The Fight is the Easy Part: Interview with a Fighter, Dexter Delves

“One the the most entertaining and thought provoking sports-related interviews I have ever read. Thanks a lot Beth and Dexter.” – Jake Carvalho

I am reposting this interview as it has been updated with recent pictures of Dexter Delves during a training session with his coach, Nick Alachiots.

Dexter continues to delight and inspire us with the degree of dedication he brings to his training (now age 49), the level of commitment he makes to his clients and athletes, and the wealth of knowledge he brings to the gym and to the ring.

Enjoy!

“Boxing humbles you. Before I started in Kung Fu and boxing, I was getting into stupid fights over dumb stuff. When I knew how to fight, I would refuse to fight. I would avoid fights. It humbles you.” – Dexter Delves

Dexter Delves is a Level 4 (highest level) personal trainer at the Adelaide Club, the Cambridge Club, and the Toronto Athletic Club. Dexter’s background is in martial arts. He was a professional kick boxer, he is a registered licensed competitive amateur boxer, and a licensed Level 2 boxing coach. He has been involved in or a part of martial arts, boxing, and kick boxing for the past 32 years. Dexter works one-on-one with clients, he teaches group boxing classes, as well as self-defence classes.

I have not yet had the privilege of training with Dexter; however, my son, Will, took boxing classes from him and Dexter was in Will’s corner during an exhibition match at the Adelaide Club. Will used to come home from the gym and demonstrate the complex footwork and the punches that he had learned from Dexter. That is when I began to see boxing in a different light.

I have done a lot of research into boxing history for this interview, but have come to realize that, to be a real student of boxing, it would take a lifetime. Boxing is not only a sport involving a set of highly developed physical and mental skills, it is a cast of larger than life characters, it is a historical record of race relations in many respects, and it seems to me to also be a testament to the extent to which a poor man will be willing to suffer in order to make a better life for himself and for his family.

We will only have time to scratch the surface here, but we will cover as much as we can in an hour.

Here’s Dexter.

BETH: Dexter, first of all, I want to thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. How long have you been a personal trainer?

DEXTER: I’ve been a personal trainer for about 12 years.

BETH: Why downtown? 

DEXTER: To be honest with you, I had no intention of coming downtown. I had friends who worked in corporate gyms and they asked me to teach “boxercise” or cardio boxing. Personally, I don’t believe in cardio boxing or “boxercise”, I really condemn it. I think if you can teach someone the art and science of boxing, they will get the same optimum workout from boxing using the right technique – actually even more – and they would actually learn a skill, an art form.

BETH: So why not just do it right? 

DEXTER: Exactly. Also, with cardio boxing, cardio kick boxing, aerobox, all that stuff, these are people that never trained in the art and learned the science of boxing. They take a crash course at CanFit or whatever and they try to benefit from teaching boxing the wrong way. People get hurt. People get injured. I remember when they came out with Tae Bo. So many people got injured doing Tae Bo, doing it wrong. Just like P90X. People get injured because they don’t have a professional right there on hand to teach them technique, how to breathe, the form of it, the sweet science of boxing. When you have these guys who are cutting corners just for an aerobic workout, I don’t believe in that. I condemn that. It’s just sloppy. If you’re going to take boxing, learn the fundamentals, learn the sweet science of boxing. Learn the skill and the art so that you can actually defend yourself if you have to.

BETH: So you would rather be downtown teaching real boxing, introducing people to the real thing. 

DEXTER: Well, going back, I got a call from a friend.  Someone was looking for a trainer. My friend thought I was the perfect candidate because I’m a very patient person, I was very patient when I was teaching Kung Fu. I teach people of all levels. I don’t believe in “you can’t”. If you are uncoordinated, I will be patient and take you to that point until you will become coordinated. When Blair Lyon, now the General Manager of the Adelaide Club, was the Personal Training Director of the Toronto Athletic Club, he was calling me for two and a half weeks and I refused to call him back because I didn’t want to come down here and teach boxercise. I finally decided to meet him and he turned out to be a very upstanding guy and he and I just clicked. The first time I met him, I said, “I don’t teach boxercise.” He said, “You teach the way you learned, the way you want to teach.” I was comfortable with that. Everyone sees the World Champions on TV, but they have no idea how it all started, how they trained, the sweet science of it, the fundamentals, the footwork, the balance, jumping rope, everything. I wanted to shed some light in the corporate world and show where boxing actually starts, the hard pain, the grind. The fight is the easy part.

BETH: Well, you have succeeded with me because that’s exactly what happened. I now appreciate what I’m seeing on TV.

DEXTER: Exactly. If your son was coming home with a busted nose, or black eyes, or busted lip every night from boxing, it would show, obviously, that he is not being taught properly. And there are some instructors like that, they just throw you in and you have to learn the hard way. But I teach footwork, basic punches, technique. I teach defence, how to slip punches.

BETH: If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some personal questions. You appear to be ageless, not that there is anything wrong with growing older. May I ask you how old you are?

DEXTER: I’m 48.

BETH: How tall are you and what do you weigh?

DEXTER: I’m 5’8″. Right now I’m 182 pounds. I normally fight at 178 pounds, which is the light heavyweight class.

