The Top Ten Greatest Trainers In Boxing History: My Take

By Vitali Shaposhnikov: It seems to me, that there are always as many opinions as there are people. Some see this as a bad thing; it may create more confusion as those with limited interest and knowledge add to the pool of names, numbers and picks. I on the other hand welcome everyone’s word, due to the fact that more people equal a better and more precise average.

There is probably a fresh article on the top boxers, boxing coaches, boxing referees or boxing promoters, every single day. People read and instantly criticize someone for their list and the order that the list displays. To me, there are no wrongs and rights when I read such personal ratings. The reason for this is because it’s not the list that is bad, or better said different, it’s how the person defines what he is writing about.

Today I want to share with you my list of the top ten best boxing trainers in boxing history. This will be solely my own opinion from what I have heard, read and seen. But before getting to the list, lets me try and define what I think a best trainer means to me.

There are a few different attributes that make up a legendary trainer. First and foremost, it’s what they have done with their stable of fighters. If a trainer has a number of great skilled fighters who show up on their doorstep ready to fight already groomed by someone else, this I don’t count. A truly great trainer needs to mold a fighter, educate them, carry them to greatness while showing consistency, professionalism and dedication all throughout their (trainer’s) career.
A great trainer is patient, and careful. They don’t let their fighter get hurt when hopeless is the only feeling left in their heart. They don’t allow their fighter to slack off, otherwise ending their relationship. A great trainer must have a mental and emotional connection with the fighter, feeling what his fighter feels, and being able to see what the fighter is seeing.

Trainers don’t give up on their boxers, and never let them feel unappreciated and incomplete. Hard work, proper passing of knowledge, dedication, consistency, respect, understanding, attention to detail and authenticity are crucial to a working boxer/trainer relationship.

A trainer who can throw in the towel when fighter is in trouble is a great trainer. A trainer who can lift the fighter’s spirits in the corner during a fight, is a great trainer. A trainer who can give their fighter energy and drive, is a great trainer.

A trainer who is in it for the quick buck is not a good trainer. A trainer who sees their fighter as property or a pet, is not a good trainer. A trainer who doesn’t make their fighter a priority, is not at all a good trainer. Even if the fighter becomes a champion of the world.
And now, on to the list!

#1: Cus D’Amato

When looking at Cus D’Amato’s career, we see a complete list of what a great boxing trainer should be. Somehow I am sure that most of us have seen the old videos of Cus working in his gym, imparting boxing wisdom to Mike Tyson. Just by looking at what Cus D’Amato did for Mike Tyson, I can tell that he was an extraordinary human being; loving and caring man. His dedication to the sport of boxing is simply unquestioned, as he spent countless hours at the gym for the benefit of others. His biggest successes were two astounding personas; two phenomenal fighters, Floyd Patterson (Olympic middleweight gold medal in 1952, beat Archie Moore for the Heavyweight championship of the world, a man who gave Muhammad Ali two incredible fights), and of course a man that shook the world many times over, Mike Tyson (essentially saved by, adopted by, taught by, and became the youngest undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world thanks to Cus D’Amato). But this is not about them, it’s about Cus D’Amato. He invented the peek-a-boo defense style, schooled Teddy Atlas (currently one of the most respectable trainers), and was involved in numerous charities to help kids get off the streets and into the boxing gym.

“People think I was born this way. They don’t know what it took to get this way. The training, when you have to do things over and over again until you’re sore. Deep in your mind you say, God, I don’t want to do this no more, and then you push. I always used to think I was a coward because of the way I felt. Cus was there when I needed him…he was the one. Cus would always explain you should always do things to build your character and make you a better individual. He was different than anyone I’d ever met, because principle meant more than anything to him, more than money, more than health, more than his life. He would sacrifice anything for principle, for what he believed was right.”- Mike Tyson

#2: Eddie Futch

Despite the fact that Eddie Futch was denied a professional boxing license due to a heart murmur, he continued investing himself into the sport of boxing for his entire life. Even Joe Louis got to see what this Eddie was made of in their numerous sparring sessions. In the 1950’s Eddie Futch became a professional boxing trainer, and was able to release 21 world champions onto the world of boxing. Trevor Berbick, Riddick Bowe, Joe Frazier, Virgil Hill, Ken Norton, and of course the world famous Freddie Roach are just some of the names Eddie has worked with. Not only a hall of famer, but also a man who trained the champion conquerors. He was able to train four of the five men who defeated the one and only Muhammad Ali, which in itself is a remarkable achievement. From watching old videos to discussing Eddie with Freddie Roach, I got the impression that Eddie was completely submerged in the sport of boxing, and made it his life goal to become one of the greatest trainers of all time. Not only that, but Futch developed another one of the best boxing trainers of all time, Freddie Roach. All in all, Eddie deserves a spot in the top five no matter how you look at it.

