Ranking the Best Boxing Trainers of the Past Decade

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Ranking the Best Boxing Trainers of the Past Decade

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    Manny Pacquiao has been one of the great boxing stories of this century, and Freddie Roach has been a huge part of the former Filipino street kid's epic journey. Under Roach's guidance, Pacquiao was transformed from an athletic and gutsy brawler with an explosive left hand into one of the sport's elite competitors.

    When Miguel Cotto turned in the performance of his career against Sergio Martinez in Madison Square Garden last month, Roach was once again recognized as a crucial part of the team.

    Trainers in boxing play a unique role in sports: part coach, part mentor, part family or friend.

10. James "Buddy" McGirt

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    Buddy McGirt was a top star of the late 1980s and early 1990s, holding world titles on two occasions. In his prime, he lost only to Frankie Warren and elite champions Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker. The loss to Warren was avenged.

    McGirt was always an intelligent fighter in the ring, and his boxing IQ has helped him transition to a very successful career as a trainer. Among the fighters he's trained are champions Antonio Tarver, Vernon Forrest, Arturo Gatti and Nate Campbell.

    There are a lot of good interviews with McGirt on Youtube. He's a perceptive student of the sport and would make a good network analyst.

9. Virgil Hunter

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    Virgil Hunter is a classic example of a trainer who grew up in the sport with his fighters. He got involved in training initially while working with at-risk youth in Oakland's probation department.

    He immersed himself in the sport and developed into an elite trainer, with pound-for-pound star Andre Ward his most successful pupil. Hunter knows the sport well at a technical and tactical level, but the area where he truly seems to excel is in the mental aspect of the game. He's one of the sport's great motivational coaches.

    Since reaching the pinnacle with Ward, Hunter has developed into a hired gun of sorts, as established fighters like Amir Khan, Demetrius Andrade and Alfredo Angulo have sought out his guidance. Other fighters he trains include light welterweight contender Karim Mayfield and super middleweight Brandon Gonzales.

8. Roger Mayweather

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    Roger Mayweather was a top star of the 1980s, holding major titles at super featherweight and light welterweight. As a trainer, his reputation has been built primarily upon the work he has done with his nephew, undefeated pound-for-pound star Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    Mayweather's most memorable moment as a trainer is unfortunately probably the riot he helped provoke during his nephew's clash with Zab Judah. But in the gym, he has been essential in helping his nephew develop into a dominant professional.

    Mayweather helped improve his nephew's offensive abilities for the professional ranks. While Floyd Jr. has moved back to his father as trainer in his most recent fight, Uncle Roger deserves his share of credit for the fighter Money has become.

7. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad

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    Eddie Mustafa Muhammad was a light heavyweight champion during one of the division's toughest eras. He won the WBA belt from Marvin Johnson in 1980 and dropped it to Michael Spinks in 1981.

    Since his career as a fighter, Muhammad has developed into one of the sport's top trainers. He remains very active, including working with a number of prospects signed to Floyd Mayweather's Money Team promotion.

    World champions he has worked with include Chad Dawson, Johnny Tapia, Joan Guzman, Ishe Smith, Zab Judah and Michael Bentt.

6. Naazim Richardson

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    Naazim Richardon is a product of the rich Philadelphia boxing culture. His interviews on Youtube are some of the most educational things a boxing fan can watch.

    Richardson has a keen analytical mind but discusses fighters from a position of respect and generosity. He's another trainer that might make a great network analyst.

    It was Richardson's shrewd eye that caught Antonio Margarito's illegal hand wraps prior to his fight with Shane Mosley in 2009. In addition to Mosley, Richardson is the trainer for ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins and former cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham.

    Richardson is an active trainer who works with a lot of good prospects. One to watch is undefeated lightweight Karl Dargan.

5. Floyd Mayweather Sr.

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    Floyd Mayweather Sr. used crafty defense and veteran tactics to become a welterweight and light middleweight contender in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Perhaps his most memorable fight was a Round 10 TKO loss to an up-and-coming Ray Leonard. He also lost twice to Marlon Starling.

