Emanuel Steward: “I’ve had a lot of experience and I need to start sharing these experiences”
Exclusive Interview by Geoffrey Ciani - Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward is preparing to kick off the first in a series of boxing clinics on Wednesday, July 21. The first clinic will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, at Sweet Science Fitness. On August 4, Steward will be conducting a second clinic at the Fight Factory in Tampa, Florida. Steward is looking to share the vast wealth of boxing knowledge he has accumulated during his involvement in the sport which has spanned nearly sixty years. The clinic is primarily intended to educate trainers and boxers (both amateur and professional), conditioning coaches, nutritionists, boxing fans, MMA enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest to acquire firs hand knowledge of the sport. I was recently afforded an opportunity to speak with Emanuel about his boxing clinics and here is what he had to say:
Q: Emanuel, how did you first come up with the idea to start these boxing clinics?
A: Well about a year ago I talked to Tom Hauser about the possibility of doing a book. He said, “You should do a book because you’ve been out here so long. You saw everything and experienced so many different things in boxing”. He also said, “Another thing that would be good, you should seriously consider doing a clinic”. I dropped the idea until later on when I thought about it and realized the clock is still ticking and I’ve been in boxing now going on fifty-eight years which is really all of my life. I’ve had a lot of experience and I need to start sharing these experiences with someone before it’s too late.
There’s so many things that I’ve seen going on that are good about the industry but the one thing that’s kind of bad is we are not developing any trainers. We have a surplus of advisors, strengthening coaches, managers, promoters, and publicists. We have everything out here but we don’t have anyone who’s really training the basic fundamentals of boxing and this is one of the reasons why the European fighters are dominating a lot. They spend more time teaching the basics and fundamentals than we do here in America.
So I decided I wanted to start doing a series of clinics to start teaching the basic fundamentals of boxing. I also want to teach the psychology and different things that go with what I have learned throughout these years that I’ve been in the boxing game—the dos and the don’ts and a lot of the mistakes that I have made myself. I wanted to cover those. Some people don’t even know the basic art of wrapping hands and knowing how to just put the proper pressure on the hand wrapping and a lot of people don’t understand the different rules in the different states.
Before I began training Miguel Cotto I already had plans to do some sort of boxing clinic but I didn’t have that much enthusiasm until after training Miguel. Joe Santiago who, when I first met him, we sat down and we had a conversation between me and Miguel. We’re not here to be threatening. We’re trying to work as a team. He said, “Steward, let me make this very clear to you. I am a young trainer. I’ve never been around the type of boxing you have. I’ve been watching you all of my life since I was a kid because I love boxing. I want to try and learn everything I can from you—how to wrap hands, how to do this, how to do that, cutting off the mitts, cutting back on training, and all of that stuff”. He said, “So you have me as a student, not as competition”.
He did that and afterwards he said, “You need to start teaching more and sharing more”. He’s actually ready to go back into the next training camp so he can learn some more. That really impressed me a lot that he wants to learn and pick up this knowledge. If you remember, you never heard any problems at all with either one of us working together. Throughout the whole fight we worked together. He’s just trying to learn. He said, “I’m not in competition, I want to learn. I’ve never been exposed to the things that you’ve been exposed to”.
I think it’s a big need in our sport right now for basic fundamental courses. The best part of it will probably be the questions and answers. When people ask you so many questions about different things behind the scenes, leading up to fights, during fights, and after fights. It’s just a way of sharing the knowledge I’ve accumulated in my lifetime.
Q: What type of people do you think would benefit most from attending one of your clinics?
A: I think the people that will benefit the most will naturally be boxing trainers for both professional and amateurs. We’ll pinpoint a lot of differences between the different training methods and hand warps and different things between amateurs and professionals, too. Also conditioning coaches and that includes nutritionists, MMA enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to get some firsthand knowledge about boxing. Most of us as we’re growing up, we play a little basketball and a little baseball and we are pretty much familiar with of the sports, as fans and observers. But many people don’t box and they really don’t even have a full understanding of what’s going on in a boxing match. So I’d like to explain that to general fight fans and people who are just interested in boxing, also.
