Legendary trainer Lou Duva speaks to the Doghouse
Interview by Benny Henderson Jr. (Aug 30, 2004)
Hall of Fame trainer Lou Duva knows all about the business of boxing. And with almost sixty years of experience in the fight game, he has seen his share of boxers and his share of battles in the ring. He has worked with some of the all time great fighters including Hall of Famer Joey Giardello, who became Duva's first world champion back in 1963, Bobby Czyz, Arturo Gatti, Vinny Pazienza, Meldrick Taylor, Michael Moorer and future Hall of Famer’s Evander Holyfield, Parnell Whitaker and Mike McCallum. He was also in the corner of one of the most unforgettable fights in boxing history, Bowe-Golota in 1996 that started out as a war but ended up as a riot after Golota who refused to stop hitting Riddick below the belt got disqualified. Lou Duva was good friends and one of the last people to speak to heavyweight great Rocky Marciano before his death in a plane crash in 1969. At age 83 Lou still marches on and has no plans of retirement. The legendary trainer stopped by the Doghouse to talk about his decades in the fight game and what he thinks makes a great all around fighter.
Benny Henderson Jr.: What got you into boxing?
Lou Duva: When I was ten years old my brother was a great welterweight fighter fighting in small fight clubs around Jersey. He used to work fourteen hours a day and I would prepare his bag for him and when he got off of work I would go to the gym with him. The gyms were behind bars and we all trained at night and so we didn’t have it like these fighters these days and train in the afternoons and get support. Little by little I went there and this guy would show me how to jab and this one would show me the right hand, so I started to learn and get educated from other trainers and managers and see how they operated. I didn’t learn the boxing business from the fighters I learned it from the amateur trainers and managers and the professional trainers and managers. That was how I learned the business.
BH: How long have you been in the business of boxing?
LD: I think my first fight was Cain and Abel. It has been a long time so I would have to say around 60 years.
BH: How many champions have you had under your belt?
LD: Nineteen champions and nine gold medal winners. I have had a good life and boxing has been good to me.
BH: Where do you see the heavyweight division at this time?
LD: The heavyweight division is nothing. I go on programs and they ask me the same question and I say can these guys even carry the bags. Let’s take guys Roy Jones and James Toney, could those guys jump in the ring with Archie Moore or Billie Conn. Don’t forget those guys had to fight heavyweights because there were only eight classes. The fighters today are very fortunate that those guys are forty years behind their times. If those guys back then could fight today these guys now wouldn’t be around.
BH: You have two heavyweights with you now, Kirk Johnson and Samuel Peter, what are your thoughts on them guys?
LD: I think Samuel Peter on any given night can knock anybody out he hits. Of course he needs to learn how to box a little more, learn the system and the ring showman ship. But he is one of the best and the hardest punchers out there. Kirk Johnson I have no thoughts on right at this point. I would like to see him come back but he has disappointed us in a couple of fights and I just haven’t got my faith in him.
BH: Have you thought about retirement?
BH: Yes sir.
LD: Hell no! I love the work. Boxing is my life, it is my love.
BH: What was going through your mind the night of Golota versus Bowe after the repeated low blows?
LD: I was looking for the stool to hit Golota over the head with. I did everything but fight the fight for him. I told him do not punch anything below your shoulders, punch the head and don’t go to the chest or the body. Do you understand, because if you do you are going to get disqualified? He would say yeah, ok, ok, ok. Yeah - ok right, that is Golota’s mentality as soon as he gets hurt he looks to escape. His escape is to get disqualified.
BH: Riddick Bowe is making a come back, do you feel he has a chance to make a noise in the heavyweight division once again?
LD: No, and it is not because of the competition that is out there. Come on, even when he was fighting Golota he was stuttering all over the place and doing the tap dance. He didn’t win the fights they were giving to him. I really think that he can really get hurt. A heavyweight is a heavyweight, regardless of how good he is or how bad he is. If he can punch a little bit and hits you on the chin you are in trouble.
BH: Guys like Holyfield are still fighting and Bowe coming back.
LD: Look, Holyfield was my fighter for fourteen years. I walked away and told him don’t fight, don’t fight. But some people only care about being paid and being on a payroll talked him into it. He asked me to come back and I said that I wouldn't come back, no sir. I said because every punch you catch, I catch. I don’t want to do that to a man.
BH: What about a 55 year-old George Foreman?
