|Interview with Joe Clough: On Pacquiao, Olympic Boxing, Asia and Tons More!
Interview by Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 11, 2009)
The great state of Washington in the United States North West knows boxing has never be the same since the days of “Sugar” Ray Seales, Johnny Bumphus, Rocky Lockridge, Greg Haugen, Leo Randolph, Davey Armstrong, Brett Summers, Joe Belnic and Dale Grant among others. The one man who touched all their lives at one time or another is Joe Clough. Randolph and Armstrong were in the 1976 Olympics and Clough was coaching at the Pan Am Games in Caracus, Venezuela in 1983 with the 1984 Olympic hopefuls.
Clough has spent the last eight years in Thailand as a teacher and trainer. On October 1st he will be moving to the Philippines where he will continue to teach and train in another part of the Asian world! He is an international consultant who has worked with some of the top amateur prospects from around the world. It’s people like Clough who mould these fighters with the basics and bring them along hoping the vultures in the sport don’t influence them with their lies and deceit before they have a chance to reach their full potential.
Clough was named the National AAU Amateur “Coach of the Year” in 1972, 1976 and 1977. From 1979 until 1980 he was head boxing coach for the Muhammad Ali Boxing Club in Santa Monica, CA. In 1983 he helped coach the Pan Am Games US team. He was the Olympic Boxing Coach for Thailand in 1984, the coach of the Philippines National team at the Asian Games in 1986, National Coach for Nepal in 1987, Olympic Training Camp Director in Thailand, 1988, Thailand National Coach, 1993 and the Malaysian National Coach in 1995-96. In 1996-97 he was National Boxing Coach in Thailand and the co-cordinator of the 1996 Thailand Olympic Boxing Team…Also conducted coaching clinics in Bhutan and Cambodia in 1997, Burma in 1998.
Brett Summers who was the 1976 US champion at 16 and a 340-40 amateur record out of Tacoma had this to say about Clough. “Joe Clough trained Davey Armstrong, Leo Randolph, “Sugar Ray “Seales, Rocky, Lockridge, Johnny Bumphus and was one of the best coaches ever.”
Clough has taken US teams to Poland, 1976, South America, 1978, Spartakiade Games in the Soviet Union, 1979, Cuba, 1979 and 1982 Poland, 1979, East Germany, 1980 and 1983, North American Championships, 1981, World Cup, Canada, 1981, Pan American Games, 1983 and Germany 1992.
Clough ran the Tacoma Boy’s Club putting out some of the best fighters in the history of the great North West part of the country. Bumphus, Lockridge, Haugen and Randolph all became world champions. I have had kept in contact with him since doing stories on Armstrong and Randolph from the 1976 Olympic team. I thought it about time he got a story of his own. He was kind enough to do a Q&A with me before departing for the Philippines where world champions Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire have the Filipino people going crazy about boxing again! “Joe should have been the coach of the 1984 Olympic team. He had two Olympians on the 1972 and 1976 teams besides coaching the Pan Am Games team in 1983,” said Armstrong.
KH: Joe, from the pictures I see you certainly are a man who keeps himself in top shape. Do you feel this is important to gain the respect of the boxers?
JC: Yes, it’s important to teach by example…exercise, eat healthy foods, no smoking, no drinking, no drugs…while a coach at the Olympic Training Center I ran every morning with the boxers…now at 67 years old I feel great.
KH: When did you get started in this crazy business of boxing?
JC: I started training at the YMCA in Tacoma, Washington because there were no boxing gyms in our city…then I started coaching sports at night time at the Tacoma Boys Club in 1962…I coached football, basketball, and baseball…the kids wanted to try boxing…so the director gave me gloves and a small storage room to train in…that small room was our first of 3 boxing gyms…most of my top boxers play other sports with me as there coach.
KH: Of all the professionals you had were there many you stayed with throughout their career? It seems few trainers are ever able to obtain that luxury.
JC: I turned many boxers pro, Lockridge, Armstrong, Seales, and Randolph but I only coached Randolph all the way to the world title.
KH: I know you must have a thousand stories about your fighters before leaving for Asia in 1984. Is there anything that stands out with any particular fighters? What was wrong by 1984 in US amateur boxing? Was it the politics?
