Nathan takes time out to learn from the best - by Pete Moscardi

It’s not every day that one receives an invitation to join the team of arguably the top boxing trainer in the world. But this was the ego-flattering compliment received by Colin Nathan when he recently attached himself to Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym in a “work shadowing” project. Nathan, trainer of IBO junior- flyweight champion, Hekkie Budler, and owner of the HotBox gym, tagged on a 12-day learning stint at Roach’s West Hollywood gym in Los Angeles after taking Budler to Laredo in Texas where he fought on the undercard of an IBF title fight.

Hekkie did not exactly shine against a tough Mexican journeyman opponent, but, as Nathan points out, he underwent a valuable learning curve in winning a 10-round points decision. “This turned out to be a tough fight against a very experienced
opponent – far tougher than we anticipated. But Budler is only 22-years-old and it was a good learning experience. He is still to reach his peak.

“Fighting in Laredo was a direct contrast to Johannesburg. We left in freezing winter temperatures and arrived in a city where the average daily temperature was 40 degrees Celcius. We had just 10 days to adapt to the very different conditions and to get over the jetlag,” Nathan says.

Explaining how he came to hitch up with the trainer of Manny Pacquiao and other top champions, Nathan said that he did this via email correspondence through
Roach’s personal assistant. “I sent an e-mail request asking if he would allow me to second myself to his gym as a learning experience, and I received a reply the following day in which he agreed to my request. As I had never previously met Freddie, I was thrilled with his prompt response.”

Nathan’s opening exchange of pleasantries when he first stepped through the doors of the Wild Card’s first-floor gym, are worth recording. “I told Freddie that I felt it was a great honour to be in the company of one of the world’s top trainers
and that I was very grateful for this opportunity. He is a very humble guy and his response was to say: ‘I just hang out with great fighters’. I said to him: ‘No, you’re wrong there. Great fighters hang out with you’

"The gym itself is not, says Nathan, anything to get excited about. It is in a very scruffy and run-down part of Los Angeles. West Hollywood is a rough and tough
part of the city and one has to push past down-and-outs, drug-pushers and prostitutes to get to the gym. It is located explains Nathan, on the first floor of a small shopping mall. “It has two rings, five heavy bags, three speedballs and two doubleend balls. It is only slightly larger than my own HotBox facility, but it
is run on highly professional lines and is crawling with world-rated fighters and champions,” he says.

Nathan explains the objective of this brief association when he says that what he wanted to get out of it was to see how Roach communicates with his fighters; to see how he conducts himself on the pads; to learn his technique of taping hands
and to obtain an overall perspective of his methods of coaching. “It was quite an expensive exercise as I was staying with my sister who lives a distance away from the gym and the return taxi fare amounted to $60 a day. However, it was worth every cent spent,” he says.

Although Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan were not training at the time, there were still numerous top class fighters working out under the watchful eye of Roach. “Wladimer Sidorenko, the former WBA bantam weight champion, Rodel Mayol, the
former WBC junior fly weight champion and Matthew Macklin, a worldrated Irish middleweight, were all training during my time there.” Nathan says that Roach devotes his personal attention to every fighter in his gym – with the facility being
open from 08:00 to 20:00, Monday to Friday.

Commenting on the benefits he gained from this tutorial episode, Nathan says: “I learnt things I would never have learnt here. Just as one example, his technique of
taping hands is far in advance to anything we do here.”

The highlight of the visit came on Nathan’s second last day in the gym. “I mentioned to Freddie that I wanted him to be my mentor and he responded by asking me to join his camp for Pacquiao’s training schedule for his fight against Antonio Margarito, and likewise his camp for Julio Cesar Chavez for his
forthcoming fight against Miguel Cotto.

Freddie left that night for the Ukraine to train a fighter there. But on my last day his personal assistant approached me and told me that Freddie really liked me and had made a serious offer for me to join him to undergo an apprenticeship.
I had to tell her that although this was a lifetime opportunity, my heart and my commitment were to my young son, to my boxers and to my gym and that I could not take myself away from these for months on end. I do, however, hope to be able to go back again some time in the future and join Freddie at one of his
training camps”, he said.