Interview with Trainer of the Year Candidate Orlando Cuellar
By Chris Robinson (January 13, 2005)
On December 18th, 2004 Glen Johnson capped off what was his finest year as a pro with a nip and tuck decision win over Antonio ‘Magic Man’ Tarver. Johnson and Tarver engaged in a pitched battle in front of the Staples Center crowd in one of the finer fights of last year. With the win, Johnson was seen in the eyes of many to be the fighter of the year, as he also knocked out Roy Jones in September and decisioned Clinton Woods to win the IBF belt back in February.
Photo © Mr Will HoganPhotos.com
Glen Johnson’s entire career has been an up and down rollercoaster of a ride and it appears to be far from over. Still, as good and determined a fighter as he is, Johnson wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of one man who goes by the title ‘Trainer Extraordinaire.’
That man is Trainer of the Year candidate Orlando Cuellar who has been with Johnson since his upset over Eric Harding in May of 2003. Orlando is the man behind the man and given the chance to tap into the Cuban’s mind, you will find he has quite the story to tell. Orlando stopped by Bragging Rights Corner and discussed how he got into boxing, meeting Glen Johnson, Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, and much more. It was a great talk and one I enjoyed thoroughly. Here’s what Orlando had to say, topic to topic…
Getting into boxing and meeting Glen…
"I’ve been into boxing since 1980 in the amateurs and got into the pros in 1985 in New York. I trained fighters out of different gyms in New York, spending most of my time in Gleason’s in Brooklyn. I relocated to Miami and that’s where I met Glen. I was training a fighter and I heard information that Glen would be good work, so I brought him in for some sparring. I noticed that Glen had a lot to work with, a lot of tools in the ring but he wasn’t fighting his kind of fight the way he thought he was. I started working with Glen on volume, defense, pressure and rhythm and we looked for a fight for him."
The Eric Harding and Clinton Woods fights…
"Glen called me back 2-3 months later and told me that he had a fight with Eric Harding (In May of 2003) and that he had 3 weeks to get ready. We started working for that fight and worked on everything. We did a lot of going to the body and a lot of counterpunching. We had a good fight plan and won the fight, winning our first belt in the process, the USBA belt. We clicked on that fight and continued to work together.
"We got an offer for a fight against Clinton Woods in England. That fight was originally for the #1 ranking in the IBF but when we were in England 2-3 days before the fight it turned into a fight for the actual IBF belt and we were ecstatic about that. We went out there and did our thing, I thought we won 7 or 8 rounds but they called it a draw because it was in his backyard. We came back from the draw and got a rematch, went back and from what I saw we won 10 out of 12 rounds in a more convincing fashion and won the IBF belt.
"We came home and were supposed to fight Joe Calzaghe and had a great training camp. Glen had great sparring as we brought in what I thought was the right style of southpaw to get him ready for Calzaghe. We were ready but Calzaghe pulled out not once, but twice and Glen said ‘That’s enough. I can’t get up for this guy if he’s not serious about fighting me’. We stayed in the gym and low and behold we got the Roy Jones fight."
Glen’s knockout over Roy Jones…
"I always knew Glen had the style to beat Roy because Roy is a counterpuncher. He can slip two or three shots but he can’t slip 4 or 5 constant shots. I knew a good jab would keep Roy from getting set and doing what he wanted to do. I also knew that constant movement would offset Roy because Roy is like a cobra. He wants you to stop moving and then he’ll attack. Roy’s not the most skilled fighter in the world but he has exceptional speed and power. He tries to get you stop and he goes from there. We just kept moving forward with a strong jab and a tight defense. I told Glen to keep pumping the jab and to go to the body in the early rounds. I felt a late round stoppage could happen, and as you know the rest is history."
Glen’s hard fought win over Antonio Tarver…
"We got the call for the Tarver fight and I knew we had to be up for it. Training went real well in preparation for Tarver. We got the right sparring and covered all areas while in camp. Basically I felt we executed our game plan like we planned to. I respect Tarver for getting himself ready and fighting a good fight but Glen was the hungrier man that night and he fought his fight that night. He imposed his will. Tarver was fighting at times to win but also at times to survive. Glen always fought to win. The determination that Glen has was evident. Glen did drop Tarver with a body shot but they didn’t call it. If you watch it frame by frame you will see where Glen lands a left hook to the body and Tarver’s right foot kicked out from under him. That’s a knockdown, but the referee didn’t choose to call it. It was a close fight but Glen pulled it out. Tarver got a lot of credit for pitty-pat punches but I felt he didn’t do enough. I told Glen in the later rounds to give me ‘one round at a time’ because they were the championship rounds and he did. Glen did his thing and justice was served. I felt the decision went to the right man."
A typical Glen Johnson training camp…
"It’s a very confident atmosphere. Training camp becomes more intense as the fight gets closer. We’re very in-tune with each other. It’s the right amount of people in the training camp, not an excess amount of people; not a lot of cheerleaders or people making noise. Just the necessary group of people. The intensity, conditioning, and focus escalates as we get closer to the fight and we sharpen Glen up. We’re careful not to overtrain or take it too serious or make it too dramatic. We’re all confident pros here. I think it has shown in the fashion that we’ve done things. We’re all underdogs; we’ve overcome every obstacle and prevailed. We know what we have to do to prevail, we know the formulas to success."
A Bernard Hopkins rematch?
