Behind every strong boxer is an equally strong trainer who helps to guide them along. Boxing trainers are unique individuals who enable their proteges to harness and expand on God given talent to become winners in the ring. Every boxer has a trainer behind them offering guidance, insight, and lessons on every punch, tactic, and weakness that needs to be turned into a strength.
Boxing has had some legendary trainers capable of turning a good fighter into a world champion. They are the men capable of transforming raw talent into million-dollar paychecks and fame beyond the wildest dream. Boxing trainers, like managers, play a significant role in a fighter’s career. Without their knowledge a fighter goes into the ring naked and exposed to their opponent.
The following list looks at some of the greatest boxing trainers of all-time and the impact they have had on the squared circle.
Famed boxing trainer Pedro Diaz has done just about everything in the fight world. A former coach with the Cuban Olympic and Dominican Republic boxing teams, Diaz is a veteran of five different Summer Games. After a traffic accident stopped his own amateur career (78-9), Diaz turned his attention to coaching boxing hopefuls. In 2008, the Cuban moved into the pro ranks, originally settling in Montreal before heading south to Florida. It was there that world champion fighter Miguel Cotto sought out Diaz’s coaching. The pair worked together during a period of around two years with Diaz helping Cotto prepare for his superfight showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2012. Diaz holds a PhD in Pedagogical Sciences and uses his school learning to help fighters get an edge in the ring. The legendary Cuban trainer has also been head-hunted by Mix Martial Arts fighters to gain further knowledge and improve their boxing skills during fight camp.
Ray Arcel famously trained 20 world champion fighters from the 1920s to the 1980s. His longevity and ability to adapt to different decades makes him one the greatest boxing trainers of all-time. Arcel began training his first world champion in 1923 with flyweight Frankie Genaro. In the 1970s, after a lengthy break from the sport, Arcel trained Roberto Duran during an eight-year time span of success. Arcel’s career spanned into the 1980s working with Larry Holmes. Alongside fellow trainer Eddie Futch, Arcel helped Holmes prepare for his title defense against Gerry Cooney in 1982. Holmes won the fight and moved his record to 40-0.
Despite growing up in an affluent part of New York City with well-to-do parents, Teddy Atlas went down a different path that landed him behind bars as a youth. It also led to the trademark scar that runs down his face. Atlas’ troubled youth led him to Catskills, New York and legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato. While under D’Amato’s tutelage, Atlas trained alongside Mike Tyson, but was kicked out of the gym after pulling a gun on the future world champion. Atlas took what he learned as an amateur and transferred it into training other fighters. In 1994, Atlas made a name for himself by guiding relatively unknown boxer Michael Moorer to the heavyweight championship by defeating Evander Holyfield. In addition, Atlas worked with world champions Joey Gamache, Donny Lalonde, and Barry McGuigan amongst others. What made Atlas such a great trainer was his ability to break down and explain fight strategies. That ability has led to a successful career as a boxing commentator.
Known as the “Godfather of Detroit Boxing”, Emanuel Steward learned the sport in his teens after relocating to the Motor City from West Virginia. Steward had a successful amateur boxing career before turning his attention to training. The boxing trainer got his start at Kronk Gym and began to hone his skills as a teacher. One of Steward’s early proteges, Thomas Hearns, went professional in 1977 and soon became top fighter as “The Hitman”. Hearns won six world titles with Steward as his trainer. Steward later found additional success with world champions Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko. Remarkably, Steward’s heavyweight fighters notched a 34-2-1 combined record.
Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain
Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain is the greatest all-time boxing trainer from Mexico. Beristain’s fighters are known to be technically skillful and to showcase a style that is very much taught to them by the trainer. The boxing trainer has led a number of proteges to world titles include Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Beristain’s biggest claim to boxing fame came with four weight division champion Manual “Dinamita” Marquez. With Beristain’s leadership and coaching, Marquez became one of only three fighters to hold a title in four different weight classes. Boxers are to focus on the technical side of fighting under Beristain’s coaching. His fighters showcase a scientific approach and it can be seen in each of the champions produced.
