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The Man Behind the Man: RSR Talks with Canadian Boxing Trainer Chris Amos

Interview by Mike Plunkett

“I was always the man behind the man. I was always the one behind it” – Chris Amos

Over the last 30 years I’ve watched some very good local fighters make a name for themselves across Canada and in a few cases abroad. So often I’ve heard it said that if a Canadian fighter wants to make it they need to go to the United States or even overseas, but the reality is we tend to forget where that talent came from and how it was first cultivated, overlooking the fact that some of the best teachers of pugilism reside here in Canada. In my ongoing quest to represent RSR to interview some of the more celebrated Canadian prizefighters of the last quarter century, to find out where they came from at the grass roots level, I was brought into the loop on a man that had a knack for both doing and teaching, Mr. Chris Amos.

Having been handed the details on a friendship that ultimately served as a linchpin to both the Canadian and Commonwealth titles, it turned out there was a story behind the story, on the man behind the fighter. Sitting down and speaking with Chris Amos, one quickly gets a sense of the passion he has for boxing, not only as a world-class trainer but also as a fan. His enthusiasm and insight into the sport spills over when discussing the relevant names of both today and yesteryear. For me it was both a pleasure and an honor to chat with one of Canada’s most knowledgeable boxing minds, to get a sense of the grounded strength behind some of today’s top Canadian talent and what could lie ahead not far down the road.

MP: You were born in Guyana and later moved to Canada. How did you get your start in boxing?

I was born in Guyana and moved to Canada when I was 12 years-old. Way back, my family in Guyana, my uncle was an Olympian and a champion in Guyana. He was at the 1968 Olympics games. We used to watch him train; he used to get us up, my brother and I, and take us running and to the gym. It just stuck. My mother also used to be in the game. She used to box. I had quite a few uncles in it.

MP: Recently in an interview with RSR, former Canadian and Commonwealth welterweight champion Donovan Boucher told us that you were a very good amateur fighter. Tell us about your career.

I like to think I was a very good amateur, I could hold my own with the best of them. I started when I was 12 when I first came to Canada. I used to get into fights at school so I used to be in the principal’s office all of the time. I had to find an outlet, so my mother took me down to the boxing club and that was it. I fought from lightweight to welterweight. I won an Ontario championship, Golden Gloves. I had close to 70 fights. I lost maybe around ten or so.

MP: Tell us about your work today as a trainer, bringing up young fighters and cultivating talent here in Toronto.

Toronto has a lot of good fighters, talented kids. All they need is technique and somebody to show them how, and once they become dedicated I will give them the time. As long as they want to do it and their heart is willing I will show them the know-how.

MP: As a trainer, somebody that takes a person from scratch and over time turns them into a fighter, what is it you initially look for in them that tells you they have potential?

Yes, I like to look at a person; the character and the drive. They have to want it more than me. If they want it more than me then I will show up. A lot of fighters say they want to do it but they don’t want to put in the time and effort.

MP: Working as a trainer and conditioning coach, there has to be a lot more to it than just the physical aspect. Does the training include working on a given fighter’s mindset over time as much as anything else, and if so, what is your approach?

It’s mental also; making them think that they can do it, conditioning their mind, forging their mind to go through the process.

MP: Touch on some of the prospects you are working with today and what we as fans can watch for.

My cousin, two-time Olympian Troy Ross, he’s ranked #3 in the world. He’s one of the most fare cruiserweights and he fought for the IBF title last year against Steve “USS” Cunningham back in June. We had him down but Cunningham got up and thumbed him and they called it off and ruled it a technical win. It’s tough for us to get a fight with the top-15 fighters in the world, but they can’t escape us, we’re right there.

I’ve worked with some good fighters. Donovan Boucher was my first champion, from scratch. I’m the type of guy that builds them right from the ground up. I’ve worked with my little brother, Egerton Marcus, 1988 Olympic silver medalist. I’ve worked with Lennox Lewis, former three-time World heavyweight champion. Everybody knows Lennox as a professional and they think he was already made, but I advised him. I’ve worked with the late Trevor Berbick, a former WBC heavyweight champion. I had a few fights with him, Conroy Nelson, the former Canadian heavyweight champion. I’ve been lucky to work with some good fighters and I’m blessed.

MP: You are conditioning coach, trainer and chief strategist for former Contender champion Troy “The Boss” Ross, what do you foresee for him in over the next year? There have been rumors of a super six tournament for the cruiserweight division. Where does Troy Ross fit into that?

They don’t want him in that tournament. He’s one of the most feared cruiserweights out there today. Nobody is quick to fight him, and I don’t blame them. We’re in a position where we could fight anybody and we are not afraid to fight anybody on the planet; we will go there – we will go where they are. Sometimes you can be too good for your own good. Troy was the Canadian cruiserweight champion and was stripped because there was nobody to fight him. He was Commonwealth champion, again, no one to fight him. Even the commissioner here said he’s too good for the Canadian champion to fight. He’s too good. So sometimes you can be too good for your own good.

