HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Best Corner

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they make their selections for Best Corner – not just for the boxer’s trainer and cutman, but the promoters, managers and entire teams that put their man in the best position to do what they do best. 

More: Fight of the Year |  Fighter of the YearBest Round | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments

Nat Gottlieb: Abel Sanchez and Tom Loeffler

The team of trainer Abel Sanchez and promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions combined for two of the most thrilling fights of the year. Sanchez and Loeffler got their undefeated boxer Gennady Golovkin ready for two supreme tests in 2017. In March, Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs put on a sensational show before a packed house at Madison Square Garden in which GGG won a close but unanimous decision. The same team matched up Golovkin and Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas in September. It was one of the most anticipated bouts in years, and although it ended in a controversial draw, it didn’t disappoint for excitement. Loeffler also promoted two more great fights in 2017. In April, he put on the heavyweight battle between longtime former reigning champion, Wladimir Klitschko and rising star Anthony Joshua at London’s Wembley Stadium. It was a fantastic fight with a spectacular finish, as the American slugger knocked down Klitschko twice in the 11th round to earn a TKO victory. Loffler capped his year in September when he promoted the eagerly-awaited rematch of Roman Gonzalez and Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. It too proved to a terrific fight, with the Thai boxer knocking out the former best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Springs Toledo: Dominic Ingle

What Billy Joe Saunders didn't understand and what Dominic Ingle did was that boxing is a character sport first. Although skills are critical and count more than athleticism, it's character that is the foundation of the sport -- roadwork before sunrise, tedious workout sessions, grueling sparring sessions in the ring, self-denial out of it. Saunders walked into the Wincobank Gym in Sheffield in June, reported to Ingle and set up quarters in a house next door. Ingle is the lead in a team that includes nutritionist Greg Marriott and loft-mate Kid Galahad and is built on the age-old boxing principles. "He's got too many distractions," Ingle told Boxing News in June. In September, Saunders defeated Willie Monroe Jr. In October, David Lemieux was formally announced as his opponent. His cloistered devotion to conditioning and craft paid off and he not only won, but astounded everyone. He has no illusions about what and who he needs. If it wasn't for Dominic Ingle, he said in the post-fight interview, "my boxing career would be finished and over."

Hamilton Nolan: Andre Rozier

Andre Rozier. Sadam Ali beat Cotto, and Danny Jacobs did better than anyone had ever done against Golovkin. That's enough for a decade.

Gordon Marino: Virgil Hunter

Frank Della Femina: Andre Rozier

For the past two years we’ve been spoiled by erratic Teddy Atlas-isms to the point where nothing can even come close to matching it. But while this year’s fights missed stoic statements about “water in the basement” or shifting boxing careers to that of “firemen”, I’m going to give this title to Sadam Ali’s corner in his fight against Miguel Cotto. Although it is public knowledge at this point that Cotto was injured in Round 7, Ali’s corner was overly animated, encouraging, and motivating for a guy who was simply written off by everyone watching that fight. Say what you will about him beating a one-handed fighter, but if you’re in the ring with a legend like Cotto, fighting to stay alive and stake a claim in another HBO Boxing main event, you need inspiration, confidence, and direction. Ali executed well, but his corner helped him get there.

Oliver Goldstein: Andre Rozier

Few backed Danny Jacobs against Gennady Golovkin in March. And while Jacobs didn’t emerge with the nod, he took Golovkin into far deeper waters than anyone had managed previously. Jacobs had GGG looking bemused through three, though the Kazakh seemed to waken from slumber when he had him on the canvas in the fourth. No problem – Jacobs returned to his feet and had Golovkin looking defanged all over again. Key to this was a strategy that had GGG frequently off balance as he looked to let go of the combination punches he’s become known for. This was a loss, but Jacobs left the ring a bigger fighter than he entered it. 2018 should be a big year for the New Yorker.

Kieran Mulvaney: Freddie Roach

There are plenty of good candidates for this, numerous occasions on which a corner team has coaxed the best out of its fighter in those difficult moments when all seemed to be going against him. Chepo and Eddie Reynoso, for example, made sure that Canelo Alvarez knew he needed the three best rounds of his life if he had to have any hope of preventing Gennady Golovkin from winning their middleweight battle. But nobody turned around a fight the way Alberto Machado did. In his October bout with Jezreel Corrales, Machado was being hit from every conceivable angle by just about every kind of punch. He was dropped. He was being battered. Through it all, trainer Freddie Roach calmly told him to stick to the fundamentals, work his jab and wait for the openings. And because of the way Corrales flung himself into his unorthodox attack, Roach assured him, those openings would come. In the event, Corrales needed just one, uncorking a left hook that landed on the jaw of his onrushing opponent and dropped him. Corrales juuuuust failed to beat the count, and Machado had the win.