"I would love to get Bernard at a catch weight. I don’t know how high Bernard will go or what he would agree to. Right now it's kind of a fantasy fight for it to happen. I don’t know how far Glen would be willing to come down. We’ve never tried coming down lower than 175. Maybe at a catch weight, I think it would be a great fight. I think it would be an intense fight. Glen brings a lot of pressure and he has a good chin. Glen is a lot more mature now than he was then. He’s on a roll and he has a lot of confidence. I know Bernard and his style and I would prepare Glen to fight that exact style. So yes, I would definitely welcome that fight and it think it would definitely be a fight that the public would love to see."
Born, raised, and getting into the fight game…
"I was born in Havana, Cuba and came over to the USA when I was 3 years old. We lived in Miami until I graduated from high school. I boxed as an amateur here in Miami. Then we moved to Vegas where I trained as an amateur at Johnny Garcia’s Main Street Gym. The only two gyms in town where Johnny Tocco’s and Johnny Garcias’s Gym. Johnny Garcia was my trainer but I always had a problem with bronchitis and I couldn’t get past the first three rounds so that was it for me. I shifted over to training. I loved the sport, it was in my blood and I didn’t want to stray too far from it. We stayed in Vegas a bit longer but later moved to New York and that’s when I started working with the pros in '84 or '85. I worked in numerous gyms out there. Three years ago I moved to Miami with another fighter because New York was too cold. I moved my family and the fighter moved his family. We came to Miami and that’s when I met Glen Johnson.’
Resurrecting a fighter’s career…
"My thing is, I’m best at bringing back a fighter’s career. After a fighter has suffered some losses, that’s when I showcase what I do. I helped Pedro Saiz after a couple losses and he put together some wins. I helped Aaron Davis come back. He won a few fights along with the WBA North American Title. I also helped with Lou Del Valle. Lou had lost some fights, lost to Roy Jones and then he was out of boxing for a couple years. We put together a couple of wins. I got him ready for Bruno Girard. We got a draw but I thought Lou won at least 8 out 12 rounds and they had it a draw. Then we went back out there again and won 9 out of 12 rounds and they gave it to Bruno. Lou should have been the WBA champ and I did some great work with him. After Lou came Glen Johnson."
Working with Glen Johnson…
"I have had more success with Glen than anyone else. Why? Because Glen is a great listener. That’s the key to success. When you have a good trainer that can get a fighter’s attention and get a fighter to listen and execute, that’s a winning formula. That’s the ultimate, that’s when you have success. Out of all of the fighters I have trained, the one who has given me 100% undivided attention, 100% heart and dedication, 100% fully, is Glen Johnson, without a doubt. He’s not only the fighter of the year, he should be listener of the year. He does exactly what I ask out of him. He’s like a machine."
Orlando’s motto: One World, One Life, One-Hundred Percent…
"This is the only world we have, we have to get along in it. We have be compassionate towards other human beings. One life, live it like there’s no other. To its fullest. One hundred percent. Just believe in what you do and give everything you got."
Jumping around from Vegas to New York and then going back to Miami…
"I started in Miami with Cuban trainers, my Cuban countrymen. Cubans always had the boxing, the soul, and the pride. Once I went to the West Coast I experienced the Mexican style of body punching. It was hard work out there. Different styles of Spanish fighting. Then I went to New York. In New York I picked up on that hard gym work. Hard nosed sparring, styles of fighting that New York is so famous for because its so big and so competitive. I put it all together and created what I do now."
Atmosphere in Gleason’s in New York…
"The atmosphere in Gleason’s gym was very competitive. They had a lot of great trainers working side by side. There were also a lot of great fighters in there. You could be training next to Arturo Gatti, Vivian Harris, Shannon Briggs, Lou Del Valle or Wayne Braithwaite. You name it, they were there. It’s a very busy place. You could hear the speed bags pounding from downstairs. The sound of the thump from the heavy bags would fill the gym. There would be trainers shouting out instructions. Going up those steps was something. It was a very historic building, right next to the Brooklyn Bridge. A lot of competition. Competition amongst trainers, competition amongst fighters. Very historic place. Historical place with a great owner Bruce Silverglade. He was the heart and soul of Gleason's."
Bringing out the best in his fighters…
"When I look at a fighter, I don’t look to change them, I look to compliment what they already do, sharpen it and bring out the best in them. I believe that every fighter is unique in their style, like DNA. That’s how I train a fighter. If a guy is a brawler, I make him a slick brawler. If he’s a boxer I try to add a little bit of power and some defense. If a guy is a puncher I try to show him some speed to help get his hard shots in. You have to look at everybody as an individual and not try to mold everyone into what you think is the perfect mold of fighter. Everybody is unique, everyone is different, and everyone has a lot to offer if you can see it like a diamond in the rough, just tap into it and bring it out. You have to love your fighters and you have to believe in them."
Next for Glen…
"Glen is undoubtedly the best Light Heavyweight in the world. He has proven it and he is beyond capable of adjusting, preparing and beating anyone out there right now. He’s on fire. He’s unstoppable. 2004 was a year of confirmation for us that we know how things work, we know how to make it work, and we know how to win. This year we’re coming with a lot intensity, a lot of focus, a lot of conviction and it will be a great year for Team Glen Johnson and the champ himself. We’re looking for a great 2005 and we’re going to continue to roll and go after everyone in front of us. We’ve never sidestepped anybody, we just took fights that were thrown at us. Whatever the public wants in 2005 we’ll be up for, we’ll prepare for, and we’ll continue to win. We have the exact formula to win and it's going to be a great 2005."
Bragging Rights Corner would like to thank Glen Johnson’s manager Henry 'The Main Man' Foster for making this interview possible and we wish Team Johnson the best of luck in all their future endeavors.
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