“Boxing is a science. You don’t just walk into a gym and start punching. Fighters are born with differences in physical ability, but you also see a big difference in their skills. That’s the trainers influence at work.”-Eddie Futch

#3: Freddie Roach

What’s there to be said about Freddie Roach that you don’t already know. A former professional boxer under the guidance of Eddie Futch, who had a whole spectrum of ups and downs throughout his life. Developing Parkinson’s disease cripples most people, making them very sedentary and careful, but for Freddie, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In order to curb the horrible symptoms and slow the progression of his disease, Freddie spends days on end at his world renowned Wildcard boxing gym. Of course Manny Pacquiao is the main reason for Freddie Roach being who he is and where he is right now. Their relationship, while not exactly like Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato’s, is unlike any other I have seen before. They are no longer business partners, they are no longer teacher and student or even friends, they are simply put, adopted relatives. Manny Pacquiao has gone up in weight, dominated fights, improved his skill level, mostly thanks to Coach Roach. Ultimately speaking, Freddie Roach molded and carried to colossal success a current era Muhammad Ali. When training in Philippines, Pacquiao took some time off to talk politics, and Freddie threatened to leave Pacquiao as he was not going to train a fighter to lose or get hurt. Freddie had also worked with Oscar De La Hoya, Virgil Hill, Wladimir Klitschko, Mike Tyson, and a lot more of well known boxing and MMA champions. His dedication to the sport is unquestioned. His ability to teach and develop fighters is unparallel, as can be seen in yet another successful advancement of Amir Khan.

“If we don’t win a fight, its just because we can’t” – Freddie Roach

#4: Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain

Undoubtedly the greatest Mexican boxing trainer of all time, Beristain has not only years of experience but also a certain teaching style that produces amazing technical fighters. As previously mentioned, Beristain is all about technicality and detail of boxing. He takes his time to perfect movement in his fighters. If there is one trainer that likes to train by the book, and have a certain degree of perfection in every punch that his fighter throws, it’s Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain. His most notable students are: Oscar De LA Hoya, Abner Mares, Juan Manuel Marquez, Daniel Zaragoza, and Gilberto Roman. While his resume is not as impressive as other trainers, his results are. Juan Manuel Marquez was the only fighter to ever give Manny Pacquiao a run for his money, via beautiful technical work in the ring. Beristain is a boxing hall of fame resident since 2002.

“It’s a sport that has helped many children on their way to the darkness and put them on track and allowed me to make them better men. All my life I have sought out young people from a life of drugs, crime and gangs. This is very beautiful.” – Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain

#5: Lou Duva

This name just screams Hall of Fame. Before going further, let me list the boxers he has worked with: Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Michael Moorer, Arturo Gatti, Lennox Lewis, Tony Tucker, Vinny Paz, Hector Camacho and many more. His fighters were dominant and provided exciting results. There is no doubt that Lou was able to take any decent fighter and thrust their careers into a professional utopia. His fighters were less reserved, and more aggressive. People loved to watch any fighter under Lou, as they never knew what’s coming next. The reason I placed Lou Duva in the number five spot, is because I have read and heard that while Duva was the boss, it was George ‘the Professor’ Benton was the one who molded and sculpted their champions along their careers.

