by Sam Geraci
Caption: Nate Jones poses with two of his amateur standouts: Yusef Saleh and Samajay Thomas
The following interview with Nate Jones took place on June 26, 2012 at Chicago Fight Club Gym at 4835 N. Elson, Chicago, IL 60630.
Nate Jones, one of the fastest rising trainers in the sport who works with top pros and amateurs like Floyd Mayweather, Fres Oquendo, Shawn Simpson, and Samajay Thomas, took an hour from his busy schedule to sit down for an interview to discuss his career, his life, his relationship with Mayweather, the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight, and the state of the game as far as corruption and PEDs are concerned.
SG: Nate Jones, thank you for taking the time to sit down for an interview. It really is an honor. You really are growing into one of the best trainers in the sport and you were an amateur standout who won the Bronze Medal at heavyweight but outside of the 24/7 series and diehard boxing fans you aren’t that well known today. Let everyone know who you are working with and what you are doing?
NJ: At the present time everyone knows I’m working with Mr. Mayweather. I also train Fres Oquendo who is still a top-ten heavyweight contender. I also train a young amateur named Samajay Thomas who is ranked number one in the nation and number four in the world and was a sure shot for the Olympic team but things happened. I also train Shawn Simpson who is awesome and an alternate travelling with the USA team and Yusef Saleh who is one of the best junior fighters under sixteen and is on his way to the golden gloves. I am also working with a girl named Alicia Gutierrez who is going to be one of the best at 122lbs and a girl out of Ohio named Latisha Sherman who is 6’ 2” and one of the most skilled boxers I’ve seen. And of course Elijah McCall who is the son of heavyweight champion Oliver McCall. This kid has a great future and we are getting him ready for a title shot in the next year or two.
SG: What’s your passion? Is it amateur or pro?
My passion is the game. I just love the game. Pros is what pays the bills but amateurs is what gets you to the pros to pay the bills.
SJ: Outside of Floyd, which of those fighters should everyone be following? Who is going to be special?
I have three. I think Samajay Thomas will be a special fighter if he focuses, Shawn Simpson is doing everything right and is on his way to big things, and Elijah McCall as of right now are my prospects that are gonna make a big noise. But my amateurs in the next ten years with Diego Chavez and Yusef are gonna be top ten too. And I still got a top heavyweight in Fres who is really the only American right now who can be the heavyweight champion. And don’t sleep on my two girls: Alicia Gutierrez and Latisha Sherman.
SG: Why do you think your pro career didn’t meet expectations? Everyone thought you might be a longtime contender or even a champion.
NJ: I broke one of the rules boxers should never break: boxing and drinking don’t mix. I was undefeated but I was an alcoholic. It eventually caught up with me even though I always trained hard. Drinking kills your brain cells and so does boxing and it caught up with me in a rapid way. It shortened my career by about ten years.
SG: Getting back to your career now. How would you describe yourself as a trainer?
NJ: Well, I think I am one of the best as of right now and so do some of the top fighters and trainers like Emmanuel Steward, Roger Mayweather, Floyd Sr., Buddy McGirt and these are all the guys I totally respect.
SG: What is it that makes you a good trainer?
NJ: It’s my passion. I want to be the best. I want it just as bad as they do. When they win championships, it feels like I won it too. I get flashbacks (laughs).
SG: In addition to your knowledge of the sport in the ring, you have a unique understanding of the sport outside of the ring. Let’s talk a little about that understanding. Let’s start with the dark side of boxing: After the Brewster fight, you suffered some neurological damage. How can that be avoided for young fighters and how has that affected your life?
NJ: It can be avoided by doing the sport clean cut. You can’t drink; you can’t cut corners; and I cut corners. I made the Olympic team but I still cut corners and at the end of the day it caught up to me. That’s the dark part of my career. I trained hard but at night I played hard.
SG: Has the neurological damage affected you now?
NJ: I feel my mobility when I run ain’t the same and my reflexes ain’t what they used to be, but I learned to deal with it and take the good with the bad.
SG: On the other end of the spectrum, as someone who works with the top fighter and highest paid athlete in the world in Floyd Mayweather, how has that experience changed your view of the sport? Can you elaborate on your relationship with Floyd? How is that special?
