Eddie Mustafa Muhammad is a rare man, indeed. Few fighters ever wear a world championship belt and few trainers get their men to the top of this game. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad has done both. Today, he views his fighters as extensions of himself, not carbon copies, but extensions of his knowledge, experience and innate sense of what this game demands. I was luckily enough to tap into Eddie's unique experience as a fighter and a trainer for this Boxingwise series on boxing's best trainers.
The Cornerman: First of all Eddie, who are you working with right now? Eddie Mustafa Muhammad: Let me see, Shannon Briggs, Jimmy Thunder, Arthur Williams, James Crayton, Danell Nicholson. The Cornerman: Geez, you're a busy man. Eddie: I have to pay college tuitions, mortgages...... The Cornerman: That keeps you inspired, huh? Eddie: Exactly. The Cornerman: Eddie you are one of the few great fighters who has made the transition to being a great trainer. Why don't more fighters make great trainers? Eddie: It is very simple. I believe in some form or fashion fighters are extensions of trainers. I would not allow my fighter to fight like I can or did. Some things are for some people, some things are not. Some people can do some things others can not. Some fighters can move their heads a bit faster, some can slip a punch better. They say I was great defensive fighter and also a good offensive fighter. What I do is take an individual and build on what he has. Where we go from there, well, the sky's the limit. The Cornerman: Eddie if you were going to design the perfect fighter, what would you look for in that fighter psychologically? Eddie: First of all, I want him to have the attitude that he can't be beat, if he's done the right things in preparation for the fight. The Cornerman: Have you ever worked with a fighter who struggled doing that, maybe an athlete who was nervous or unsure of himself? Eddie: I've never encountered that because he would be in the wrong game. You can't have the slightest bit of fear. I teach my fighters to fear what you can't see. If you can see it,then you are able to deal with it. The Cornerman: What do you look for physically in an ideal fighter? Eddie: Physically, balance. We all get up and when we walk, we all step with our left foot. There has to be perfect balance and with that we start building the perfect stance.... to the perfect jab.... double, triple.... and then we go to the head movement. It is all part of what we build on. The Cornerman: Do you think power is something you can teach or is it something we are born with? Eddie: We are born with one punch knockout power. Some guys can sting you a bit but there are born punchers. I don't think you can make a puncher. You can show him how to throw the correct punch but you can't make him a puncher. The Cornerman: How do you explain the power in guys with out a lot size, guys like Tommy Hearns or even today, Oscar DeLaHoya? Eddie: Very simple, they have the leverage. I teach fighters how to maneuver, bend their body and get the maximum leverage in to their punch. They can be skinny as a rail, like Bob Foster, he had the maximum leverage. The Cornerman: Can you train a fighter to use the maximum leverage? Eddie: No question, it is the leverage and the snap on the edge of the punch. It is that simple. The Cornerman: Tell me what how you structure your training camp? Eddie: I like to get a guy into camp about 5 weeks before the fight. We start with the basics. Get up at 5 in the morning and run 5 miles every other day. Five good miles at an even pace, no speed demon stuff. That's what I used to do. Then after breakfast I want them to lay down and recuperate from that five mile run. Then they are to be in the gymnasium at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We loosen up with five rounds in the ring and if we're not boxing that day, we get at least 6 rounds on the heavy bag, 3 rounds on the speed bag, 3 rounds on the skip rope and various exercises. Then I would incorporate hand pads that I do myself. Basically exercise. The Cornerman: How much sparring work do you do? Eddie: I like to have my fighter work three rounds every other day and build it up as my fighter gets in condition. Then, midway through camp we get up to six or seven rounds. I might have them do ten or twelve rounds one time to give them the confidence that they can go the distance. The Cornerman: Other trainers and fighters prefer to do many more rounds, some times 10-12 per day. What are your thoughts about doing more rounds? Eddie: I would think that it is too much but every fighter is different. Every fighter's body is different. Sometimes your body will