    Mayweather's biggest impact on the sport has come from training his son, all-time great Floyd Jr. He brought his son through the amateur games and would have won Olympic gold with him in 1996 if not for a bogus scoring decision that forced them to settle for bronze.

    Floyd Jr. has often worked with his uncle Roger as the trainer of record during his long career, but he moved back to Floyd Sr. in his most recent fight. Aside from training his son, Sr. has been a hired gun, working with stars like Chad Dawson, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya.

    Floyd Sr. remains very active in developing fighters signed to his son's Money Team promotion.

4. Robert Garcia

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    If this was a list of the best active trainers, Robert Garcia would likely be at the top. Nobody in the game is hotter right now. In addition to world champions Mikey Garcia and Evgeny Gradovich, Garcia has top developing contenders like Thomas Dulorme and Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar, as well as veteran action star Brandon Rios. 

    But a decade ago, Garcia was just starting out with Rios as his main prospect. He's moved up in the sport quickly. In addition to the fighters listed above, in the past decade he's trained major stars like Antonio Margarito and Nonito Donaire. 

    Perhaps the greatest example of Garcia's value as a trainer is the work he's done refining Marcos Maidana and developing enough boxing skills in the Argentinian gunslinger to make his brawling more effective. Since working with Garcia, Maidana has gone from a guy who got smoked by Devon Alexander to one who was capable of going life-or-death with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. 

3. Emanuel Steward

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    Emanuel Steward passed away in October 2012, leaving a huge hole in the sport of boxing. In addition to being a legendary trainer, he was an excellent broadcaster, routinely educating the viewing public about the sport he loved. 

    Steward's reputation was made in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the fighters he trained at Kronk Gym emerged as dominant amateur champions and rising professional contenders. His star pupil of the era was all-time great Thomas Hearns. 

    Steward's greatest legacies of the past decade were developing current light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson and resurrecting the career of current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Shortly after he began working with the Steward, the Ukrainian suffered a stoppage loss to Lamon Brewster. 

    It was Klitschko's third TKO of his career and his second in 13 months. At the time, he looked to be finished as a major factor at heavyweight. 

    Instead, under Steward's guidance, Klitschko tightened up his style and fought his way back to the top. A decade later, he's still in the middle of one of the dominant runs in heavyweight history. 

2. Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain

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    The greatest Mexican boxing trainer of all time, Nacho Beristain is renowned for developing fighters with exquisite technical skill. He has coached multiple Olympic squads and trained nearly 20 world champions in the professional ranks. 

    Among his top stars have been Daniel Zaragoza, Jorge Paez, Humberto Gonzalez and Ricardo Lopez. He also trained Oscar De La Hoya for his 2008 fight with Manny Pacquiao.

    His greatest stars of the past decade have been three-division world champion Abner Mares and the Marquez brothers, Rafael and Juan Manuel. With the Marquez brothers, Beristain has been in the corner for some of the most memorable fights of the past 10 years.  

1. Freddie Roach

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    Freddie Roach was a lightweight contender who transitioned into training at the end of his career under the mentorship of Eddie Futch, probably the greatest boxing trainer of all time. Roach's first world champion as a trainer was light heavyweight Virgil Hill, a fighter he took over from Futch. 

    Roach has been the Boxing Writers Association of America's Trainer of the Year five times during the past decade. In many of those years, the success of his star pupil, Manny Pacquiao, has been critical to him winning the award. 

    Pacquiao is a great natural talent with obvious athletic gifts. But it was Roach who turned him into a well-rounded boxer with power in both fists. 

    Roach's skill in the corner has once again been on display over the past year in the career resurrection of Miguel Cotto. After losing to Austin Trout in 2012, Cotto looked like he might be near the end of his career.

    But since working with Roach, Cotto has torched tough journeyman Delvin Rodriguez by Round 4 TKO last October and stopped Sergio Martinez to become the lineal middleweight champion last month.