Mack vs Henry: Interview with Trainer John Tandy
26.01.09 - By Adrian Lane - Having moved over to the US in January 2007 British boxing trainer John Tandy spent a year in New York but now has relocated out to a high altitude camp in Lake Arrowhead, California. We managed to catch up with him recently to see how things are going and see how one of his fighters Yusaf Mack’s preparations are for his big fight with Chris Henry on ESPN2 on the 6th February..
Article posted on 25.01.2009
Hey John how’s it going, are you enjoying your move over to California, what sort of facility do you have over there?
Things are good thanks, it was a bit quiet over Christmas but things are picking up, I have a great facility here a nice size gym, onsite accommodation, some fantastic runs and all at a price that we believe is very competitive. We are also in a great location, the altitude is exactly a mile high, hence the name of the training camp which is the optimum level to get the best out of high altitude training, we are also geographically in a great place, it is only an hour and a half’s drive down to LA, it is about 3 hours drive to Vegas and we have the advantages that Big Bear doesn’t have in regard we very rarely get snowed in and the weather is not as harsh. It is my plan to really put Lake Arrowhead on the map in regards to boxing and feel once we get things moving up here it will be people’s first choice of high altitude training camp.
What is going on there at the moment?
I currently have light heavyweight NABA champion Yusaf Mack in camp getting ready for his fight with Chris Henry, which is a huge fight for him, the winner is likely to go on to get a world title shot and the loser will be left to rebuild a career in tatters. Yusaf is working really hard and is very focused on getting to the peak physical condition, there have been a ton of excuses regarding making weight and his preparations not being right in the past but since he has been with me he is eating, and training right and is in tremendous condition. He is bigger and stronger than he has ever been, and I personally think he is about to create a big upset as from what I have read and heard Henry is the hot favourite to win the fight.
Yes I have heard the same, that Henry will be too big and too strong, why do you think it will be different?
I am keeping my cards close to my chest in regards to how we are going to win, so all I can say really is watch out on ESPN2 on the 6th February and he will show you all.
So who else are you having up there?
We are in current talks with a number of high profile boxers including Steve Cunningham who has shown interest in coming up here for his next camp, others include Jaidon Codrington, Gareth Hogg, Robert Lloyd Taylor, Chris Smith and a number of others, I think once they experience it up here it and pass the word on we will be overloaded with guys.
What has happened over the last 12 months for John Tandy?
Well I have had a number of ups and downs to be honest, Yusaf has won all of his three fights and picked up the NABA title which is great, but we have a had a few disappointments as well. Braimah Kamoko who was the WBC #6 at light Heavyweight came over to work with me from Ghana when I was in New York, he had been out of the ring for almost a year and was in dreadful condition, weighing over 204lbs and very down regarding not fighting. We had a solid 12 weeks together and we really worked very hard we got his weight down and worked on a number of weaknesses he had in his technique, he was looking really good and was incredibly strong but unfortunately he failed a medical in New York because of an eye operation he had previously had and he was unable to fight, he was very distressed and was forced to go back to Ghana. I also had Ashley Theophane in camp and he was looking very sharp, and was probably one of the most dedicated trainers I have worked with, but after a clash of personalities with manager Rory Donadio he reluctantly left camp and went on his own route which was a shame. Now I have got another new start over here in Lake Arrowhead and I am hoping for a big year in 2009.
What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses as a trainer?
Ha ha good question, erm I guess I like to think I am pretty strong in most areas, I always make sure my guys are in the best shape they possibly can be, I am very conscious on tactics and have a number of fight plans going into a fight to best take advantage of the opponents weaknesses. I also do consultancy work in which I build fight plans for other fighters; I have a number of high profile fighters that use this service. My weaknesses are that I hate wrapping hands, and I always try to find the best in people even if I know deep down they may not be able to get to where they need to be I will use up a lot of my time trying to help them anyway.
Wrapping hands that seems a bit of a bizarre pet hate for a trainer?
yeah I know, I was superstitious of it, the first two guys I wrapped for were both stopped on cuts, silly I know but it was just one of those things, but the third guy won and things just went on from that and if there was someone else there to wrap I would always let them do it.
Can you go a bit deeper into what you mean by helping people that will not make it?
Well I am obviously not going to name names but there has been a few guys that I knew deep down although they wanted to really get to the top in boxing that they just didn’t have the ability, but I spent a lot of time helping them and then finally after giving them my all I had to sit down with a few and tell them some home truths which never goes down well, I would never put anyone into a fight that was not ready to be there.
How would you best describe yourself as a trainer?
Well I would say I am pretty tough on my guys but it is always in their best interests, I have really crossed swords with a number of fighters in the early days but they usually come round when they see the improvements. Yusaf and I used to have an argument on a daily basis but after a few weeks we really clicked and he could see that all the hard work was paying off. I like to increase the strengths of a fighter and also work on the weaknesses, I try to have a different approach to every guy I train depending on their needs, and style. I am not usually into ripping a guys style apart unless it really doesn’t work, there are so many different types of fighters, from slick speedy guys to tough come forward fighters. Some trainers put there one style onto fighters and it just doesn’t work, if you have a tough European style fighter to try and change them into a slick fighter that drops their hands and counter punches would be suicide for them. I like to work with what I have and make it better and add more dimensions into their styles. I like to discuss tactics and share views with my fighters, we watch the tape together and both make are points and discuss them, I am also pretty open to the fighters in regard to if I am doing something that they think doesn’t work I will sit down and explain to them why I am doing it and why I think it is the way forward, then listen to them and see why they disagree and we generally come to an agreement. At the end of the day is someone is unhappy and doesn’t understand why they are doing something you will not get the best from them.
Going back to Yusaf Mack, what can you tell us in regard to a general day in camp?
To be honest this is tough for me to answer as pretty much every day is different, I like to keep my guys on their toes so they can always look forward to something , we generally do 5 runs a week, mixing them up from long runs to shorter faster runs to mixed sprints. In the gym we do plenty of pad work and cardio, strength building, speed and technical work, then try and mix up the sparring as much as possible as well rather than have the same sparring partners that they get used to. He eats well and takes his vitamins and we keep a close eye on his weight and make sure there are no shocks late on. Also plenty of rest is important to allow your body to recover from the punishing workouts. When you are out in camp away from you family you only have the fight to focus on and there are few distractions.
How do you think he has changed over the last year you guys have been together?
For me Yusaf is a different person now to the one I met in January 07, he was a little bit spoiled and used to getting his own way, from what I have been told his former trainers told him he was naturally talented and that would get him through fights, I was the first one that actually sat him down and said, no you might be good but unless you are prepared to dedicate yourself, make sacrifices and train your ass off you ain’t going nowhere. As I said earlier he wasn’t overly eager to do that straight away but after he started to see the results it all changed. Now he is very focused and very hard working, he has matured an amazing amount, and also been through a number of personal tragedies such as the death of his father which seems to have only made him more determined and focused on making it all the way. It is funny as I read the forums occasionally and they have him as a real underdog for the fight with Henry, but I would imagine if I only had the Berrio and Andrade fights to go on, I would think he would lose as well. As I have said he is not that guy anymore he has no problem making weight anymore as he is on a strict diet while in camp and we monitor his weight carefully. We have built a great base and we have managed to build on it for all the time we spent together barring for the recent Pittman fight as he was riddled with injuries during that camp. Now he is ready to show the world what he is really made of, watch out for the new Yusaf Mack dominating the light heavyweight division.
Thanks for your time John
No problem mate, anytime!
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