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Otis Pimpleton Carries the Banner of the Mayweather Boxing Club to Latvia

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  • Otis Pimpleton Carries the Banner of the Mayweather Boxing Club to Latvia

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Otis Pimpleton is a fixture at the Mayweather Boxing Club but you won’t find him there this week. He’s in Riga, Latvia, 10 time zones away, where his trainee Andrew Tabiti opposes Yunier Dorticos on Saturday. The winner advances to the finals of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament.

    Pimpleton, who turns 52 tomorrow (June 14), has racked up some frequent flyer miles in recent years. In October of 2017 he was in Singapore with Muhamad Ridhwan who trained at the Mayweather Boxing Club for his match against Namibia’s previously undefeated Nataneal Sebastian. That excursion went well. Ridhwan won a fringe featherweight title with a 12-round unanimous decision. But Otis will tell you that he gets more satisfaction working with a young kid than with an established pro. In this regard he’s cut from the same cloth as his best friend, mentor, former roommate and idol Roger Mayweather who also preferred working with neophytes.

    Otis Pimpleton and the Mayweather brothers – Floyd, Roger, and Jeff – were neighbors in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Mayweathers lived right around the corner. Otis recalls that he was about seven years old when he first laced on a pair of gloves. His first teacher was a boy not quite eight years older than he. That would be Roger, still in his mid-teens and six years away from turning pro. Roger Mayweather was always a gym rat, always in the gym making himself useful, and that would be true until just recently when dementia set in, reducing him to a homebody.

    Another boy in the neighborhood was James Toney. Pimpleton and Toney, born one year apart, remain close friends. Pimpleton calls him his brother and there is an actual link there, albeit somewhat tangled, in their respective family trees. Pimpleton was in Toney’s corner, assisting head trainer Bill Miller, when Toney went into Michael Nunn’s bailiwick in Davenport, Iowa, in May of 1991 and fashioned one of the biggest upsets of the decade, stopping Nunn in the 11th round.

    James Toney went on to have a career that will put him in the Hall of Fame someday. Pimpleton’s pro career, which sputtered along from 1986 to 1997 with a one-fight comeback in 2003, was uneventful. He finished 5-7-2. But when all is said and done, it’s possible that he will leave a larger legacy through the achievements of the fighters he has trained.

    In high school Otis figured that if he had a future in sports it would likely be in basketball. He had scholarship offers from several mid-level programs. But they evaporated when he was arrested. The charge was attempted murder although Pimpleton insists that there was no weapon.

    While the case languished in the courts, Pimpleton, as a condition of his release, had to find steady work. The employment picture in Grand Rapids wasn’t good but Las Vegas, where Roger and Jeff had taken up residence, was booming. At Roger’s encouragement Otis moved here, finding work at the Las Vegas Hilton, first in housekeeping and then in room service.

    Juggling work with periodic visits back to Grand Rapids to see his probation officer interfered with his focus on boxing and he wasn’t able to build on his foundation as a state amateur champion. But when the Mayweather Boxing Club opened, Pimpleton found his calling, working side by side with the three Mayweather brothers, Floyd Sr. having joined the team following his release from prison.

    Otis was put in charge of the amateur program. He’s still involved while finding time to work with Andrew Tabiti and some of Tabiti’s Money Team pro stablemates such as Lanell Bellows and Juan Heraldez. He also checks in on Roger Mayweather on a daily basis even though Roger has a full-time caretaker. Moreover, Pimpleton is peeved that Roger Mayweather isn’t in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and intends to launch a campaign to rectify the “oversight.”

    Roger Mayweather won world titles at 130 and 140 pounds. He fought 12 world title-holders including Hall of Famers Pernell Whitaker, Kostya Tszyu, and Julio Cesar Chavez (twice). But what gets Roger over the hump, in Pimpleton’s estimation, is that he was Floyd Mayweather Jr’s head trainer for pretty much all of Floyd’s 50-0 career.

    In person, Roger Mayweather was earthy, if that’s the right word, favoring the argot of the gangsta rap lyricists to whose songs he shadow boxed, but beneath that exterior, if one took the time to know him, he was a student of boxing history, as conversant with the exploits of the two Grand Rapids fighters in the Hall of Fame, Stanley Ketchel and Wesley Ramey, as with his Grand Rapids contemporaries such as Tony Tucker and the aforementioned James Toney.

    Otis Pimpleton, who recalls watching movies of old fighters in the basement of the Mayweather home in Grand Rapids, knows this as well as anyone. It’s important to him that his dear friend gets recognized by the folks in Canastota, but at the moment there is a far more pressing concern, namely willing Andrew Tabiti to victory in Riga, Latvia.

    - - -

    Andrew Tabiti (17-0, 13 KOs) is undefeated. His match with Yunier Dorticos (23-1, 21 KOs) is the co-feature. In the headline attraction, hometown hero Mairis Briedis (25-1, 18 KOs) meets Polish southpaw Krzysztof Glowacki (31-1, 19 KOs). The WBO recently named Glowacki their cruiserweight champion, removing the interim tag. He assumes the mantle worn by Oleksandr Usyk who relinquished the belt. Briedis, whose lone defeat came at the hands of Usyk – a narrow decision – is favored to beat him. The Latvian is a consensus 12/5 favorite.

    If the odds are any indication, Andrew Tabiti will have his hands full with Dorticos. The Miami-based Cuban, nicknamed the KO Doctor, is favored by odds of 7/4. But Tabiti has looked very sharp in his sparring sessions at the Mayweather Gym and his team left Las Vegas brimming with confidence. His fight and the main go will be live streamed on DAZN.

    And what if Tabiti should win and then go on to win the Muhammad Ali trophy? Why then he would move up to heavyweight. It is what cruiserweights do. Otis Pimpleton previously tutored Michael Hunter who has made great headway since abandoning the cruiserweight division. If Andrew Tabiti can surmount his next two hurdles he will trod the same path. The heavyweight division is likely his final destination regardless.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel