Bruce Trampler's job seems so easy that, well, every now and then, I get to thinking I can do it.
It's not so easy, though. Being a boxing matchmaker is one of the most difficult, unappreciated and thankless jobs in the world.
Trampler just makes it look so simple, the way Joe DiMaggio made baseball appear like a breeze, that a lot of guys who sit in front of a television with a beer and a bag of chips think they can do it as well, or better.
Trampler, 58, may be the best at his craft who's ever lived. He'd gag at the thought, since he holds his mentor, the late Hall of Famer Teddy Brenner, in such esteem.
He's good enough at it, though, that he's built Top Rank into the sport's dominant promotional company, largely with his shrewd eye for talent and understanding how to build stars and champions.
Top Rank continues to churn out quality young fighters, primarily because Trampler understands who can fight and who can not.
"No fight is made in this company unless Bruce gives it his blessing," said his boss, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.
Arum is already a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It's about time that he's joined by his long-time matchmaker, who was instrumental in building fighters such as Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik into champions.
Don Chargin, a consultant for Golden Boy Promotions and a Hall of Fame matchmaker with a resume equal to anyone, said few have ever understood styles the way Trampler has.
"If this guy isn't a Hall of Famer, I don't know who is," Chargin said. "Bruce understands how a fighter's style will fit with another. He's a matchmaker who doesn't try to act like a manager. He tries to put on good fights."
Importantly, though, that doesn't mean always putting his fighters in with the toughest guy on the block. He has an uncanny knack for exposing his fighters to a variety of styles and pushing them progressively harder each time out.
Trampler said the process of building a fighter isn't particularly complicated. As a fighter develops, Trampler tries to make certain the boxer is not surprised by anything he sees in the ring by the time he's ready for the main events.
His goal is that by the time the fighter matures into contender status, he's seen left-handers and right-handers, fast-handed fighters and power punchers and everything in between.
"You don't want to throw batting practice, but you also don't want to throw them knuckleballs," Trampler says, using a baseball analogy in describing his philosophy of bringing a young fighter along.
Chargin said Trampler has great patience and is willing to wait if he believes a fighter has a chance to one day become a star.
He praised Trampler for his development of Erik Morales, who is a cinch to be elected to the Hall of Fame after a career in which he won world championships at super bantamweight, featherweight and super featherweight.
"You'll never see Bruce take a fighter and put him in before his time," Chargin said. "Erik Morales is his masterpiece. Bruce saw something in the kid. (Morales) was really a borderline (main event) guy, but Bruce kept picking the right fights at the right time and Morales started to come. He waited until Morales had the experience and the confidence and then he turned him loose and look what he became."
Dean Chance, the 1964 American League Cy Young winner, is a longtime friend of Trampler's. He compared Trampler to a great baseball scout and said Trampler has an uncanny ability to pick out talent.
Some scouts, Chance said, will pick out guys who are lucky to make it to Double-A.
"But Bruce is like a (baseball) scout who goes out and finds guys like Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia and Grady Sizemore," Chance said.
Trampler understands that records are meaningless in boxing and a shrewd matchmaker can take a fighter who isn't particularly good and help him build a gaudy record. And he knows that just because a guy has a horrendous record doesn't necessarily mean he can't fight.
As Exhibit A, he points to Anthony Ivory, a middleweight who finished his career with a 33-78-5 record. Trampler said he decided that Ivory would be the perfect guy for Pavlik, now the middleweight champion but in late 2003 an unknown prospect, to fight. Pavlik was 18-0 and was blowing out everyone he fought in a round or two.
Trampler knew that Pavlik needed to go some rounds and to be extended and challenged, if he were ever to fulfill his potential.
He suggested to trainer Jack Loew and Pavlik's management team that Pavlik fight Ivory, who at the time was 29-66-4.
"There was a lot of bitterness and acrimony when I told them I wanted Kelly to fight Ivory," Trampler said.
They eventually relented and Ivory pushed Pavlik to his limits and took him the full eight rounds.
These days, Loew sings Trampler's praises to anyone who will listen.
Arum said he doesn't understand the logic in him being in the Hall but not Trampler. "Without Bruce, where is this company?" Arum said. "How can I be a Hall of Famer and Bruce is not? Without Bruce, I'm nothing."
Arum relies on Trampler's wisdom nearly all of the time. When managers call trying to push a young prospect, Arum instinctively orders them to send a DVD to Trampler. Arum, though, has promoted fights for more than 40 years. Occasionally, he resists Trampler's advice.
Most recently, Arum fell for a charismatic 6-foot-9 heavyweight named Tye Fields. Fields had a gaudy record compiled mostly by clobbering fighters much smaller, with little ability or who were way over the hill.
Arum became convinced he was a future champion and began including Fields on his television broadcasts.
Arum had Fields face veteran Monte Barrett on June 28 on a pay-per-view card. Barrett is hardly a significant factor in the division, but he stopped Fields in less than a round, ruining Arum's dreams.
"He told me (Fields) couldn't fight," Arum said. "That's the last time I'll ever doubt him. I've learned my lesson."
Hopefully, the folks who vote for the International Boxing Hall of Fame have learned theirs.
It's about time Bruce Trampler is selected.