By Rick Reeno & Michael “Scoops” Doss
As previously reported on BoxingScene.com, veteran trainer Ronnie Shields has dropped junior middleweight prospect Omar Henry (8-0, 7KOs) over a difference of opinion with Henry's manager Cameron Dunkin.
Shields wanted Henry to spar with another junior middleweight prospect, Erislandy Lara (10-0, 6KOs). Dunkin was not comfortable with Shields putting together a sparring session between the two unbeaten prospects. Shields, who is also working with Lara, was upset over Dunkin's position on the sparring session and quit as Henry's trainer.
Most insiders viewed the situation as a minor piece to an ongoing promotional beef. Henry is a rising prospect under the Top Rank banner, and Lara is a rising prospect with Top Rank's competitor, Golden Boy Promotions. The tension between Top Rank and Golden Boy had nothing to do with Dunkin's position. Dunkin has several fighters under contract with both promotional outfits, and Henry has sparred in the past with other Golden Boy fighters.
According to several sources from Savannah's Boxing Club in Houston, Texas, Shields and several of his associates are under the impression that Dunkin was against the sparring session because Lara is managed by Shelly Finkel. Dunkin and Finkel are two of the most successful boxing managers in the sport.
Dunkin told BoxingScene on Thursday afternoon that Finkel's involvement with Lara had nothing to do with his position. The Las Vegas-based manager was trying to avoid a potential "he said, she said" situation over the sparring session. As noted in our earlier report, people have a tendency to stretch the truth and fabricate details when comes it to a sparring session involving prospects and fighters with name recognition.
"I just told that I didn't think it was a good idea to have the two of them spar. He said 'okay,' and then a half-hour later I get a phone call telling me 'Ronnie quit.' It had nothing to do with Shelly. I have nothing against Shelly. Shelly's name was never brought up in the conversation. I like Ronnie a lot and I would work with him in future with other fighters. I didn't want the fighters, who are two talented junior middleweight prospects, to get caught up in the rumors and the gossip. There would be friction," Dunkin told BoxingScene.com.
It didn't take long for BoxingScene's report to reach Shields. The veteran trainer wanted an opportunity to explain what provoked him to quit as Henry's trainer. According to Shields, it was the first time a fighter's manager had stepped in to prevent a sparring session.
“When I got a call from Cameron Dunkin, he asked me not to let Omar spar with Lara. I asked him why and he simply said, 'I have my reasons' and I asked him what were his reasons and he said, 'I just have my reasons' and left it at that. In my 22-years as a trainer, I have never had a manager of a fighter call me and tell me not to let his guy spar someone else, someone that could be good for him in the gym," Shields told BoxingScene.com.
"Omar has sparred Kermit Cintron, Danny Jacobs, Jermell and Jermall Charlo, Alexis Camacho and Lanard Lane along with a host of other fighters at Savannah’s boxing gym and I have never heard anything before. [And] now he won’t be able to have any of that great sparring. If he had problems with the way Omar looked in his last eight fights why didn’t he call me before all of this? I am a trainer, that’s what I do, make fighters better fighters, managers should let the trainers do their jobs."
Dunkin sticking to his guns on Thursday night. He told BoxingScene there is nothing more to his position than simply trying to avoid potential friction.
"I'm standing by my story. It had nothing to do with Shelly Finkel being Lara's manager. There is no problem with Shelly. I have a lot of respect for Ronnie. I consider him a friend. He trains Rayonta Whitfield, who is one of my fighters. I don't have any problem with Ronnie," Dunkin said.
It won't be difficult for Henry to find a new trainer. Since our first report on the above situation, several well-known trainers have contacted BoxingScene to obtain the contact information for Henry's managers.