By Sylvana Ambrosanio

“You simply can’t teach heart. No way - Hated by some, loved by many more for the work I do with boxing.” stated close friend of SylvanaBoxing.com boxing trainer Ronald Harris who chats about his style of training, what makes their gym different and all things boxing, amateur and professional boxing, old school as well as female boxing including who we should be watching out for!

"Stay tuned to boxing on Sylvanaboxing.com, where you will grow into a world of boxing knowledge" says Harris.. Now it's time for you all to get to know St.Louis's own:

SA: Ronald, thanks for talking to SylvanaBoxing.com today, how are you?

RH: Pretty much same old same. Work, Boxing, training young men and women to box.

SA: How about we start off with you introducing yourself?

RH: Well I’m known as “Coach Ron” in the city of St.Louis, MO. Hated by some, loved by many more for the work I do with boxing. I’m approached quite often at my work place as a barber about boxing etc. Asking if I can help their son or daughter with discipline and concentration or make them tougher and sometimes punish them. (laughs)”

SA: Any projects you are involved with at the minute?

RH: Well projects for me can be helping an upcoming boxer go pro or working with new kids to become great amateurs. I am right now working with a young Puerto Rican kid named Kenny Cruz who is at the USA’s as we speak. I’m hoping he does well and comes out number one. Then after that we will look to the pros, either way we will look to the pros for him. Other projects are the 3 young ladies whom I absolutely love to train because of their will to learn something most only think boys should do.

SA: So when a young boxer first walks through your doors, what attributes do you first look for to see if there is potential? What skills will a boxer ultimately need to become a successful boxer right up to world level?

RH: I don’t judge them right out the gates. My other coach Keith Qawi and I start them on the runs and jump ropes and exercise first to see if they have the will to do those few things without complaining. Then soon after we work on footwork and the jab to establish number 1 first and make sure they know why the jab and foot work is important in a good fight or any for that matter. That is our number one rule.

SA: In your opinion, how much natural skill does a young up and coming boxer need to possess and how much are you able to teach them? Is a natural talent a necessity or can most skills be taught?

RH: Oh Wow. Good question. That’s a funny question. Because I see it in my head. Sometimes natural ability can work against the kids because they think they have the moves down already and the kids that haven’t got much of the ability learn the moves correctly and end up being better at it than the more natural of the two. Hope you got that. But for the most part. All of boxing is to be taught by trainers and coaches alike. Doesn’t matter how much natural ability you have, boxing is boxing and if you aren’t taught correctly. Sooner or later it will catch up to you. Start from the feet on up and you can’t go wrong. Not saying there aren’t trials for coaches and trainers. Sometimes we have tasks that even we don’t think we can over-come with certain body types and talents alike.

SA: We often hear people talking about how much “heart” a boxer has. What does this term mean to you?  

RH: You simply can’t teach heart. No way. But you can make it stronger with teaching skills in boxing and lots of encouragement. There are countless way to strengthen the heart of a youngster. Some have as we have discussed, natural ability but no heart, and some have all the heart in the world but no skills. I possess these attributes in my gym. But none the less, in my gym we treat them all as an equal because no one boxer is any more special to me than the next. A kid can lose the majority of his or her bouts and still receive the same love as the winners. Vice-versa, she or he could win them all and still be scolded for being too cocky or not listening to the corner. Either way, I love them all the same. Speaking of Heart, mine goes out to them all at all times.

SA: At what age do you think is an ideal age for someone to begin boxing? What is the best route for someone to take to get into the sport?

RH: All ages are capable of learning the sport and becoming a boxer or fighter. As you may already know, we have late bloomers in the sport all the time. One of my best friends whom I went to School with in Baumholder, Germany (Antonio Davis) started at age 29 and won the Pan Am games then went on to become a Title holder later on. I like to say 6, 7 or 8. Seven is good for learning, Eight is ideal for competition and maybe a little more advanced in the mind to learn. Of course some kids and adults learn faster than other so if you are a good trainer or coach. You have to be able to slow it down sometimes and make it repetitious to them and keep burning it in their heads. All you have to do is walk through those doors sign that sheet and ask who is the coach and from their our job is to see what your made of.

SA: How important is it for a fighter to have a long and active time in the amateurs in order for them to get the start and pedigree they need to become successful in the pro game?

RH: I’d like to say it’s a good start, few have gone on to become champions without sharing the ring with others who have come up through the amateur ranks and being successful there. Not everyone can be an Adrien Broner over night. I’m not saying you have to have 300 bouts to become a great fighter. But it would be wise to have some amateur bouts to learn how to compete mentally in our sport.

SA: Is it possible that someone could skip the amateurs or have a “fast-tracked” stint and move straight into the pro game?

RH: It’s possible to go pro with no amateurs bouts. But I can’t think of many that became champion of the top of my head. Most become the journey men of the sport and some make pretty good money. Donny Pendelton and Eon Gardner were two of my favorites.

SA: Can you tell us a bit about how you make your gym so successful? Are there any special training techniques that you teach that you only find at your gym?

RH: Oh wow this one’s going to get me in trouble. Remember I said “hated by many" (laughs) My other Coach Keith Qawi and I like to start from the floor up as I’ve said before. Most gyms have coaches that just put kids on a bag and let them punch, teach them the jab but not how to move their feet and head. We are all about foot work, head movement then punches, in that order. This is how we do it no matter who you are and what gym you come running from saying you boxed before. My other coach always tell them to show him their stance and from there he changes everything. He tell them I see they didn’t teach you shit. Most of the time he’s dead on and right about it. Really we do teach like no other gym in our city and that’s from the feet up. I won’t say we win them all but we do get over with skills the majority of the time.