BETH: Why did you become a fighter?

DEXTER: I started in martial arts and kick boxing. Our Kung Fu club did a tour of China in 1985, invited by the government of China to perform Kung Fu demonstrations. It was a group of Canadians of immigrant descent: Portuguese, Italian, Maltese, Jamaican, and myself, Grenadian. The first show we did in Canton, the Chinese government sent another team to do the show with us because they weren’t sure if we could hold the show on our own. We actually surprised them with our skills and discipline in Kung Fu so, after that, we did all the shows on our own. A young Kung Fu Master based in Hong Kong, the son of an original Master, saw me and he set up a fight for myself and a Hong Kong champ which was supposed to be a friendly sparring match. But it actually wasn’t. They were trying to set me up. This guy was the Hong Kong champ, going to Korea to fight for the title. As we got started, first round, I realized that it was a little more serious than they said it was going to be, so I had to step up my game. And I beat him. So I became pretty popular in Hong Kong and, it’s funny, as of today, my Kung Fu Master tells me, when he goes to Hong Kong and China, they still ask about me and that was in 1985. (laughs) When I came back, there was a thing called full contact Karate, which is sort of like kick boxing, which started to become popular in North America. So then I became part of that. I said, I want to fight, I want to fight, I want to fight. When you learn so much, you want to get to a different level.

BETH: So this event in China was like a turning point for you. 

DEXTER: Yes, I wanted to challenge myself. Full contact Karate became kick boxing. Back then, we didn’t have a sanctioning body. Right now, for boxing, we have Boxing Ontario [the sole governing body for amateur boxing in Ontario], and you have the opportunity to go to the Olympics as an amateur, then you fight at different levels, and then you turn pro. But back then, there was no sanctioning body for amateur kick boxing, it was just straight to pro, that’s it. So you didn’t get a chance to groom yourself with head gear and big gloves. It was a little bit more gruesome back then. There is a sanctioning body for kick boxing now called Kickbox Canada, which has been around for 15, 16 years, but that was way after my time. But I like the sport, I like the challenge, I find that it has kept me mentally and physically in good shape, looking young. (laughs)

BETH: I read that you work out two hours per day. Is this true?

DEXTER: My workouts are crazy. I don’t have a fixed time to work out. I mean, I work six days a week, so if I have a time gap between my clients, I will train. If I have a time gap for 45 minutes, I’ll work out for 45 minutes. If I have a two hour time gap, say, I’ll train for an hour and a half, two hours. Sometimes I work out three times a day for an hour, an hour and a half each workout. I train six days a week, as I work.

dex-june-2013
Dexter Delves and his coach, Nick Alachiots

BETH: What do your workouts consist of?

DEXTER: There’s a day I will have a cardio workout. If I have 3 gaps in a day, in the morning I will jump rope for half an hour, or I might go for a 40-45 minute run, and then my next workout will be another half hour or 45 minutes of punching with the bands. I put a few knots in them to put more tension on it. I’ll punch the bands, two rounds, left foot forward. I’ll try to throw at least 400 punches per round. A round is three minutes. Second round, I put my right foot forward, southpaw, I try to increase the number of punches, whether it’s 450 or 425 or 420. And then I’ll do another two rounds with four pound dumbbell weights and I’ll try to go beyond what I’ve done for the last round. So every round, I try to challenge myself and go more, whether it’s 10 more, five more, I always try to increase the number of punches I throw. I’ll do four rounds and right after that, because it’s such an intensity of upper body, I’ll do maybe four or five rounds on the double end ball which is like a bungie cord attached to the ceiling, and another one attached to the floor, and there’s a ball in there. It sort of represents an opponent’s head. I find it very realistic. I prefer it to the speed bag, you can move around, it comes back at you, so you can slip, you can roll, you can throw combinations, it’s like you’re actually fighting. So I’ll do maybe four, five, six rounds of that, it all depends on my time. Another time, like today, I ran this morning, I did four rounds of pad work with a friend of mine.

BETH: That’s when someone hold the pads.

DEXTER: He throws punches at me, I don’t punch back, I just move around and try to catch the punches. I catch a few in the face, but, you know, it’s part of boxing. (laughs) And then a few hours later I did my conditioning. I did four sets of hanging leg raises, four sets of ab roller. With the hanging leg raises, each set is 10 reps. Ab roll, I did four sets of 20. Then I did some pullups, close grip, medium and wide, three sets of 10. So that’s my core conditioning that I did today. Tomorrow, I’ll do bag work. I’ll do eight rounds, four rounds on the double end, four rounds on the heavy bag. Go intense, go hard.

BETH: What about rest?

DEXTER: Rest is important. I mean, you get mixed information. Some doctors that say you need eight hours of sleep, some say five, six hours is good at my age. I think it’s just a state of mind. There are times I might get five hours, and I come in to work, I love what I do, so I can’t be yawning and dragging and complaining that I’m tired. My clients pay good money and expect to get a great workout and conversation while we work out and that’s the service I provide. So, if I stay up all night and only get three hours sleep, I still have to come in full of fire. Because I love what I do, I come in, and people can’t believe that I’ve only had two or three hours of sleep. I keep myself busy. Either I have clients or I’m training. At the end of the day, when I get home, eight, nine, I see my kids, my wife, and I pass out on the couch. (laughs)

BETH: Do you feel as conditioned, as healthy, as fit as you did 10 years ago?

