By Michael Marley
On Wednesday at the downtown Manhattan Trinity Gym, former world champion and now topflight trainer James "Buddy" McGirt, was preparing Irish hopeful Matthew Macklin pounded for his March 17 Madison Square Garden challenge against legit middleweight champ Sergio Martinez.
McGirt seems geniunely optimistic that the Lad From Tipperary by way of Birmingham, UK, can shock the hard hitting Argentinian on the big Irish holiday evening.
I asked McGirt if he was using Paul Williams, who fought Martinez twice, as a measuring stick for the champion. (Errratic PWill won a debatable decision over the ex-bicycle racer and then was flattened in two rounds.)
"No, I don't base it on Williams. I mean, what is Williams, nothing but a good pitcher and not a good catcher. We know you can't walk straight in on Martinez and I don't want my guy to get too macho, I want him to fight smart," McGirt said. "Martinez is strong, awkward but effective."
McGirt's own credentials are impressive. He won 73 pro bouts, lost only six and had one draw. Consider this, though, he lost twice to nonpareil Pernell Whitaker, once to the then great Meldrick Taylor and once to rugged Texan Frankie Warren but whipped Warren in a return bout.
Sprinkle in the fact that the Alo Certo trained and managed scrapper from Brentwood, Long Island, posted victories over two real slicksters and world champs, Sweet Saoul Mamby and Livingstone Bramble.
Which is where Mayweather comes in as far as McGirt's expert opinion goes.
"The only guy, the only fighter around now who could really compete, really belong with the top guys from back in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, is not Manny Pacquiao, it's Mayweather. Mayweather is the only currently active fighter who can you can truly say is a great fighter...Oh, and put Juan Manuel Marquez in there also."
McGirt, now age 48, said the recent death of great trainer Angelo Dundee is a reminder of a key reason the now generation is sadly lacking in awesome ring talent.
The former junior welterweight champ said, while he has huge respect for Marquez trainer Nacho Beristain, for Houston-based Ronnie Shields and for Pedro Diaz, Cuban trainer who now tutors Miguel Cotto, he can't name a long list of quality boxing tutors. McGirt says the Invasion of the Mittmen is the real problem.
"I've got great admiration for Nacho, I think he's really great. I'd love to go to Mexico, to work with him. Ronnie is one of the best and I saw Cotto's guy in the gym, I really like how he works.
"We've got too many mittmen and not enough real trainers," McGirt said. "Some guy gave me a card, told me, 'I'm the best mittman in boxing.' That doesn't make him a trainer. Ray Arcel never worked the mitts and neither did the great Eddie Futch."
Without proper teachers, one cannot expect too many brilliant pugilistic pupils.