John "Iceman" Scully talks Chad Dawson, training the son of George Foreman, fighting, regrets, and "The Greatest"
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 28, 2013)
There are times when a boxing trainer, like the coach or manager of a professional team, is only as good as his last big event. If his undefeated fighter loses, suddenly the trainer might be overrated.
Sometimes a little criticism is warranted, but in most cases, it's convenient and easy. Five-time "Trainer of the Year" Freddie Roach was fired by Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. after both fighters lost bouts in 2012.
Trainer and former professional fighter John "Iceman" Scully heard through the grapevine last month that his fighter, light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, had replaced him in favor of Eddie Mustfa Muhammad. Scully wasn't shocked. Eight months ago, while training Dawson for his fight with super middleweight champion Andre Ward, the "Iceman" could feel his influence slipping. Dawson was stopped in the 10th round against Ward, and soon some were pointing fingers at Scully.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted with this writer last week, Scully, 45, reflects on Dawson’s departure, training a famous son, his own regrets, and why Muhammad Ali still inspires him.
John J. Raspanti: How do you feel about Chad Dawson returning to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad?
John "Iceman" Scully:I think at this point Chad is kind of marching to the beat of his own drum, you know what I mean? I like Eddie a lot, we've always been cool over the years, and he knows Chad as well as anyone I suppose so that aspect of it all can't hurt.
JJR: Do you feel a little betrayed?
ICE: Normally I would, I suppose. I've known him since he was a pre-teenager, we go way back, and he basically didn't think as highly of our relationship as I did because I have literally not spoken to him since the night of the Ward fight. I heard about him going back to Eddie when someone posted it on my facebook page. That wasn't too cool but in this case there are two things that come to mind for me. One is that I learned a lot time ago when I first started out in boxing that trainers shouldn't fall in love with their fighters. There was a trainer from Hartford named Johnny Duke who always used to say, "Fighters come and go by the dozens, but trainers will always be here." So I learned not to sweat it. It's why I have never in my life had a contract with a fighter. I let it be known from the beginning. It's like a marriage or a relationship with a woman. If they want out then let them out. No piece of paper is going to make a relationship between two people work. I prefer clean breaks, no court case, no prolonging it all. The other thing, of course, is that Chad's relationship with past trainers is pretty well documented. I mean, I didn't need a road map or a crystal ball to tell me that as soon as he lost the first time with me in the corner that I was out of there.
JJR: When you were training Dawson for his fight with Andre Ward, did you get a sense that this could be your last (for the time being) fight together as trainer and fighter?
ICE: Well, to be honest, I actually got the sense of it from my end more than from his. Even if we were to win the fight with Ward there were several things that came about during the last camp that gave me the idea that I wasn't going to stay on for another camp. Some of the reasons are personal and I prefer not to go into them here but I can tell you that when I trained him in 2004 and 2005 and then when I trained him for the two Hopkins fights recently everything was great. We clicked very well. But something changed heading into camp for the Ward fight. It was just different. He was different. "Uncomfortable" is probably the best way to describe it all. I could give very specific examples but, let's just say it was different and it certainly wasn't fun anymore and leave it at that.
JJR: You've been training George Foreman's son Monk. How is that going? Does Monk fight like his famous father?
ICE: Monk is a good guy, a work in progress. He didn't have any amateur experience so, like Chavez Jr., he's kind of learning on the job. He actually resembles his dad, yeah, with some of his movements and in the ring mannerisms. It's very clear watching him box that he spent a lot of time around and picked up a lot of things from his dad, definitely.
JJR: Are there any other fighters you're working with that have the potential to go places?
