Tim VanNewhouse remains a fighter in every sense of the word.
It’s a journey which could have taken place inside the ring, though fate decided his best work could be done on the other side of the ropes.
The 35-year old Cleveland native has performed just about every role in the sport, presently serving as a rising manager and one of the sport’s best eyes for talent. It’s led to his growing roster of talent, a healthy mix of gifted prospects and recent amateur standouts now making their way into the pro ranks.
“Every day is a grind,” VanNewhouse told BoxingScene.com. “I represent a lot of future world champions and have to do my part every day to make sure that dream comes true for them.”
It was once a dream shared by VanNewhouse, at one time himself a former promising amateur.
VanNewhouse took up the sport while in middle school, training out of the Cleveland branch of the famed Kronk Gym, training under Mickey Bey Sr. whose son Mickey Jr. would go on to become a lightweight champ in the pro ranks. He was a natural fit for the ring, growing into a top-ranked U.S. featherweight by the time he was 17.
“Big Mick would load us up in a van and we’d cross the country fighting in various club shows and all the tournaments,” recalls VanNewhouse. “I hated flying so I always appreciated the long drives.
“We put a lot of miles on that van”.
VanNewhouse overcame his fear of flying in pursuit of furthering his boxing career. He purchased a one-way ticket to Las Vegas at age 18, training under Richie Sandoval and Miguel Diaz at the Top Rank Gym. VanNewhouse was one of just two amateurs in the otherwise all-pro gym; the other was Jessie Vargas, who would become a two-division titlist and currently in pursuit of adding a third as he now campaigns as a junior middleweight.
Efforts to join the 2008 U.S. Olympic team ended as the Olympic trials, suffering a questionable points loss to Mason Menard, after which point he decided to take his talent to the pro ranks after 86 amateur bouts.
Just one fight would come of his pro career.
VanNewhouse showed promise upon turning pro in Oct. 2007, scoring a 2nd round knockout win in his Cleveland hometown. The talent and potential were there; the necessary focus to further his career, however, would end the run at one-and-done.
“When I decided to walk away from boxing, I was heartbroken,” admits VanNewhouse. “I spent most of my adolescent life in the gym with high expectations of becoming a world champion. But My life was a mess when I was a fighter.
“I was extremely poor and the only structure I had was going to the gym. Nicole was pregnant with my daughter, Mariah and I needed something concrete and secure. So I retired and joined the Air Force.”
Upon rejoining the free world, VanNewhouse once again turned to boxing—this time outside of the ring. The man of many talents has put in his time as a matchmaker and promoter, though his role as a manager is what has allowed him to separate from the pack.
The seed was first planted after a meeting with veteran boxing personality Ivaylo Gotzev, whom VanNewhouse met as a teenager. From there came meetings with longtime promoter and boxing attorney Leon Margules and well-respected manager Luis DeCubas. Among his early mentors was Dean Chance, the Hall of Fame former Major League Baseball pitcher whose love of boxing led to his forming the International Boxing Association (IBA) in the 1990s.
“Dean was great to work with,” VanNewhouse recalls. “He had a real passion for the game and he always made me feel important. That gave me a lot of confidence as a young man entering the business. I was only 23 or so at the time. I visited his farm often and enjoyed spending time in his basement. It was filled with tons of memorabilia of some of my favorite fighters.
“Dean had a vision for me to help run the ratings for his IBA organization. He passed too soon - God rest his soul.”
VanNewhouse began promoting his own shows by 2010, also finding his niche as a matchmaker before making the first big connection that would allow him to break through in the pro game.
It would come from acclaimed hip hop artist 50 Cent, who at the time was trying to advance his SMS Promotions brand. VanNewhouse formed an alliance with the rapper/promoter, paving the way for breakthrough opportunities for two clients as a manager—childhood friend and unbeaten rising contender Mark Davis and a young prospect by the name of Ryan Martin.
VanNewhouse began guiding Davis midway through his career. Davis would eventually advance to a junior lightweight contender, though suffering his lone career defeat via 8th round stoppage to Michael Farenas in their July 2014 title eliminator.
