Training Mayorga
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (March 9, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing
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Al Bonanni must have the most difficult job in the whole, wide world. No, he isn’t the President of the United States. He isn’t the publicist for Charlie Sheen or the manager of the New York Yankees, while George Steinbrenner was still alive. Bonnani has a tougher task that is even more thankless and frustrating than all those gigs- he helps train Ricardo Mayorga, who faces Miguel Cotto this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Mayorga marches to the beat of his own marching band. He trains when he wants to- which isn’t all the time. Unfortunately, he also drinks and smokes when he wants to, also- which is all the time. He’s that rare fighter who takes pride in his libations while preparing for battle. And for all Mayorga’s passion for bloodshed, at times, he has been disinterested in the very sport that brought him wealth and fortune.

He admits, "I’m very complicated."

So when it’s all said and done, if Mayorga were a trainer, would he train a Ricardo Mayorga?

"NO! F**K NO! Ricardo Mayorga’s too nasty," he admitted, laughing loudly at the thought, through Bonanni, who was translating this interview last week.

Bonanni admits, while it’s not easy training the Nicaraguan wild man and dealing with all his idiosyncrasies, he does generally like the guy.

"Very much, I mean, it’s a strange situation but I like Ricardo very much; he’s a genuine person. Roberto Duran also trained in my gym and I liked him very much. They’re honest; you know where they’re coming from and I never had a real problem with Ricardo," said the veteran trainer, who is reuniting with the former welterweight and junior middleweight champion. "I had problems after we won the title (versus Andrew Lewis in 2002) with the people that surrounded him- what I call buzzards- who try to pick off his flesh. I didn’t like those kind of people. That’s why I left the first time."

Before their separation, Bonanni says he saw a different side of Mayorga that is rarely seen or talked about. After stopping “Six-Heads” for the WBA welterweight title, he insisted on being paid cash by Don King. So Mayorga and Bonanni went to King’s offices in Florida, where the former cashed his check. That evening he was scheduled to leave for a flight back to his native land, instead Mayorga delayed his trip and told his trainer to take him to a place where he could go shopping. They ended up at a Wal-Mart. "He didn’t know what a department store was," recalled Bonnani.

And from there, he proceeded to go on a spree.

"’I need shoes.’ I said, ’For what?’ He said, ’Because there’s so many people in my mother’s neighborhood, so many children; I just want to bring a bunch of shoes and sandals.’ So we took the two carts and he commenced to buy, I would say, a 100 pairs of shoes. And I looked at him- and you asked, do I like him?- I really respected him," Bonnani said. From there, Mayorga purchased a multitude of coloring books for the kids. "By the time we left the store, we had six or seven carriages full of stuff- none of it for him. He must’ve spent over $20,000 in goods. I had to call my friend with a limo and he had to send it to fill up the limo because we had filled two trucks."

The next day as they hit the Miami airport, Mayorga tipped several skycaps a $100 each to get his stuff on his flight. As he and Bonanni were about to part ways, "[Mayorga] said, ’I want to give you some money.’ I said, ’No, man; I got paid. I got five percent of your purse. You don’t have to pay me.’ He says, ’But I want to give you something.’ I said, ’No, it’s OK."

As Bonanni drove away and reached into the pocket of his jacket, he found $2,000 that was snuck in there by Mayorga.

Hey, the guy’s complicated. Beneath all the bluster and bravado is a guy who is probably a lot more than the one-dimensional caricature he’s made out to be. A lot of it is his own fault, as he relishes this villainous role. It’s made Mayorga a rich man and, to a large degree, landed him this fight with Cotto. If he was Mr. Milquetoast, he’s just a faded guy, past his prime, who got lucky against Vernon Forrest long ago. But with his persona, he’s the perfect foil for the mostly dour Cotto.

For Mayorga, this is also his one last chance to stay relevant at age 37. With that in mind, King and Mayorga asked the no-nonsense Bonanni if he would assist Luis Leon in preparing “El Matador” for this upcoming fight. In many respects, Bonanni might be perfect for him. He’s a guy that can shout like Bobby Knight and cuss like a sailor. With his own strong-willed personality and familiarity with Mayorga’s antics, Bonanni was essential to keeping him somewhat in line.

"But I’m not an easy trainer," he admitted, frankly. "I’ve had 11 champions of the world, very quietly, that I either trained or co-trained and I really don’t like to train anymore because the younger athletes, I feel- I’m 64 years old- and I’m not like Emanuel Steward. Emanuel has a great personality; I’m a workaholic and Emanuel will let other guys train him. At five o’clock in the morning, I’m the first one up; I just can’t help it. When I’m in camp, I’m the last one to go to sleep at 11 o’clock because I’m looking at different fights or I’m talking boxing. That’s how I am. So I’m not the easiest guy to get along with for a guy like Mayorga but he said he wanted me back, so we did this. And when we first got him up to camp, I thought I was going to kill him; honestly, I really did."