Carlos Acevedo: Rob McCracken

Working with the talented but unseasoned Anthony Joshua—who had never gone into the eighth round before facing his biggest test in Wladimir Klitschko—Rob McCracken provided a calming voice in the corner between rounds. This was particularly evident when an exhausted Joshua, after suffering the first knockdown of his career, plopped onto his stool at the end of the sixth. Joshua struggled for the next few rounds, but with the guidance of McCracken, once a middleweight contender himself, Joshua pulled through for the biggest win of his career.

Eric Raskin: Andre Rozier

I’m picking Ali in part because I want to give recognition to Andre Rozier, who coached Ali to an upset win over Miguel Cotto and guided Daniel Jacobs to what many saw as an upset win over Gennady Golovkin. For my money, Rozier is the clear Trainer of the Year. But Ali was also guided expertly from a managerial perspective. He had his confidence restored with three comeback wins that followed his 2016 knockout loss to Jessie Vargas, and when he was offered a fight with Cotto that many viewed as a mismatch, his team had the confidence to sign for the fight. In and out of the ring, you can’t steer a young fighter any more perfectly than Ali was steered this year.

Diego Morilla: Thainchai “Bank” Pisitwuttinan

Abel Sanchez with Gennady Golovkin

Abel Sanchez with Gennady Golovkin

There were fighters and managers from all corners of the world at the usually boring and pedestrian pre-fight presser in Carson back in September, all of them taking turns to repeat their own self-praise about their great training camps and their gratitude to God and their promoters. But one of them had a story to tell, for a change. His fighter, he said, walked into his gym a few years prior with a dismal 2-3-1 record, and perhaps a dozen more losses in illegal bouts across the country. He was working as a trash collector, and oftentimes he found his meals in those bags as well. He was allowed to sleep on the floor of the gym as he trained, and before he knew it, he said, his fighter had gone from scavenging for food in Bangkok’s garbage bins to building a 25-win streak topped by a title bout that he lost, only to embark on another, 17-fight winning streak topped by back-to-back wins against the best fighter in the world. Wisaksil Wangek, A.K.A. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, said the man they call “Bank” for a reason, had cashed in on the hopes that he had deposited in him less than seven years ago to turn his life around and beat the best fighter in the world – twice. And just as another kid from the slums of an overcrowded Southeast Asian city (Manny something or other), he said, Wisaksil was here to stay. There may not be enough reasons to take his word to an actual bank just yet, but I can see myself betting my rent money on his assessment. I’ve lost more than that on lesser causes.

Michael Gluckstadt: Eddie and Chepo Reynoso

While I thought Gennady Golovkin did enough to secure a close win against Canelo Alvarez, what I thought going into the fight was that GGG would have his way. The Reynosos prepared their man to dismantle Golovkin's considerable arsenal, and Canelo had an answer for all of the questions previous opponents couldn't solve.

Postol’s Date with Crawford Reminds Roach of Early Days with Pacquiao

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

For many observers, one of the most notable and praiseworthy aspects of Terence Crawford’s performances in the ring is the way in which he is able to switch effortlessly and without warning between orthodox and southpaw stances in the middle of a fight.

Freddie Roach does not agree.

Roach, the Hall-of-Fame trainer who will be in the corner of Crawford’s opponent Viktor Postol in the main event of Saturday’s HBO pay-per-view card from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, even goes so far as to argue that switching stances confuses Crawford in the ring.

When a reporter suggested to him on Thursday morning that Crawford’s stance-switching was “seamless,” Roach countered that, “It might seem that way to you, but not to me. I don’t see it. I see he’s weak in the right hand stance and he’s strong in the southpaw stance, and that’s it. And when he’s in the middle and switching, he’s square. I think Crawford loops his punches a little bit, because he’s getting confused with the switching between stances. I don’t really believe it’s a good thing to do in boxing.”

In the unbeaten Postol, with whom he will be working for the fourth time on Saturday night, Roach has a boxer he clearly likes and in whom he believes, which is how it has been since he and the Ukrainian first came together in 2014.

