It was back in 1997 I first saw Raul “Chino” Rivas when he worked the corner of Isaac Rodrigues from Brazil on a show in Dickson City, PA. Though undefeated at the time Rodrigues was sent back to Brazil by his promoter where he suffered a pair of losses. Its hopeful he will return to the US by the end of summer so Rivas can train him.
I met Rivas for the first time when he was training a pair of top prospects in Jason Sosa, now 11-1-3 (7), from Camden, NJ, and Anthony Burgin, 5-0 (1), from Philly at the new Gut’s & Glory Gym in W. Berlin, NJ, that he and co-manager Adrienne Sosa operate. He is also training 2 of Mark Cipparone’s Club 1957 Management’s boxers Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, 15-4 (3) and Miguel “No Fear” Cartagena, 11-0 (4), both from North Philly. In addition he trains his son Nathaniel Rivas. The gym is quite impressive.
“After my second fight with Angel Ocasio (pair of draws) my then trainer took me for sparring and “Chino” was with us. After 2 rounds of sparring Chino took over the last 2 and the chemistry was instant for me with him. It was unbelievable. I knew he would be my head trainer. He’s like a father figure. The sky’s the limit with him. I can go to him about anything. He’s a big part of my life. I look for perfection in myself and so does he. We look to be champion someday,” said Sosa. This boxer Sosa is usually a person of few words but the way he expressed his feeling about Rivas came through loud and clear.
“Chino is a loving and caring person who treats you like family. When he tells you something you have to try it. He tells you when you get out of line. He doesn’t sugar coat something. He’s strong minded as a person and keeps you level headed. I sparred with his son several years ago at the Front Street Gym in Philly and he told me if his son doesn’t start moving his head like I tell him to then hit it. He picks things out if he senses something is wrong. He has no favorites. He worked with me in the NJ Golden Gloves before turning professional. I thought I did great after the first fight and he said I was good and this is what we have to work on next. There’s always room for improvement with him and that’s what I like,” said Burgin.
When Rodrigues fought contender Brian Vera he was trained by Rivas who took over after the untimely death of his cousin Oscar Suarez at age 47 in 2008. He had trained world champions “Prince” Naseem Hamed and Acelino “Popo” Frietas in the late 90’s. At time of his death he was working with Patrick “El Elegante” Lopez, 2-time VZ Olympic representative, helped with Dmitiriy “Star of David” Salita for over a half dozen fights and also Jerson Ravelo. The former boxers all had nothing but good things to say about Suarez. When this writer went to the Gut’s & Glory Gym open house there was a banner with Suarez’s picture.
“Working with Chino has been one of the best experiences of my life. We really work well together. Our strengths and weaknesses are balanced out perfectly with each other. He has opened me up to this world of boxing and I have really fell in love with it. Since opening the gym (Guts & Glory) more fighters are coming from all over to be able to work with him and be in this environment we have created – one of being a family! The way he is with the guys in and out of the gym is truly inspiring and I am very happy to be part of that. In my opinion there is no better coach in the sport today.
His vision is something that is truly a gift from God and his trainer/cousin – the late Oscar Suarez. He sees so many things and has the ability to teach and correct things in a way that the guys respond to and understand so easily. His teaching style is a perfect balance of angles, power, footwork and finesse. People are drawn to him because of his big personality but they fall in love with him because his heart is so genuine. He will be a Hall of Fame trainer - no doubt. There is so much to say I could go on and on but I don’t want to write the whole story for you. I think you will enjoy doing this story on him. He is one of a kind,” said Adrienne Soto.
I have done many interviews and have to say I have never heard each and every person whom Rivas has touched thinks the world of him. Not one negative thing was said. A fellow writer named Kurt Wolfheimer is co-manager and PR man for Ocasio who fought the pair of draws with Sosa. He recently said “I have to say the improvement in Tevin Farmer by his trainer (Rivas) is remarkable.
“Chino is a wonderful person. Not just a trainer. He is a lovable guy. He doesn’t only teach us how to fight which he does great but about life itself. Been with him for about 6 fights now and he literally has quadrupled my skill level. I see him taking me to a world title within a year, if not then earlier. He treats all his fighters like we are his kids and I know I can depend on him,” said Tevin Farmer. Farmer has won every fight with Chino and Cipparone. I believe his last fight was his best.
Miguel Cartagena being between 115 and 119 could only muster 3 fights a year his first 2 years. He’s gotten down to 112 and one would think it made it even harder. But he has fought 4 times just since August under Cipparone’s management. “Working with Chino has brought nothing but success to my career in the last 5 ½ months. I believe we work good as a team and benefit off each other. Knowing that he sees a lot of potential in me, strives me to want to work harder. Since I’ve been with him he’s taught me many things that are making me a better and stronger fighter. The time he puts in with me shows he has a lot of dedication and love for me, and as one of his many fighters I appreciate that the most,” said Cartagena.
