Interviews

Published on September 26th, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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Sergey Kovalev Trainer, Buddy McGirt Says Smarts and Not Size is the Key to Defeating, Canelo Alvarez on November 2Nd!

Buddy McGirt aims to lead, Sergey Kovalev to the biggest win of his career on November 2nd against, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

As a fighter, Buddy McGirt amassed an impressive 73-6-1 record. A two-division champion, McGirt shared 24-rounds in the ring with the late great, Pernell Whitaker. After patiently waiting for 22-years, McGirt was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s 2019 class. He entered with a great class that also featured, Donald Curry, Tony Demarco and Julian Jackson. As a trainer, Buddy is top of the food chain. Known for being a straight-shooter during in between round instructions with his fighters, McGirt has trained multiple world-champions and was known for reviving the career of the late great, Arturo Gatti towards the end of his career. More recently, he’s done the same for Russian power puncher, Sergey Kovalev. Prior to linking up with, McGirt, Kovalev 3 of his last 5 fights. He is now 2-0 under the Hall of Famers guidance. On November 2nd, the duo has a chance to really cement their status as they will face boxing’s biggest draw, Canelo Alvarez in a much-anticipated light heavyweight clash for Kovalev’s WBO title. Can Kovalev join, Floyd Mayweather as the only other man to hand, Canelo a loss? Kovalev’s trainer is confident that he can.

During my recent conversation with, McGirt, we discussed his Hall of Fame induction, how he benefitted from learning from legendary trainers as well as the November 2nd mega-fight!

Hall of Famer, Buddy McGirt. Has that set in yet or are you still adapting to hearing that?

Buddy McGirt: I’m getting used to it, man. You know, for me, to be put in the same home as so many great fighters… it’s going to take about a year to sink in (laughing).

Your emotions took centerstage during your induction speech. Was that just because all of the sacrifice and what you put into this sport was finally rewarded at the highest level?

Buddy McGirt: Yeah, it overcame me. It’s something that every fighter dream of. When I visited the Hall of Fame it’s like, “Damn! When you get here, that’s it.” Not having my mother there really affected me emotionally, you know what I mean.

Most definitely. You went into, Anthony Yarde’s locker room after your fighter, Sergey Kovalev knocked him out. And you told him that he would be a world-champion one day and you also told him that he shocked you. What was it about his performance that shocked you?

Buddy McGirt: He fought better than I thought he would. He only had 12-amateur fights and 18-pro fights. To fight a guy like, Sergey and put up the fight that he did, he really surprised me.

Most trainers or fighters that I speak to say, if you get a new trainer or you change trainers somehow, it takes 3-fights to get that chemistry down. November 2nd against, Canelo Alvarez will be your third fight with, Sergey. Does it feel like it’s all coming together now?

Buddy McGirt: You know what, honestly, if I don’t feel chemistry from day one, I don’t waste his time or my time. You gotta have that chemistry, whether it’s one fight or ten fights. If there is no chemistry there, where do you go? You get guys that pretend there was chemistry, but the fighter has to trust you and feel that trust. Fighter’s are like kids, if a kid is out there and he gets in trouble. And he says, “I’m going to call my father,” when his father gets there, he’s gotta feel safe. If he doesn’t feel safe, shit ain’t right. Something ain’t right in here. I believe that it’s the same thing with fighters. When they come back to the corner, they can have 20-people in the corner, 50-people in the entourage, there is only one person in that corner that they are looking at for direction, and that’s the trainer.

You seem to revive guys who some count out. What is it about your training style, maybe your personality that brings out the best in guys who haven’t looked their best?

Buddy McGirt: Old school teaching. I learned from some of the best in the game that are no longer around. Not best trainers, but best teachers in the game, man. Ray Arcel, George Benton, Bouie Fisher, Eddie Futch and Bill Miller who trained, James Toney. These guys were great teachers of the game. And I had the great pleasure and honor to spend time with these guys as a fighter. So, what I did was, I took advantage of it and picked their brain. When I was up at the Hall of Fame, I sat with, Archie Moore for like an hour and a half and just picked his brain. Most guys they say, “Yeah, I met, Archie Moore and took a picture.” Look here, man, you’re a young fighter or a young trainer, you gotta get that knowledge, man. For a man to have so many fights and still have his marbles… he had to be doing something right.

I always say that about you. You had 80-pro fights and you could talk with the best of them.

Buddy McGirt: Listen, them punches hurt, I don’t give a shit what nobody says. I wasn’t trying to prove nothing to nobody (laughing). If it gets hot in the kitchen, I learned how to get out. Ray Arcel, I’ll never forget, me and Ray Arcel was driving to a banquet. And he said, “You know, Buddy, I had 4-world-champions and all they had was a left jab. The right hand was just a decoy, but the left hand was remarkable. Keep it basic. What is going to beat the basics? Nothing.”

That being said, I’m sure you’re not impressed by some of these mitt routines that you see these younger fighters using today?

