Bang a Drum, Bang It Loudly…

By Michael Schmidt on June 6, 2011
Perhaps there should be a “trainer” of the year, and a “cornerman” of the year

That is not a trainer of the year matter. That, ladies and gents, is a career resume remarkably done in only one week…

“Bang a drum, bang it loudly…” sings Bon Jovi, but these past few weeks Bernard Hopkins and Steve Cunningham could be banging out their own tune as they have openly praised their mutual trainer Naazim Richardson. In B-Hop’s Rock of Ages anthem he would have all believe that Naazim is the hands down candidate at the halfway mark of 2011 as trainer of the year.

I suppose that old adage of “If you say it loud enough and long enough” might be in play and in the boxing world it works as well as anywhere. Coincidence perhaps that within one week of each other both Hopkins and Cunningham both sang the praises of their trainer. I can hear it already: “Schmidty, coincidence. Good heavens man, how naïve are you!” As much as one could admire Hopkins’ and Cunningham’s mutual loyalty, perhaps a different drum set is in order.

“Bang a drum, bang it loudly” forrrrrrrrr…Mr. Robert Garcia. Viva Las Vegas for Robert Garcia over a one week time period. During that week not only did he have Nonito Donaire turn in an electrifying performance in stopping fellow champion Fernando Monteil, but Garcia then turned around and added a WBA lightweight belt to the mix with Brandon Rios winning the following weekend. I sat ringside for the Donaire fight and when Montiel went down it was if his body had been jammed into a giant electrical socket as both his legs, off the canvas, twitched. One could not help but recall that big Floyd Patterson left hook for the ages and poor Ingemar Johansson twitching away in his own electrical socket world. It’s a testimony to Monteil’s mental and physical conditioning that he got up. Eduardo Monteil, in response to my comment that the only way Fernando Monteil probably got up from the Donaire thunderbolt was that he was in great physical shape, told me a few months later that Fernando Monteil was in tremendous conditioning and the best shape ever for the fight. What was of further interest was Garcia’s calm and cool approach in the corner from beginning to end, short as it was. The following weekend saw Garcia specifically guide Brandon Rios thru an early firestorm to win the WBA lightweight title. That is not a trainer of the year matter. That, ladies and gents, is a career resume remarkably done in only one week.

Which brings me to another early candidate for trainer of the year. “Bang a drum, bang it loudly” forrrrrrrrr…the aforesaid Eduardo Monteil. The thunderbolt went the other way for the Monteils the following month at the “Arena Roberto Duran” in Panama, as Eduardo Monteil had his 22-year-old protégé, Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, stop world champion Luis “El Nica” Conception before 16,000 screaming Panamanian fight fans in what is an early candidate for “Fight of the Year.” I again had the privilege of being ringside, but an even greater privilege was being able to share the same dressing room with the whole Monteil group. (I had one of my fighters, Lisa “Bad News” Brown, defending her own WBA title that night.) What was impressive was the calm professional approach of the whole Monteil corner the entire week before the fight, before they went to battle in El Nica’s backyard that evening, and in the corner during the fight. This was not the first rodeo these cowboys had been at, as the saying goes, and in fact ‘cowboy’ would probably leave one with the wrong impression of the Monteils. In this particular case “professional marksmen” would fit the bill more appropriately. It certainly looked like the target was well in hand and the bull’s-eye hit the mark. We are not yet done with Mr. Eduardo Monteil and company. This past month saw the Monteils add another huge feather to their cap as Jorge Arce beat previously undefeated Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. I am not sure what Eduardo and company have their fighters doing for mental and physical conditioning but, like Marquez, Arce looked like you could wind him up and have him keep on going for as long as it was going to take him to take care of business. If you had to go over the proverbial battle hill what better group than the Monteils, Arce, Marquez and company to forward up the charge.

There are two last comments, in my mind, to be made with respect to this trainer of the year business—and this is by no means to be critical of Naazim Richardson. How much actual “training” is provided to veterans like Hopkins or to a Cunningham? Have you ever seen either of these champions in other than great shape? In that context, perhaps there should be TWO different awards: One for “trainer” of the year, and one for “cornerman” of the year. The trainer award goes to the man who brings his warrior to fight in tip-top shape, and the other award goes to the cornerman who has devised a plan before the fight, and if necessary devises and/or improvises, for that matter, a plan during the fight to insure victory.

There is still the half-year to go but “bang a drum, bang it loudly…”—with a burst of loud applause—to Robert Garcia and Eduardo Monteil.

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