Boxers are some of the most incredible athletes in the world. With the willingness to risk everything and the skill and technique to emerge triumphant over seemingly the most improbable of situations, boxers punch their ticket through life with the heart and determination in their fists.
The world has seen its fair share of inspiring boxers, from Muhammad Ali to Rocky Marciano, Mike Tyson to Manny Pacquiao. Each of these warriors poured their soul into their craft, laboring for days and nights in the gym so that they can put on a show inside the ring.
Yet behind each drop of sweat is a familiar voice in their ear, whispering words of encouragement as well as detailed instruction to wreak havoc on their opponents. These trustworthy voices belong to their boxing coaches, who have guided them every step of the way.
The all-important boxing coach is a significant part of a boxer’s career. Choosing the right coach to guide a boxer through the trials of pugilism is crucial to success. Throughout the history of the sport, there are a handful of noteworthy individuals responsible for shaping and molding some of the world’s most beloved fighters.
Let’s celebrate the hard work of boxing’s behind the scenes legends. Today, Evolve Daily shares five of the greatest boxing coaches of all time.
1) Cus D’Amato
Just by analyzing what the legendary Cus D’Amato did for Mike Tyson’s career tells us of how extraordinary this boxing coach was at the height of his powers. He not only guided Tyson to become the most fearsome heavyweight fighter of all time, he also took Tyson into his own home and offered him shelter, love, and care.
Aside from Tyson, who later became the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in history, D’Amato’s stable of talent included Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres. He even had a brief time with Muhammad Ali. Patterson won an Olympic gold medal in 1952 under D’Amato’s guidance and also gave a prime Ali two tough fights.
D’Amato is also the man who invented the peek-a-boo boxing style and the man who mentored Teddy Atlas. Although he passed away in 1985, D’Amato’s legacy lives on, and he is fondly remembered for his unwavering dedication and passion for the sport.
“Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning. But fear is your best friend. Fear is like fire. If you learn to control it, you let it work for you. If you don’t learn to control it, it will destroy you and everything around you.” – Cus D’Amato
2) Eddie Futch
Arguably the greatest boxing coach of all time, the legendary Eddie Futch was responsible for unleashing 21 world champions into the world, including guys like Trevor Berbick, Riddick Bowe, Joe Frazier, Virgil Hill, Montell Griffin, and Ken Norton. Even heavyweight legend Joe Louis was heavily influenced by Futch in their many sparring sessions.
Although a heart murmur prevented Futch from becoming a professional boxer, it didn’t keep him from the sport that he loved. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan where prizefighting was a huge deal, Futch invested his entire life into boxing and was completely submerged in everything to do with it.
Besides being an amazing coach and training some of the biggest names, Futch also mentored and developed world-famous trainer Freddie Roach. Futch also owns the distinction of having trained four out of only five fighters who were able to beat Muhammad Ali — which speaks volumes of his quality as a trainer.
“Boxing is a science. You don’t just walk into a gym and start punching. Fighters are born with differences in physical ability, but you also see a big difference in their skills. That’s the trainer’s influence at work.” – Eddie Futch
3) Freddie Roach
There’s much to be said about Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, but his body of work just speaks for itself.
Roach began boxing under the watchful eye of his father, Paul Roach and was a talented teenager in the 1970’s. He turned professional in 1978 and began training under legendary trainer Eddie Futch. After he retired from competition, Roach then became a trainer.
Roach embodied the teachings of his late mentor, and today imparts the very same principles to his pupils. Among Roach’s most high-profile wards include eight-division world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, James “Lights Out” Toney, Mike Tyson, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, and MMA star Georges St-Pierre.
As a trainer, Roach is known to teach the fundamentals of boxing, particularly working on fighter’s offense rather than defense. He has the ability to work towards a fighter’s strengths, highlighting their key attributes like speed and power, to mesh well with compact boxing techniques.
Roach doesn’t change fighters, he makes them better than they ever thought they could be.
“He fights with his heart and emotion. People say you should change him and settle him down. But this is what makes him exciting and you can’t take it away from him.” – Freddie Roach
4) Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain
Without question, Ignacio Beristain — more fondly known as “Nacho” — is the greatest Mexican boxing trainer of all time.
If you didn’t know, boxing is one of the biggest sports in Mexico. The Mexican fans live by boxing, and they take it very, very seriously. Through the years, Beristain has shaped and molded many fighters, producing technical beasts who have a distinct Beristain style.
Beristain’s most notable pupils include Oscar De La Hoya, Abner Mares, Daniel Zaragoza, Gilberto Roman, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But his most prized student is none other than the legendary Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez. Marquez is only the third boxer to become a world champion in four different weight classes. Marquez is also one of only a handful of guys to ever give Manny Pacquiao a stiff test.
Beristain’s style is all about skill and science, paying attention to every small detail of every technique. He sharpens his fighter’s movement and reflexes, teaching them how to fight by the book and demands perfection from his charges.
“It’s a sport that has helped many children on their way to the darkness and put them on track and allowed me to make them better men. All my life I have sought out young people from a life of drugs, crime, and gangs. This is very beautiful.” – Nacho Beristain
5) Angelo Dundee
Chances are, you’ve heard the name Angelo Dundee before but can’t quite pin down where and why. It’s because he taught the late, great Muhammad Ali — a.k.a. The Greatest of All Time — how to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
Dundee is, of course, a Hall of Fame trainer, and is a surefire top 10 trainer when it’s all said and done. He is the sole coach responsible for all three of Sugar Ray Leonard’s world titles. He helped “Big” George Foreman make a huge comeback. His knowledge and expertise of boxing was incredible, and always emphasized a good balance between offense and defense.
Among Dundee’s long list of famous pupils, a few certainly standout. He worked with guys like Jose Napoles, George Scott, Jimmy Ellis, Carmen Basilio, Luis Manuel Rodriguez, and Willie Pastrano. But it was his work with Ali that truly made him a legend.
Between 1960 and 1980, Dundee forged Ali from the fires of hard work and dedication, molding him into a worldwide phenomenon. He traveled the world with Ali from when he was known as Cassius Clay, cornering him in all but two of his fights. He often referred to Ali as “his kid” and the two had such a close relationship throughout their time together.
“Training fighters is like trying to catch a fish. It’s technique, not strength.” – Angelo Dundee
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