“I love what I’m doing. It’s my life. When it’s time to go, I’ll probably be fighting to get out of the casket. I’ll be yelling at the priest instead of a referee.” – Lou Duva

#6: Emanuel Steward

While Emanuel Steward worked with a whole spectrum of fighters, I would like to note the fighters that can attribute their entire success in boxing to Steward: Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Thomas Hearns, and Tony Tucker. There are a dozen more boxing superstars that have successfully used Steward’s services. He has spent a great amount of time in the corner working his fighters, and never has anyone seen him lose confidence or throw away a fight that was still available to take. Steward is great for his ability to take a fighter and their style, and completely rebuild it. When working with Thomas Hearns, Steward was able to take a light hitting boxer and turn him into a destructive power puncher who not only gave Marvin Hagler the fight of his life, but also knocked out Roberto Duran. With Steward’s help, many boxers were able to elevate their careers and become successes when it all seemed so unlikely before. This is why I like Emanuel Steward:

#7: Angelo Dundee

How can this man not be in the top ten boxing trainers of all time? Angelo Dundee is yet another Hall of Fame trainer with an astounding resume. He was the sole person responsible for Sugar Ray Leonard’s three world title achievements. Dundee worked with all kinds of boxers, including helping George Foreman make an impressive comeback. His expertise in the art of boxing was stellar, and Dundee made sure to fight a smart fight. He was known for his tactical approaches to fights and his clever plan development. Oh, forgot one small detail, but as the saying goes “leave the best for last.” Angelo Dundee was the primary trainer of Muhammad Ali throughout his entire career. From 1960 to 1981 Ali and Dundee shook the world time after time, creating not only a world champion, but a household name with a character. In essence, they both fashioned a fairy tale, a story that makes it into any boxing conversation. Anything that had, has, or will ever have to do with Muhammad Ali, has to do with Angelo Dundee as well.
“I just put the reflexes in the proper direction.” – Angelo Dundee

#8: Jack Blackburn

In the early 1900’s, boxing was on a rise. Boxing trainers were popping up all over, mostly trying to make some money with their fighters via prizefighting. Of all of them, none were distinctive, and not many were able to deliver something new and exciting to the public’s eye. Jack Blackburn was a professional lightweight fighter, retiring with a record of 99-26-19. After retiring, Blackburn decided to give training a try and see how well he does. He briefly worked with Charles Taylor and Jersey Joe Walcott, but it was the “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis who made Blackburn famous, and vise versa. Blackburn created an extraordinary fighter, with a closing record of 65-3-0. Best known for his bouts against Max Schmeling, Joe Louis proved to be an artist in the sport of boxing. Jack Blackburn ‘discovered’ Joe Louis, and in essence changed boxing history.
“Once that bell rings you’re on your own. It’s just you and the other guy.” – Joe Louis

#9: Teddy Atlas

Being roomed and learning from Cus D’Amato, makes Teddy Atlas an exceedingly valuable trainer for any athlete. He must be one of the most thought out trainers in recent boxing history. While his name does not create the kind of hype that Freddie Roach or Roger Mayweather does, his knowledge is on par with those men. Any way you look at it, it’s hard to deny that Atlas had some part in bring Mike Tyson to the top. His resume is built on being a head trainer for Michael Moorer, and recently helping out Alexander Povetkin. Samuel Peter and his management were also very interested in Atlas, but Atlas never ended up taking that job. His temper is short, his criticism is direct, and his teaching style is unique, thus many have trouble keeping the line of communication conflict-free. Regadless of what anyone had ever said about Teddy Atals, if listened to, his results are positive. It is apparent that this trainer knows how to assemble a fighter’s separate attributes into a better flowing whole.

“…Do you want me to fight? Huh? Do you want me to trade places with you. Do you? Listen. This guy (Holyfield) is finished. There comes a time in a man’s life when he makes a decision – to just live. Survive. Or he wants to win. You’re doing just enough to keep him off you. And hope he leaves you alone. You’re lying to yourself. You’re gonna cry tomorrow because of this. Do you want to cry tomorrow? Huh? Don’t lie to yourself. Back this guy up and fight a full
round…” – Teddy Atlas

#10: Roger Mayweather

How could we forget the infamous trainer and uncle of the world champion superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr. Roger is not only a trainer but a former world champion with a record of 59-13-0. His knowledge of boxing history as well as the technical aspect of boxing is nothing short of astounding. There are a number of things that may draw people away from Roger, but his booming result with Mayweather Jr. is, well, unbeaten. With a current record of 41-0-0, he is one of the most wanted opponents in boxing history. Roger did and still does a great job with his nephew, delivering an astonishingly fast and ring smart boxer. Maybe, just maybe, if Mayweather Jr. fights and beats Manny Pacquiao, he and his coach Roger Mayweather will become the most popular duo in boxing history.

Next post:

Previous post:

Boxing News The Top Ten Greatest Trainers In Boxing History: My Take