call for more rest. You'll know when you're tired because you're body will let you know. The Cornerman: How can you tell when one of your fighter's is over trained? Eddie: When he's not throwing the correct punches. When it takes him time to even deliver the punches. When he's missing, when he's lackadaisical in the ring. The Cornerman: How do you tailor training differently for fighters of different ages? Eddie: You have to break it up according to the individual. With the older guys there's not much you can teach them but you can remind them of what kind of fighter they once were. You don't train them hard to kill them. We would do a lot running, a lot of walking. The Cornerman: Switching gears a bit Eddie, who do you pick as your best pound for pound fighters today? Eddie: Number one, Roy Jones…number two, Oscar DeLaHoya…number three, Felix Trinidad.... and this next one will surprise you, James Toney. James Toney is a great fighter, he's a throwback to the old days. I just think he has a lot of personal problems but he is a great fighter. The Cornerman: I don't think I 've seen anyone who was more relaxed in the ring. Eddie: That's what it is all about. That's why he can go all those rounds without getting tired. The Cornerman: Does he have the power at the higher weight? Eddie: He doesn't have the one punch knockout power but he can hit you enough times to make you want to get up out of there. Let me explain something. If he can get his head right he can become cruiserweight champion. If he gets his head right and does the right things. There's no doubt about it. When I had him we were doing remarkable things. It is just when he goes to the right on me and we couldn't see eye to eye on anything. The Cornerman: Speaking of James Toney, how do you approach the science of getting fighters to the right weight? Eddie: They have to realize one thing, fighting is a job. If you are a full time fighter then you treat yourself as a full time fighter. You know what you're correct weight is. You work at it. When you are not fighting, when you don't have a fight scheduled you shouldn't be no more than 7 or 8 pounds above your fighting weight. The Cornerman: What are you looking for in the future with your fighters? Eddie: With Danell he may be fighting for the WBO or IBF heavyweight title, with Klitschco who beat Herbie Hide, we may have to go over there. Then I have Arthur Williams who lost his cruiserweight title to Jirov. We're going to get a rematch soon. Arthur's going to fight October 1st. Then I have James Crayton, who fought Ivan Robinson the other day. I thought we won, a lot of other people thought we won, the announcers thought we won but that raises his stock up. So, I'm expecting some great things out of James Crayton. The Cornerman: How do you go about getting good sparring for everybody? Eddie: I can pick up the phone and call different guys. Sometimes they are already in the gymnasium and I can just put them on a salary for top guys. Then were off and running. The Cornerman: It really is an investment to develop a prospect isn't it? Eddie: No question. Life is an investment. Life is what you make it. Fighters are what you make them. You get what you pay for. If you want an "A" trainer you pay. If you want a "B" trainer you pay for a "B" trainer. The Cornerman: Are you a real disciplinarian in the gym? Eddie: I can only tell a fighter how it is. I can break it down for him, let him know what are the rewards. They know what it takes to become champion, either you want to live in poverty or you want to upgrade yourself. That's up to the individual. The Cornerman: Which do you like better, fighting yourself or training? Eddie: I've been a winner in every facet of life that I competed in. I miss the actual fighting, no question about it. I love teaching guys how to fight. That gives me an extension of myself to my fighters. That there, makes me feel good, when I see my guys put a belt around their waist. That makes me feel ecstatic. If you haven't heard, me and Larry Holmes are supposed to be fighting. We are debating over the money aspects of the game. I saw Larry's last fight with Bonecrusher Smith and I wouldn't take the fight if I didn't think I could knock Larry out. I'm taking this fight knowing I could knock Larry out. I'm only interested in two fights, Larry and George. I'm not going to make it a career. That's right, Eddie is looking to head back inside the ropes to compete in boxing's ad hoc Masters' division. Whether or not that is something you are interested in seeing is uncertain. The fact that Eddie Mustafa Muhammad will continue at the top of the "A" list of the game's trainers is a much greater certainity.