Sunday, April 10, 2016

TBG Book Review: Ringmasters: Great Boxing Trainers Talk About Their Art

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review

Review by Peter Silkov

“Ringmasters: Great Boxing Trainers Talk About Their Art”

By Dave Anderson

Boxing isn’t what it used to be in so many ways. There are the multiple world champions in every weight division and the lack of genuinely satisfying big fights.  With boxing now being faced with the situation of having more world champions than outstanding contenders, there is a severe talent shortage in every division.  Fighters who would have struggled to get into the top ten world rankings, 20 or 30 years ago, are now winning world titles.  In some cases, even multiple world titles.

One of the deeper problems has been the decline in the general skills of boxers over the past two decades. Though there are some highly skilled boxers active today, they are an ever-decreasing minority.

There are a number of reasons for this decline in the skills of today’s fighters, one is the general dilution of the sport, which has been caused by the multiple titles and the top fighters often avoiding fighting each other. Another reason is the increasing lack of outstanding, well-schooled trainers to guide and develop young fighters. In ’Ringmasters’ Dave Anderson talks to 12 veteran trainers, about their art, which is training their fighters in the art of boxing.  Whether a fighter is a natural slugger or fancy-Dan, boxing is a science, which they need to be schooled into.  ‘Ringmasters’ was first published in 1991, and the trainers interviewed are a lost link to boxing’s golden past, when the sport was brimming full of talented, colourful, fighters who were trained by wily trainers, who knew every trick and angle, in the ring and out.

The trainers interviewed here by Anderson are Kevin Rooney, Goody Petronelli, Angelo Dundee, George Benton, Jackie McCoy, Ray Arcel, Bill Slayton, Lou Duva, Emanuel Steward, Gil Clancy, Eddie Futch, and Richie Giachetti.

Each trainer talks about a certain aspect of their life and work as a boxing trainer, whether it be a recollection of the experiences that made them the trainer they became, or memories about the fighters who they have worked with and trained.  It becomes clear that, for most of these trainers, boxing is not simply a 9 to 5 job, it is a vocation, a calling almost, which dominates their lives from the time that they wake until the time they go to sleep.  They lived for boxing and their fighters. 

It’s a sobering thought that all the trainers interviewed in this book, with the exception of Kevin Rooney, have now passed away. Although there are some good trainers around today, they are a disappearing race, a dying breed.

Some of the highlights in the book are Kevin Rooney talking about his time with Cus D’Amato, and training Mike Tyson. He also seems to predict Tyson’s cataclysmic spiral into self-destruction.

Angelo Dundee takes us behind the scenes with Muhammad Ali, looking at Ali’s fights with Frazier and Foreman, and his complex relationship with Ali.

One of the oldest and most experienced trainers is Ray Arcel, who takes us back to the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and the days of Benny Leonard, Jack Kid Berg, and Joe Louis.  Arcel talks about how money has changed boxing for the worst, and how trainers and fighters no longer have the bond that they had in the days of Joe Louis.

George Benton recalls his time with Leon Spinks, and how he trained Spinks for his win over Muhammad Ali, and then saw Spinks overwhelmed by the championship after beating Ali. 

Emanuel Steward talks about his greatest fighter, Thomas Hearns, and goes into the background of Hearn’s fights with Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler. 

Gil Clancy tells us about his time training George Foreman, and Emile Griffith, and recalls how Griffith dealt with the death of Benny Paret after their third fight.

Eddie Futch reminisces about training with Joe Louis and training, both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, for their fights with Muhammad Ali.

This book is full of fascinating insights into the relationship between the boxer and his trainer, and how training and preparing a fighter for a fight, is as much an art as what happens once the two boxers get into the ring.  It is an art, which has been steadily eroded over the years, as boxing has become ever more a business, and many of the old ways of the trainers of the past have been lost or discarded in the money to make quick money.

‘Ringmasters’ is a look back at a time when boxing really could be considered an art, and trainers helped their fighters create their masterpieces in the ring.

*Available at Amazon:

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to

1 comment:

  1. Lou Duva is 94 years old and lives in Wayne, New Jersey.

    You might want to check the facts next time you make a statement about people being dead.