Buddy McGirt: Listen, the mitts are the best choreography since, “Thriller!” Think about it now. When you do the mitts, you are telling the fighter what combination to throw. And he throws it. So, it all looks good. But now, if you use the mitts to teach your fighter, it’s a different ball game. If you take the time and a guy throws a combination and you say, “No… that’s wrong. You gotta do it like this.” Everybody wants to be fancy. I’m like, “If you fought like that a whole bunch of you guys would be world-champions.” I had a guy come to me and he said, “Buddy, I want you to hold the mitts like the, Mayweather’s.” I said, “Well look, I think if you leave right now, you can catch a flight to Vegas.” You came to the wrong guy, man. You don’t fight that way, so why would you train that way. “Oh, it looks good.” Yeah, till someone gets in yo ass and then it’s a whole different ball game. Floyd does that for the cameras, but behind the scenes, it’s Roger and his dad and it ain’t about all that. A lot of people overlook that. I don’t because I came from the old school, so I watch. Watch his dad with him on the heavy bag. He ain’t throwing those combinations on the heavy bag. His dad is showing him what to do and how to do it right. People overlook that. they just look at the mitts. It’s like, “Yo man, that’s choreography like a mama jamma.” I really haven’t seen good choreography like some of these guys since, “Thriller.”

When you received the call to train, Sergey Kovalev, were there any reservations given some of the things being said about him, or are you like me and you draw your conclusions from your interactions with a person opposed to reputation?

Buddy McGirt: Exactly! I heard so much shit. The funny thing was, every time I seen him at fights and I’m talking years ago, we would talk, laugh and bullshit. But at the same time, you’re hearing stuff. I gotta meet the person first. Maybe you gave them a bad vibe and maybe that’s why they acted the way they did with you. I can’t judge nobody on that. I gotta judge how they treat me. And when I met with him, the first thing he did that really impressed me was, he took all the blame for his loss to, [Eleider] Alvarez. He said, “Buddy, I’m not blaming nobody. I messed up. I just need your help to get it back on track,” and I said, “No problem.”

He told me how he used to fight as an amateur. And then one day he sent me a video of one of his amateur fights. I said, “Yo, Sergey, can I ask you a question?” He said, “Yeah!” I said, “What happened to this guy?” He said, “Buddy, I started knocking people out, and I got away from it. I wanted to be “The Krusher.” I said, “Listen, one thing you gotta understand, you can be the smart, “Krusher.” And if you hit a motherfucker enough, they gonna drop and if they don’t drop the ref is going to stop the fight. But if you sit there looking for that one punch, before you know it the fights over.” So, I wanted to start putting them together, behind that left jab he has and that’s how you see what he got. And he started doing it. It took him awhile to get adjusted, but once he got back in his groove from his amateur days, he loved it. and then after that, I just started adding on to it and implementing things that I felt he could so and should do.

What do you see in Canelo Alvarez that makes you so confident in your fighter?

Buddy McGirt: Canelo is one hell of a fighter. I pick him with the top guys today, but without a doubt I see something. You just see certain things that a guy does and if you can take that away from them and give them this, probably be a different ball game. And my guy is the guy that can do it.

When Mikey Garcia moved up to fight Errol Spence, most felt Errol would attempt to steamroll him and not let off the gas. He took a different approach and dominated the fight. He decided to use his length, his jab and made the fight easy. Is that a fight you are watching closely?

Buddy McGirt: Basic! Errol kept it basic. It’s being the better man and the smarter man because being the bigger man sometimes will get you knocked out. You can’t have that mentality that I’m bigger. No! We gotta be smarter and we gotta be better. Errol Spence just kept it basic and believe it or not, when you get the basics down pat, most people can’t handle the basics. They looking for all of this other crap and you just, “Bop-bop-bop-bop,” before you know it, 12-rounds is up. It’s basic shit and people overlook it.

At this stage in Sergey’s career, coming up on a huge fight, what do you look for in him to let you know he’s on point?

Buddy McGirt: Not to get lazy. Sometimes when you got things going your way, you have the tendency to get laxed. I don’t care if you have to throw 15,000 jabs, then do that. Continue to keep that same focus until the fights over. In the, Yarde fight, he got lazy in the 7th and 8th round and you saw what happened. But then he went right back and took control again with the jab and you saw what happened. With Canelo, we gotta stay sharp and on point for one hour. One hour! Stay sharp with him for one hour because there is no overtime or extra innings. I need one hour, and he will be great.

What makes Canelo so special?

Buddy McGirt: He’s a hell of a fighter. His trainer has done a great job with him. I praise them. After the Mayweather fight, he became a better fighter. What he does to these guys is what Mayweather did to him. Mayweather came out early and earned Canelo’s respect. And then he started boxing. And then by round 9 or 10, Canelo is like, “Wait a minute, I might can win this fight, but then it’s too late. So, Canelo, when he fights these guys, he comes out and gets respect early. You’re going to dance to my tune. You’re going to dance to my beat. And they do. But now, this kid is not going to dance to his beat. We’re going to dance to our own beat. We’re going to see who gets who to dance to the beat of their music (laughing) because that’s what’s going to win the fight. And training camp started last week. I’m in front of the gym now waiting to get started.

 

 


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