“He showed up at the Wild Card Gym,” Roach recalled when talking to a group of journalists at the MGM Grand. “Manny was training for a tall opponent [Chris Algieri] at that time, and I needed some sparring partners to go to the Philippines with me, so I brought him over. He worked every day, he’s a very good worker. Being in the corner by himself while I was working with Many, he made adjustments on his own, and I saw that and I liked that. He’s a very nice guy. He’s never late. He shows up on time, he’s great to work with.”

Their first fight together saw Postol stop Selcuk Aydin at The Forum in Inglewood, California; but the fighter really raised eyebrows when he knocked out Lucas Matthysse at the StubHub Center last October – a finish that Roach admitted slightly surprised him.

“I didn’t expect that,” he acknowledged. “I thought [Matthysse] would get up. Everyone else was celebrating and I was waiting for him to get up. But when he didn’t get up, I was very surprised. I think he’s still suffering from that eye injury because he had to cancel a fight recently.

“I told him the round before he took him out, ‘OK, time to pick it up.’ When I tell him to pick it up, Postol knows what I mean. It means it’s time.”

The winner of Saturday’s bout may be in line for a November date with the returning Manny Pacquiao – a situation that, Roach admits, would mean he would have to find another trainer for Postol, should he be the one to emerge victorious, as Roach would have to remain loyal to his longtime charge. But, he said, the Filipino would not be watching the contest on television to eye up his potential next opponent.

“Manny’s not a TV guy,” he explained. “Manny took a picture the other month with [middleweight champion Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin] at the gym. GGG came to visit; he’s a very nice guy, very respectful. He waited for Manny to come out of the dressing room and take the picture. He took the picture, and later I’m working the mitts with Manny and he said, ‘Freddie, who was that guy I took a picture with?’ So I said, ‘Manny, don’t you watch TV?’ He said, ‘Not much.’”

Nobody would ever confuse the lanky, jab-heavy Postol with the explosive Pacquiao; but, Roach says, Saturday’s bout with Crawford reminds him a little of the first time he and Pacquiao worked together, when the then-unknown Filipino took on South African junior featherweight champ Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001.

“I come to Vegas and I tell everyone that my guy’s going to win and they all say no and shake their heads,” he said. “It was like when I brought Manny in to face Ledwaba, and when I went to the sports book to put money on Manny beating Ledwaba, they wouldn’t take the bet. And now the odds here are like 6-1, and nobody’s giving my guy a shot. And I feel good about that, because I know my guy does have a shot and we’ve done everything possible to get ready for this fight. I feel good about where we’re out right now.”

So did that mean he’d be laying a bet on Postol?

Roach smiled.

“I might.”

Trainer Talk: Roach and Atlas Differ on Approach While Eyeing the Same Outcome

Photos: Casey McPerry

By Gordon Marino

Boxing trainers often talk as though they were in the ring with their fighters. After a bout, the guys with the Q-tips in their ears might bluster, "We threw a lot of punches tonight." Wait. We threw a lot of punches?  It's comical unless you understand that there is no relationship in sports closer than the bond between a fighter and his trainer.

Manny Pacquiao has frequently acknowledged that Freddie Roach has been a father to him. Although Timothy Bradley Jr. has been working with Teddy Atlas for less than a year, he talks about Atlas as though he were his personal reservoir of self-confidence and grit.

For Saturday's rubber match between Pacquiao and Bradley, there has been almost as much ink spilt on the matchup between Roach and Atlas as between the combatants themselves. There is no love lost between these gurus of the American martial art.

Early on in the promotion, when asked what Bradley's biggest mistake was Roach tried to hold back, but then grinned and volunteered that the biggest mistake was firing Joel Diaz and hiring "the announcer" Teddy Atlas.

Atlas, who is prone to volcanic eruptions, sneered at Roach for taking selfies with Manny as they made their way to the ring for the historic encounter with Mayweather, and over the last month he has barely been able contain his dislike of the seven-time trainer of the year.

For all their differences, Roach and Atlas have a good deal in common, and it is not just their heavyweight egos. Both boxing field generals are aggressive and like to press the attack button on their fighters. Both are keen-eyed tacticians who spend countless hours breaking down videos, trying to find an exploitable glitch in their opponent's method of violence.

However, temperamentally, the two men are a study in contrasts. Atlas approaches the ring as a sacred arena in which character is revealed and hopefully developed. He stresses moral fiber as much as muscle fiber. When his fighters fail to war on the inside, Atlas will treat it as breakdown of the spirit, rather than a flaw in execution or conditioning.

