It was announced late last week that noted trainer Emanuel Steward would be taking over the training duties of enigmatic light heavyweight Chad Dawson, replacing Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. As the years have passed, Steward, best known for heading up the famed Kronk Gym in Detroit, has become just as known for his work behind the mic for HBO as he is for training prizefighters. He had procured a reputation as a troubleshooter or a hired gun. A guy that just happened to train heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko outside of his duties next to Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant.
But don't look now, with the addition of Dawson, his roster is one of the deepest in all of boxing as his stable includes Miguel Cotto, Cornelius Bundrage, Andy Lee and the promising Domonique Dalton.
In the immortal words of one James Todd Smith (aka LL Cool J): Don't call it a comeback because the reality is, Steward never really went anywhere.
"In between the broadcasting, this is where I spend my time," Steward told Maxboxing on Friday. "I don't golf; I don't fish. I don't have a boat; I don't gamble. My hobby is being at the gym when I'm home. I'm at the gym 24-7. I don't have any hobbies at all."
Steward, who was in Detroit, had just come back from a short jaunt to Puerto Rico to visit with Cotto, who faces Ricardo Mayorga on March 12th in Las Vegas. Steward and Cotto mapped out their next training camp which will begin on January 9th in Tampa, Florida, which is where Chad Dawson will meet them. Steward doesn't foresee any problems between the blue-chip boxers.
"Y' know, Kronk always had multiple champions," Steward pointed out. "I'm happy when I have a bunch of the top fighters together. We had Gerald McClellan, James Toney, Michael Moorer, Tommy Hearns, everybody training together. The competition level is good; the spirituality and the winning mindset all rubs off."
The last time the noted trainer saw Dawson, he was ringside on behalf of HBO at the Bell Centre in Montreal, watching Dawson put on a rather uninspired performance against Jean Pascal. It was a vapid and desultory effort. One that baffled Steward.
"I was very much [frustrated]," he admits."He just seemed like he didn't pull the trigger and he was just very comfortable with letting the fight move along. It was moving along and I didn't see no anxiety or nothing in him or urgency. His trainer, Eddie Mustafa [Muhammad], was going crazy trying to motivate him. But he seemed very comfortable with the way things were going and I thought he was doing everything wrong and then finally, I guess, he just decided to fight and the first time he started to fight, he almost knocked the guy out."
Just as Dawson seemed to be coming on, the fight was halted in the 11th frame after a clash of heads left Dawson with a cut. The fight went to the scorecards with Pascal winning on all three judges’ scorecards.
The problem with Dawson has never been from a fundamental or technical standpoint. The guy can box. When you watch him shadowbox, work the mitts and move around the ring, you know he has the tools. But what he may not have is the hard drive between his two ears. Too often (especially since his first bout with Glen Johnson), Dawson’s actual production and performance inside the ring has not matched his physical gifts. He's that five-tool baseball player who keeps hitting .250 or that football player who tests well at the combine but doesn't make many plays in actual games.
Steward says of his newest pupil, "Well, everybody that has seen Chad Dawson says that same thing. That's why HBO spent a tremendous amount of money, the license fees for some of his fights because they saw the potential there. If you don't have the fire behind it, it doesn't mean anything." Sometimes trainers have to be teachers of the craft. Other times, they have to be psychologists. In this instance, you get the sense that “Mr. Kronk” will have to be more Dr. Phil than George Benton. "I think a lot of it is talking. That's what I've had to do with a lot of my fighters, Wladimir, Lennox Lewis, even with Miguel- just yesterday we spent the day together just talking. With Wladimir, I think about 70-percent of our training, we were just talking. After we got through training for 30 minutes, we'd spend another hour-and-a-half on the ringside apron just talking. Talking about strategies, about life, politics and how important it is to win and win exciting and all that type of stuff.
"You have to deal with everyone emotionally, different too," Steward points out. "What turns on a guy like Lennox is a whole different thing than a guy like Cotto. Tommy Hearns had a different thing and every one of them you have to train a little differently and you have to understand what motivates them. Sometimes it's not even about money. Like with Cotto and [Julio Cesar] Chavez, I trained with Julio; it was about Mexican pride and Puerto Rican pride. They were motivated by that but Chad is a very talented fighter."
In many cases, when trainers like Muhammad are replaced, they essentially are being scapegoated. When it's all said and done, there is only on guy that can really control what goes on inside the ring- and it isn't the guy who has the towel draped on his shoulder. But to those who have a vested interest in Dawson, it just felt like a change was necessary.
"Absolutely," said his promoter, Gary Shaw, "I thought that Chad wasn't the fighter he used to be, that he was fighting too cautiously, too defensively. I know how talented he is and how good of an offensive fighter he could be. He just wasn't doing it." As for the selection of Steward, Shaw said, "I have a great amount of respect for Emanuel. I think he's a great student of the game himself; he's a tremendous trainer. I saw him firsthand- when I was on the New Jersey commission- work with his fighters. Then I really got to know Manny when he worked with Lennox Lewis and I saw the way he trained Lennox and Lennox was an offensive power."
