The day before he was inducted into the Las Vegas Hall of Fame, I was visiting with legendary boxing referee, Richard Steele in his Las Vegas gym and the discussion came around to boxing styles. We ultimately landed on the topic of the late trainer, Eddie Futch’s approach to boxing. Not everyone knows it but, Richard Steele was actually a protégé of Futch's when he was still a boy and before he boxed in the Marines (on the same team as Ken Norton.) Richard shared the fact that Eddie Futch, who is most known for training world champions, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Michael Spinks, Alexis Arguello, just to name few, "Never changed a fighters style of boxing, he just added to what was already there." Steele examined that from the time he was with Futch, that he studied a boxer's strengths, watched a fighter’s personal technique and their unique style and simply built sound principles on top of that. This makes perfect sense; if you look at Futch's list of champions, their credentials and achievements and see that, although they were each highly successful, none of them really fought alike. They didn't have the same style. There may have had similar approaches, but not all were bob-and-weavers like Joe Frazier.
On the other hand, you can look at other reputable trainers and see that they have trained all of their fighters with the same approach, an approach that maybe doesn't work for all fighters, factoring in their physical strengths and shortcomings. Their system may have worked for a particular fighter or two, but their success was limited because fighters are each separate individuals with unique skills and physical attributes. You can't train every fighter who walks through your doors to be explosive and throw with “bad intentions” because not every fighter is gifted with speed, unbridled anger to seek and destroy and innate power.
Freddie Roach is a good example, especially since he notably learned under Futch's tutelage. Virgil Hill, Manny Pacquaio, Miguel Cotto and Ruslan Provodnikov do not fight the same. They have all been guided by Roach and improved under his approach, but they don't all adhere to one fighting style. But all are successful and have improved under his guidance. Strictly adhering to one, specific boxing style or training approach may work for one fighter, but seldom translates into success for all fighters. Styles make fights, but individual personality helps determine whether that style translates into success or not.
"That's what is missing from most good trainers today.” Richard finished, “Eddie was a strategist and could see what worked on a fighter. He was a good, smart man." And as we walked to the doors of the gym I got a notification on my phone. That very day was Eddie Futch’s birthday. He would have been 103. What a great day and perfect way to pay tribute and share his philosophy.