DEXTER: I feel as fit. I don’t believe in aging, really. It’s just a state of mind. You are what you believe in. Whatever you feed your subconscious mind, your conscious mind will act it out. It’s mind over matter. That’s why I still train hard. And I decided to step back into the ring and do some amateur boxing because I’m always trying to prove everything I do. I’m teaching it. If I can’t practice what I preach, what am I doing? If I’m going to ask you to do 30 pushups and I can’t do 30, why am I asking you to do 30 for? How am I going to motivate you to do more, to do 30, when I have no idea what it feels like to do 30 pushups, the intensity, the distress, the fatigue. What am I going to say? “You can finish it, you can do it, you can do it!” But then, I can’t do it? I don’t believe in that.

BETH: People use being older as an excuse not to do too much all the time. 

DEXTER: People are full of excuses. I have a client, when I started training him, he was 57 years old. He’s now 65. He just got his medical results back, best medical he ever got. Cholesterol, blood pressure. Everything is perfect. Perfect! At 65 years old. You gotta see this guy punch. You know. Age, it’s just a number. You know what I’m saying? A lot of people label themselves. There’s always excuses, procrastination. One of my clients, he’s always calling me, saying, “Dex, I gotta lose weight.” Then I come in and I see him sitting on his butt watching TV. I was like, “Buddy, get to work. You gotta stop procrastinating. When you procrastinate, you’re making the journey a lot harder for yourself. Right. You sitting there watching TV. Do you know how many pushups you could have done? You could have jumped rope for five minutes, 10 minutes. Stop using excuses.”

BETH: What is boxing to you?

DEXTER: Boxing is such a great, great sport, mentally, physically. I’ve got clients that have said to me, “I thought that this was going to be easy. I thought I left all my thinking at the office.” Boxing is like playing chess, you have to be thinking all the time. You have to be in great shape, you have to be thinking. Because, not only are you trying to score points on the other guy, he’s trying to score points on you. And when you get hit, you have to maintain composure. Bill Wallace, a former World Champion kick boxer, says, “When you get hit, think of it as a bad memory. Let it go right by you. Forget about it. Because if you keep thinking of that bad memory, nothing else gets better for you.” Right? If you get hit and you stop and think about it, it’s the second or third punch that’s going to hurt you. So if you stop and think about it, “Wow, that was a jab”, and you open your eyes again, that right hand is coming right at you. So shake it off, boom, boom, don’t show the other guy you’re hurt. Just continue. It’s a sport that takes a lot of heart.

BETH: Where does the power come from in a boxer?

DEXTER: The power comes from your legs. If you’re watching boxing on TV and some guy gets hurt with a bad punch, look at his legs. Especially with a liver shot. If he gets saved by the bell, cut, he’s going to his corner for a minute break, then, when the bell rings, look at how he walks out of his corner. Look at his legs. That’s going to be what determines if the guy finishes the fight.

BETH: What is the most difficult skill to teach in boxing?

DEXTER: Footwork. Footwork is the most difficult to teach. Lateral movements. Staying on the balls of your feet. Staying in balance. Your weight has to be evenly balanced, fifty-fifty. If you lean too much to your left, throw a punch, and you miss that punch, you’re off balance. You gotta come back to base. Why go back and forth when you can always maintain base? You hit, come back to base, slip, slip, stay based, everything is upright, fifty-fifty, use your core. There’s a lot of core used in boxing.

BETH: Which is more important in boxing, brute strength or technical skill?

DEXTER: Technical skill. It’s not about strength. If you try use strength, you burn yourself out, you use too much energy. You miss that punch, you release so much energy. You initiate that punch with brute strength, what happens, it slows you down, and then you get exhausted. You gotta be as relaxed as possible.

BETH: There is the argument in sport that, assuming skill level is equal, the stronger athlete always wins, the stronger team always wins. Is that true?

DEXTER:  Nope. In boxing, the one who wins is the one that’s in shape, cardio shape. Endurance. If you don’t have endurance, how are you going to apply those techniques, those punches, those strategies that you need? One of my clients calls it RSP. Once you relax, you get speed, once you get speed, you get power. Power comes from speed, not brute strength.

BETH: And so you don’t lift weights as part of your workouts?

DEXTER: Not really. Boxing is all about technique and speed, so you don’t need to get stronger, you need to get faster.

BETH: I find body weight exercises brutally difficult. 

DEXTER: Ya, they are. There’s guys who can bench press 300 lbs, but they can’t do 20 pushups, especially with good form.

BETH: One of the greatest, or at least most entertaining, boxing matches of all times might be the first fight of the trilogy between Arturo “Thunder” Gatti and “Irish” Micky Ward in 2002. It earned “Fight of the Year” honors by Ring Magazine and the 9th round has been called the “Round of the Century”. I had to look back to see who won because all I can remember is how much punishment both of those men took without being knocked out or throwing in the towel. It was unbelievable really. Often we hear that a boxer has “a lot of heart”. Tyson’s former trainer, Teddy Atlas, calls it “professionalism”. What do you think it is, and is it the defining characteristic of a great boxer, the ability to take punishment?

