VIRGIL HUNTER Q n A, Pt 2: "Dawson Will Be Ripped, But How Does He Feel?"
Readers, trainer Hunter wouldn't have a strength and conditioning coach in camp with Ward. Are S & G coaches good or bad for boxers?
I think it was the great Billy Hoyle character from “White Men Can’t Jump” that said, “You’d rather look good and lose than look bad and win.” He was describing his efficient approach to the game of basketball. Hoyle did what it took to win games. He wasn’t trying to look pretty on the court. Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter thinks some fighters in boxing go to great length to have chiseled bodies, almost to the point of losing their abilities.
Hunter explained: “They have Hollywood diets. You get these gung-ho trainers that are more stuck on the visual--how the fighter looks as opposed to how he feels. ”
Hunter takes pride in the inexact-science of developing fighters. He monitors sleep patterns, diet, and workouts much like any other trainer. But what Hunter doesn’t employ is a strength coach. Matter of fact, Hunter thinks strength coaches have egos and threaten the ability for a fighter to perform at the highest level.
Light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson employs a strength coach to help him move down from 175 pounds to 168, where he fights Andre Ward’s for the super middleweight title on September 8.
Hunter does not argue he has the best strategy, but points to Ward’s emergence as the number two pound for pound fighter in the world as evidence to the craft that made him one of the most respected trainers in the world.
In part two of our discussion with Hunter, the 2011 trainer of the year explains why Dawson’s primary trainer John Scully is leery of Dawson’s strength coach and forecasts the issues surrounding Chad Dawson’s camp, including why you shouldn't tinker with another man's fighter.
RM: On 24/7 Chad Dawson was talking about a new commitment to the game and his improved, close-knit team. Give me your thoughts on Chad Dawson’s strength coach Axel Murillo. How can a strength coach help a fighter?
VH: Well, when the strength coach made the statement about Chad making 168 pounds with six percent body fat, it was an ego statement. It’s like, how do you know? You haven’t even worked with him in that capacity. To make a bold statement like that and calculate that his body is going to be six percent body fat takes more understanding. If you want to be at six percent then the body is going to fluctuate between eight and four percent body fat. If you plan on hitting the scales at six percent there will be times the fighter will go down to four or five percent.
RM: How do you think the strength coach effects Dawson’s training?
VH: I really think that Scully is leery of the strength coach. Scully asks the strength coach many questions and constantly has to be reassured. My position as a trainer is this – you are not going to tinker with my fighter and come up with your theories when I have enough sense to know that two pounds to the left can be very detrimental to a fighter. And I happen to know that very low body fat percentage is detrimental to a fighter. And it can affect a fighter’s brainwaves and chemistry.
RM: I see.
VH: You get these gung-ho trainers that are more stuck on the visual--how the fighter looks as opposed to how he feels.
VH: He’s going to be ripped. He is going to be six percent body fat. Yeah but, how does he feel?
VH: You know, just because he is going to have six percent body fat does that mean that is where he is supposed to be? You can deplete a fighter’s mentality with that approach. He can be lethargic one day and have great energy the next.
RM: You would never use a strength coach?
VH: No, this is one of the reasons why Scully is going to have to have an eye on what is going on with his fighter. He has to have an eye on this strength coach tinkering with his kid. That is the most important thing. Scully’s observance of this kid is going to have to be really on time. He is going to have watch him running, he is going to have to watch his attitude, and he is going to have to watch him sparring. If Chad is affected physically he is going to be affected mentally.
RM: Do you think that it might be a lack of control for John Scully?
VH: Well, I don’t know. Look, I don’t know John Scully personally. I met him briefly in Atlantic City and I took him to be a sincere guy that cares about his fighter. I took him to be a caring guy. This is pretty much why I feel comfortable saying this. I’m sure this guy tinkering with Chad concerns him (Scully) and rightfully so. He has to monitor that situation. I just think that if the fighter has strength deficiencies, the trainer should shore him up. A lot of these strength guys bring egos. In the fight business you cannot afford to tinker with your athletes. You better know what you are doing. But the outcome will speak for itself. Again, I’m not bashing, it’s just my theory. I don’t want anyone tinkering with my fighter. I don’t want any outside theories, particularly the mirror theory, when everything looks good on the outside but you can’t tell what’s going on inside.
RM: It’s not about how you look. It’s about how you perform.
RM: Well, according to this theory, do you think Chad Dawson might have some insecurity because he uses a strength coach?
VH: Well, Dawson and Scully seem to have a really good relationship. I mean, they talk about it openly. But I do think Scully is leery of the strength coach. He is just not saying anything. I mean, come on, he doesn’t want to rock the boat.
RM: What do you mean?
VH: I mean, look, I am a trainer just like he is a trainer.
VH: I’ll be honest with you. If I walked in the situation he walked into, I’d be very careful about rocking the boat too.
RM: I hear you.
VH: You know he walked in a great situation. And that is what we work for as trainers, we work hard and thrive to get a world-class fighter. So, if you get hired in that situation you don’t want to rock the boat. And I think Scully went about it the right way. But I also think he is very leery. He does not completely trust the strength coach. And I wouldn’t trust the situation either. But let’s not forget that the strength coach is coming in with credentials. He is a Mackie Shilstone disciple, who has a reputation for working with boxers. But I remember something Roy Jones told me. He said, “Mackie can put the weight on but he couldn’t take it off.” Usually when you have a strength and condition guy they are putting on weight as opposed to taking it off. There have been a lot of examples of fighters using strength coach unsuccessfully, from Bradley’s ankles, to Pacquiao’s cramps, to Khan’s inability to recover from a neck shot, even when Oscar took that weight off to fight Pacquiao. So again, there is real fine line. But like I said, I think it is the trainer’s job to strengthen his fighter.
RM: And Scully doesn’t know?
VH: I don’t know. That’s Chad’s choice. I’m sure that Scully knows quite a bit. And I’m sure that he is concerned. I have heard him say several times in interviews that he asks the strength coach if Chad will be ready, and he says the guy (strength coach) assures him that Chad will make the weight with no problem and he is going to be ripped. But the fact that he needs reassurance shows why there’s a concern. Do you follow me?
RM: Yes. I hear you, because I have seen the way you work with Andre. It is like you are building a weapon, and you want to know everything that is going into that weapon. You don’t want anyone intruding your project. But with Dawson, Scully, and the strength coach there might be an inconsistent message right?
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