The boxing trainer....part coach, part father, part svengali,
perhaps, even part spiritual leader. In this Boxing Wise
exclusive series, Boxing Wise's own Cornerman talks
to some of the premier trainers in the game to separate the myth
from the reality. This unique series will focus less on the
personality and celebrity of the fighter and more on the art and
science of what goes into making a great fighter. What you will
read will be a frank discussion with the men who make not only
their business knowing fighters but in many cases have centered
their whole lives around fighters and the trade of boxing. The
boxing game rarely gets more attractive when you focus your eyes
most sharply at any one component of it, yet there is one definite
certainty in this game and that is the commitment and devotion to
the game displayed by the men in the corner.
Appropriately enough, our first discussion is with boxing's
quintessential man behind the scenes. Far more than a trainer, Lou
Duva is the patriarch of the boxing empire known as Main Events.
Over the years his stable of star fighters speaks for the quality
of Main Events. Along the way Duva has been behind a list of
fighters that includes names like Whitaker, Taylor, Holyfield,
Pazienza, Lockridge, Bramble among others. Not one to rest on his
laurels, Main Events is now set to dominate through the millennium
across the weight divisions with a new set of names that includes
Vargas, Tua and Judah. I spoke with Lou from his Main Events
headquarters in New Jersey and as expected (and as he trains his
men) he pulled no punches.
The Cornerman: Lou, what are the ideal physical attributes you look for in a fighter? Lou Duva: It's not so much the physical traits that are importan't I look at a fighter's mental traits, their character, that's what's really important. It is things like attitude, do they have enough self-discipline, will they be able to self-sacrifice. Do they really want to be a good fighter and have a good career or do they just want to make a lot of money. The Cornerman: In training, coach how do you tailor the work to the fighter especially at different ages. Right now you have an older fighter in Pernell Whitaker and a younger fighter in David Tua. How does their training differ? Lou Duva: I look at things like their body structure and body type and what they are capable of but also I look at their character. What can you detect....what time are they coming in at night.... what time are they getting to the gym....Are they asking to do fewer rounds....Are they there to train hard....Do they come in the next day and say "Hey, I hurt my shoulder, I want to go easy today"....You really gotta know your fighter. You got to know if they're a bullshitter. I start looking at whether a fighter is starting to go backwards. I look at Evander Holyfield and the last couple of years that I had him he started going backwards. It wasn't so much that his body wasn't up to it, he was taking shortcuts. I'd ask him "What'ya want to do". He was spending a lot of time on TV with Arsenio Hall, with Hammer, he liked doing that and I told him not to go through with the last fight (Bowe III) but he insisted. He decided there, I walked away from him, not that he walked away from me. The Cornerman: What about now, Lou, do you want to see Evander continue to fight now? Lou Duva: Nooooo, I don't want to see him fight anymore. The Cornerman: Have you ever walked away from a young fighter? Lou Duva: Sure, I told Meldrick Taylor to get out but he wanted to go with Don King . Now he's walking around on his heels. Same thing with Livingstone Bramble I brought him to the championship of the world and then you couldn't talk to him anymore. You couldn't coach him he thought he knew everything. Now he's still fighting for $3500 a fight. The Cornerman: What about Eddie Hopson. What ever happened to him? Lou Duva: Same sort of thing. He was a prospect but you couldn't tell him anything. I brought him to a title. He was fighting at 130 then he was 140, 147 then 157. The Cornerman: Where is he now? Lou Duva: I don't even know. The Cornerman: In terms of training for a fight, How do you like to structure the camp? Lou Duva: For a title fight, for a big fight, I like to start four or five weeks out. That means though, I want the fighter coming in shape with their weight down like they've been training back home. I don't necessarily want them boxing but I want their weight down and within one week in the gym I want them ready to box. The Cornerman: How about sparring, how many rounds per day do you want your guys going? Lou Duva: I don't want him boxing everyday and I don't want boxing 10 or 12 rounds a day. They may go four rounds of boxing and then another four to six rounds on styling....how to beat their opponent. Is the opponent a southpaw?....is he a runner....? so much is spent on teaching. That's so important. How are you going to beat this fighter. The Cornerman: Do you spend a lot of time with the videotape? Lou Duva: That's how I spend all my time, watching videotape. Studying how to beat an opponent. The Cornerman: Whom would you pick for your top three pound-for-pound fighters? Lou Duva: Well, I think you go with Roy Jones, I think you go with Oscar but I like to think of my own guys. We got a new guy, Zap Judah who's number one in the world, he's going to be the next champion. Fernando Vargas is a great fighter. The Cornerman: In Zab Judah you look like you may have another Whitaker, Do you consciously go after fighters of a certain type, in this case, crafty, hard to hit left handers? Lou Duva: No, not necessarily, I've had Zab since he was 16, and I told him to sit on the ring and study Pernell, over and over and over and so he did. I have the luxury of having a lot of great fighters around and I tell my young fighters to study the older guys so they can learn from the masters. The Cornerman: Speaking of Pernell, what have you got planned for him, is he going to stay in the game? Lou Duva: I'm trying to get him to hang 'em up. We had his jaw operated on with plates put in. I think it's time for him to hang 'em up. The Cornerman: Do you think he will, he's a pretty competitive guy? Lou Duva: He better buy it! I think he'll come around to us. I'd like to see him work with us. Work in the corners, work at the press conferences and be part of the family. The family, the Main Events family. In this day and age family is not the first word that springs to your mind when you think of boxing management teams. For Lou Duva, this family's patriarch, there is no other way. Tough, fair and with his people's best interest at heart, Lou continues on. Praising his men when they need it, getting tough when they need discipline and always being in their corner. Lou continues on. Just like any good father would.