By Terence Dooley
Some trainers can function as hired guns, stepping in at any point in a fighter’s career and getting to work: Emanuel Steward, Freddie Roach and Naazim Richardson spring to mind. Others find it tough to work with a fighter if they do not have a long-standing relationship or chemistry.
BoxingScene regular Billy Graham is an example of this, he turned down a spot on The Contender’s Cruiserweight series as he likes to develop a connection with his boxers. Bobby Rimmer worked with Graham during Ricky Hatton’s rise to the top, the charismatic, dedicated and wickedly funny coach shares Graham’s approach to his trade. This Saturday night, he takes Brian Rose, the fighter he has treated like a surrogate son, into the biggest challenge of both their careers when Rose, 25-1-1 (7), meets Demetrius Andrade, 20-0 (13), for the WBO's 154lb belt at New York’s Barclays Center—HBO are broadcasting the fight in the U.S.A. and it will be shown on Sky Sports here in the U.K.
When Rose and Rimmer first met, the fledgling fighter was unrecognisable from the sharply-dressed, media savvy contender we have got used to seeing in recent years. Rose was 1-0 when he first bumped into Rimmer, but his career had stalled, he had been part of local promoter Wally Dixon’s ambitious, and aborted, plan to turn Blackpool into the U.K.’s equivalent of Las Vegas. A chance meeting in a Manchester gym changed all this, it also led to a relationship that has stayed strong despite the odd setback.
“I was waiting to move into my own gym with Scott Gledhill at Ultimate Fitness in Stalybridge, so I was down at Anthony Farnell’s gym when Wally walked in with this kid,” recalled Bobby Rimmer when speaking to me for Boxing Monthly last year. “Wally introduced him as Brian Rose, he was overweight and had highlighted, long blonde hair—I couldn’t believe it was this same great amateur that I’d heard of.
“We said ‘Hello’, he was very quiet and shy. I took to him and felt a little bit for him because he kind of looked like he didn’t want to be there. I got talking to him; he told me that he was going to be moving in with Wally to come down to Manchester and train. I told him that I had a flat with a gym around the corner, so why not move in the flat and I’d help him out. Basically, I took on a kid on the spot who didn’t have a place to stay, I didn’t have the gym ready at the time, and he was injured so couldn’t train.”
Injury was added to adversary early on, when a break came it was of the wrong variety. “Brian had nowhere to live when we first met,” said Rimmer. “I had a flat off Ashton Old Road, so told Brian he could move in there. Brian had gone from a lovely house in Blackpool to what people call ‘the ‘hood’—it is no secret that it is a rough area. The first night, we heard a load of commotion and looked out the window, there was a load of lads beating each other up. Brian asked me to go and stop it, I said: ‘We don’t do that around here’.”
“Before we got to training for our first fight together, Brian went on holiday,” he continued. “[Frank Warren's former matchmaker] Dean [Powell] had arranged to come and see him [about a managerial deal] when he came back. He comes back on a pair of crutches—he’d fell and done his ankle in. So there he was again, injured.”
Despite this setback, Rimmer believed that the quiet youngster had plenty of potential, the trainer took a risk and quickly formed a paternal bond with the Blackpool-based boxer, who had also taken a punt by moving over to Manchester to reignite his pro career. Seven years later, they are about to step onto the world stage. Rose’s big decision to relocate to the boxing hotbed of Manchester turned out to be the correct one.
“If I’d have stayed in Blackpool, my mum and dad would have done everything for me, but there are times you need to step out of your comfort zone—that’s what I did,” stated Rose during the same Boxing Monthly interview.
“You have to go through the hardships. There were times in the early days when me and Bobby were driving home from sparring and we’d wonder if we even had enough money to pay for the petrol we needed to get us home. Steve Wood [of VIP Promotions] had become my manager, he was losing money on shows just to get me and the other lads out. My debut was in front of a few hundred people, I rematched [Max] Maxwell in front of four thousand people at [Blackpool's] Winter Gardens.”
May 2010's stunning KO loss to Maxwell was a devastating reverse for Rose. The single shot KO threatened to derail his career, especially as it came after the gruelling 10th-round KO win over Jason Rushton in October 2009, which left Rushton fighting for his life and left Rose questioning the sport he had loved for so long. Seeing his charge laid out by Maxwell was too much to bear for Rimmer—he did some soul searching of his own.
“When he first hit the canvas against Maxwell in his next fight, he was unconscious, but was awake by the time I got into the ring, so it didn’t hit me until later," he recalled. "I went home that night and I got to thinking about it—it made me cry. I remember thinking to myself: ‘You’re in the wrong game to be getting upset like that when people get beat’.”
They brought in renowned Sport Performance Specialist Emma James into the team—she has helped Rose deal with the mental side of the game—and they have not looked back—a close win over Javier Francisco Maciel in a WBO final eliminator back in October sealed the Andrade date. Now he is competing for the world title in one of the world’s biggest fight cities. Rose has risen all the way to the top, thanks to a British and WBO Inter-Continental run coupled with Rimmer’s staunch support, and win, lose or draw their bond will continue to stay strong.
Indeed, it wasn’t all one-way traffic during those early days, Rose was responsible for bringing Rimmer and Kerry Kayes back together again. The fallout caused when Rimmer left The Phoenix had lingered for too long. They shook on it at Rose’s second professional fight, planting the seeds of friendship once again. Rimmer now owns Kayes’s old Betta Bodies Gymnasium, his Boxing Academy is tucked away at the back of the weights gym. Rose, Rimmer, Kayes and Steve Wood are a tight-knit unit, which will be a big plus going into tomorrow’s fight.
By first bell, we will have slipped past midnight here in the U.K., it will be Father’s Day, and Rimmer’s sons are also a part of his thriving gym. It would be fitting to see one of the strongest bonds in boxing rewarded on the one day of the year when fatherhood is celebrated. Ironically, the slogan for Rimmer’s gym is “We own the night”, the title of a 2007 film set in New York City. Win, lose or draw, the British visitors will live by this slogan. If everything comes together they won’t just own the night, they’ll have earned a world title.
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