Derrick James gets trainer of the year!
In the sport of boxing it’s rather easy to watch and judge a fighter in the ring. One can see their obvious flaws, gifts and what can be worked on. Over a number of fights or years, one can clearly see how a boxer has improved, degraded or maintains a level plateau. What is not so clearly seen is the overall influence of a fighter’s trainer. This is because the work that takes place between a fighter and their chief second is largely a private matter.
So if a fighter lacks something, it’s hard to tell if the skill was not taught or simply a lesson not taken to heart. Judging from the outside this is remarkably hard to decipher. At the same time however, some trainers do have the ability to leave a clear trademark on their fighters.
Boxers who have trained under Freddy Roach leave with an enhanced penchant for offensive aggression. Emauel Steward taught or greatly improved his fighters jab and killer instinct. Floyd Mayweather Sr. has established a well-earned reputation for instilling impeccable defensive tactics in his charges. Then you have Derrick James, who is known for being a stickler for fundamentals and technique. Yet, this style was good enough to earn James the distinction of Trainer of the Year!
GOT THE MOST BELTS!
In this era of “bigger is better,” James boasts a remarkably small stable of fighters. The most notable of which are WBC/WBA/IBF world super welterweight champion Jermell “Hit Man” Charlo (34-1, 18 KO’s) and IBF/WBC world welterweight champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (27-0, 21 KO’s). Armed with these two elite fighters, James is the only active boxing coach with two unified champions under his tutelage. Naturally this is something that the chief second is very proud of.
Not only is he the trainer of two of the most recognizable champions in the game, both had great wins in 2020. On September 26, 2020, Charlo fought and defeated Jeison “Banana” Rosario by way of eighth round knockout to become the unified champ. The knockout itself was extremely memorable. After stabbing him with a stiff jab to the belly, Rosario fell to the canvas gasping air and went limp along the bottom rope. Along with the viral KO, Charlo added Rosario’s IBF and WBA titles to his WBC championship belt.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
Roughly two months later, Spence would go on to dominate and rough-up the highly esteemed Danny “Swift” Garcia. Unlike Charlo, however, The Truth only maintained his IBF and WBC titles without acquiring any new hardware. In this case though, titles changing hands was not the real drama in this bout. The real question that everyone wanted to know was how would Spence perform? In October 2019, fourteen months before the Garcia bout, the Texan had been involved in a car accident that by all logical accounts should have killed him. Instead of deaths embrace, Spence merely lost some teeth and suffered burns, bruises and soreness.
When the champ initially began speaking to the public he insisted that he would fight again. To this, many in the boxing world were skeptical. Even if he did compete again most thought he’d be a diminished boxer. Spence then shocked all again by choosing Garcia as his first mission back. Swift was seen as too dangerous an opponent to tackle coming off such physical trauma. In the end, however, he clearly outclassed, out-worked and out-boxed Garcia in route to an emphatic unanimous decision. Throughout the entire ordeal, the laidback and monotone Derrick James was there by his side.
As a result of outstanding performances such as this it would be negligent to not acknowledge James’ role in them. Not only are his fighters improving in the ring against top competition, they are doing so in style! At this point, the craft being taught by James is undeniable. Spence and Charlo being unified champions is simply icing on the cake!
By: Bakari Simpson