Bonanni insisted on training in Ocala. "It’s a small, central Florida town. It’s horse country." There isn’t all that much to do out there but the trainer has been woken up in the middle of the night at their hotel by an antsy Mayorga, who just needed to get out and drive around at high speeds. "I went along with his madness, sometimes," he admitted.

He insists that his fighter has prepared to the best of his capability- which again, is a relative term.

"How many professional athletes today still smoke cigarettes?" asked Bonanni. "He still loves f**king beer. He switched even from Budweiser to Heineken. So those are things he really does. This is not no f**king act." Yes, for Mayorga, cutting down to a half-a-pack of cancer sticks and a few brewskis a day constitutes a Spartan lifestyle. To work with him, you just have to accept it.

Mayorga says of “Papi Gordo” (his term of affection for his trainer), "He’s a good guy and he gets along good with my other trainer, Luis Leon, who’s my brother-in-law. I know he keeps me in the right direction and on the right track, especially when it’s time to run. He calls me ’Alberto”; only my mother used to call me ’Alberto.’"

He’s fought just once his last-second knockout loss at the hands of Shane Mosley in September of 2008, a rather non-descript ninth round stoppage of Michael Walker this past December in Miami. "He wasn’t in great shape," said Bonanni, who helped make that fight, "then he had the holidays and then he just wouldn’t come to train and then Don got pissed off and called him to the office."

However, while Mayorga went through the motions against Walker, he’s all fire-and-brimstone for Cotto. He has no choice; there’s only so many times you can be used as cannon fodder.

"I’m really focused because I’m thinking about retiring, so it’s important that I win this fight and then I want to fight [Manny] Pacquiao," he stated. Later on, he admitted, "There was a time I lost interest [in the sport] but I’m really focused now because I want to make a lot of money before I retire. I want to fight Pacquiao and I want to go down as the most famous Latin fighter."

There’s a reason why he’s almost a 10-1 underdog on Saturday night. Mayorga is undaunted as usual, saying, “Several years ago, [Cotto] was a very dangerous puncher. Now, he’s punched out. He’s not the same fighter." For Mayorga, it will have to be déjà vu all over again. "When you saw me fight Vernon Forrest the first time, I was strong, fast, prepared. It’s because of that that you’re going to see me knockout Miguel Cotto fast. Very fast."

Bonanni believes that Mayorga is the natural ’54-pounder in this contest.

"He’s bigger, much bigger. He’s faster than Cotto; he’s stronger than Cotto and he’s in pretty good shape. We had eight weeks up here. He’s going to be ready for this fight. This is the best Mayorga you will probably have seen since Vernon Forrest," said the trainer, who has survived Camp Mayorga once again.

That in itself is a victory for Bonanni.

"This kid is not an angel; that said, he’s not a devil, either," he says, "but he is what he is. And what he is is real and you gotta say it."

BORE-NER

I was told by multiple sources on Monday night that HBO would be staging a doubleheader on June 11th featuring the return of Paul Williams and...Adrien Broner in what is another Al Haymon Saturday Night Special. I can see why Williams is being brought back; in many ways, he’s earned it. But Broner? Well, it helps to be a part of the HBO (Haymon Boxing Organization) that runs HBO, seemingly. I know some folks will be stunned to hear that “The Problem” is now their viewing problem but I would have been more surprised if he wasn’t green-lighted to return to the network.

Someone tweeted at me that they would have to find someone to make Broner interesting (I get the sense it will be Jason Litzau) and I responded that Broner could make that old guy from the Dos Equis commercials boring. Later on that night, I received this email from a Mark T.:

Steve,

Thanks for responding to my email last week. Your tweet tonight about "The Most Interesting Man in the World" got me thinking. Could Tecate do a spoof called the "Least Interesting Fighter in the World" starring Adrien Broner? The familiar voice over from the Dos Equis commercial comes on with clips of Broner’s fight with Ponce de Leon:

"...He once threw forty punches in a round, just to see what it would feel like.

"...He was listed on the FDA’s website as a generic form of Ambien.

"...He doesn’t fight much, but when he gets into exchanges, he doesn’t fight much.

"...He is The Least Interesting Fighter in the World.

"I don’t always throw punches, but when I do, I throw them one at a time.

"Stay frustrated, my friends!"

I’m open to suggestions about how to improve on this."

Uh, no, Mark, you pretty much hit it on the head. This is perfection.

KLITSCHKO

The best thing about the announcement of the fight between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye, outside of the fight being done, of course, is that there was no talk of this long-awaited fight taking place in some Vegas casino. Instead, this fight, like Tomasz Adamek’s in September will most likely take place in a large, expansive soccer stadium where there will a crowd of over 60,000 patrons. In many respects, these events are every bit the magnitude of Manny Pacquiao fights.