DEXTER: It’s about wanting it more than the other guy. You want to win. You want to defeat the other guy. That’s all it is. You gotta want it more than the other guy. When you have two guys who want it more than each other, you got a war. You got two guys, they aren’t quitting for nothing. They ain’t going down for nothing.

Ward Gatti
Irish Micky Ward and Arturo Thunder Gatti

BETH: So it’s not really heart. 

DEXTER: No, you gotta want it, man.

BETH: It’s a goal. It’s a mental thing.

DEXER: It’s all mental. A lot is mental in boxing. You have to have the mind to push yourself and tell your body you’re not going to give up. You gotta want it.

BETH: You worked as a boxing trainer on the movie, Cinderella Man, which is the true story of boxer James Braddock, a “washed up” Depression Era fighter who beat the odds and became a champion. The movie, which is Hollywood at its sentimental best, suggests that Braddock won against a more ferocious fighter because he “knew what he was fighting for”, meaning, he needed to feed his family. Do you have to have something to fight for to be a good boxer? Or is it a sport like any other?

DEXTER: Cinderella Man, I mean, he was fighting for his family, but we always fight for ourselves in the sense of our pride or our dignity. You know. That’s what he fought for. He fought for his dignity. Braddock was just arrogant and big, a bully. He thought he could intimidate and push around. But he fought for his dignity, man. His pride. His family too, but it all boils down to dignity. Your pride.

crowe-as-cinderella-man1
Russell Crowe as “Cinderella Man”

BETH: Heavyweight George Foreman got up several times after getting knocked down by Ron Lyle in 1976. He later explained that, even though he felt he had been knocked out, he “had to get up” because of the excuses he had made previously after his loss to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974 when he complained that the ropes had been loose and that someone had put something in his food. He said, all I could think was the media was going to ask me, “What’s your excuse this time, George?” So he had to get up. Does this show the mental side of boxing? 

DEXTER: The mental side of boxing. Shows pride.

BETH: Pride again.

DEXTER: And dignity. Doesn’t matter what, you’re going to get up and you’re gonna fight.

BETH: Heavyweight “Iron” Mike Tyson is your favorite pound for pound boxer of all time. Would that be true? 

DEXTER: That would be true.

tyson
Iron Mike Tyson

BETH: Tyson’s record is 50 wins, 6 losses, 44 knock outs, 2 no contest. He was the youngest heavyweight champ ever at 20 years old. He successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship nine times and was the first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles. It seems that the media-fueled drama surrounding Mike’s private life and his poor judgment both inside and outside the ring have overshadowed what a supremely talented athlete he was. Why was Mike Tyson such a great boxer in your view?

DEXTER: Mike came from the streets. You know. He’d done a lot of things in the streets. And to get someone to take him out of that and turn his life around, his trainer, Cus D’Amato, meant so much to him. Mike saw that there was another way to make a living or to go down the right path. Mike, like he said in his documentary, knew a lot of friends who were either dead or in jail for the rest of their lives. He was lucky that he got the way out. He was fighting for that, fighting for his freedom, fighting for something that no one else had the chance to get. His friends, they died. He got the chance to turn his life around. He found it in boxing. Boxing humbles you. Boxing humbles you. I mean, before I started in Kung Fu and boxing, I was getting into stupid fights over dumb stuff. You know. When I knew how to fight, I would refuse to fight. I would avoid fights. It humbles you.

BETH: So Mike was happy boxing.

DEXTER: He was happy boxing. And then Cus D’Amato saw something in him that even Mike didn’t see. You know. And Mike realized that there’s more that he could get out of life, right. And the mental aspect of boxing just changed his whole state of mind. Cus D’Amato… or any trainer… You gotta get into your fighter’s mind. It’s so hard to explain. You got this mind. And he trusts you for everything. Everything you tell him, you gotta tell him the right things. He has to trust you. If I say to your son, “Will, I notice that whenever he jabs at you, he drags his jab back, so as soon as he throws the jab, I want you to just catch it and fire that right hand.” And it will work. If I tell a fighter to do that and he does it and it works, he’s going to trust me whenever I tell him to do something. You know what I’m saying? ‘Cause I’m watching him and I’m getting a better picture from the outside looking in than he is. So that’s when you start trusting your trainer. Whatever your trainer tells you to do, whether it’s your conditioning, your footwork, pad work, preparing for a fight, you would do it.

BETH:  I find it fascinating that when I asked you why Mike Tyson was a great boxer, you talked about what was inside him. We’ll have to come back to that topic, but I want to go back to Mike’s skills as a boxer.  One of Tyson’s trademark combinations was a right or left hook to the body, followed immediately by an uppercut to the chin. Apparently few boxers could remain standing after that attack. He also learned from his trainer and manager, Cus D’Amato, how to keep moving his head so that he could throw a punch at the same time his opponent was punching. So he was very intimidating because of his hard punches, which he was known for, but he was also a skilled and smart boxer, as well, was he not?