NJ: As we got older, we really grew to appreciate and value our friendship because for twenty years we’ve been having each other’s backs. And in the last ten years of my life Floyd has been a very big part of my training career because he’s the one who told me after my career was done, “Nate, don’t let your head down. You’re gonna be a good trainer. You know the game.” He gave me the idea to go into the gym because I wouldn’t even walk into the gym after my career was done and slowly I started going back and watching Roger and working with fighters until I finally bought my own pads and really started working. That was how my inspiration came.
SG: Not to just dwell on Floyd, but what is something that most people don’t know about Floyd that we should know? In other words, something that if the rest of the world knew, he wouldn’t be so disliked?
NJ: What people don’t know about Floyd is that he has a good heart. At times he can be difficult, but Floyd has a good heart. I mean he feeds a lot of families. He do a lot. He gives back. Let me tell you a story about Floyd. In 2010 after the Mosley fight, my mother, Christine Johnson died of colon cancer. When I was in my car, Floyd called. I just told him that she was gone and we both cried together. We talked for more than an hour as I drove and he comforted me in one of my toughest times. My mom and his mom knew each other from the Olympic days. He was there. He has a good heart and that’s one thing people don’t realize about him.
SG: Here’s another tough question. I’ve got to ask something that blew my mind about you that not everyone might know. Is it true that you buried your Bronze Medal with your twin sister who died from Lupus? Why?
NJ: Before I made the Olympic team, it was probably one of the roughest times of my life. It was her and my mama that was truly there for me when I was in prison. She showed me how much she cared about me. She had my back and she was my number one fan. She just wanted me to do good in my life and not mess it up. She truly had my back and it was because of them I made it to the Olympics and won that medal.
SG: Do you think she’d be proud of you now?
NJ: Of course. She’d be proud of me now and she’d be taking my money (laughs) and making me give her stuff.
SG: You also lost you brother. How old were you and how close were you?
NJ: Oh, very close. I was twenty-eight. He died of an overdose of heroin. We was very close. He had a good job; he took care of old people. He was very honest and never stole, but he struggled and it caught up with him.
SG: How did those losses change who you are? Especially being there for your brother. How did they make you stronger as a trainer and as a person?
NJ: It made me just realize that sometimes you gotta help people that can help themselves. Sometimes it can be your family members or it can be your friends because if I wasn’t there to help him then he would have been worse and maybe done bad things.
SG: What about your life with your family now? What kind relationship do you have with them?
NJ: Well, I’m married. July 12th will be one year. And you know I’m just trying to provide and take care of them and make sure they have a good life. I have one daughter who is a sophomore at DePaul and she is an “A” student and was top of her class and I have one younger daughter that keeps me busy.
SG: What do you like doing most with your family?
NJ: I just like hanging at home. I’m a home-guy. The only time I’m really outta town is for boxing. I’m just a home-dude. I like watching the game and spending time with the family. And of course, eating (laughs).
SG: What do you want for your your kids in their lives?
NJ: I just want them to be happy and have some stability. Ya know, have a bank account, have trusting relationships, and meet somebody that cares about them.
SG: Were those things you didn’t have growing up?
NJ: Those are the things I wanted growing up, and now that I got them, I want them for my children.
SG: You’ve done a lot in boxing. Outside of boxing, what are you most proud of?
NJ: Outside of boxing, I’m mostly proud of my family—being married, taking care of my family, and watching my daughters grow and succeed. I’m proud of becoming a man. I want to have something for them and my grandkids when I’m gone. I’ve also just started a 501c3 not-for-profit called the Nate Jones Foundation that tries to keep kids off the streets and motivate them to succeed through boxing and mentorship. We are new and are working on grant writing and a website.
SG: Before we go, I do have to ask you a couple of things and it’s what you always hear: do you think the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight will ever happen? If so, what happens?
NJ: Of course. It’s too big for the game. I think it’s too big of a hit. I believe it’s gonna happen within the next year because it’s getting to close to the end of both of their careers and it’s time to make it happen.
SG: When it happens, do you think they will still be the fighters we wanted to see for the last couple of years?
NJ: If it don’t happen in the next year, no, because Floyd should retire in the next year and a half and the same with Pacquiao.