Q: That would be somebody like me. I’ve never boxed before and I have no knowledge about how to train a fighter but I’m a fan of the sport who is very interested in learning more. Would someone like me, with no prior boxing experience whatsoever, be able to attend these clinics?
A: The clinic will be beneficial for a lot of people who have never boxed before, especially for fans and media people related to it. It’s also for people who are in boxing but still have something else they can learn. There is always an extra question or two that people have that, even though they’re involved in the sport, they don’t know the answer. Just earlier today, one of buddies called me up who’s coaching a fighter in a boxing match in California tonight. I told him certain things to look for, and what the boxer should eat and not eat in the last 24 hours, and the time to quit doing certain type of things, and certain types of things he can take for extra energy. These are questions that someone who’s already in boxing wanted to know and I spend a lot of time on the phone doing things like that.
Q: What type of turnout are you expecting for these first two clinics coming up?
A: The response has been very good. It looks like we might have about maybe four or five hundred, possibly. We’re going into two areas where there is a lot of interest in boxing. Atlanta, even though we haven’t really had any super name fighters there since we had Evander Holyfield and Vernon Forrest, but it’s a hot bed of gyms and a lot of activity and coaches there. We’re also in Tampa, Florida where we had Winky Wright and Andre Berto and there is a string of gyms all over there so I know there will be a lot of interest in both of those places.
We’re very excited about it and also the questions and answers. A lot of people in boxing have so many questions. What should you do to try and prevent your fighter from catching a cold and all of these homemade remedies and things you may use, the different type of sparring partners you might use, and why would you use this guy and maybe changing up sparring partners at different parts of the training camp for different purposes. So we will cover a lot of questions that people will be asking that they could not get just from watching a boxing match or reading a magazine.
Q: How many of these clinics do you plan on running?
A: Well I would figure that in about a twenty-four month period we will probably do about twelve. There has been a lot of interest from foreign countries which surprised me. There is Germany and Russia which we’ve gotten a lot of calls from, and London where we already set one up for London. The next venues in the United States will probably be in Houston, Texas and the New York or New Jersey east coast area or Philadelphia.
Q: If someone lives in a certain city where there are no clinics scheduled, is there a way for interested parties to perhaps suggest a city that you might consider sometime in the future?
A: Yes, we’re open to suggestions and because there are certain places that may not be close for certain people who are really interested in the clinics. We’ll make arrangements to possibly consider going to some of the out of the way places. We don’t want to just have to go to all of the major cities. Really the amount of people that are in attendance in the crowd is good but it’s not that crucial because it’s not about a money situation. It’s about basically just sharing this knowledge before time runs out on me and hopefully we can have a better set of coaches and trainers coming up in the future.
There is so much difference in boxing in between so many different phases and aspects, from the super fight level with guys like Pacquiao and Mayweather and Cotto, and then there is the club fight level, and then you have the beginners. Some boxers in some part of the United States, guys have to travel two or three hours to get to a gym. They can only get there once or twice a week because it’s so difficult and they live in such remote areas. Hopefully the knowledge that they can pick up here will allow them to go back and help these fighters.
Q: What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your boxing clinics?
A: My ultimate goal is to just have improvement at the training and coaching level here in the United States and worldwide. It’s the biggest problem that we have. To be a trainer, a cutman, or even a manager there is really no standardized requirements like they have in other sports where you get certified. Anyone can go into a gym, and actually they don’t even have to go to a gym. They can just go and get a license. They go into a commission office and get a license for $10 or $20. They are dealing with important aspects of somebody’s life and everything else on their hands and there are no requirements at all. They just say I want to be a trainer, or a manager or whatever. Hopefully this will become a standard where maybe commissions will say, “Look, in order to be a trainer you need to at least get some knowledge and go to one of these clinics”. Maybe we can get it set up where it can be on television videos or something one day, but it’s a big, big void today.
Q: Emanuel, is there anything else you would like to say to all the fans with regards to your boxing clinics?
A: Yes, if you get an opportunity and would like to come and enjoy the clinics then I can assure you—the knowledge that you will pick up you will never forget and you will never regret coming because the best part will be the questions and answers.
Q: Great! Emanuel, thank you very much for your time and I wish you the best of luck with your boxing clinics.