Lou Duva wore many hats working as a boxing trainer, manager, and promoter during his long career. Duva’s list of trainees is long and illustrious and includes the names of Pernell Whitaker, Lennox Lewis, Hector Camacho, and Evander Holyfield. In total, Duva worked with 15 world champions. As a trainer and manager, Duva was tenacious and never quit. In February 1989, Duva was in Mark Breland’s corner against WBA Welterweight champion Seung-Soon Lee. Breland regained the belt that night in Las Vegas, and less than 24 hours later, Duva was on the other side of the country coaching Darrin van Horn to an IBF junior middleweight title win. Few trainers would go to the lengths that Duva did for his fighters. In 1987 and 1994, his work training fighters was recognized with the WBA honoring him as “Trainer of the Year”.
Roger Mayweather had a successful career training his nephew Floyd Mayweather Jr, but also spent time working with other fighters. Mayweather started out his career in the sport as a world champion boxer. Many of the great trainers to produce world-class fighters started out as boxers themselves. In most cases, their careers didn’t go anywhere. Mayweather is the exception to the rule. As a fighter, Mayweather won titles in two different weight classes while compiling a 59-13 record. In 1996, Mayweather began working with his nephew after he turned professional. Family problems caused a lot of tension between the trainer and others. Many of the issues were the result of Floyd Mayweather Sr. Still, much of Mayweather Jr’s success came courtesy of his uncle.
Constantine “Cus” D’Amato
Constantine “Cus” D’Amato unexpectedly discovered Mike Tyson in upstate New York. Exiled from boxing after decades of success training world champions Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres, D’Amato was introduced to Tyson by a guard from the future world champion’s reform school. D’Amato knew he had something after watching 13-year-old Tyson spar for 15 minutes. D’Amato later adopted the teenager and transformed him into the most fearsome fighter of the 1980s and 1990s. Due to the success Tyson had, it is easy to forget that D’Amato had a career before meeting up with “Iron” Mike. D’Amato was already in his 70s when the duo hooked up with the aging boxing trainer running a gym in Catskills, New York. Years earlier, D’Amato had trained Patterson to Olympic gold at the 1952 Summer Games before helping the fighter win a heavyweight eliminator bout versus Archie Moore.
Angelo Dundee’s fame made him a household name for a certain generation. During his 50 years as a boxing trainer, Dundee worked with 16 world champions and trained even more competitors that graced the ring. Dundee’s most famous protege was Muhammad Ali, who he coached from 1960 to 1981. It is Dundee that is credited for teaching Ali how to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. Although Ali was a major success for Dundee, the boxing trainer also led other great fighters to gold. George Foreman made a major comeback thanks to Dundee’s teachings. Sugar Ray Leonard won all three of his world championships with Dundee employed as his trainer. However, Dundee’s work with Ali immortalized him.
Freddie Roach had a modest boxing career posting a 40-13 record. He transferred his knowledge in the ring as a fighter over to being a renowned trainer. Over the years, Roach has worked with world champion boxers helping them achieve silverware. Andy Ruiz, Amir Khan, and Mike Tyson are just three of the big-named fighters that Roach has trained. Roach’s work with welterweight world champion Manny Pacquiao is probably the best work he has ever done. Perhaps one reason Roach has had such success as a boxer training is due to the man he learned the art from. As a boxer, Roach trained under famed fight coach Eddie Futch. Having learned from a master and fought in the squared circle, Roach was able to parlay his knowledge over to teaching promising fighters in-ring technique. Roach’s expertise is on attack rather than defense. His success in boxing even led mixed martial arts fighter Georges St-Pierre to hire him as a trainer.
Futch is the man that taught Roach everything he knows. Roach wasn’t the first or last fighter to sit under Futch’s incredible learning tree, however. Futch coached 21 world champions and the list includes a who’s who set of fighters such as Trevor Berbick, Riddick Bowe, Joe Frazier, Montell Griffin, and Ken Norton. Unlike Roach, Futch was never able to compete in the ring. He had a heart murmur that prevented him from pursuing a career in boxing. Despite never getting to compete, Futch made a name for himself crafting the careers of legendary names in the fight game. One of Futch’s greatest career achievements was training four different boxers who all defeated Muhammad Ali. Keep in mind that Ali was only beaten on five occasions and Futch trained four of the fighters to defeat the boxing great.