SG: You’re going to pick Floyd, but what happens in that fight?
NJ: Floyd knocks him out before six rounds. Fundamentally, Manny makes too many mistakes. He really is not a good and technical fighter, and he makes a lot of mistakes. With that fight, the way Floyd will train and be ready he will be on top of his game.
SG: Unfortunately, I have to get your take on this too: Berto, Peterson, James Toney, Fernando Vargas, Shane Mosley, and most recently Antonio Tarver and maybe Chavez again: As an insider, how big are steroids in boxing?
NJ: It’s very huge.
SG: Is it huge like it was in baseball? Is it bigger?
NJ: I think it’s becoming bigger if nothing is done to clip it now. I think the whole game should resort to what Floyd is doing and introducing to the game with Olympic-style drug testing. Everyone in boxing should want that. I would want that if I were fighting today. The greats don’t have to cheat.
SG: What about the judging? Recently, we had the Abril-Rios fight and then the Pacquiao-Bradley fight. Can anything fix it?
NJ: I just think the politics is ruining the game. We can start by doing the things Floyd is asking for: drug testing and making sure the fighters are the ones making the money and not just the promoters. And it also starts off by getting one board.
SG: As great as Floyd is, do you think helping clean up the sport could end up being his legacy?
NJ: It should be part of it. He’s doing a lot of good for the sport, and he doesn’t always get credit for it.
SG: Nate, thank you for your time. Is there anything else you want to add?
NJ: I am looking forward to having a good 2012 and 2013 and I think the Floyd-Pacquiao fight will happen and we will win by knockout and I think it will be a big year for my fighters, me, and the Nate Jones Foundation.
GARY ‘SPIKE’ O’SULLIVAN
Unbeaten Irishman Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan features on the big West Ham United undercard headlined by David Haye's epic heavyweight showdown against Dereck Chisora on Saturday 14th July.
O'Sullivan takes on Manchester's Matthew Hall for the Vacant WBO International Middleweight title on an exciting undercard that also includes Liam Walsh's challenge for the Vacant WBO European Super-Featherweight title against Dominic Urbano.
Haye v Chisora is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Gary ‘O’Sullivan
Born: Cork, Ireland
Family background: I’m one of six boys and a sister. I’m bang in the middle, number four. We’re a big boxing family. The oldest two brothers didn’t bother but Dad did a bit when he was in the army over in England and us four youngest boys were all national champions at one level or another.
Mammy was born over in England, though I’m not entirely sure where, but it makes me eligible to fight for a Commonwealth title. I’ve already three daughters myself, aged eight, four and seven months. We still live in Cork.
Trade: I’m a qualified sheet mental worker.
Nickname: For boxing purposes it’s ‘The Celtic Rebel.’ Cork is known as the Rebel County. But I’ve been known by everyone as ‘Spike’ since I left the maternity unit and, to this day, I’m not entirely sure why!
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? From five years of age, I’d follow my father to the local boxing gym when he used to train and I never stopped. Dad had a big influence, got me throwing everything off the jab from a very young age.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I passed through several clubs. From the age of five to 12, I was at St Brendan’s, in the Glen, County Cork. From 12 to 14, I moved to the Belgooly boxing club. At 14 I went to the Sunnyside club where I was coached by Kieran Joyce, a former two time Olympian (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988).
Then, at 18, we formed our gym, the Loughmahon boxing club. I’ve helped coach eight national champions and it’s a brilliant feeling altogether getting a kid who’s never before put a glove on and then moulding them to an All-Ireland title. Today, we’ve over a hundred members at our club and we recently got the Volunteers of the Year Award from the Lord Mayor of Cork.
All told I’d have had easily over 100 amateur bouts and, at a rough estimate, I’d say I lost about 15. Not far off 20 of those fights would’ve been in an Ireland singlet. When I was about 16, I won a national junior title and, same year, I got a silver at the Junior Four Nations in Fife, Scotland. I got beaten in a good few other finals as well. Being champion of All-Ireland was something I was definitely very proud of. Definitely my amateur highlight.