Another trainer in the gym who has been with Burgin for years is Reggie “Teddy Bear” Lloyd. “Where do I begin? Chino is a friend and a mentor. When Anthony (Burgin) left Front Street I contacted Chino. He said bring him to the Victory Gym in Cherry Hill, NJ. There will always be a place for you. With him it’s always us and never I. He’s always been a team player. When I was being rough on one of the fighters one day he told me you have to be considerate toward other people’s feelings. I respect him as a trainer and as a man. He’s a great coach. He treats everyone as a family member. He’s built a stable from the ground up as amateurs to professionals He doesn’t have a favorite. He’s a man’s man! I love him from the bottom of my heart. This (Guts & Glory) is the best gym and my favorite,” said Lloyd.
The person who manages both Farmer and Cartagena is Cipparone as mentioned earlier. He also has a pair of boxers he manages who choose to stay in Philly with their trainers who are Eric “Outlaw” Hunter, and Teon “the Technician” Kennedy.
“As a manager I know all too well that a trainer is one of the most important members of any successful boxing team and I am confident to have made the choice in Chino. What makes him more impressive in that in the process of choosing another coach we (as a team) interviewed several other local worthy coaches. It became clear to us all that Chino would be the one when after every interview we all came back to the same decision….and that is Chino was the one for us,” said Cipparone. Being owner of 5 Rocco’s Collisions in NJ and PA he knew getting involved into a new field he needed a team to decide on this important matter.
I am not by any means discrediting any of the others that were in the running because they are all super coaches for sure and most likely would have brought the best out of both Tevin and Miguel but Chino has something extra that draws people to him. His amazing LEADERSHIP ability is equally balanced with the highest level of care and concern for his fighters. That doesn’t mean that other coaches do not care but the difference is that Chino wears his heart on his sleeve and there is never any guessing when it comes to what he expects, how much he cares and he will make you accountable always! Fortunately I was able to look in at Chino several months before choosing a new coach as both his fighters (Burgin and Sosa) and sparred with Tevin very often before we were even looking for a trainer. It was at that time that I peeked the way that he not only coached but the way he treated both these professionals with love, respect and dignity……and this is still something that I admire today. It was clear that he had all the knowledge because let’s face it, all that love would mean nothing without the ability to get the job done right…but what makes him the amazing coach is that he has that deadly combination. Since working with Chino both Tevin and Miguel both have had impressive victories over tough opponents and continue to get better with each fight. I know Chino will do whatever it takes for his fighters to reach their goals and there is no doubt that he will breed many more champions in the years ahead,” said Cipparone.
“Chino” was agreeable to take some questions.
KEN HISSNER: Did you box in the amateurs?
RIVAS: Yes out of Paterson, NJ.
KEN HISSNER: When did you decide to be a trainer?
RAUL RIVAS: After the death of my cousin Oscar Suarez’s death.
KEN HISSNER: Did your cousin Oscar Suarez have a big influence on you being a trainer?
RAUL RIVAS: Yes and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
KEN HISSNER: I know your fighters say you don’t have a favorite but you can tell me I’m sure they won’t read this. Just kidding. How do you manage to treat each fighter to the point they know they are special but they are not your favorite?
RAUL RIVAS: I love all my fighters like they were my sons and am blessed to have a son that is not jealous and understands for me to be successful I have to treat them all the same.
KEN HISSNER: How did you and your co-manager and co-gym owner Adrienne Soto get together?
RAUL RIVAS: Adrienne walked into the Victory Boxing Gym asking Nick Rosario about training her son and recommended me to her. From there training her son she fell in love with the sport so I asked her if she would be willing to help me manage the guys and we have been partners since then.
KEN HISSNER: What do you think is missing today among the trainers that those in the past seemed to have?
RAUL RIVAS: Loyalty and hard work. A lot of coaches want to get to the higher places too fast without putting in the hard work. Coaches like Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia both ex fighters took on the responsibility of training fighters from the bottom up. They know what hard work is because they are ex fighters. Therefore they know how to implement that understanding the hard work and dedication it takes to be successful. Along with that comes the opportunity that now Name fighters have chosen them to be their trainers.
KEN HISSNER: How much input due you have on the fighters you train but do not manage when it comes to opponents they have been presented to say Mark Cipparone for instance?
RAUL RIVAS: Mark and I share the responsibility. Mark gives me the names and I say whether we want the fight. It’s my responsibility to research and pick the opponents for Tevin and Miguel’s fights.
KEN HISSNER: Briefly in one sentence can you tell me the best thing of working with fighters you train like Sosa, Burgin, Farmer, Cartagena and even your son?
RAUL RIVAS: I sum it up with one word EXCITEMENT! They bring me excitement it’s that simple. The sky is the limit of what they each can accomplish.
KEN HISSNER: You are probably busier than ever since opening the gym. How does your wife feel about being away from home so much? Does she say things like “don’t hurry back?”
RAUL RIVAS: She understands my responsibility understanding that my dream is to make a living out of Boxing and accomplish many goals.
KEN HISSNER: I can’t express how refreshing it was to talk to those closest to you in the game and how they feel about you on a personal level. Do you have anything to say to them like “did you do your road work today?” Seriously are there any parting comments?
RAUL RIVAS: They understand what I expect out of them and I emphasize that every day. That’s why we have such a great team and no one complains and we all work very hard.