Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain grew up as an orphan in Mexico City and found that boxing was a way to cope with the inevitable would-be predators that he’d encounter as part of being on his own by the age of seven. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m in boxing at all. It all started because I had to find a way to defend whatever little belongings I had in school at the orphanage. I tried out other sports like baseball for a little while but I was always drawn to the beautiful sport of boxing. Unfortunately I didn’t have what it took to be a great fighter,” says Beristain. Beristain more than made up for his lack of success as a boxer by overachieving as a trainer and manager to some of the world’s finest pugilists.
You can’t question Ignacio Beristain’s status as a legendary figure within the Mexican boxing community. He’s molded minds and bodies for over forty years starting as a boxing trainer for the Mexican government. Few trainers come to mind who are more deserving of being inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame than Beristain. “God has blessed me with the sport of boxing and this honor that is being bestowed upon me by the World Boxing Hall of Fame is humbling to say the least,” said Beristain about the October 14th induction taking place in Los Angeles.
Beristain’s list of champions is impressive. The prodigious Ricardo “Finito” Lopez is on it as is Gilberto Roman and former four time world champion Daniel Zaragoza. There are also the two brothers out of the Mexican capital, Featherweight champion Juan Manuel and Bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez. These are a few of the sixteen world champions that Beristain’s helmed to prosperous careers. He won’t name them all. He’s superstitious. He feels that if he does, some kind of ominous luck will follow him.
He must’ve said something to somebody this past March before his fighter, Juan Manuel Marquez, was summarily robbed in Indonesia after seemingly taking his opponent, Chris John, to boxing school yet ending up on the losing end of the scorecards. It remains to date, the biggest heist of the year. “It’s the sad part of boxing. There are so many dark parts of boxing that damage the sport. They surrounded us with dark, shadowy people and after the result I wasn’t angry, I was saddened. The Indonesian public knew who won and many of them were ashamed by the decision,” says Beristain of the atrocious scoring by the judges that night, “from the manager of the hotel to people in general.”
Marquez and Beristain were just coming off a dispute with their former promoter Top Rank and going to Indonesia for a paltry five figure purse put Beristain’s managing abilities into question. Top Rank had offered Marquez 700,000 dollars + to fight a rematch against Manny Pacquiao. Beristain felt the offer wasn’t fair to his fighter and played hardball with Bob Arum’s company. Beristain and Marquez eventually severed all ties to the Vegas-based promoter after further negotiations came to a halt. “I was wondering why so much more money was being paid to the challenger and we were getting about a hundred thousand more than we got for the first fight. This was going to be the rematch and it was going to be huge. Juan Manuel deserved more than that. There were also other provisions on the contract that we weren’t happy with. Mexican fighters can’t allow themselves to be exploited by promotional companies. The way I see it, we liberated ourselves from them. All we said is no. No more,” said Beristain regarding the split.
Beristain was unsettled about the situation but always believed that Marquez’s talent would win out. Marquez eventually found himself in title contention and won the WBO “interim” Featherweight title with an impressive seventh round knockout over Terdsak Jandaeng. “We showed those people who wanted us to fail that when a fighter like Juan Manuel has the skills that he’s blessed with, no one is going to hold him back. I’m very happy that he’s champion again,” said Beristain. Marquez is now promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s promotion company, Golden Boy Promotions, where Beristain is feeling comfortable. “The relationship with Oscar De La Hoya is great. Even though he’s this great fighter with a great career, he’s a very down to earth type of person. I like the young man,” he continues.
Although Beristain resides in El Paso, Texas where he continues training new prospects, he often makes the trek to his former home in Mexico City when it’s time to train the Marquez brothers. “Juan Manuel trains at an extremely high altitude in Toluca and I have to be there in order to get him ready for his next fight. I also do a lot of work with amateurs and prospects in El Paso. Needless to say, time is getting scarce,” he says.
Among those new prospects he’s training is Super Featherweight Eduardo Escobedo who Beristain says reminds him of his former charge Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. Lopez was a legendary champion that ended his career with an astounding record of 51 and 0. “We’re still working with Eduardo. We’re trying to refine his style but the similarities to “Finito” Lopez and Juan Manuel are definitely there. He’s been training with me since he was twelve years old. He’s twenty now. If you see him fight you’ll see just how talented he is,” assures Beristain. Escobedo was part of the Diego Corrales vs. Joel Casamayor undercard where he reportedly looked impressive in defeating Manny Perez with a shutout decision.
Beristain is currently training Juan Manuel in Mexico City for his October 21st date against Jimrex Jaca. “Juan Manuel is looking magnificent. We expect him to be in tremendous shape. All I can say is that Juan Manuel is the best featherweight in the world. I was watching him spar earlier today and he was superb,” says Beristain as if smiling through the phone. He’s also busy planning out Bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez’s future with his promoter Gary Shaw. “I don’t know if Rafael will go up to Super Bantamweight yet or if he’ll fight once more as a bantamweight. We’re going to clear that up within the week.”
Beristain calls boxing a “beautiful sport” because he feels it saved him and has the power to save others that may be headed in the wrong direction. “It’s a sport that has helped many kids who were headed into darkness and set them straight and made better men of them – including this young man I’m working with, Eduardo Escobedo. All my life I have seen it save young boys from a life of drugs, crime and gangs. What’s more beautiful than that?”
For more information about the World Boxing Hall of Fame dinner go to www.wbhf.org