Coming from little Cork, there were a good few dubious decisions that I wasn’t happy with. Every year we’d have to go to Dublin for the national championships and, basically, if you didn’t score a knockout, you didn’t win. Also, becoming a father at 19 sort of put paid to any Olympic campaign. I had to work full time on the sheet metal to support my family.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? A big pro show was planned for Cork in January 2008 with Billy Walsh topping the bill, and they needed a big ticket seller for the undercard so they approached me. I stopped Peter Dunn in six rounds, impressed Paschal Collins and that encouraged me to go onwards and upwards.
Tell us about your back up team: Frank Warren promotes me and (Paschal) ‘Packie’ Collins trains and manages me from the Celtic Gym in Dublin. I’ve been with ‘Packie’ the whole of my career and I’ll probably stay with him till the end. He’s a very straight, loyal fella, cuts no corners. There’s no beating around the bush when you make mistakes.
‘Packie’s’ made me the fighter I am. He’s very experienced, having spent about 10 years in the States with the Petronellis and Freddie Roach.
There’s a fella I only know as ‘Guysie’ who owns a different gym in Dublin. He looks after my strength and conditioning, and my nutrition. He’s got me eating so much chicken, I think I’ll sprout wings!
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? It’s two and three quarter hours on train from Cork to Dublin so, when preparing for a fight, I stay in the capital, five days a week. Back home, I’ll train at our gym and also at the Clarion Hotel in Cork which kindly sponsors me, gives me free membership of their gym, saunas and jacuzzis.
My day starts with a 40 minute run at seven o’clock, then I’ll hit the boxing gym later. My routine varies day to day but includes all the usual; sparring, pads, bags, circuits. Tuesdays and Saturdays are always the particularly hard days. ‘Packie’ gets me plenty fit but he’s intelligent enough to spot if I’m having a flat day and getting me to ease up. Experience!
I train six days a week and have Sunday off. That’s when I go to confession. I’m there all day!
My favourite part, without question, would be the sparring. Absolutely love it. I’ve done a lot lately with (super-featherweight) Stephen Ormond because he’s the same squat frame as Matthew Hall, my next opponent. I also do plenty with Ian Timms, a three time Irish senior heavyweight champion, now boxing pro down at cruiser. That gets very gruelling. I’ve also been working with Karl Brabazon, another Irish senior champion (welter) who’s a fast southpaw. I’ve been over to the Petronelli gym in Massachusetts for sparring with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. That was very good.
I love all training. ‘Packie’s’ circuits are very tough but I never forget I’m getting real benefit out of them. Skipping is probably what I like least. It can be a bit boring.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m a Marvin Hagler! (Ex world champion) Steve Collins told me that. I can box a bit, I can fight and I can certainly punch; always have been able to. When I was pretty young, mid teens, I badly knocked out a good Scottish lad from the Ingle gym. He was badly hurt and never fought again. It was very unfortunate. I was only 57 kilos so the punch has always been there. The straight right is my big shot. Sometimes I just flick it out as a range finder and ‘Bang!’ they’re on the deck.
My chin is well proven , maybe not publicly, but we know from the gym and, because of that and the punch, I’ll always be in the fight.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? I need more experience. I’ve already got the skills, can fight inside or out, but you learn massively from every fight and I’ve only had 14. I’ve real respect for the journeymen and what they teach you but now I’d like some really testing, evenly match contests.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? Obviously the fights are longer. There’s more rounds and that definitely suits me, even though I’ve had half a dozen first round knockouts. I like to get warmed up and into a fight. After five or six rounds, I feel a lot looser.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Probably Andy Lee. We sparred on the Irish amateur set up. He was pretty tricky, tall and long. Paul McCloskey was very good as well. Both are proper gentlemen. I didn’t like the way Amir Khan was so disrespectful about Paul after they fought. Paul didn’t deserve that. He’s such a nice fella.
All time favourite fighter: I’ll have to go with Steve (Collins). I loved his tenacity, determination plus he was a very intelligent fighter.
All time favourite fight: Collins-Eubank II in Cork. I was about 11 years of age. I run past that Pairc Ui Chaoimh venue every morning. I was awestruck by Eubank and must have been the only Cork man shouting Chris on! I really looked up to his courage and charisma, and that ‘Simply the Best’ entrance.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Spike O’Sullivan versus Felix Sturm for the WBA middleweight title! I’m very confident I could beat him tomorrow. He seemed very easy to hit against Matt Macklin and Martin Murray. I hit far harder than either of those fellas and, if I can tee off on someone, it’s the end for them!
