Q & A with Abdur Rahim Muhammad trainer of Atlantic City undefeated prospects
By Lou McLaughlin: This past week I had the opportunity to interview via telephone Atlantic City boxing trainer Abdur Rahim Muhammad. Among the many fighters currently under his tutelage are 5 undefeated up and coming fighters including his son Qa’id a knockout artist bantamweight 7 (6)-0-0. Not too many fans have heard much of Abdur.
Article posted on 22.05.2012
This is by his choice. He is a gracious unassuming man who does not want to be in the spotlight preferring the attention be paid to his fighters. Several times in the interview he spoke of his preference to be working behind the scenes. Shunning the limelight as his boxers win fights by letting them speak to the media after a win while Abdur goes on to prepare the next fighter for battle. His day job is as a truck driver for the city of Atlantic City. A proud devoted Father of 11 children-5 boys and 6 girls. After work and family is his work as a boxing trainer. He is socially conscience of wanting to teach kids the discipline that boxing gives and to guide them in their pursuit of pugilistic excellence. In conversation with Abdur I found a man who would never say anything negative about anyone not even opposition. He is above all a gentleman and a class act. He cares about his family and children, and all kids in general. Abdur Rahim Muhammad is a man quietly making a difference in young people’s lives.
Q-Abdur tell me about yourself.
My name is Abdur Rahim Muhammad, I’m 42 years old. I’ve been into boxing since like the age of 6. I got into boxing because my Father was a boxer, my Grandfather was a boxer. A lot of people that I looked up to in our area were well known boxers.
Where I lived in Chester PA there was the West End Center Gym on Central and Raymond Street where the P.A.L. was. Downstairs was the facility where the people played ping pong, pool, or basket ball. On the second floor was the boxing gym From downstairs as a young kid I’d hear all the thuds and noise. But my family members who weren’t boxers wouldn’t let us go upstairs because we were too young. At that time I was very small. One day I went upstairs and the sneakers I had on were too big for me in fact I had tissues in the fronts of the sneakers. One day a guy stepped on the front of my foot and everyone was laughing and when I looked down I saw him stepping on my foot to hide the fact that my shoes were too big I went, Ouch! Everybody fell on the floor laughing even harder. This guy was always trying to push me around then one day I saw him on the steps and tried to fight him. This one day I just jumped on him. The coach saw how brutal I was and how bad I wanted to fight this kid and invited me upstairs. From then on I was allowed to come upstairs to fight at the West End Center Gym
Q Did you have any amateur fights?
A-Yes, I had a lot of amateur fights I fought in Chester PA, also in Delaware, many places because my mother moved several times. We moved from Chester to Delaware to Atlantic City, to Pleasantville, back to Atlantic City. Wherever we moved to I would have to join a gym and train out of that location.
I’ve never wanted attention to myself because my days are done. And the things that these guys have accomplished I had never accomplished. I don’t want to be one of those coaches that compete with the athletes for attention. I don’t want to be one of those trainers that puts my kids under scrutiny. I try to stay away from me. In fact when they fight after they win I’m not in the camera taking pictures I’m out of the way. I like it when I have two or three fighters on a card. So after one wins I get out of the ring and go to the next fighter and get him ready. I don’t really like a lot of attention.
Q- Why didn’t you turn pro after your amateur career?
A-As time went on I had my Son when I was about 19 Qa’id and I had to go out and work. All my life I’ve been one of those kids that had to go and get a job. When I was 11 years old I was working at a store sweeping after school. My Mother was a single parent I didn’t have the advantages of this day and age to just go to the gym and be a kid. I had to help out. I’ve been paying bills since I was like 13. And I wanted it that way. I wanted to take the burden off my Mother. When it came to turning professional no one ever mentioned it to me. Since I got involved so young I got out of it before anyone had tried to offer it to me. And I never had any interest in turning professional I never even thought about it. Never even realized the difference between the amateurs and the professionals
Q- Is there anyone in the sport of boxing who you admire or try to emulate?
A- Yes, Al Haymon a Harvard-educated; successful in live concert promotion, then television production, now boxing; extensive list of celebrity clients; a brother, Bobby, who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard; no office, no answering machine, no photographs, no interviews. You never see him on television or giving interviews-not that many people know him. But he is quietly behind the scenes as a manager and promoter working with many of your big attractions in boxing including Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Q- What made you think you could be a trainer?
A-Well, I was always involved in working with somebody. Remember John Brown? He was trying to date my cousin and I got to know him. One day I saw him throwing a punch and I thought it was so wrong. So I suggested to him why you don’t try throwing it this way. After I showed him he asked me why don’t I come to the gym and work with him. So I started in my neighborhood with all local kids and I had a couple of stepchildren and I wanted to teach them how to defend themselves. And before you knew it we had a ton of kids every Saturday and Sunday that we were teaching how to fight and it wasn’t until then that I realized I could organize boxing and coach. I had never thought about it until my son Qa’id who I had entrusted with a trainer because I was working two jobs. Qa’id came home with a headache one day. The first day I had been there and he sparred with like three guys and chased them all out of the gym. The next day they put in there for more sparring and he had gone 8-10 rounds the previous day. I didn’t think he’d be back in the ring the next day. And he was in there with somebody who was hitting him in the back of the head. Afterwards Qa’id said he had a headache and felt like he was going to pass out. After that I promised myself that I would never ever let him go to the gym again without me. I started going to the gym with him every day. Initially, I was just a supportive Father. Then I decided I was going to take more initiative and start working with my son.