MP: You and I briefly touched on the fact that there was a lot of talent in the fight game being brought up by low profile trainers and that credit for their development was being attributed to higher profile names. Touch on that.

Most definitely, it happens all the time. Guys like Emanuel Steward and all these trainers, what happens is they don’t develop fighters; a lot of these fighters they work with are already made. The trainers who start and develop them don’t usually end up on fight night with them. They usually get bamboozled, and these big name trainers, because they are known, take the credit and the limelight. My fighter Troy Ross, when we were on The Contender, a reality boxing series, we went down to Foxwoods Connecticut to fight for the eliminator for the series title. What happened was at the time they had a few top-name trainers there that they wanted to take my spot. I was the one who had got Troy ready before we went down to the tournament. On fight night they just want to take over. Tony Danza was there, some of the top names, John Bray; everybody wants to take credit, credit for my time and work. They didn’t even mention my name. All I heard was that John Bray’s fighter did well. No! I’m the one that showed him everything and got him ready. It’s like John Lennon said, “I’m not the only one”.

MP: What gym do you currently work out of?

I work out of the Bramalea Boxing Club. It’s usually one and one. Me and Troy, it’s one and one. When I had Donovan, it was one and one. We are not fancy but we get the job done.

MP: To date, with your efforts in the sport relative to the fighters you work closely with, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished in this sport. Of course Troy Ross is my first cousin. Egerton Marcus is my little brother, so watching them go through the Olympics, getting them ready and observing the whole process, that’s very satisfying. Watching Donovan, we went back all the way to Grade 6; following me down to the gym where I started training him. I took him down to the Cabbagetown Boxing Club. I was always the man behind the man. I was always the one behind it.

If they really want to get the job done right they come and see me. Fighters might call me for advice. I was recently talking to former WBA World light welterweight champion Vivian Harris; giving him some advice on how he can get better at it. The problem today is, they have a lot of so-called trainers, over there, trust me, they just B.S. their way through it. Boxing evolution, it’s science now. It’s more than just physical or how strong you are; it’s not a body building contest. It’s the art of fighting without fighting. That’s what I teach. That’s an old quote from Bruce Lee; fighting without fighting.

MP: The much talked about Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather JR bout – who do you favor should it ever come off?

Well, the inactivity on Floyd’s part can be a big problem. I’ve watched both guys and the skill level of Floyd is amazing, and also Pacquiao has so much heart and he punches so much. But when I compare how Mayweather fought Juan Manuel Marquez, how he slowed him down, how he later slowed down ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley, quick, fast guys that throw a lot of punches, the way he slowed them right down and brought them to his pace, when he does that he takes over. It’s like night and day. I love how he (Floyd) thinks in the ring. He can make adjustments; he’s not one-dimensional, so that will pose a big problem for anybody out there. But inactivity in this game can kill. Hopefully they both get their differences aside and get on with the fight before they both get old.

As far as the testing, there must be a reason why Floyd is so aggressive in pursuing it, the blood test. And I think it’s fair to him; if he’s saying if you can do it, I’m willing to do it myself. He’s not excluding himself from it. So it must mean something, you know what I mean?

MP: You worked extensively with Lennox Lewis back in the day. How would Lennox Lewis vs. Riddick Bowe have gone down had they met?

Let me tell you, Lennox would have taken him out. That’s the reason why Bowe didn’t take the fight, that’s why he threw his WBC belt in the garbage can. Let me tell you, Lennox, I’ve known him for years, but there’s a side to him, if you cross him, he could be deadly. And Riddick Bowe really crossed him and it wouldn’t have been nice.

MP: In my opinion Lewis would have won within three rounds.

Oh yeah, most definitely. He was going to flatten him, Trust me.

MP: Tell us of your involvement in films.

I was Mr. T’s stunt double in the old show T & T. I doubled Charles S. Dutton. I did a few films with him. I doubled Anthony Anderson. I doubled a guy named Reginald Johnson from Family Matters. Oh yeah, I doubled all those guys. I’ve been in so many films; Mimic, Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal, Cinderella Man.

MP: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I’ve got to give God thanks; I’m just blessed. I’m a full-time Carman mechanic (railroad passenger car repair), I work for CN Rail. I’ve been there for thirty years. Whatever I do I give it a 100%. If I’m on the railroad, I’m giving it 100%. If I’m teaching boxing, I leave the railroad alone and I give it 100%. If I’m doing a film, I leave the railroad and I leave the boxing and I give it 100%. Whatever I’m doing I give it 100%. I separate it and I’m at one with anything I do. There’s a lot more to come. I’ve been lucky so far.

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