Tarver Ready for Jones Jr With Help of New Trainer

14.05.04 - By Stephanie Ragusa: Since his controversial November 8th loss to Roy Jones Jr., Antonio Tarver has been overwhelmingly focused on an immediate rematch with his long-time foe. Less than five months after the arduous twelve-round bout, the self-appointed “People’s Champion” reconvened his top-notch corner and returned camp determined to emerge victorious in Jones-Tarver II.

Tarver, who trains in Vero Beach, FL under the tutelage of former world champion, Buddy McGirt, employed strength and conditioning coach, Chris Gurney, as the newest member of his team. Thirty-four year old Gurney, owner of Elite Physiques, has been instructing pro fighters since 1996 and is certified through the A.F.F.A, the IFPA, and the ACSM sports training affiliations.

In a recent interview, I was able to speak with Gurney about the importance of nutrition and conditioning in professional sports along his involvement with Team Tarver for Saturday’s “Its More Than Personal” rematch with Roy Jones Jr.

Describe the role of a trainer in a fighter's development and overall career? What are the long-term benefits for using a qualified trainer in the sport of professional boxing?

The role of a trainer is to teach good habits and filter out bad ones. Having the objective opinion of a qualified trainer in a fighter’s camp always helps. It is their job to know when someone has been pushed enough and to prevent over- exhausting or fatiguing of the athlete, prohibiting proper recovery from workouts. Down the road it all adds up.

Explain the fundamentals of sports nutrition and conditioning and its value for professional athletes and specifically boxers.

Basically, the fundamentals are (a) proper food intake, (b) exercise specific training (functional and aerobic training), and (c) proper rest.

The value for professional athletes is priceless if they want their body to perform at its ultimate best. It is all about having the right game plan for your sport. A conditioner cannot train a sprinter like a marathon runner because the muscular demands and preparation strategies are as different as night and day. In boxing, I have seen so many fighters nutritionally starved and depleted. It is absurd. These athletes (boxers) are training 2-3 times per day at different workout levels. It’s simply not possible to not eat just to make weight. All that has to be done with regards to nutrition is to allow enough time to prepare.

What challenges are presented to you as a trainer working with world-class athletes?

With any athlete, there is a challenge because they come to me already as high-quality competitors and I must be able to step up their game level just one more notch to be ahead of the others in their sport.

What kinds of concerns are raised in developing a program for a competitive athlete? How do you address special considerations, such as substance abuse regulation, that occur in professional as opposed to recreational sports?

Developing the athlete’s program is tricky but fun. It all comes down to training hard. I have never been involved with the use of performance enhancers in sports. I have prided myself that through my studies, my God-given gift for intuitive nutritional knowledge, and intense work, I can dismantle all obstacles in way of a successful program.

How is the training regimen for boxers different from that of other competitive athletes?

The training regimen is different due to the nature of quick movements in the sport coupled with the aerobic fitness, power, agility, and speed a fighter must possess. Those skills must be put that together in one workout.

How did you become involved with Team Tarver?

Through divine intervention my wife, Cindy, her and I met with Buddy McGirt one-and-a-half years ago to form the Elite Boxing Gym and Youth Program. Through Buddy, I met Antonio and the rest is history. Antonio and I got along great from the start. The chemistry was good. We are both willing to work as hard as it takes.

(The non-profit organization serves at-risk youth in Indian River County encouraging the development of physical and social skills achieved through athletic involvement. The facility is also the gym from which McGirt trains professional boxers.)

From a coach's perspective, what needs did Tarver have in strength training? What goals did you and Tarver set as a team and what progress have you seen?

Antonio is conscious year-round of his fitness and athleticism, but I have seen his body mature and his strength increases every camp. He has progressed in that he is able to adapt to any level of intensity I throw at him in training. In conditioning, you only progress by being pressed. Presently, Antonio is at the top of his game.

Are results such as the ones Antonio experienced typical of other professional fighters who embark on a training regiment?

Results are definitely not typical, because all athletes do not begin training in the same physical condition. Some are in better condition. Some are in worse condition. I hate seeing athletes treating training like fat camp.

What personal philosophies do you feel should be a part of any healthy training program?

Train smart

Train intense

Train under guidance

In terms of strength, conditioning, training, and nutrition, etc. what would you like to see happen in the sport of professional boxing? Is anything lacking or does something need improvement?

Overall, I would like to see these athletes get the respect they deserve for all their hard work. I would especially like to see these athletes receive proper checkups and full medical workups monitoring blood work and the brain, etc. Also, I would like for the sport to keep track of all types of coaches, some of who may be instituting the wrong types of philosophies and training methods. After all, it is only the boxer who enters the ring, not their coaches, and the fighter’s health should always come first.

Do you feel it is necessary for fighters to employ a conditioner to reach their fitness goals? Why or why not?

I think fighters should all consult with a qualified trainer for their specific needs. Fighters should not be afraid to consult a trainer or assume something about conditioning they are not totally sure of. Both could come back to hurt them later on in their careers.

Article posted on 14.05.2004

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