What is your routine on fight day? I like to lie in bed and wake up naturally. No alarms. That way, you have a lot more energy for your day. After breakfast, I like to take a nice, long walk, somewhere relaxing, possibly by the sea. In the afternoon, before leaving for the stadium, I’ll go for a nap, followed by a shower. That makes me feel fresh and vibrant.
The fight will be constantly on my mind. I’ll visualise what’s going to happen, and I’ll watch tapes of the opponent. I have nerves about losing but never over my opponent.
In the changing room, I listen to my music and do a lot of pads. I’ll punch the walls! I love the big crowds. Fighting beneath Groves and DeGale at the O2 was the most alive I’ve ever felt.
I view my opponent as someone who could prevent my kids having a fantastic future, and I convince myself I’m not going to let that happen. That’s what’s on my mind as I view them across the ring, before we fight.
Entrance music: Ian, a fast rising DJ from our gym, has done a unique track from me, mixing the old traditional Irish battle song that Steve Collins entered the ring against Chris Eubank with – that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck – and it finishes off with that jingle from the darts! There’s a strong drum beat. It’s fuckin brilliant!
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Since the age of five or six, I’ve dreamed of being a world champion. Dad used to put me to bed then wake me up in the middle of the night to watch all the big fights from the US. Holyfield was a big favourite but I was always intrigued by the championship belts. I’m not especially well known because I didn’t have a huge amateur career but I firmly believe I’m going to get to that world title.
How do you relax? My kids are number one. I take them down the park or to ‘Chuckie’s’. I also like to play chess and I’m a good snooker player.
Read: The best book I’ve read is ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho. It’s about following your dream. I’ve just started Sugar Ray Leonard’s autobiography.
Music: I really like Rod Stewart.
Films/TV: I like the comedy films. American Pie and The Hangover are a couple of big favourites. On the box, I like Swamp People, a show in which guys hunt alligators and shit with their bare hands.
Aspiration in life: To set up my children for a good future for themselves.
Motto: Pain may last for a minute, or an hour or a week. Failure lasts forever!
Tickets for Licensed to Thrill are available from Eventim at www.eventim.co.uk or 0844 249 1000, Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.co.uk or 0844 844 0444 and West Ham United at www.whufc.com or 0871 222 2700.
Junior Welterweight Contenders Provodnikov and Reynoso on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights
Top Junior-Welterweight contenders Ruslan Provodnikov (21-1, 14 KOs) and Jose “El Nino” Reynoso (16-2-1,3 KOs) will meet June 29 in the 10-round main event on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights presented by Corona Extra from Corona Calif. Friday’s card, presented by Banner Promotions, will air at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 HD, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN3.
Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas will be ringside for ESPN2 HD and ESPN3 at the Omega Products Outdoor Arena describing the action, while studio host Bernardo Osuna will present all the latest boxing news and highlights. Alex Pombo and Delvin Rodriguez will call the fights for ESPN Deportes’ Viernes de Combates (Friday Night Fights), with Leopoldo Gonzalez and Pablo Viruega in the studio.
Both shows will include interviews with Josesito Lopez, who upset Victor Ortiz last Saturday for the vacant WBC Silver Welterweight title. ESPN Deportes will also include a report on the latest condition of Victor Ortiz.
Russia’s Provodnikov is trained by International Boxing Hall of Fame 2012 inductee Freddie Roach and was the primary sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao for his fight against Timothy Bradley Jr.
Provodnikov has won his last four fights, including his most recent, a sixth-round TKO win over David Torres. After that fight ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael wrote, “He totally outgunned the smaller, slower Torres, who showed a big heart but simply could not deal with the physicality of Provodnikov. He cut Torres under his right eye in the fifth-round and in the sixth-round he dropped the bleeding Torres with a hard overhand right. Provodnikov was all over him and finally smashed him with a three-punch combination that floored him again and [the] referee called it off at 2 minutes, 53 seconds.”