New York Daily News Golden Gloves director Brian Adams is a busy man. The former four time Daily News Golden Gloves champion runs the biggest amateur boxing event in the world while also dueling as a TV broadcaster for the Broadway Boxing series run by promoter Lou DiBella. Adams is a tireless individual who travels all over the New York Tri-State area during the Golden Gloves tournament, that runs from January 28th to April 2nd. The likable and straight-forward Adams was the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of the amateur boxing scene in the early 90’s in New York City. I got a chance to catch up to the “Punching Poet” and ask him about his journey in boxing.
Question: What was it like growing up as a Brooklyn baby in the 70’s? How has New York changed?
Answer: Growing up during the 70’s was a unique experience as I look back at it now. It was very gritty, everyone had a hustle but it was a time when respect and loyalty mattered. Communities policed their own. We as kids feared and respected every adult we came in contact with no matter who the person was and that is certainly lacking these days. I believe a few critical factors changed New York. Mainly, people got tired of certain things and when people got tired of something they come together as one voice to make a change. But that change also came with a cost and that cost was the respect factor. No one has respect for anyone any longer. People are also afraid to say the truth in fear that people may not “like them” any longer. Sorry to go off course as I know this is a boxing site and not a political forum.
Q: Despite having a great amateur career, you were not given any soft touches coming up in the professional ranks. It seems you were mismanaged to a degree. What happened in the pro ranks? What gives you the passion to still be involved with boxing despite enduring some hard knocks?
A: Interesting question…. First off, yes I was mismanaged but I have no regrets because at the end of the day I can live with anything as long as it was my decision. I had a very good amateur career and one that some would call outstanding. I don’t look at it that way, it was just something I did to have fun and to build for my future. My manager (who I don’t like to mention because he doesn’t in my eyes deserve to be mentioned ever when talking about my career) never gave me the opportunity to be good on the professional level, with how he didn’t appreciate the background I had in the amateurs. A lot of people advised me not to sign with him but me being one who likes challenges viewed it as just that, a challenge. I signed a four-year deal with him and within a year I was not happy. Instead of bitching I accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to do anything for my career and dealt with him for four years. Most people ask why didn’t I get put of the contract since it was clear he violated a few items in the contract, and my response was “no one forced me to sign the agreement so I’ll live up to my word and honor the four-year deal.” I learned a lot from that experience and now I’m more wiser and not as quiet as I once was. So that whole experience gives me the motivation and passion to still stay around boxing. The younger boxers all come to me (some secretly & others openly) for advice and direction. That’s what it’s about for me now. I’m obligated to pass along what I’ve seen and learned.
Q: What type of advice would you give a promising amateur prospect that is ready to turn professional and sign with a promoter or manager?
A: Do your homework. At the end of the day it will be their decision but they must do the proper research. Boxing is a small community. Speak with several guys both current and past who have dealt with that particular promoter or manager. Get several opinions of that person and then make a decision. They should also know that not everyone is for everyone. Just because this manager or that promoter may move another boxer a certain way it doesn’t mean he will be able to do it for them. It’s not a matter of who is a better fighter than the next one, it’s strictly about who is the better person to move along and get the most money out of. And also, just because a manager and promoter may have been around a long time doesn’t make that person good. In this World I’ve met a ton of life-long crooks and a majority of them are in boxing. But at the end of the day I get it, it’s about who has the best connections to get the boxer to point A the quickest. Connections do come at a price. Don’t rush to sign with a person, take your time and evaluate best you can. Speak with people other than your coach, because these days the coach is looking out for one person in the deal!
Q: How do you explain the decline of amateur boxing in the United States? What factors do you think have played a role in less amateur boxers winning medals from the U.S.A?