DEXTER: Yes he was. I mean, going back to what we were talking about, where the power comes from in boxing, the legs. Tyson was a compact fighter. All of the guys he fought were bigger and taller than he was. It’s like walking on ice. If it’s icy and you’re walking and you’re straight up, you’re gonna fall. The second you bend your knees, you’re a lot more stable. Tyson was short, more compact, and he bends his knees and he drops and he drags from his legs up. A taller guy, he hits him to the body with everything he’s got and when they get hit to the body, they fold, and as soon as they fold, he comes right back up, upper cut, boom.

BETH: But not everybody does that.

DEXTER: Not everybody does that. Tyson, for a heavyweight, he was fast. He had great defense and he was fast and he had power. Driving from the legs all the time. That’s what made him such a great knockout fighter. And he had no fear. He wasn’t scared. He was from the streets. When he walked in the ring, he was focused. He knew that was his ring. The other person had no right to be in there. It’s a state of mind you’re going with, “This is my ring. You have no right to be in here. I’m the World Champ. You shouldn’t be coming in my ring.”

BETH: What is your response to those who say that Tyson was a bully in the ring and that when he met a superior opponent in Evander Holyfield whom he could not intimidate, he panicked and bit Holyfield’s ear, twice?

DEXTER: Let me tell you. No one talks about Holyfield because they were all hating on Mike Tyson. But Holyfield has been a head butter for years. OK. He’s got a history of head butting. He’s a dirty fighter. He’s got a history of being a dirty fighter. He head butted Tyson the first time they fought and he won. He head butted Tyson the second time they fought. When you get head butted, it’s the worst thing a fighter could ever do. Especially in the early round of a World Championship bout. You get head butted, you get cut. Deliberately. If you continue to fight, eventually, that cut’s going to get bigger, bigger, and start bleeding and they stop the fight and give it to him. Holyfield’s a dirty fighter. Tyson got butted a few times, like he said in his documentary, he knew he didn’t get punched. Evander Holyfield’s been a dirty fighter for years, but everyone was hating on Tyson. I mean, alright. If I was in the ring, and a lot of boxers say this, if they are in the ring and they get head butted, deliberately, all bets are off. It turns into a street fight. You know. Those are the rules.

BETH: And that’s exactly what it did turn into. 

DEXTER: That’s what it turned into. No one stressed that Holyfield was a head butter. He’s always been a dirty fighter. Like Lennox Lewis, he throws a hook, he puts his arms behind your neck, and he pushes you down, leans on you, and hits you with an upper cut. He’s been doing that for years.

BETH: I saw Tyson and Holyfield meet on Oprah 12 years after the biting incident. It was Evander’s idea, to show the youth that you don’t have to hold a grudge. So Evander comes on and they shake hands and Tyson extends his friendship, but – unless I missed it – Tyson does not apologize for the bite. I thought it was interesting and I thought, there’s more to this than we understand.

DEXTER: He didn’t apologize because he knew he did it. There’s reasons why he did it. Evander should apologize to him for the head butt.

BETH: You seem to identify with Mike Tyson on some level. Did you have a similar childhood? 

DEXTER: I had a similar childhood, but it wasn’t as violent. My childhood was basically about defending myself, but it was at a point that I could have avoided it, but those were times when I didn’t know how to box or Kung Fu or kick box. So there were times when I had no self-discipline or control. A lot of the times what I faced, when I came to Canada, was racism, and being faced with that, as soon as someone made a racist comment to me, my first thing was to resort to violence which was fighting. If someone approached me with violence, right away I defended myself with violence. When I started doing Kung Fu and kick boxing, it gave me a lot more self control. Then, when I was faced with violence or racism, I could talk my way out of it or walk away from it.

BETH: You had the confidence to walk away from the fight.

DEXTER: Ya. I mean, at at point where I knew how to fight, how to punch and how to kick, I knew how to hurt someone and it basically wasn’t worth it to me. Accidents happen. If you hit someone extremely hard, which I would have, you can knock him out, and on the way down they can hit their head on the corner of a table, hit the floor, could be a metal rail, and all it takes is a certain hit on a certain part of the head and there goes the brain. So I avoided getting into those situations after I learned how to fight.

BETH: It’s ironic isn’t it. Once you became such a skilled fighter, you didn’t fight. 

DEXTER: Exactly. So fighters are not as violent as people think. They do what they do because it’s a way of making money, it’s a job. When they get in the ring it’s a totally different story. There’s stories of fighters walking around with bodyguards. You figure, he’s a fighter, why does he need a bodyguard for? There’s reasons why. You could pick a fight with Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao and he hits you, there’s a law suit. Everyone wants to make a buck off you. It’s also dangerous. You can save yourself a murder charge or a manslaughter charge. It’s not worth it.

BETH: Floyd Mayweather is believed by many to be the best pound for pound boxer in the world today and he is obviously a defensive specialist. His record is 43 fights, 43 wins, 26 knock outs. Yet, Floyd is disliked my many.  He seems arrogant. Can you explain the mindset of a boxer? 