In these jurisdictions, these events aren’t just in the sports page but the front page. There is a very good chance that the Klitschko brothers will fight in front of more than 150,000 live patrons. Quite an achievement in any era of boxing- especially this one.

CANELO

And further proof that boxing is not dying, Saul Alvarez not only did his usual monster ratings on Televisa in Mexico but it’s been reported that his bout against Matthew Hatton was the highest rated “Boxing After Dark” telecast on HBO in over two years. This in addition to his strong attendance numbers at the Honda Center, Alvarez has given every indication of his star power.

This further punches holes in the whole belief that what will save boxing is the need for one, true linear title per division. Let’s face it, Alvarez’s WBC title and how it was won is about as flimsy as it gets but guess what? The public didn’t really care either way. Alvarez is a guy that had great familiarity with the Mexican public, fought often, seems to care about the fans and, to their credit, Golden Boy Promotions did yeoman’s work in promoting this event last week. They didn’t just do the modern-day cookie-cutter version of “promoting” we see way too often, which is the obligatory conference call and final press conference three days before the fight.

Point is, boxing doesn’t need one, true champion per division. What it really needs is more attractions and bona fide promoters doing their job.

Speaking of which, is anything being done by the “promoters” of the bout this weekend between Sergio Martinez and Sergiy Dzinziruk? I was told that neither TV packager of Dzinziruk, Artie Pellulo nor Gary Shaw, bothered to show up to his media day in Los Angeles (in fact, my old cohort Doug Fischer and HBO’s Tony Walker were about the only guys to show up. Doug told me that there were more boxers there to spar than media members that day) or participated on his conference call. Hey, I have no problems with anyone turning a profit but they can at least try and pretend they are doing something, can’t they?

Here’s the thing; as someone in the industry pointed out to me, "Why would they do anything? They don’t have to; their money is guaranteed." I can’t argue that but I think when the leadership at HBO doles out license fees to these entities, it’s long past due that they put clauses in their contracts that a certain amount of money must be allocated for marketing these events and promoters actually…you know...promote them.

Yes, the likes of Jose Sulaiman have irreparably hurt the game in certain respect. Guess what? I’m not sure that the (in)action of those who collect big license fees from the network to deliver fighters while doing nothing more than sitting on the camera side of the ring with their credentials isn’t every bit as damaging in the long run.

Say what you want about the pay-per-view bout being staged by Top Rank but there’s a reason why with a fight that might be half as competitive as Martinez-Dzinziruk is getting about ten times more press.

MAIN EVENTS

Obviously, there are still promoters doing their jobs. I got this email this past weekend from a Gary Purfield, regarding Main Events and their most recent promotion involving Zab Judah:

Hey Steve, I cover boxing as a hobby mostly in my home area Philadelphia. A while back when you had Kathy Duva on your internet radio show I was really impressed with the level of commitment to truly "promoting" fights so I have started making my way up the Jersey turnpike for their events and it is well worth it. I attended the undercard press conference a couple of weeks ago and the Judah-Mabuza press conference this past week both in Main Event home base Newark NJ and then covered the fight from press row last night. Everything you have said in your articles about this company is so true. You can see and sense it at the press conferences, fights, even in the phone conference with Pernell Whitaker (which may have been the funniest 30 minutes of my life). They make every effort to promote through media and any outlet they can.

The actual fight was done so well down to every last detail and there is nothing like when a fight is put in a venue that is appropriate to what the fight will draw (I imagine the 2,500 the packed the Amerihealth Building last night had far more juice than the Silverdome a few weeks back). That place had juice in it last night because you had a close to filled building full of people who had a hometown rooting interest. The place went bonkers when Judah landed that straight left and even half of press row found themselves standing and caught up in the excitement. You have the big stage their at Maxboxing so keep beating the drum for real promoters to do their job like you have done.

Have a good one,

Gary

LAKER FLURRIES

The always rugged Rocky Martinez will open up the broadcast on Showtime, April 16th, before WBO featherweight king Juan Manuel Lopez takes on Orlando Salido in Puerto Rico...The May 21st edition of “Top Rank Live” on FSN will take place at the Morongo Casino and feature Alfonso Gomez and Michael Franco...SHOWTIME Extreme will air the weigh-in for Cotto-Mayorga on Friday at 6 PM, ET...Saw “The Color of Money” on Monday night. It’s great, like “The Karate Kid” of pool movies...I heard Oscar De La Hoya lost his wallet on Saturday night. I suspect it was Sulaiman who took it...Yeah, I don’t think this is what the Miami Heat had in mind at the beginning of this season. I know I might be jinxing it but Andrew Bynum is really starting to assert himself in the paint. If his knees stay healthy (a big “if”), the Purple-and-Gold will be tough down the stretch...Just my opinion, I think Jim Tressel got off rather light....

I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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