ICE: Ihave a group of different levels of amateurs I'm working with every day at the The Lions Den Training Center in Middletown, Connecticut and also a few pros, too. I'm working with a very solid up and coming welterweight prospect originally from Puerto Rico named Javier "Chino" Flores who is 8-0 with seven knockouts. At this moment he is scheduled to box on a show on January 25th at the Chumash Casino in California. Gary Shaw signed him before his last fight so he's aligned with a high profile promoter who apparently has plans to keep him very busy. I also just started training a 4-0 junior welter named Jonathon Perez from Puerto Rico who looks pretty solid, too. Hoping to have him in his first fight under me within a couple months and get the ball rolling with him. I'm also supposed to begin working with a 7-2 middleweight from my area named Lee Ortega who, at age 35, is looking to make one last run at a professional career and he asked me to help him out so that's what I plan to do.
JJR: Who do you think is the best pound for pound fighter right now?
ICE: I can't see anyone other than Floyd Mayweather in that top spot right now. Andre Ward is making a really strong case but at this moment I can't move Floyd out of my top spot just yet. Andre keeps it up, though, and he'll be hard to deny.
JJR: How much do you miss actually lacing up the gloves and fighting? (Scully was a top-ranked light-heavyweight in the 1990s)
ICE: I can honestly say that I really don't allow myself to miss it for two very good reasons. One is that from the day of my last fight in 2001 I've been in the gym ever since, training boxers, sparring, getting ready for fights, putting on shows. I won my last fight and had planned to continue my career so I spent until the summer of 2003 trying to capitalize on that victory but when so many fights fell out in a row one after another I just kind of let it all expire. I've maintained a very solid sparring schedule all these years, though, that gives me all the action I care to see so I'm very satisfied. As an active professional boxer I hated making weights for fights and the strict diet and stress that came with that and I also hated those last few days before a fight where all the pressure would come to a head on you. Now I can spar anytime I want to but without all that stress that fighters know so well. I enjoy boxing a lot more now because I've taken all that pressure off of myself and I can just box purely for the fun of it, the same way I started out doing when I was 12 years old.
JJR: Any regrets from your professional career?
Many, many regrets if I am going to be honest with out. Hindsight is always 20/20 and it's very true when people say if they knew then what they know now. I have so many regrets but at the same time I remember them and the situations that caused them well enough to help fighters I work with now to avoid them. Understanding my mistakes from back then have helped me in guiding boxers I'm working with now, definitely.
Probably my biggest regret was going forward with fights that I knew deep inside that I wasn't ready for physically and mentally. Whether it was losing weight the wrong way or going in with injuries or fighting while experiencing a combination of both of those things, I frequently went into fights in condition that I would never, ever let one of my boxers now go ahead with. As an example, before the Ward-Dawson fight there were obviously issues that I felt needed to be addressed in regards to our preparation but it just wasn't happening and I felt powerless. I knew what was wrong but I wasn't exactly being heard. So sometimes a trainer is put in a tough spot when his relationship with the boxer is compromised. Ideally you want communication with all members of your team to be open and productive. I didn't always have that as a boxer in my day and I haven't always had that with each fighter I trained, either. You're lucky in this game if you find yourself in a position where things run smoothly on all cylinders over the course of a long training camp.
JJR: Like me, you grew up idolizing Muhammad Ali. What was it about Ali that inspired you?
ICE: I cannot say enough about Muhammad Ali and his influence on me! As a matter of fact, in the book that I am writing on my boxing career entitled "The Iceman Diaries," I have a chapter called "The Influence of Muhammad Ali" that basically explains how this man helped shape me as a boxer and as a person. I pretty much have one single example to give you that not only will blow your mind but that will also explain to your readers exactly what I mean. When I was twelve years old I read his autobiography entitled "The Greatest" and in it there was a part where he says that he never did drugs or alcohol in his entire life, that he didn't need it. Well, I read that and it was all she wrote. It was a done deal. I was set in my ways from that day forth. If the greatest boxer in the world, the most copied and followed and idolized athlete, didn't need drugs or alcohol then I didn't either. I took it to heart from the moment I read it. And here I stand thirty-three years later assuring you that I have never ingested an illegal drug or swallowed even one drop of alcohol in my entire life. Never, not even once. And that's because Muhammad Ali told me I didn't need to do so in order to be a someone in this world or to have fun or to make people like you.
I mean, who had more fun than Muhammad Ali, right?
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