DEXTER: It’s self-confidence. You have to have self-confidence with everything you do. I’ve trained people here, including women, and afterwards, they walk around with confidence. You have to look at yourself as Number One. When Muhammad Ali was fighting, he was even more mouthy than Floyd is, and everyone hated him. But he got the job done. Ali was called every name in the book when he was walking out there for a fight. You know. But now, everyone loves Muhammad Ali. Floyd’s no different than Ali. You have to think positive, you have to be confident, you have to think, “I’m the best”. He’s proven he’s the best pound for pound fighter, repeatedly. He shows off his money. A lot of people show off their money in different ways. Floyd goes on You Tube and he has a big stack of money showing it off. But you have a guy on Bay Street driving around in a Rolls Royce or a big Mercedes. Or walking round in a three thousand dollar suit. They’re arrogant, too. In their own way.

BETH: Floyd came from nothing. It must be bizarre to go from abject poverty to extreme wealth. That must be very jarring. 

DEXTER: He worked hard for it. Do you know what training is? Boxing in the ring is easy. The hardest thing in boxing is training and preparing for the fight. The fight is the easy part. He earned every penny. He earned every bragging right. He’s proven over and over. He comes from a family with a history of boxing. Boxing is in his blood, in his veins. His father was a World Champ, his uncle was a World Champ. His grandfather. It’s inbred in him to be a World Championship fighter. So you know what? Controversy sells tickets. He’s a businessman. He’s intelligent. He’s a showman. People want to come and see someone else beat him. Some people love the way he is, love his attitude.

Floyd Mayweather
Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather

BETH: I would prefer that he just stay that way. Lately, he’s been apologizing to people.

DEXTER: Don’t apologize to nobody. When the media trash talk you, they don’t apologize to you. Don’t apologize to nobody. You know. Don’t apologize to nobody, man. Don’t apologize.

BETH: He apologized to Larry Merchant for yelling at him.

DEXTER: He had a right to yell at Larry Merchant. Merchant’s been biased with all the black fighters for years. Biased. He did the same thing with Sugar Ray. He did the same thing with Roy Jones Junior who told him off several times. You hear his comments, he’s always biased. Larry Merchant, when Floyd put him in his place, I loved when Floyd did that. Floyd should not apologize. Merchant does not deserve an apology. I would not apologize to Larry Merchant. He should not be commenting on boxing. He’s an idiot. You know. Larry Merchant. You’d “kick his [Floyd’s] ass”. Ya, right, Larry.

BETH: Floyd has said, “I’m not the highest paid in the sport for nothing. I’m dedicated to my craft. When it comes down to it, it’s one on one.” Is boxing the purest sport that there is?

DEXTER: It is. It is the purest sport. The training, the preparation, fighting in the ring. And whenever you step into the ring, it could be the last time. There’s a history of boxers getting hit and down in the ring. There’s a history of boxers working hard and fighting hard and their promoters and managers are robbing them of their money. There’s a history of world class boxers who, after they quit fighting, they’re punchy and they got nothing. So Floyd has all the right, or Manny Pacquiao, or any fighter has the right to make as much money as they make and be proud and brag about it. I mean, these guys give a lot to their community, too. They have gyms, they have young kids coming in, they train them how to box. They do a lot.

BETH: It seems almost superficial to be concerned about the arrogance.

DEXTER: Everyone has the arrogance. People point the finger at Mayweather. Manny Pacquiao has his arrogance.

BETH: What is your opinion of Manny Pacquiao as a fighter?

DEXTER: Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter, but he’s not committed to the sport 100%. For Floyd, it’s a way of life. He has a family with a history  of boxing. Manny was just taught and brought into boxing. He’s doing Karaoke, he’s singing, he’s a politician, stuff like that. He’s doing all these things, he’s not fully committed to boxing. And his last couple of fights shows that he’s not. A boxer in the old days went away from his family for months and trained in a training camp, with no contact with the outside world, even his family. He comes in the night of the fight. The only person who comes to the fight is his wife and she doesn’t see him until after the fight because he’s fully focused on the fight. Disciplined. Manny Pacquiao is on his way out. He’s had his experience in boxing. When he’s out of boxing, what plan does he have in boxing? He wants to be a politician, a singer.

pacquia-and-mayweather.jpeg
Pacquiao and Mayweather

BETH: You surprised me again. You talked about the internals again.

DEXTER: Ya, it’s gotta be in there.

BETH:  Of the boxers we have discussed, there is a rather dramatic back story about their relationship with their coaches. Let’s take Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato. Mike came to Cus from a juvenile detention centre where he had been “discovered” by a detention centre counselor and former boxer.  At the age of 13, Mike had been arrested 38 times for petty crimes in the slums of New York. Cus took him under his wing, taught him the science of boxing and built up his confidence. When Mike’s mother died, Cus adopted him, becoming his legal guardian. “I have a very deep affection for him, he’s my boy”, said Cus. “If he weren’t here, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. I have a reason to go on with Mike here. He gives me the motivation. I will stay alive and I will watch him become a success because I will not leave until that happens.” In turn, Mike said about Cus, “He changed my life. He helped me to deal with people. I know how to deal with people now.  He’s like a father.” Cus died in November 1985, the same year that Mike made his professional debut. A year later, on November 22, 1986, Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champ in history at the age of 20. Some speculate that Cus D’Amato’s death was the genesis for much of Mike’s subsequent troubles. Teddy Atlas, Mike’s former trainer at Cus D’Amato’s gym, says that Cus pushed Mike too fast and ignored or excused his faults, so that he could see him become Champ before he died. How do you see their relationship? 