Roach's attitude towards the world of the ring is less reverent. A veteran of 53 professional fights, the Massachusetts native regards boxing as entertainment and a way for some rare birds to make a living.

In the gym and under the klieg lights, Roach is calm and pastoral. He will often begin his instructions with a softly spoken, "son" you need to do this or that. Roach flows with his fighters as he directs them. He doesn't try to mold them into one style. When it comes to training, Manny decides when camp begins. In many ways, Roach resembles his mentor, Eddie Futch, who even in the white heat of the Thrilla in Manila quietly doled out his instructions to Joe Frazier without a whiff of drama.  

The understudy to Cus D'Amato, Atlas gives the impression of someone who would have much preferred being a fighter to being the one teaching the art of fighting.  A martinet with a Broadway flair, Atlas is is more Lombardi than Belichick.

In 1994, after a lazy round in which his boxer Michael Moorer was supposed to be trying to wrest the heavyweight title from Evander Holyfield, Atlas blocked Moorer's path to the stool and muttered something to the effect, "Do you want me to take over?" Many thought Atlas went way too far in inserting himself into to the fray, but mind you – Moorer usurped the heavyweight crown that night.

In the later frames of Bradley's November victory over Brandon Rios, Atlas warned his man that Rios would be going for broke. Inches from Bradley's face and with the veins popping in his neck, Atlas screamed, "What are we? We're fireman. And what do fireman do? They put out fires!" Roach chuckles at that kind of cheerleading. But mind you – Bradley then went on to do something Pacquiao failed to do. He stopped Rios in the ninth.

Atlas's temper, scenes, and need for control have soured some of his boxing relationships. And yet any trainer worth his jar of Vaseline will tell you, different fighters need different things.

After a couple of lackluster performances, Bradley needed someone to light a fuse under him, to teach him something new and to take control, to drive him as though he were a vehicle of violence. Atlas has done that. At a recent press conference, Bradley effused, "Teddy is always on me.  He's a guy that cares.  He's a guy that loves.  He's a guy that knows what he's doing. He's a guy that believes in what he's doing and he's a guy that believes in me. We are a dynamic duo..." We are one.

***

As for x's and o's, on Saturday night Roach will press Manny to keep plying the same winning formula with Bradley. Move in and out. Throw combinations, slide to the side and detonate another series of shots.  If you hurt him stay on him.

Roach will sometimes break with established technique, if it greases big offensive payoffs. On the other hand, Atlas is more of a stickler for boxing basics. While complimenting former trainer Joel Diaz on making Bradley a five-time world champion, Atlas observed that Bradley was getting a little sloppy and beginning to absorb too many punches. While prodding his charge to maintain his high punch output and to work on the inside, Atlas will push Bradley to use his wheels more, to increase his lateral movement and deliver packages of punishment while avoiding the concussive return mail from his iconic rival. 

Watch: Teddy Atlas Has Strong Words for Freddie Roach

Teddy Atlas responds to comments made by Freddie Roach and tells fans what's really on his mind. 

HBO Boxing Podcast - Cotto-Canelo Fight Week - Live From Radio Row

The HBO Boxing Podcast is live at Cotto-Canelo fight week from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney sit down with undercard fighter and pound-for-pound contender Guillermo Rigondeaux, ring announcer Michael Buffer, legendary trainer Freddie Roach, and Roc Nation president Michael Yormark to discuss every aspect of Saturday's mega-fight.

Watch: Trainer Press Conference

Freddie Roach and Floyd Mayweather Sr. throw a few jabs leading up to Saturday's big fight. 

With Fighters Staying Quiet, the Trainers Do the Talking

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

If Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were politeness personified at yesterday’s final pre-fight press conference, their trainers were a little less decorous when talking to the media on Thursday morning. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s long-time chief second, attempted to make the case that, with the fight now so close, the time for trash talking between camps had passed. Mayweather’s father and trainer Floyd Sr. used part of his time at the podium to proclaim that, “Freddie Roach is a joke with no hope.”

OK, then.

Then again, Roach wasn’t exactly shying away from the opportunity to take some shots at the opposing camp, notwithstanding his earlier comment. Specifically, he was quite happy to go along with the suggestion that the younger Floyd was less than enthusiastic about facing the Filipino.

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

“He’s handpicked a lot of opponents, but I don’t think he picked this fight. I think he was forced to pick this fight.” Indeed, he added, after the official kick-off press conference in Los Angeles on March 11, he wondered whether the fight would actually happen.

