John Bray: The Newest Young Gun Trainer
Interview by "Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. (June 17, 2005)
With every great fighter in the spotlight there has been a great trainer in the background guiding them to the top, sharing their knowledge of the ‘sweet science’ and teaching them the tricks of the trade to achieve greatness and to earn the title of champion. No fighter has ever done it alone, they need that certain someone to bring the best out of them, somebody who knows what it takes to become the best, and somebody who has been there and knows the ropes and will do everything in their power to guide their fighter to the top. There have been a lot of great trainers in the past that have been highly regarded and some of those legendary trainers still offer their services today, big names such as Angelo Dundee, Richie Giachetti, Buddy McGirt, Joe Goossen, Lou Duva, Emanuel Steward and Freddie Roach will never be forgotten in the boxing world. But as time goes by the fight world offers up new blood to the sport, there is always that young gun coming into his own and is on a steady track of breaking out to be known as, the next big thing. So Doghouse offers you a look at one of the newest trainers that is making his mark in the boxing community, we offer you…
John Bray and Robert Guerrero
John Bray… the newest young gun trainer.
The name John Bray might not be a household name or one of the most highlighted sports figures in boxing yet, but the former boxer and current trainer knows his stuff and is well known throughout the boxing community, and is highly respected. At a young age Bray studied the ‘sweet science’ and at the tender age of nine climbed in the ropes to box. As an amateur John compiled a stellar career banging it out in over 136 bouts and earning seven national titles, the youngster was on a roll, and in 1992 he stepped in the heavyweight ranks to embark on a professional career. John started out with three first round stoppages before losing a four round majority decision to Will Hinton in 1993. The 6’3” heavyweight went on defeating the usual suspects and filled in as a sparring partner for the likes of Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. John had potential, but his taste for the ladies and booze left him and his career high and dry. He wasn’t the same fighter he was before nor would he ever reach his goal of being heavyweight champ. The fast living lifestyle took its toll on John and after being stopped in the first round in 1998 he hung up the gloves and never returned to the boxing ring as a fighter.
But he wasn’t a lost cause.
After years of taking the beaten path John found something greater than the hard drink and the parting, nothing in his life has ever compared to the love that he found, the love of Christ. Bray got back on track and now with his life together he offers his knowledge of boxing to fighters and has made his mark on the training side of the sport. With many fighters under his guidance and training his success as a trainer is only beginning and will assuredly blossom into something much bigger than what he ever imagined. One of his standout students is the highly talented featherweight sensation Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero who is on a steady track to the top under the tutelage of John Bray. Also on the Bray roster is the hard-hitting Jose Celaya, all though with the recent setback the welterweight has really come on strong under the tutelage of Bray and will no doubt successfully return.
All and all life is good for John, settled down and married now and recently adding a new addition to the family Bray is living life to the fullest. Sharing his knowledge of the sport Bray looks to help develop young fighting prospects into solid champions, using his past experiences to help guide others to the right path, he is definitely someone to look out for and is no doubt the future when it comes to great trainers. John took the time to share his thoughts on his career and what the future holds for him, enjoy.
Benny Henderson Jr.: Can you tell the Doghouse how long you have been in the sport of boxing and what inspired you to do so?
John Bray: I have actually been involved in boxing for about twenty-seven twenty-eight years. I started hanging around boxing gyms when I was about seven years old, and I had my first boxing match when I was nine and a half. I ended up compiling an amateur career of 124-12 with seven national titles. Then I had twenty pro fights and I was a sparring partner for Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, but the best fighter I ever worked for as a sparring partner with without a doubt was Mike McCallum. So I have been boxing my whole life. I was very fortunate to work with some of the best trainers in the business such as Angelo Dundee and Richie Giachetti when I was a professional, George Benton and Lou Duva and many more top both trainers in the sport.
BH: All these men have been instrumental to your knowledge as a trainer?
JB: Absolutely, every trainer I have come across in the past, present and God willing the future will always be an influence to me because you never stop learning, when you feel that you have learned it all you are wrong, you constantly learn.
BH: What was it like to be sparring partners with the likes of Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis?
