Oct 062011

When you compare boxing to any of the four major sports—baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey–you will notice there are simply two guys in the ring battling. Yet you rarely to hear a fighter say he did it on his own. Fighters don’t do it alone! The pressure may be on them the night of the fight–to carry their team–but that night, as well as leading up to that night, is a team effort.

Fighters train side by side. In the amateurs they work as a team. Jump rope, shadow box, sit-ups, mitt-work–all done together. Olympic boxing is a team sport and no fighter will tell you otherwise.

When a fighter becomes a professional, everything changes. His team no longer consists of himself, his trainer and other fighters. The new team consists of the fighter, head trainer, cut man, manager, promoter, as well as others (public relations person, etc). It is crucial for a fighter to surround himself with people who have his best interest at heart; people who understand who he is and where he wants to go.

Unfortunately, it is rare to find modern-day managers who have more than a financial interest in the sport. Years ago, a fighter’s manager knew the business and the sport inside and out. Managers were gym rats. There were more fighters for managers to work with. Men like Joe Gramby, who also trained fighters, excelled at being a boxing manager. He worked with some of the best in the Philadelphia area, including Hall-of-Fame lightweight champion Bob Montgomery, as well as welterweight contenders Gil Turner (for a short time) and Charley Scott, light-heavyweight contender Richie Kates, heavyweight contender Randall “Tex” Cobb and super middleweight contender Tony Thornton, aka The Punching Postman.

Gramby was just as successful managing fighters in the 1970s and 1980s as he was in the 1940s and 1950s. He stuck to his old-school principles despite the changing times. He made the decisions and his fighters listened. Otherwise, what is the point of having a manager? Whether or not Gramby would be as effective in today’s world where athletes want more control is another question.

In the past, the fighter’s job was simply to fight. Fighters worked for managers then; managers work for fighters now. I’m not saying which system in better, but I am saying that the system that works for the entire group is the system that’s best for the fighter.

It seems more and more current managers become paper pushers. They give their fighter money, hoping the fighter ends up with a world title shot where the manager can recoup the money and then some. When a fighter has a manager who understands the fight game and makes the business decisions, that’s when you know the manager truly knows the fighter and is looking out for the fighter’s best interest.

When a fighter’s team is intertwined, they become family. If a fighter is lucky to have a team he can trust, chances are he is with the right people. They not only understand the importance of what goes on inside the ring, but also what goes on outside the ring. A fighter needs to know his team is there at all times.

One of my favorite local manager-fighter duos is Stephen Edwards and Julian J-Rock Williams. Edwards reminds me of the old-time managers, the ones who know the game. He knows his fighter inside and out because when Williams is up running, Edwards is right next to him. Edwards is more of a trainer-manager.

The sport needs managers who are at the fighter’s side. If not actually helping the fighter train, at least the manager knows the capabilities of his fighter. The way local manager Doc Nowicki checks in with his fighters (Mike Jones, Teon Kennedy, etc.) on a regular basis and the same with the way Jimmy Deoria is with Ronald Cruz. A potential manager should be like Edwards, Nowicki and Deoria and become part of the team on all occasions, not just on fight night.

A fighter has to trust his team and a fighter has to want to succeed. Different opinions are expected. Some teams don’t want their fighter fighting unless it will benefit them in the rankings. Others know the ring experience is benefit enough. It depends on the team’s outlook. Neither side it right or wrong–it is just an opinion.

A fighter should be ready and willing to fight at any time and the preparation starts with his team.

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Brittany Rogers contributes the BAM on Boxing column to PSC.  You can also check her out, as well as everything else you need to know on Philly boxing, at PeltzBoxing.com.  Follow Brittany on Twitter @bamonboxing and Peltz Boxing @PeltzBoxing.