Interview: Ross Enamait
1) Hello Ross, please introduce yourself with one sentence.
I am a hard working husband, father, trainer, and coach who hopes to never live a life that is boring enough to summarize in one line.
2) Looking at your boxers, how important is it for a weak beginner to get base strength for boxing?
Although it may make for good reading, there is no generic answer to this question. Each fighter that enters the gym is unique. Combat sports are as individualized as any. For example, a fighter whose natural style and temperament is built for brawling will have different strength needs from the pure boxer who would rather stay outside and work behind his jab. What makes sense for one athlete may not make sense for another.
In addition, I have seen physically weak fighters enter the gym with natural punching power. I have also seen physically strong fighters enter the gym who could hardly crack an egg. Each fighter is a unique case that must be evaluated individually. There is no single approach that makes sense for each fighter that enters the gym.
I say this not to suggest that a general base of strength cannot be useful, but instead as a reminder that strength training is often over-emphasized by strength coaches today. Strength training for a fighter is a small supplement to the overall routine, not the primary means of training. The most important work that a boxer will ever perform takes place with the gloves on. The sport itself is physically demanding and is the most significant part of training.
Beginners enter the gym with a steep learning curve to tackle. Certain fighters will need several months just to master the left hook. Therefore, while a strength base can prove useful, it must not come at the expense of the actual sport training. Strength must be developed gradually as a secondary objective. Attempting to rush the process will almost always lead to delays in skill development.
3) How do you progress your fighters? Do you approach a beginner in the same fashion you approach a champion contender? Or is there something that you do differently with beginners and champions respectively, except of course for scaling weights and training intensity?
Fighters progress through fighting more so than anything that ever occurs inside the gym. Speaking as a boxing trainer, when I consider a prospective opponent for one of my fighters, I look at what he has accomplished inside the ring. For instance, I look at his amateur background, who he has fought as a pro, and how active he has been in recent months.
No one cares how much weight a fighter lifts or how many pull-ups he can perform. We want to know what the fighter can do inside the ring. The best way to gauge progress is by observing the fighter’s sparring as well as his actual bouts. A fighter should improve with each bout. Nothing is as important to a fighter as actual ring time and competitive experience.
As for the novice vs. champion contender, beginners naturally require more work in the mental department. It is not uncommon for beginners to be quite nervous when sparring or fighting. They are dealing with anxiety and fear that the more seasoned fighters have learned to control. And it is these mental aspects which make real experience so critical. The gym will never prepare a novice fighter for the emotions that are experienced when fighting a stranger in front of a large crowd. True experience is earned one fight at a time. There are no shortcuts.
4) Who are the people that inspired you to get into this? What inspired you about fighting?
I have been involved in athletics my entire life. I am naturally competitive so I truly believe my fighting spirit is innate. It is not something that was developed or inspired. It was always there. With that said, I grew up watching legendary fighters such as Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler. It is difficult not to be inspired after watching some of their epic bouts throughout the 1980s.
5) What trainers have inspired your philosophy? For people that are interested to have a similar understanding as you have, what are must reads, must watches and must things that are important for an understanding of training?
I’ve had so many influences that it would be impossible to list them all. A few that come to mind are some of my previous trainers and mentors such as Rollie Pier, Harry Figueroa, Pepe Vasquez, Cisco Zayas, and Kent Ward. These are all men that I was around in the boxing gym as a young fighter. Much of my own style originates from the lessons that I learned from these men throughout my own fighting days. There is no book in the world that could teach me as much as I learned through hands on experience.
As for must reads, Corner Men by Ronald Fried is certainly a favorite of mine. It is always useful to learn from legendary trainers who were actually involved in the sport throughout their life (ex. Ray Arcel, Angelo Dundee, etc.). In today’s era, so much of what is published comes from individuals who lack real world experience. More and more online personalities seem to be professional writers as opposed to professional trainers.
As for must watches, there are too many to list. I’d start by looking back at some of the legendary fighters whose bouts are now available on sites such as Youtube. Never before has it been so easy to study legendary fighters from the past. I still remember studying old VHS tapes of former fighters when I was a youngster. Now I can sit behind the computer and watch fighters throughout the sport’s history with a quick search of the web.
