By James Slater: In a recent interview article for ESB, I asked the great trainer Emanuel Steward for his choices when it comes to the five very best fighters he has ever worked with. The article inspired many comments. Here, courtesy of another interview I was fortunate to have been given recently – this one with a man no less talented than Steward, in Ronnie Shields – we have another trainer’s take on the five best fighters he has ever worked with.
Shields, one of the busiest guys in the game today along with the Kronk genius, has and is working with so many talented fighters listing just five is no easy thing. Here though, Ronnie does just this.
His top-five in no particular order:
“With Evander it was his sheer determination,” Shields says. “His determination was bigger than any fighter I’ve ever worked with. He was determined in the gym, determined in sparring and he was determined in each and every fight – he was simply determined to be the best at everything he did. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He didn’t care if he had to go 12-rounds or one-round in his fights. His determination saw him through every fight, win or lose.”
“Pernell’s best quality has to be the finesse he had. He was amazing, like no other guy I’ve ever seen. He could make a guy miss, counter him, and then counter him for a second time – not many guys can do that. He had amazing speed, accuracy and balance. He never missed with a shot either. Finesse is something a fighter has or doesn’t have; it can’t be taught. It is a very special quality.”
“With Vernon, I couldn’t say just one thing he hid best. Vernon was a great all-rounder – he did everything well. He was determined, he had some of the finesse Whitaker had, although he wasn’t as skilled, and he had mental strength. He wouldn’t let a fighter beat him, so he worked hard on all aspects of the game. He had a little bit of everything – desire was something he had plenty of.”
“Mike had one thing and one thing only on his mind when he fought: to knock the other guy out! So I have to say his power was his best quality. He had awesome one-punch KO power, which is special, and he had amazing physical strength. I would definitely say Tyson had good mental strength, too – but his punch-power couldn’t be matched. Mike was always determined to knock a guy clean out.”
“Very much like Vernon Forrest, Rigondeaux is the total package, so I couldn’t list just one outstanding quality. He has great power, he’s mentally strong – in fact he also reminds me of Tyson. But he’s also like Whitaker, in that he has some of the natural finesse Pernell had. He’s a fighter with god-given talents, and I’m polishing his tools. You really have to see him in the gym to believe how good he is. He has such mental strength to go with his power. He’s knocking guys out – bigger guys than himself – in sparring, and that’s with 16-ounce gloves on. Rigondeaux is fearless and ambitious.”