Tyson and Cus
Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato

DEXTER: Cus didn’t push Mike too fast. I wouldn’t say that at all. Cus D’Amato saw the goodness in Mike. It wasn’t about the money. He saw the goodness in Mike and helped Mike and stuck with him and Mike trusted him. He had Mike do all the right things. If you look at the history, after Cus D’Amato died, everything died after that for Mike Tyson. Cus D’Amato was a good man, a very honorable man, a respectable man. We need a lot of coaches like that in boxing.

BETH: Floyd Mayweather’s famous uncle, Roger Mayweather, who was a champion boxer and is a boxing trainer, said he looks for a young boxer who will listen to him, who will do as he tells him to do. He said, “It’s my way or the highway.” Obviously Roger Mayweather knows an awful lot about boxing, but is this really a healthy relationship, when one person is in complete control? I mean, it’s one thing to trust an honorable person, but it’s another thing to put your trust in the wrong person like Mike did with Don King. 

DEXTER: Exactly. Well, every individual is made up differently. Their bodies and their state of mind. And you, as a coach, have to look right into that. You’re not just a coach for the hour that you’re with that person. It’s got to be beyond that. You have to do follow ups, you have to be a friend, too. It has to be a bond. You have to see what’s right for that person. I mean, I teach a class and my warmup is always the same routine, but depending on who shows up for my class, I change the technical part accordingly. You have to be able to do that. One of the things I hear from people who train with me that they like is that I change things up all the time and I work with them accordingly. Which is important.

BETH: You’re in tune with that individual. 

DEXTER: Exactly. And that’s the reason you have to be a friend, too. Because you have to mentally motivate and look out for your fighter. It’s important.

BETH: What do you do if they get too attached to you and they want more? What if they want you to be their father, for example, or for you to come to other events in their lives? 

DEXTER: With my clients, sometimes there’s a function, and we get a group together and we go check it out. This weekend there’s a boxing event and I have a client, she’s never seen live boxing, so it’s like, “Hey, let’s go down to the fight.” Another client says, “What are you doing this weekend?” “I’m going with a client to watch a fight.” “I’d like to come.” And before the end of the week, I’m going to have about five or six people come with me. You watch the fights and you explain what’s going on. You can see a lot of the things that I’ve taught them. You can see the mistakes I’ve always warned them not to make.

BETH: It’s very natural for you. You just accept becoming friends as part of the relationship. 

DEXTER: Ya, we’re friends. I have clients that became friends with each other, too. They go hang out without me. (laughs) They go to each other’s birthday parties, they go for a drink, they go to dinner, they go shopping. I was just talking about that with a client last week that so many people through me have bonded.

BETH: Through boxing. 

DEXTER: Ya. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, people trust you. And you’ve done so much for their lives. I get people thanking me all the time for changing their lives, whether in the gym, physically, mentally, or with their relationships, with their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands or wives or their parents.

BETH: Have you ever had it not work, a client that you’ve had a falling out with?

DEXTER: I had a client who had a falling out with me. I brought him up from scratch. I turned him into a fighter. I trained him well. I trained him at a corporate gym, but he was able to fight guys from boxing gyms and was beating them. He got too arrogant and started doing things behind my back and being disrespectful and I brought it to the manager’s attention that he was sparring with guys who were not legitimate and they could get hurt. And he got upset with me and we had words.

BETH: Was he younger than you?

DEXTER:  Younger and a little hot head. But I don’t keep a grudge. I saw him once with both eyes black, beat up. At a boxing gym, he showed the same disrespect to the gym, so they put him with a professional fighter who put a beating on him. I felt bad for him. “See, I’m telling you. Where was the coach?” “He was there.” “And the coach didn’t stop him from putting a beating on you like that? These are things I didn’t want to happen to you. I would never allow someone more experienced to beat you up.” So he realized he was wrong. And now we’re OK, we’re cool again.

BETH: So there’s arrogance that’s earned, like Mayweather, he’s earned that right, but this kid hadn’t earned the right to be arrogant yet?

DEXTER: Hadn’t earned it at all. He was disrespectful, forgotten where I took him from to where he’s at right now. That’s the only guy I’ve had a problem with in the 12 years I’ve been passing on my knowledge. It was unnecessary.

BETH: During the Floyd Mayweather – Arturo Gatti fight on June 25, 2005 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Gatti was being hurt so badly by Mayweather that Gatti’s trainer threw in the towel. However, this was not done when Gatti was being punished by Ward. When is it time to throw in the towel?

DEXTER: You see, with Ward and Gatti, they were punishing each other. With Mayweather, Gatti couldn’t touch Mayweather. Mayweather just put a beating on him. Mayweather actually broke his hand punching on Gatti’s head and face. You know what I’m saying. It was useless. He was like a punching bag. It was an uneven fight. Gatti was outclassed. He admitted that. Floyd was just too fast. It was a good thing they threw in the towel.