6) One of the most important things as an athlete, as a fighter, is mental strength. What do you do with your fighters to develop their mental strength?
There are many ways to develop mental strength. With that said, there is a fine line between pushing your fighters and burning them out. As for methods, sparring is one of the most important tools for a fighter. A fighter must learn to box when he is tired. It easy to look sharp and box well in the early rounds. What truly makes a fighter is his ability to stay sharp despite fatigue. Great fighters fight with a poker face. No one knows how tired they actually are. Developing this ability takes time. You learn through sparring, actual fights, and of course hard work in the gym. At times, I push my fighters beyond their comfort zone to see how they will respond when faced with fatigue. It’s a gradual process that must be approached with care however. You cannot run your fighters into the ground each day and expect them to perform optimally. As a result, time is one of the most important variables in the development of a fighter. There is no fast way to develop a complete fighter. It takes years, not weeks or months.
7) What were the most enjoyable and worst training experiences of your life?
I do not rank training experiences as being good or bad. Each day of training presents the opportunity to learn or improve. For example, if I miss a lift that I expected to complete, it will cause me to evaluate what went wrong. And it is that temporary setback or failure that leads to future improvements.
Conversely, I also have had my share of good days when I achieved a personal best. I do not revel too much on such accomplishments however as doing so tends to impede future development. To stay successful, you must remember what it took to become successful. For me, that means coming back each day hungry for more. While I thoroughly enjoy the daily grind, I am never satisfied with what I have achieved. I constantly crave new challenges. My approach to life is to never settle.
8) How do you deal with bad days? How do you help your fighters get through these times of life we just cannot avoid, where shit just isn’t going the way we want it and we feel like quitting?
I remind my athletes that everyone has bad days. I am never ashamed to admit that I have had plenty myself. I have also been in training camps with some of the best fighters in the world and even they have bad days where unheard of sparring partners get the best of them. Having a bad day simply confirms that you are human. Anyone who pretends to never have bad days is either lying or doesn’t train hard enough to find out.
If you train hard, an occasional bad day comes with the territory. It is part of the process. If becoming a great athlete was easy, everyone would do it. In the real world, it does not work that way. It is a tough grind where you must be physically and mentally strong. If you are not prepared to deal with bad days, you are not prepared to succeed.
9) This question might sound a bit weird. But if you had a small, beneficial ghost sitting on your shoulder that would have gone with you your whole life and observed you, what would he tell us, if we asked him, is different now than 10 years ago? What would he say where have you gotten stronger? What were hard times you really fought to overcome and what would he have seen how you have done it?
The biggest difference between who I am now and who I was ten years ago is that I am a father to two amazing children. Becoming a parent changes everything. I hardly remember what it was like to live without children. Looking at them is almost like having my heart beat inside another body. My life revolves around caring, teaching, and providing for my family. If you do not have children of your own, it is difficult to comprehend the impact that they have on our lives.
As for dealing with adversity and tough times, it is part of life. At some point, we all experience loss and struggles. It is part of the human process. As a father however, I must be the example that I want my children to follow. When tough times occur, I think of my family first. I need to be here for them, so I put my own thoughts and emotions on hold. How I feel is of secondary importance. As I said before, my life revolves around my children. I need to be strong for them before I think of myself.
10) Ok, almost the final question. This one comes from a friend who tends to use it in his research a lot: If you would describe training and your journey in an artistic way, maybe as a metaphor, as a picture, maybe a score of music or a sculpture, what would that be? Don’t worry, I’m not gonna ask you to draw.
I would describe my journey as an endless mountain. I am always trying to climb higher. I am never satisfied where I am and always believe there is more to accomplish. Yet despite my desire to climb higher, I can look around and enjoy the scenery of where I am on the mountain. I enjoy each step of my journey.
Thank you Ross for this inspiring Interview.
Folks make sure to check out Ross’ Blog: http://rosstraining.com/blog/