Q- Would I be correct in saying that it is because of your son Qa’id that you got into training professionals.
A- Without a doubt it was because of Qa’id that I started training professionals. But I’ve always been training somebody. When I was younger I used to train everybody and I used to say that one day I’m going to train the champion of the world. People on the street used to come to me and ask “What did I think about a fight or would come over to the house to watch fights and I would basically tell them exactly how a fight would go and what the fighter could actually do when he was in the actual fight to make it easier. A lot of people started to trust in my opinion. I never really looked at it like I was a trainer. I looked at it like I do know fighting. As a kid I took up boxing and Jujitsu because those things were allotted to us in Pennsylvania. When I moved to Pleasantville I met a guy who was a fourth degree black belt in Jujitsu. He wanted to open up a gym himself but then he had a car accident and he was paralyzed and in a wheel chair. So the only thing he really could do is show upper body and joint manipulation moves. But I was used to the ground, grappling and getting physical. I’ve always been involved in some sort of training. I used to have the kids out there on the streets and I didn’t want anything I just wanted to teach them to fight. We had kids with no mouthpieces, no headgear. We didn’t know what were doing. But these kids were out there “knuckling up” with these long boxing gloves. We didn’t know any better. We would have a five year old out there fighting big boys with out proper attire. And there were coaches in the gym that I’m at now who would walk past every day and see these kids improperly boxing and walk past them and go to the P.A. L. and never even invite us. My son knew how to fight from the streets and knew how to box from me training him. We took him to the Inter-Karate Academy. He was there from the about the age of 11 to 13. They put him in the adult class. He wanted full contact. But this gym didn’t offer full contact only partial contact. So I figured I’d bring him to the boxing gym and he’d get beat up or put in his place. And then maybe we could focus on just partial contact Karate and just have him enjoy that. On the first day they put him in with three kids one who went on to a professional career. He toyed with these kids so bad that they actually went to another gym! At the time I was holding two jobs. But when Qa’id came home with the headache that’s what got me caught up in boxing. Qa’id trains at the PAL. We had our gym but it closed down for financial reasons.
Q- I see you have some undefeated professional fighters. How did this come about? Did they ask you to train them or did you ask them? And some comments on them
A-Yes I have among my undefeated fighters
Joel De La Paz super middleweight 6(4)-0
Lavarn Harvell light heavyweight 10(5)-0-0
Qa'id Muhammad bantamweight 7(6)-0-0
Gabriel Pham super middleweight 5(2)-0-0
Eugene Soto super middleweight 3(1)-0-0
And a large group of amateurs that I train. In Lavarn I saw “Baby Bowe” (Harvell has a marked resemblance to former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe). And I have the belief in my mind that someday I’m going to be training a world champion. I just need the right athlete to walk through that door. I’ve always told my son one day that door will swing open and the right athlete is going to come in and I’m going to make him a champion. And when I saw Lavarn it was like Wow! He looks just like Riddick Bowe. And when I saw the size of his hands, his age, and other attributes. I thought this might be the one.
Gabriel Pham came to me 2 years ago asking me to train him. But I didn’t want to interfere with his at the time coach. Pham asked me again later. I knew I’d have to make some changes to the fighter. I know how it is when you work with someone else’s fighter and I have to give respect to his former coach that he did a wonderful job But I knew I’d make some changes. You work with a fighter you change him and then there is someone in the background that says you didn’t teach him nothing. I had never wanted to work with someone else’s athlete. But Gabriel asked me multiple times. My son Qa’id influenced my final decision by saying “who do you think you are? He’s asking and asking you and you ignore him”. So I told Qa’id we’ll give him a shot-if it don’t work out it’s your fault! But as he has progressed I’m certain that our transition will work out.
Q-Is there anything specifically that you look for in a fighter before accepting to train him?
A-Without a doubt in all of my fighters I look for a certain personality. I more attracted to a fighter that doesn’t have a criminal background. I don’t look up their record or profile. I look for that neat humble young man. The guys that’s a little quiet but he’s destructive. I like how Mike Tyson would stop a man and just shrug his shoulders and walk away and he wouldn’t over celebrate in the ring. I like power boxers. That’s my craft that I work with power boxers. We try to execute power with the best of our boxing ability without exposing ourselves to any danger.
Q- to Lavarn Harvell-what are your thoughts on having Abdur as a trainer? How has it benefited you?
A-I‘ve been with him since I was 16 (six years). We work together and have like a special connection. I couldn’t see myself training with nobody else. Our connection and communication are special.
Q-to Gabriel Pham what are your thoughts on having Abdur as a trainer? How has it benefited you?
A- Definitely he has added new things to my repertoire. He has me working harder then ever before. And I’m sure he will take me further then I could have imagined
Q- Abdur is there anything that you would like to add?
Yes, the people that I admire most in boxing are the one’s that work quietly behind the scenes making everything come together. I’m not in it for the attention. My reward is in helping my fighters achieve all that they can achieve.
Boxers or their managers who wish to contact Abdur Rahim Muhammad may do so at
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