One man stands out for Trainer of the Year

One man stands out for Trainer of the Year
By Kevin Iole, Yahoo Sports
December 19, 2007

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
There's been a trend in the last decade or so of trainers becoming bigger celebrities than the boxers they coach.

Emanuel Steward has a higher profile than just about any active fighter not named De La Hoya or Mayweather, and Freddie Roach has become such an in-demand trainer that he's the only man guiding more than one fighter in the Yahoo! Sports top 10.

The cigar-chomping Buddy McGirt is a magnet for boxing writers, while ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas repeatedly is mentioned as one of the sport's elite coaches despite rarely training a fighter these days.

And Floyd Mayweather Sr., of course, bills himself as the world's greatest trainer.

But the top trainers from 2007 hold a decidedly lower profile than those illustrious men, as Enzo Calzaghe, Jack Loew and Evangelista Cotto wouldn't be recognized in a crowded room by most boxing fans.

None of them overshadows his fighter. But all three were instrumental in the success that their men had in 2007.

"At the end of the day, it's the fighter who's getting in there and fighting and he's the one who should get the credit," said Jack Loew, the Youngstown, Ohio-based trainer who guided Kelly Pavlik to the middleweight title. "But they can't do it themselves. They need someone to look out for them."

And in 2007, no one looked out for their men better than Calzaghe, Loew and Cotto. Calzaghe trains his son, Joe, the WBA-WBC-WBO super middleweight champion, who is No. 3 on the Yahoo! Sports list of the world's greatest fighters.

But Enzo Calzaghe's list of fighters extends far beyond his son. He also guides the career of WBA super lightweight champion Gavin Rees and WBO cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli.

Loew trained Pavlik from the first day he pulled on a pair of gloves in a cramped gym on Youngstown's south side. Cotto, meanwhile, always has been the man in the corner of his nephew, unbeaten WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto.

Collectively, boxers Calzaghe, Pavlik and Miguel Cotto are 107-0 with 86 knockouts, which says a lot about them but just as much about their trainers.

Enzo Calzaghe is a one-time soccer star who demands fitness from his athletes and, at 58, is still more fit than many professional fighters. His teachings are a derivative of things he's learned from watching Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler.

His son is able to fight coming forward or going back, the way Ali could do so masterfully. He's quick and can fire hard, accurate punches blazingly fast, the way Leonard did during his Hall of Fame career. And he fights out of the southpaw stance like Hagler, the legendary former middleweight champion.

Enzo Calzaghe, though, isn't in the business of producing clones, and his products all have unique styles.

"When I get a kid when he's 8 or 9 years old, I can give him A to Z my style, which is different than they can get anywhere else in the world," he said. "But if a guy comes to me and he's looking to kind of be polished up and take the final steps, what I'll do with him is not start over, but take what he has and add to it with my philosophy."

Loew had his own philosophy, but few knew what it was because once it became obvious that Pavlik could be a contender, there were many in the game who were urging the fighter to change trainers.

But Pavlik was loyal to Loew and Loew remained dedicated to Pavlik. Their devotion for each other paid off during a year in which Pavlik scored resounding victories over Jose Luis Zertuche, Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor and went from a guy who couldn't get HBO to think twice about him to a guy who now is must-see TV.

"It's opened a lot of doors for me," Loew said of his success with Pavlik. "A lot of people are talking to me about working with their kids and that never used to happen before."

It's going to happen more for all three men, because their charges not only are successful, but fundamentally sound. And that, in large part, is thanks to the years of TLC they received from their trainers.

But the best of the best in 2007 is Enzo Calzaghe, who separated himself from an elite field not only by leading his son to an impressive unification victory over previously unbeaten Mikkel Kessler, but for bringing Rees up from a six-rounder fighter to a world champion and positioning Maccarinelli as the world's best cruiserweight.

Enzo Calzaghe's work in 2007 was every bit as masterful as his son's. For that, he is the Yahoo! Sports Trainer of the Year for 2007.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007 10:00 pm, EST

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