Davis would never fight again, though Martin’s career was beginning to take off. VanNewhouse linked up with Sean Gibbons— of the best matchmakers in the history of the sport—and eagerly worked with all promoters willing to work his kids onto their shows ,on the occasions where SMS was unable to provide fight dates.
“50 pretty much gave me the green light to move their careers how I wanted,” recalls VanNewHouse. I called in Sean Gibbons to help me with matchmaking and I’d call every promoter in the sport. That's really the beginning of building up my relationships in the industry.”
It led to a working relationship formed with Tom Loeffler, at the time the head of K2 Promotions whose roster included World heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko and unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin, with pound-for-pound greats Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Cecilia Braekhus eventually joining the fold as well. VanNewhouse was able to work Martin and his other clients on the undercards of high-profile HBO shows, with his fighters remaining on the radar even if not always with the camera rolling.
Martin would grow into a lightweight contender and worthy enough of being enlisted in the World Boxing Super Series junior welterweight tournament. The two have since parted ways, with Martin now due to face former lightweight titlist Robert Easter Jr. this weekend on Showtime, while VanNewhouse is nurturing the next generation of talent.
The launching pad for his current status was established when he caught the eye of David McWater, the 2020 Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Manager of the Year. McWater founded Split-T Management and currently boasts among the deepest rosters of any current manager in the sport. VanNewhouse has been with the company since 2016, serving an integral role in the growth of the company while establishing a lengthy roster of talent himself.
The move was perhaps the smartest of his career to date—both for VanNewhouse and Split-T, the latter which has gained an impressive crop of young talent thanks to one of the sharpest eyes in the sport.
Every step taken led to this point but it was the stability under the Split-T umbrella which afforded VanNewHouse the ability to secure greater financial backing for his growing roster of young fighters. Constant networking is what continues to lead to opportunities which otherwise wouldn’t be made available.
“I still remember the 2019 BWAA Awards, when (boxing host) Brian Custer presented (Showtime Sports president) Stephen Espinoza with the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Broadcasting,” VanNewhouse fondly recalls. “I was really impressed that night by the introduction of Espinoza. He is sharp and I knew I wanted to immediately begin working with him.”
The union would lead to unexpected exposure for one of his most recent signees.
David Navarro, a 15-time amateur champion who had aspirations of fighting for the 2020 U.S. Olympic boxing team due to compete in Tokyo. Those dreams were stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Navarro opting to turn pro last fall in lieu of waiting another year for the rescheduling of the quadrennial games.
Navarro made his pro debut last October, on the same card as 2016 Olympian and current Split-T client Charles Conwell who headlined a ShoBox card in Uncasville, Connecticut. The original budget only called for a tripleheader, though a deal was struck allowing Navarro to earn airtime via highlights. The East Los Angeles product didn’t disappoint, scoring a 1st round knockout of Nathan Benichou. His second pro bout—another 1st round stoppage—aired in similar capacity as part of a Showtime card which aired last December 12th.
It was all part of a surprisingly productive year for the young manager even during a pandemic.
Several of his clients made their way to TV, including unbeaten blue-chip prospects Diego Pacheco, Abraham Nova, Brian Ceballo and Tyler Howard. VanNewhouse’s signing spree ahead of Tokyo 2020 has already reaped dividends, with former top amateurs Kahshad Elliottt and Javier Martinez turning pro on ESPN platform. Omar Rosario—who will represent Puerto Rico in the Olympics this summer—and Marques Valle announced their arrivals in separate Telemundo-televised bouts. Rosario will make his ESPN+ debut this weekend, as part of the undercard in support of the highly anticipated junior lightweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez.
All in all it made for fond memories in an otherwise forgettable year.
“2020 was horrible for me on a personal level,” notes VanNewhouse, who spent most of the pandemic grieving the loss of his younger brother who was murdered last summer. “He was just murdered on one of the streets I grew up on. He was just 24. My wife’s mother just died in December and we were burdened with another funeral.
“I couldn’t wait for it to be over and get back on the road with my colleagues, clients and friends.”
With the new calendar year comes the next chapter in VanNewhouse continuing to fight the good fight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox