 and has been fighting for 10 years. His bio shows no amateur credentials. All 46 of his fights have been fought in Thailand. The WBA champion Thammanoon Niyomtrong, 15-0 (7), is also from Thailand. It would make sense for the two to meet in a unification bout. Mexico’s Jose Argumedo, 19-3-1 (11), holds the IBF titleand Japan’s Katsunari Takayama won the WBO title after losing his IBF title to Argumedo.
In December of 2016 and March of 2017 (his last bout) Moosri has won 6 round decisions in order to build up his record. A world champion shouldn’t be fighting 6 round bouts. It seems he is aiming to overtake both Rocky Marciano and Floyd Mayweather’s 49-0 record.
Another Thai boxer named Samson Dutch Boy Gym was 43-0 (36) when he retired. He won the World Boxing Federation super fly title in his fourth fight and defended it 38 times. Only thing is he defended against opponents with the following records:
1-7, 1-7-1, 8-16-2, 0-7 and 1-6. He never fought outside of Thailand.
Round 2 with Chavez and Roach
By: Brandon Bernica
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. caused a minor furor this past week when he (sort of) announced
he will be reuniting with former trainer Freddie Roach via Instagram photo. While rumors of this
move have circulated for years, Team Chavez has been reluctant to move back to the Wild Card
Gym, where their relationship with Roach soured after his fight with Sergio Martinez in 2012.
Since that time, his team tried out multiple high-profile replacements, such as Joe Goosen, Ricky
Funez, and Robert Garcia. Yet most hardcore fans ascertain that Chavez’s weight issues, lack of
discipline, and inconsistent training schedule anchor the real struggle hindering his performance. Recently, he is 3-2 with no memorable victories to cling to. Combined with his out-of-the-ring
shenanigans (failing a drug test for marijuana, turning down a career-high payday and a chance
to fight Gennady Golovkin, etc.) and you have a once highly-esteemed fighter turned daily
In this vein, I venture to ask a question most fans would dismiss immediately: could
Roach raise Jr.’s game to the level it was destined for a few years back?
Chavez may never reach that level again. But improvement? Not out of the question.
Evidence clearly points to Roach as being Chavez’s most successful cornerman. With Freddie, he
amassed solid victories against Andy Lee, Sebastian Zbik, and Marco Antonio Rubio. That
success was augmented by Roach’s offensive style of training fighters that clicked with Julio. At
his best, Chavez thrives in the trenches, dominating the intricacies of the inside game. He angles
potent body shots much like his legendary father, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Carrying solid power in
close quarters and a strong chin able to withstand the most forceful shots, Chavez naturally holds
a skillset most contenders would trade for any day. Roach understands this and can cater training
towards revealing these tools, whereas other trainers working with Jr. for the first time may need
a couple fights to fully comprehend his tendencies. After all, Roach has inspired career
turnarounds for the likes of fighters such as Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.
But as much as there is to enjoy on the surface of Chavez, there remains a lot more to feel
apprehensive about regarding his past. A buzz word fans often use to tag Chavez Jr. with is
“entitled”. Granted, this partially results from his every move being compared to his father. Yet
the moniker still holds truthful in many respects. Chavez has been criticized for arbitrarily
moving weight limits before fights, often resulting in unfair advantages in size inside the ropes.
Missing weight expresses a lack of professionalism that, sadly, Chavez has exhibited in other
areas as well. Leading up to his biggest title fight versus Martinez, Chavez was documented as
unmotivated, waking up late and even failing to show up to gym sessions. That same fight,
Chavez was outclassed for 11 rounds, failing to handle Martinez’s superior movement and
distance fighting. Though he almost mounted a late-round comeback knockout, his Argentinian
counterpart braved his way to the end, winning a lopsided decision. That bitter ending to the
initial Roach-Chavez stint leaves lingering questions about the efficiency of this teamwork in big
fights, mainly whether Jr.’s defense is adequate enough to win rounds against top notch fighters.
Afterwards, Chavez struggled to maintain the consistency needed to reach elite status in
the sport by jumping from trainer to trainer to search for the solution to his performance. Nothing
worked as well as it did with Roach. Outside of the ring, he left his long-time promoter Bob
Arum who had spent years selling the public on Jr.’s potential and talent. He joined advisor Al Haymon in an effort to reinvent his own brand. That wasn’t the remedy either; he was knocked
out by Andrezj Fonfara, forced to build from the ground up once again. Missing from this series
of events? Commitment. Chavez’s search for the cure to his career has rarely ended at a look
inside himself. Blame gets shifted to others. Social media posts from his accounts implore fans to
believe he’s changed, rather than attempting to prove it to the one person who counts: himself.
Maybe a switch back to Roach is the remedy he’s longed for. If that solution involves
becoming the fighter his dad was, his search may end in vain. That doesn’t make his chances to
salvage his career into one he can be proud of any less likely. First, he must acknowledge why
he’s fallen and fight with the hunger he once had. If he ends up with Roach, he must stay the
course, through victory and defeat. No excuses, just hard work and focus. Everything else will
fall into place.