A: Watching the climate of today I see one main area where it’s clear why American boxing has declined and those who read this will think it’s a knock on coaches. Let me be clear, I have a great deal of respect for coaches because they put the time in with athletes, but at the same time the coaches today have become selfish. Let’s take a look back at when the boxers were winning multiple medals in the Olympics – 1976 team (5 Golds, 1 silver, 1 Bronze). 1984 team (9 Golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze). 1988 team (3 Golds, 3 silvers, 2 Bronze). 1996 team (1 Gold, 4 Bronze) All of those teams had one thing in common – the original coach of those boxers were not in the corners. Coaches started yelling that they need to be with the boxer because they got the boxer to that point, but why cripple the boxer? If you make the boxer believe they can’t win without you then guess what? They won’t win without you. The funny thing here is that the boxers clearly are not winning with them either. The USOC had a system where they inserted a coach who is experienced and knows the elite foreign boxers but couldn’t get the athletes ready to win. The local coach may not have the knowledge to show the kid how to win on the international level. That old saying, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’ is so true. Once they started injecting their selves into the system that’s when we as a country started winning less and less medals. Besides, in my day coming up our coaches taught us how to win with and without them there. We had confidence. Look at Floyd Mayweather when he was coming up. His dad was always on him working him out hard, making sure he was solid. Once his dad went away and wasn’t able to be in the corner for several year, Floyd did not miss a beat.
Q: Who was the best amateur fighter that you knocked off fighting in the Daily News Golden Gloves?
A: That’s a trick question because they were all good. I was the favorite always because of my reputation and they all came to knock me off so every guy I faced was the best. That’s how I approached it. It would have been embarrassing to loss, especially being ranked on the national level. I was once at the number one spot.
Q: Many fighters do not have a Plan B after boxing. How were you able to find success outside of the ropes after your career was over?
A: That’s simple, I never viewed myself as a boxer. Boxing was something I did pretty well and it was fun but I was never a boxer. Growing up in the projects in Crown Heights, fighting is what we did damn near everyday, all day. We didn’t get weapons, we fought and we had to be good because if we weren’t then we would get teased every day (oh what do they call it these days? Bullying). We were never bullied but we were teased if we couldn’t defend ourselves. The one thing (and you asked earlier what’s changed) was that we were not afraid to fight and get beat up. My mom and dad instilled the importance of education to my brother and two sister repeatedly. They would not accept anything less than a college education because they always said life is what you make it and with education you can make it anything you wish. I always wanted to do something where I was able to make a difference and through the sport I love I was given that chance.
Q: What was it like getting to live the boxing dream and win in a major bout at Madison Square Garden against undefeated 19-0 Calvin Davis in 2001?
A: Heaven! After my brief four year prison stint (not actual prison but my contract days which felt worst than prison) I started working with Arnie ‘Tokyo’ Rosenthal as a manager, who took me over to a friend of mine, Lou Dibella, who had just started his own company Dibella Entertainment for him to help navigate through some of boxing B.S. Lou, at the time had just started the middleweight tournament. Bernard Hopkins was fighting Keith Holmes in the semi-final and Lou asked if I would be interested in fighting in the co-feature against one of Bernard’s pupils and friend who was undefeated.. I said hell yeah after seeing a short video clip on Calvin Davis. I knew the match-up was perfect for my style and I won a unanimous decision. I felt extremely comfortable in there because, after all, I won several pair of Golden a Gloves in that same ring. Davis and I developed a moderate friendship which is alive today.
Q: What boxers have you been impressed with thus far in this year’s Daily News Golden Gloves?
A: A few of the athletes stand out but the unknown guys are always a joy to watch. There’s a guy (152lbs) who is special – Brian Ceballo is his name and a pleasure to have in my tournament. On top of his ring skills, the kid of one of the nicest young men you will ever meet. I can’t forget about the most decorated female boxer Christina Cruz who has eight Golden Gloves titles and who should get some exposure on the professional scene. She deserves it.
Q: You mentioned that you would take the cocky guy over the confident guy. Why is that exactly?
A: LOL, the cocky guy will always give you 110% because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed at the end of the day whereas the confident guy will give you 100% but you can eventually break him. Two fights that will give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. 1. Ali vs. Frazier – Ali never stop trying to win that fight. He talked too much and had too much pride to get beat. 2. Hopkins vs. Trinidad – Tito was extremely confident but Bernard broke his spirit eventually. Why do you think Floyd trains as hard as he does? He knows he can’t allow anyone to beat him. He doesn’t want to be embarrassed. Ricky Hatton was confident going into the fight with Floyd,as was Arturo Gatti and both got their spirits broke during the fight.
Q: What is next in the life of Brian Adams?
A: One day at a time! One day at a time. I don’t predict things like my next life. I’m already living my next life. Life after the ring and I tell you what, it’s better than the first. But as one of my favorite singers would say – the best is yet to come!