JC: The world of pro boxing already had the hooks into many boxers on the 1984 Olympic team…after I coached at the 1983 Pan Am Games many boxers thought I would be one of the 1984 Olympic coaches…the USA Boxing Board did not like that my wife was a young black lady so I was not picked…but they did ask me to be one of the trainers for the team at $10 per day…no thank you.
KH: What brought about your leaving the US to start training in Asia?
JC: When I told the USA boxing no, Thailand and the Philippines wanted my coaching experience…so I signed a contract to coach Thailand for 6 months at $2000 a month plus all expenses…in 1986 I brought 3 Filipinos to Florida for 6 months of training for the 1986 Asian games in Korea…I got my lightweight into the finals but it was already set, the Korean would get all 12 Golds.
KH: What language barrier were you confronted with?
JC: Being a teacher the language is not a problem…most Asians want to learn English…so I teach some English in my boxing programs.
KH: Did you find the cultures very different in the various Asian countries you went to?
JC: Many of the small Asian countries are very poor…when I stayed in Nepal the power would go off a lot…when I ask the hotel “why”? They told me “the rats are always chewing on the wires…also last year while training boxers in Mandaue, Cebu I rented a nice house…I ask the owner “why no toilet seats and hot water?” He told me “This is not America”.
KH: What former boxers from the US do you still keep in touch with?
JC: The internet is a great way to stay in touch…from Tacoma Leo and David e-mail me…also I stay in touch with many boxers from the old days at the Olympic training center.
KH: I remember Cus D’Amato telling me about using Zen with his fighters. Do you practice anything like that?
JC: We all have our own ways to make the boxer a better person…I used education…I was on a radio talk show with Cus…he talked for pro boxing and I talked for amateur boxing…it was “should boxing be band”?
KH: The European fighters, especially in the heavier weight classes seem to be making their mark in boxing today. Do you think it’s because they are hungrier than the US boxers?
JC: Yes, many other countries are making a mark on both amateur and pro boxing because of very poor conditions…last year I was training pro and amateur boxers in Mandaue, Cebu in the Philippines…our gym was in the slums, so very poor…no toilets, no running water…rats in most homes…I ask 2 of the amateur boxers why they did not go to school (their 10 and 12 yrs old)…the father said “the are boxers, they do not need to go to school”…when Fred Block and I open our new gym in Damaguete, the Philippines (The Negros Boxing Academy) all of our boxers will go to school…that will be one of our requirements.
KH: I notice the Thailand boxers using the last names of gyms they fight out of. Is that the case in general?
JC: Yes, the style is different here in Thailand…both pro and amateur boxers are sold from gym to gym…so maybe if you use the gyms name and your good you will not be sold and have a better chance of staying.
KH: Do you think the Pacquiao Mania that is in the Philippines now will make it easier for you to find many more youths wanted to box?
JC: Yes, Pacman (Pacquiao) has opened the door for many kids in the Philippines…you see his face everywhere…he trains in a gym in Cebu where we spar twice a week…most gyms in the Philippines spar at other gyms once or twice a week…Packman’s Filipino coach gave me a T-Shirt “Diaz vs Pacquiao”.
KH: With you busy schedule have you had chance to return to the NW part of the US in recent years?
JC: Yes, a few years ago I went to Gresham, Oregon to train MMA fighters…I love it…the fighters were enjoying learning how to box and they were very good at doing what I ask of them…but the owner and I did not get along…he wanted to run the show…no way…I was hired to do my job…so it was back to Thailand.
KH: Is there any advice you could give to the US trainers in the amateur ranks today?
JC: I will do many coaching courses in the Philippines…I also will work with their National Boxers who are in Cuba now…I would say to all coaches “teach and coach by example”…be a good role model for your boxers…your like a father in their eyes…treat each boxer like it’s your child.
Leo Randolph, the 1976 Gold Medalist and World WBA Super Bantamweight champion kind of summed it up with the following statement: Joe is like a father that I never had. I first came in contact with him when I was nine years old. He would take us to his house after boxing practice, he took us to church. He even gave me paddles on my rear when I did bad things. Joe was my boxing coach throughout my career. He guided me through two National championships, Olympic Gold Medal, and Jr. Featherweight Champion. Without Joe I wouldn’t have accomplished any of my boxing achievements. I owe it all to Joe Clough who I respect as a father and a coach
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