Today, the term “training camp” for boxing is used in a much broader sense than it used to be.
Historically, it referred to a designated location that a fighter would relocate to, in preparation for an upcoming fight. Typically, it was away from home and was set up in a more secluded, remote area. The fighter and their team distanced themselves from any outside distractions or comforts of home, to focus more strictly on their preparation.
That isn’t as much the case these days, as fighters have adapted the definition to simply mean that; they have set aside a certain period to train, at a greater intensity level and with a specific purpose, leading up to a fight.
Escaping to more traditional “camps” still happens, but it isn’t as common as it used to be. There are obvious benefits to both. Giving up your routine, separating yourself from your family and sacrificing the comforts you’re used to enjoying, can create an added “edge” to your demeanor. It also distances you more from friends, casual onlookers and day-to-day distractions that rob you from focusing on anything other than 100% preparing yourself for combat.
There have been many traditional training camps throughout history that might have benefitted their fighters by providing a secluded setting.
Ali, specifically, set up his Deer Lake retreat (Deer Lake, Pennsylvania) to distance himself from all the pressure and press he endured after his two-year exile from boxing. Among its many amenities, the “Fighter’s Heaven”, as Ali called it, had eighteen various buildings on property, a large, log gymnasium, a dining hall, bunkhouses for his sparring partners, a small mosque for daily prayer and smaller, individual cabins for the various members of his staff. Ali prepared for many of his most epic battles on those grounds.
Archie Moore trained and helped train others at a Spartan-like stretch called “Archie Moore’s Salt Mine.” The camp was in Ramona, California at the base of Mt. Woodson. It featured miles of trails for roadwork, several homes and a big barn for sparring, that was known as the "Bucket of Blood.”
Later in his career, Sugar Ray Leonard discovered and set up training camp in the Pocono Mountains, in Pennsylvania. He felt that he benefitted from the fresh air, elevation and it provided the right amount of separation. It allowed him to distance himself from the day-to-day demands of the public, but still provided a more pleasant, picturesque setting.
Similarly, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler often isolated himself in Cape Cod, with his team and sparring partners, to focus exclusively on training. “The point of the training camp is to get away,” said Hagler. “It’s like putting yourself in jail. It’s not a question of liking it. It’s a question of having to do it.”
An example of a, somewhat, typical routine during these types of secluded camps, would have had Hagler training two times each day, six days a week. During his most intense training preparations Hagler would wake up at 7am and begin his days with roadwork, running six miles in the freezing Cape Cod winter.
More modern-day fighters, like Oscar De La Hoya and Gennady Golovkin have made Big Bear (Big Bear Lake, CA.) their escape from outside demands on their attention. Famous for its privacy and providing the benefits of training at a higher altitude, Big Bear gained widespread popularity, especially through the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Setting time aside, getting in “fight mode” and just altering your routine from your current environment, while staying close to home, works better for others. You have a support system in place, you are training in an environment you’ve already established, and you don’t have to spend more money to uproot your entire team.
There are endless examples of both schools of thought and approaches. It, likely, comes down to what works for the athlete. Discipline and the ability to focus is really what matters the most, regardless of where a fighter is or what they’re doing.
If a person’s mind is right and the goal is clear, the work doesn’t change. Real training camp happens where the effort takes place.