LD: With Foreman it is only for entertainment, it is only an act, that’s all that is. Fighters come back because they want to make money, not for the glamour, that’s bullshit. They only come back because they are broke.
BH: In your opinion, what makes a good all around fighter?
LD: A good trainer and manager and whether he has character. You see fighters rely too much on talent in the ring. I like my guys to have some character outside the ring. That is the only was you can get that good talent in the ring.
BH: The most important part of training?
LD: Again, a good trainer, and if the fighters listens and that is it. They have to communicate with each other. It is like you are talking with your father, mother, sister or brother. It is a family affair. You have to understand that the trainer is spending his time and is telling you things that he has accumulated over all the years and you should listen to him. If you haven’t got that kind of connection with a trainer then you have a problem.
BH: In your opinion, who are the top three fighters in any division of all time?
LD: You have to back again to the old days they only had eight classes. You had a guy like Rocky Marciano, when he won the title he was only 186 pounds and Joe Louis was 202. Now what would those guys be today? They would be cruiserweights, and the guys today that are cruiserweights where in the hell would they fit in with those guys? Today it is a different story. I think the greatest fighter that I have ever seen that could do it all defensively; offensively he knew what he was doing in that corner and inside that ring. That was Sugar Ray Robinson. My best fighter is Rocky Marciano. Why? [Laughing] Because he was my friend and he never got beat.
BH: Out of all your years in the boxing business, what have you learned?
LD: Oh boy, you know let me put it this way here. Before I used to go after talent and character was second. Not today. Today character is first and talent is second. Because athletes today do not have too much character. Not all of them, there is a few that do. The general condition of the sport and I don’t care if it is baseball football or whatever it is, it isn’t like before. There was character; you listened to the coach and trainer. You listened to what they were telling you to do and you did it, but not today. Today is people having 14 entourages there and social directors and music directors. You have everybody there except for the people that should be there. And that is the trainer and the good manager that they listen too.
BH: Do you see any fighters out there coming in that might make a big splash in the sport in the near future?
LD: Strangely enough I don’t see too many of them out there. There are a couple of kids out there, like Miguel Cotto is a good little prospect out there. You know somehow or somewhere they say as the heavyweights go that is how boxing goes. And right now I don’t see too much out there. But who knows in the next year or so somebody may come up from light heavyweight or cruiserweight and step into the heavyweight class. It is becoming a smaller class, sure they have some big fighters like the Klitschko’s and McCline’s and stuff like that. But generally somebody will come along. People want to see fights they are concerned about any individual. Fighters do not win fights or make fights, styles make fights. I am hoping somebody comes along though. De La Hoya has been doing a good job and even strangely enough Hopkins has been doing a good job. And at least they have the balls to fight each other. That is going to be the fight. Right now I don’t see anything else out there.
BH: What does it take for a fighter to train under Lou Duva?
LD: I have good trainers working with me. I have my son-in-law Tommy Brooks and a couple of other good guys here. Show me you have some character, show me that I don’t have to worry about you getting up in the morning to run but that I will know that you are going to run. Show me that you are going to be the first one in there and the last one out. Show me that you are going to listen to the trainers, whether it is I or Tommy Brooks or whatever trainer we have here. Show me that you want to be a champion and get involved in the sport. Because if you don’t you are going to get hurt.
BH: What advice would you give to a young fighter?
LD: Get yourself a back up education. Know where you are going and the direction you are taking. There is no reason in the world that just because you are a fighter that you still can’t get an education. I would like to see the guys get an education. See there is one thing about boxing even if you were a champion. You have no place to go after you are done. So you better learn something.
BH: What has been your best accomplishment throughout all your years of boxing?
LD: [Laughing] Still staying in boxing. I could have gone so many different ways and directions. My life and love is boxing. I love helping the kids and the sport out.
BH: Is there anything you would like to add to this?
LD: Yes, I hope everybody in boxing gives it their heart and soul, it is a tough business. The kids out there, their character isn’t all the same. I hope they treat each other right, handle their talent right and do a good job for boxing.
BH: Well sir, Doghouse and I would like to thank you for your time. It has been a good one, God Bless and be safe.
LD: Anytime at all and thank you.
I would like to thank Lori Cuccinello for her help with this interview. I would like to give a big thank you to Lou Duva for his time for the Doghouse and the fans. For more information on Duva Boxing visit his website: DUVA BOXING.COM.
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