Dawson has never seemed quite the same since having his cage rattled by Johnson in their first encounter in 2008. In short, he may have been “Rosario'd,” like Hector Camacho long ago, a guy who has become a bit gun-shy of physical contact inside the squared circle after getting buzzed for the first time in a real fight. But Steward has a strong track record of steadying fighters who have suffered knockout losses (Klitschko and Lewis come to mind). From a physical perspective, there's really nothing that needs to be altered, as far as Dawson is concerned. However, his mindset is something that needs to be tougher.
"With Lennox and Vitali Klitschko, [Lewis] was very relaxed," Steward recalled of Lewis' last contest as a pro, a life-and-death affair at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2003. "After four rounds, I said, 'Lennox, we're losing the championship, brother,' and he looked at me like, 'What?! What are you talking about?' I said, 'You're used to being the tall guy, thinking you're pulling out of range. This guy’s hitting you with long punches. You're unorganized; you're not going to box him with your regular style. You're going to have to go to the streets. Just go out and dog him, OK? Throw the jab; just don't jab it. Push it where, even if he blocks it, you'll push him all the way through across the ring because his legs are crossed. He's not coordinated. You miss him with a left hook; bang, hit him with the shoulder. You get inside; lift the uppercut. Turn it all the way through.
"In other words, go to the streets. And Lennox says, 'I got you.'"
With Dawson, there's a lot to work with. There's plenty of material to mold and sculpt. There just might be a void of any real passion behind it. However, Steward believes he's the perfect jockey for this thoroughbred.
"With the power, the explosiveness that he's got and the natural stuff he's got, he'll be a hard fight for anyone in the world between 168 and 175 and even up to cruiserweight because of his height."
The word is out that Chris Arreola has packed his bags and has gone to Houston to begin working with the respected Ronnie Shields. Henry Ramirez will stay on as his co-trainer. Arreola felt as though he needed a change and wanted to try something different.
I guess working harder, being more disciplined and acting like a pro were out of the question.
Here's the thing; Arreola can bring Nacho Beristain, Angelo Dundee and Whitey Bimstein, along with the help of Jack LaLanne and Mackie Shilstone and train in the mountains of Siberia like Rocky did when he was prepping for Ivan Drago, but until he himself commits to being a professional fighter 365 days a year (or more realistically, many more than he does currently), it won't mean a damn thing.
Bottom line is that there were a lot of enablers in this situation who allowed this to continue for years. From Ramirez, a good guy, who may have gotten too close to his fighter, to his promoter and adviser, Dan Goossen and Al Haymon, respectively, who kept making one excuse after another for him and placating his desires. Beyond that, they rewarded that behavior by exploiting the fact he was a Mexican heavyweight with the right connections and he was given ample opportunities to make money before he had truly earned it.
So if Arreola didn't think it was broke, why did anyone think he was going to really fix it?
Now, it may be too late but judging by the attendance of his last couple of appearances, it seemed that the fans have stopped caring- because in many respects, Arreola didn't care enough when it mattered.
It's not clear just who Dawson will fight next. It could be a rematch with Pascal, if HBO picks up the option on that bout. But here's the thing, there is no real public demand for that fight. The fight that the overwhelming majority of boxing fans want involving Pascal is the return bout with Bernard Hopkins, which would be under the auspices of rival Showtime.
So the question is, will HBO make a decision based on spite or what the fans want?
Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik had spent the better part of two months at the Betty Ford Center near Palm Springs for alcohol abuse. He is now back in Youngstown, Ohio, according to his manager, Cameron Dunkin.
"He actually got home yesterday; he got home a day early," he told Maxboxing on Tuesday afternoon. "They think he did very well or they wouldn't have sent him home. He's been very happy. I talked to his dad a long time today and he went out to dinner. Everything's going good but you never know. You never know."
This is just step one of what will be a long and ongoing recovery process.
"You have to make changes now," said Dunkin. "You can't just run down the street with Jack Loew. It's gotta change; he's gotta get away from that environment. He's gotta go to camp. Things have to change or it's never going to get well." Dunkin makes it clear; this isn't about changing trainers. "Nothing against Jack Loew. You just can't do that and then run home and stop by the pub and shoot darts with the boys and drink beer. You can't do that. That's gotta end."
As for resuming his career inside the ring, Dunkin stated, "We're not going to even talk about it. We'll give him two to three weeks. I talked to Todd [duBoef, Top Rank President] this morning. We're just going to leave him alone for two or three weeks, see how things go and let him enjoy being home."
Told that the March 26th edition of “Boxing After Dark” will feature a doubleheader with Yuriorkis Gamboa and Mikey Garcia...It looks like the bout between middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and Sergiy Dzinziruk has pretty much been finalized for March 12th at the Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York. Honestly, I think this is one of those fights that looks better on paper than on the actual canvas...Speaking of that date, Bob Arum told me that they will have press conferences in New York and Puerto Rico next week to officially announce Cotto-Mayorga, which will be on pay-per-view from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas...April 9th could be the date of a possible Juan Manuel Marquez-Erik Morales fight. Golden Boy has a hold on the MGM Grand for that date...Amir Khan will make his return to England on April 16th on HBO...You don't think coaching/training makes a difference? Just look at the job that Jim Harbaugh has done in less than five years in rebuilding the wreckage left by Walt Harris at Stanford. When you see his squad, you’ll see a team that plays with great leverage, pad level, intensity and discipline. That team is as well-coached as any team in the land. I really think Harbaugh is the modern-day version of Jimmy Johnson......