JB: Well it was different sparring with all of them they all have different goals different personalities. My attitude then was that I was there just to pick up a check, I didn’t have the driving force behind me within my self to take my own career seriously so I looked at boxing to pick up a couple of bucks and Lennox Lewis was always good to me. Lennox was always a gentlemen and a beautiful boxer, I was with Evander Holyfield when he was the cruiserweight champion and when he made his debut as a heavyweight, I was only sixteen years old then when I was working with him. Holyfield was dedicated and had a strong work ethic; as far as I am concerned he was greatness in boxing. Working with Mike Tyson was scary (Laughs) I was with Mike for the Bruce Seldon and both Holyfield fights when he still had something left. People say he is done etc. well when I boxed him he still had something and I felt it everyday.
BH: I caught wind that you actually knocked Tyson out sparring, is that correct?
JB: I keep hearing that too. You know what it doesn’t matter, my attitude is this, I am a boxing trainer and what I did as a sparring partner and a fighter and all that, that is the past and it doesn’t mean anything anymore. What I’m doing today, as a trainer is what counts and what I do in the future hopefully will count. I love working with the fighters and all the kids I am working with are great, they are good kids.
BH: So you never really answered, did you knock Mike Tyson out?
JB: I should be a politician shouldn’t I?
BH: You had a stellar career as an amateur, but your pro career wasn’t the same, you had the talents, skill etc. to be successful, so what was the cause of your professional career not being as fruit full or as rewarding as you had hoped it to be?
JB: Honestly it was lack of focus, I had nobody to blame for my pro career but myself. It was lack of focus, lack of dedication, work ethic that is why I didn’t make it. I didn’t make it because I couldn’t take a punch, I didn’t make it because I couldn’t punch, I didn’t make it because I didn’t have skill because let me tell you something, Mike Tyson isn’t the only top heavyweight that I’ve knocked out in the gym. I’ve done a lot to world champion heavyweights that also got stopped in the gym by John Bray. But the problem with John Bray is he loved women and he loved beer and he loved to eat, and it took over.
BH: What is the hardest aspect of being a professional boxer in your opinion?
JB: Sacrifice, what fighters have to realize is that it isn’t a part time job, it’s not a full time job, it’s not a religion it’s all of it wrapped up into one, it is a life style. If you can handle the lifestyle, which is extremely hard, then you can become a world champion and a multimillionaire. But if it were that easy then he would have a lot of world champions and multimillionaires.
BH: You are currently working with two young very talented fighters in Jose Celaya and Robert Guerrero, what do you see in them as fighters in the ring and individuals out of the ring that you may not see in others their age?
JB: First of all outside of the ring they are both Christians, they are both very focused, they not only know what their careers are all about but they know what life is all about. They set goals and I think their spiritual background and their relationship with God, it is important to them and it is very instrumental in their life and in their career.
BH: Bob Santos seems to be an X-Factor in development of Guerrero and Celaya on the nutrition side, elaborate on what you feel he brings to the table.
JB: A lot, to just say that Bob is just a nutritionist doesn’t do him justice, Bob Santos is also a spiritual advisor, and he is very knowledgeable on the Bible and in his Christian faith and God. He is very educated with nutrition and with what these kids are doing and he co-manages Robert Guerrero along with Shelly Finkel and he is very insightful. Though he doesn’t manage Celaya or other guys in my camp he always gives these guys his help and expects nothing in return, he is a good guy.
BH: What advice would you give to a young fighter?
JB: Live a good life and work hard, when I say live a good life I mean walk that line, I mean in every aspect of your life. You might even mess around and become a super star.
BH: Is there anything you would like to add to this interview or say inclosing?
JB: I would like to thank the boxing community as a whole; about seven years ago I had a stroke from all the years of fighting an aneurysm went off in my head and I was paralyzed on the right side of my face and my right leg. I couldn’t talk, I knew what was going on but my motor skills were done, the doctors said it didn’t look good. With my strong faith in God and Jesus Christ as my savior and the boxing community I made it and I just want to thank them, I talked to Kenny Weldon and got phone calls from Angelo Dundee and Lou Duva and many people and I just want to thank the boxing community as a whole and thank God.
I would like to thank Mario Serrano for his help on this interview, and a big shout out goes to John Bray for his time and thoughts, it is greatly appreciated.
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