BETH: I thought they should have thrown it in a round or two sooner. Does the fighter ever quit on his own? 

DEXTER: The trainer has to call it. The fighter will fight to the end. Pride and dignity. They want it bad. The trainer is in control of quitting.

BETH: Is the greatest compliment you can give to a fighter “He came to fight”?

DEXTER: Ya, if he gives it his all, his best, his heart, it doesn’t matter if he’s beaten. If we go back to the Pacquiao – Bradley fight that just happened, Bradley came to fight. Pacquiao won on points. Pacquiao didn’t dominate the fight. He wasn’t in control of the fight. He wasn’t hurting Bradley. He wasn’t frustrating Bradley.

BETH: So you, as a fighter, can see this internal thing going on in a boxer. Are the judges who are ticking off the points missing this? 

DEXTER: Well, with that fight, I think that fight should have been a draw. Because, first of all, Pacquiao insulted the judges, the referee, the fans, the commissioner, by having everyone waiting while he watches a basketball game. Then he comes out with his family, he puts on the gloves, he has a very short warmup. He starts the rounds off slow. The last three, four rounds, he was winded because Bradley came to fight. He didn’t hurt Bradley, he didn’t slow Bradley down. Bradley fought hard right through his 12 rounds, he fought like he really wanted that. And the last three, four rounds, Pacquiao was tired. These are three minute rounds. Pacquiao came out and for the first two minutes he sits back, the last minute, he gives it all he’s got. You know what I’m saying? If you’re a true champion and you’re fighting a world title fight, you’ve gotta give it everything you’ve got right through. Bradley showed that. Pacquiao didn’t show that. You come in late, you’re watching a basketball game, you start off slow, you pick up in the middle rounds, the last three rounds, you’re tired, so you’re pacing yourself. Why’re you pacing yourself? You’re a world class fighter. I mean, personally, I would have given it a draw. Have a rematch.

BETH: When Cotto fought Mayweather, after his loss, he just went to the dressing room, he wouldn’t even speak to the commentators. 

DEXTER: Well, I mean, there are fighters like that, emotional when they lose a fight. Cotto did awesome, though. If Cotto was to fight Manny Pacquiao, he’d beat him.

BETH: So in a Pacquiao – Mayweather fight, you’d obviously be cheering for Mayweather. 

DEXTER: Mayweather would definitely beat him because Mayweather has the defense, he has the control of the fight situation, he’s totally controlled every time he fights. He’d come out to get his points in the first few rounds, other few rounds, he’d sit back, he’d wait, defense, he’d stay inside and fight you and pressure you, rolling his shoulders and stuff. In another round, he’d stay outside, throwing single punches and moving,  you can’t hit him back, you can’t get points up, and he finishes strong. He fights hard and he has a whole plan from the first round to the last round. He frustrates guys, he confuses them, he humiliates them.

BETH: Mayweather says, “I make great fighters look like average fighters.” 

DEXTER: And he does that. He might be bragging, but it’s true. He does it.

BETH: What do you say to people who say that Mayweather has never fought his equal? They said that about Mike Tyson, too. 

DEXTER: That’s not true. Mayweather fought guys who were upcoming, guys who were in their prime, guys who were good to go. Pacquiao fought guys that he knew he would win against. Everytime he fought somebody he fought them when they were down. Mayweather fought guys who were upcoming, Ortiz, Cotto, good fighters, good guys. He likes a challenge. Mike Tyson fought guys in their prime. All the big heavyweights, he fought them in their prime. Lennox Lewis, he fought all the guys when they were on their way out. He fought Mike Tyson when he was washed up mentally and physically from all the media drama.

BETH: I felt a little sad while researching all this. 

DEXTER: Why?

BETH: Well, the extremes of the experiences of the people who fight. Coming from absolutely nothing to extreme wealth. I thought that Mayweather’s mansion felt lonely. I wouldn’t want that. 

DEXTER: When you see these guys, before they started boxing, from the ghetto, and you see them come up to who they are and making all the money and then you see them at the end of their career, how they get beat up, with bums beating them up, it’s also sad. Muhammad Ali got beaten at the end of his career, it’s sad. But back then, that’s all you knew was boxing, that’s all you do is fight, and they thought it would last forever. But now, boxers are a lot smarter. They have business advisers now. They groom them very well now. They have teams working with them now. They’re a lot smarter than before, a lot more organized. Look at Lennox. He did great for himself. He just stopped. He’s got a lot of money. He can speak clearly. He has no problems. He has a wife and family.

BETH: You know who did very well, that older fighter, what’s his name? Oldest heavyweight fighter in history.

DEXTER: George Foreman. He did very well. He came back after all those years and still went and fought younger guys and beat them. He never fought Tyson. Mike would have destroyed him. At that time, Mike was at his prime. Mike would have made him look bad. He stopped at the right time. He’s got his grill. He has his sons. He came back, fought a lot of guys in their prime, made a lot of money, and got out.

BETH:  Thank you, Dexter. This has been a real education. 

DEXTER: It was a pleasure to be of help. I hope I gave you enough information.

This post was originally published on July 4, 2012.

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