“After that first press conference, I was driving home and I thought, ‘He isn’t going to show up [for the fight].’ He was far too nice, and I tried to make things happen by saying, ‘We’re going to kick your ass,’ and things like that. But it didn’t work. But it’s too close to the fight now for him not to show up.”

So did Roach agree with Mike Tyson’s reported assertion that Mayweather is “scared”?

“Mike knows a lot about boxing,” Roach smiled. “I like Mike. I trained him for a couple of fights. I’ll go with that.”

Off stage and awaiting his turn, Mayweather Sr. seemed alternately incredulous and apoplectic, although he swatted away the effects of Roach’s words when he took his turn at the microphone.

“Ain’t nothing he said moved me,” he sighed dismissively. The words from the assembled media, on the other hand, prompted pained responses.

Questioned about whether the clash of styles between the two boxers promised a high caliber contest, Mayweather responded that, “I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t think it’s going to be much of a fight.” Asked why he was so confident his son would emerge victorious in short order, he looked at a reporter with contempt. “Do you know boxing? It sounds to me like you don’t know boxing. Because that question was stupid.”

For Roach, this contest has been a long time coming, and he allowed himself to be optimistic about its outcome, if not exuberantly so.

“I’ve been training Manny for this fight for five years. I’ve been watching [Mayweather] for five years. I think we’ve covered all our bases. I think we have a good game plan.”

The senior Mayweather was predictably unmoved by that.

“We would whup Manny any time, any place, any year.”

HBO Boxing Year End Picks: Trainer of the Year

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders are taking a look back at 2014. Here, they make their selections for the best trainer whose fighters appeared on the network this year:

More: HBO Boxing Year End Picks

Kieran Mulvaney: John David Jackson

Not for a body of work with one or more fighters over the course of the year, but for one specific game plan for one particular fight. Sergey Kovalev entered the ring against Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City in November with a well-earned reputation as a seek-and-destroy knockout artist, while the 49-year-old Hopkins had spent decades between the ropes honing his pugilistic skills. But, while his first-round knockdown, and twelfth-round pummeling, of the old master dominated the highlight reels, what happened in rounds 2 through 11 was in many ways even more remarkable. Kovalev resisted Hopkins’ efforts to walk into counterpunches, and fought a restrained, disciplined fight that left even the wily veteran bereft of answers. It was a masterful plan, perfectly executed by Kovalev, but conceived by Jackson.

Eric Raskin: Freddie Roach

I know, it’s a boring pick. But with two protégés who both had outstanding years at the elite level in Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, I have to give Roach the slight edge over Abel Sanchez and John David Jackson. Jackson had the singular game plan of the year in Kovalev’s fight against Hopkins, but Roach beats him here on volume.

Hamilton Nolan: John David Jackson

He took Kovalev from a Russian unknown to (my pick for) fighter of the year.

Nat Gottlieb: John David Jackson

There are bigger household names but Jackson took Kovalev to the next level and his game plan against Hopkins was flawless. Maybe one of the most underrated trainers on the planet.

Oliver Goldstein: Freddie Roach

Predictable, perhaps, but who had a better year than Freddie Roach? Manny Pacquiao avenged his loss to Timothy Bradley and thrashed Chris Algieri, while Miguel Cotto is the middleweight champion.

Some pretty handy stuff.

Tim Smith: Abel Sanchez

He has taken some very combustible raw material in Gennady Golovkin and shaped it into an explosive package.

Diego Morilla: Brian "BoMac" McIntyre

Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear things other than “Go for it!” or “Show some balls up there!” from a corner man. And that’s exactly what we’re not hearing in Terence Crawford’s corner in between rounds. Instead, we hear strategic advice, tactical comments, correcting errors and, yes, a healthy but limited dose of the usual alpha-male cheerleading. That, among many things, is what makes McIntyre one of the most interesting trainers to watch, as the head trainer of a well-balanced group that brings advice above attitude in the corner of one of boxing’s most pleasant surprises of 2014.

Michael Gluckstadt: John David Jackson

You may not know this, but Bernard Hopkins tends to talk a lot before a fight. One of the more effective pieces of trash talk before his fight with Sergey Kovalev was calling out Jackson, Kovalev's trainer, who had lost to Hopkins as a fighter in 1999: "How is someone who I beat going to tell Kovalev how to beat me?" He must have figured something out, because Jackson put together the perfect blueprint for not just beating Hopkins, but frankly, embarrassing him. The (much) older fighter didn't win a single round in a fight that established Kovalev as the light heavyweight to beat.