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Boxing Trainers in the Crosshairs: Yoel Judah and Robert Garcia

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  • Boxing Trainers in the Crosshairs: Yoel Judah and Robert Garcia

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Barring a last-minute reprieve by the government of Australia which seems highly unlikely, Bill Haney won’t be in his son’s corner this weekend when Devin Haney takes on George Kambosos Jr in Melbourne with the undisputed world lightweight title at stake. Australia has very tight restrictions when it comes to approving visa applications. Anyone with a rap sheet is routinely denied. Bill Haney served time in a federal prison on a 1992 drug conviction. Although that was many years ago -- Devin wasn’t even born yet – it makes the elder Haney persona non grata in the Land Down Under.

    Also missing will be prominent British boxing coach Ben Davison who has other obligations. Davison was in Devin Haney’s corner for his two most recent matches against Jorge Linares and Jojo Diaz. Davison was brought on as a strategist; as someone with a sophisticated eye who could recommend adjustments, if needed, during the heat of battle.

    Enter Yoel Judah (pictured). He will be Devin Haney’s chief cornerman in Melbourne, taking on the role previously held by Devin’s father going back to Devin’s pre-teen days as an amateur.

    Yoel Judah, born Robert Harvey, had his 15 minutes of fame in April of 2006 when he exchanged punches in the ring with his opposite cornerman Roger Mayweather. The tempest began in the 10th frame when Yoel’s son Zab Judah hit Floyd Mayweather Jr low and then hit him on the back of the head as he was doubled over. Uncle Roger entered the ring, Yoel Judah came out of Zab’s corner to meet him, and the fur started flying. The melee, which also involved Roger’s assistant Leonard Ellerbe, lasted almost 10 minutes before the fight was resumed. The last two rounds were uneventful and Mayweather won a unanimous decision.

    The Nevada Athletic Commission came down hard on the belligerents. Yoel was fined $100,000 and had his license revoked.

    Yoel Judah was reportedly a six-time national kickboxing champion. He dabbled in boxing as a competitor, going 1-1 as a pro, but has a strong boxing bloodline. He is the nephew of the late Johnny Saxton, a two-time world welterweight champion in the 1950s.

    Yoel, who is now in his mid-60’s, is very well-known in his native Brooklyn where he taught boxing, wrestling, and MMA to underprivileged boys and developed several New York Golden Gloves champions. Three of his sons fought professionally, most notably Zab who won world titles at 140 and 147 pounds. Among others, Yoel was also involved with Shannon Briggs and, more recently, Denis Douglin.

    As Keith Idec noted in a 2011 story for the Hackensack (NJ) Record, Zab Judah, who was looked upon as the next Pernell Whitaker coming out of the amateur ranks, is considered an under-achiever despite winning world titles in two weight classes.

    At age twenty-three, Devin Haney (27-0, 15 KOs) has a long career ahead of him, but he too will be tarnished with the label of under-achiever if he fails to get past Kombosos who is the underdog despite having the home-field advantage. (The odds have declined with Haney, at last look, a consensus 17/10 favorite.)

    Is Yoel Judah feeling the pressure? If so, will that affect the mindset of Devin who is accustomed to having a large entourage around him and doesn’t have that luxury in hostile Melbourne?

    Robert Garcia

    In something of a surprise move, Anthony Joshua has picked Robert Garcia to be his chief trainer for his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk tentatively scheduled for July 23 in Saudi Arabia. Joshua was previously handled by Robert McCracken who guided him to an Olympic gold medal and remained with him through two title reigns.

    As is the case for Yoel Judah, boxing for Robert Garcia is a family affair. He was mentored by his father Eduardo Garcia. Under Eduardo’s tutelage, he won the IBF 130-pound world title in 1998. He lost the belt to Diego “Chico” Corrales on a seventh-round stoppage and retired from boxing two years later with a record of 34-3.

    Eduardo and Robert Garcia and Robert’s baby brother Mikey Garcia put the city of Oxnard, California, on the boxing map. During his heyday, Mikey Garcia, who won world titles in four weight classes, was recognized as arguably the sport’s most technically proficient campaigner. He was on virtually everyone’s pound-for-pound list before suffering a lopsided defeat at the hands of Errol Spence Jr.

    Robert Garcia’s headquarters, formerly in the seaside community of Oxnard, now sits on a hill in the Inland Empire city of Riverside. The number of prominent boxers that have sparred at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy is too long to list and there is now an annex in San Antonio, Texas.

    Over the years, Robert Garcia has been associated with 17 world title-holders, but most were Mexican and Mexican-American fighters in the smaller weight classes; none were heavyweights. Anthony Joshua was faulted for trying to out-box Oleksandr Usyk rather than utilizing his superior size to rough him up. Garcia, 47, is expected to try and refashion Joshua into more of an alpha-male. He will go to the U.K. to train the former heavyweight kingpin, rather than the other way around.