SA: How does a day with you in a gym look like?

RH: A night in the gym with me can go from laughing to crying. I mean sometimes I joke with the little ladies and young men. Then I get serious and I’m a totally different person. They look at me like what the hells wrong with him. I’m hard on the pushups for punishment so it get intense and rough. My other coach can be non tolerant of B.S and he yells loud and he means it. Sometime even I straighten up, and I’m half the boss!

SA: Who is RONALD HARRIS outside of the boxing gym?

RH: Outside the gym I’m a father, husband, barber by trade. Great friend to many. I try to be a mentor not just to boxing kids. I also help some of my closest clients in the shop, to just any Joe off the streets. Whether it’s with a conversation picker upper, money, advice. Doesn’t matter. I’m a realist per say, So I strive to tell it like it is without sugar coating it too much. I’d give you the shirt off my back, to a room in my home if that’s what it will take to make you a better person and satisfy myself. Some say they don’t have to toot their own horn, but the hell with that. If I don’t tell you who I am, who will? I don’t care if you see it, I’m telling you anyways.

SA: We hear about “Old School Boxing” quite a lot, what does this term mean to you?

RH: Old school to me is not just about knowing the people who did it. As a trainer you have to know how it was done. This goes back to learning from the feet up. New school is about shoulder rolling which in my opinion get you face swollen if you aren’t taught from day one of boxing how to do it. Keeping the shoulder high on the jaw line and turning with the punches as they come. I personally don’t teach it to my youngsters because amateurs have a different way being scored. Old school is hands up and slipping and rolling, jabbing and punching by the numbers. Bernard Hopkins (Old school). He is old school to me. Safer than sorry even though old school used to come let it hang and bang. Teaching how to hit the bag, move around the ring with your hands up , speed bagging and good old pushup, sit-ups and jumping rope is all old school. I like it that way.

SA: Is there such thing as “Old School Training”? What are the differences between the training we see today to training “back in the day”?

RH: It’s all the same to me, just a few new tricks that some trainers like to add to make strength training and boxing a little more strenuous for the boxers and fighters. Lots of “want to be” trainers that want names try to add flair to what they are doing but in the end. It’s all still got to come down to how well you learned how to box. Like I said, even mitt work had to come down to how you are teaching boxers and fighter how to place their shots. Not just hit mitts fast and look good doing it. Old school and by the number 123 slip slip roll.

SA: Can you tell us about some of the boxers that you are currently training? What stage they are they at?

RH: Right now I have a gym full of up-coming good amateurs and even one who will be going pro maybe late summer. My young ladies are all doing well in the gym. They are all 14 to 16 and are a ball of fun to work with, they give me hope and make me realize if I can teach them I can teach anybody.(laughs) they are true lady warriors. Kent Cruz has made his way to the USA’s in Spokane Washington and soon after he wins that tourney he will be going pro.

SA: Christy Martin was the first female boxer to be shown on the PPV fight card. Do you feel that female boxing is supported strongly enough compared to male boxing and should it play a more prominent part on televised events?

RH: Female boxing is really not supported the way I’d like to see it. I have seen some really good fights lately and I think those ladies should be shown on PPV events as well. I train young ladies and help young ladies from all over the U.S. I’ve been to national female tourneys, sat through national tourneys during the female bouts and seen some good skills being used from all different cities. These ladies have coaches that really care enough to put some serious work into them. I first started with my own little lady 10 years ago. We went all over the place starting with the Junior Olympics. We made it all the way to the finals two years in a row when she was 15 and 16. By the time she turned 17 she was ready for the open division fighting much older ladies and we were winning on a regular till we ran into A nemesis (Melissa Roberts) (Hi Melissa…) But all in all these ladies made me realize they were special. Liz Leddy, Franchon Crews, Tyriesha Douglas, Tylor Lords Wilder, Christina Cruz, the Han Sisters, Tika Hemingway - to name a few I’ve worked with and spoken with. They all show skill at a national level that needs to be recognized and shown to the world at PPV championship levels.

SA: Do you feel that the sport is now more open to female boxers?

RH: You know what, being have gone to the nationals and hearing the gripes these ladies have, which are legitimate. I’m not sure how much love has been shown to the ladies other than watching the few I’ve seen get some pro titles and a little air time. They throw these titles around like rice at a wedding but don’t air them ladies on ESPN or Fox on a regular basis. The ladies went on to the Olympics but we didn’t get to see much of them. Besides, they changed some weight classes and dropped more than a few from the competition so most of the talent was wiped out in my opinion. There is a lot to say on that subject but I’d rather you interviewed one of the ladies on that subject so the full effect can get read by people like myself.

Coach Ronald and Lavale (To get to his interview click here)

SA: What is your thought on the current state of boxing? We hear people say that boxing is in decline. If it is, what do you think can be done to regain the popularity that boxing once enjoyed?

RH: We clearly have to get rid of those old ass Promoters and these want to be ass promoters trying to sign kids and they don’t know shot about boxing. This B.S ass judging we have going on. Boxing seemed to be making a decline to MMA but we managed to bounce back. We still have our up-coming faults like shitty judging and snakes on all ends from the boxers to the promoters. But I like to lead by example and try to be as honest as possible and maybe it will rub off on others in 100 years. We just have to put on good fights and give more fighters a chance other than just the ones who are showcased throughout the amateurs. Boxing is boxing.

SA: There seems to be a huge stigma attached to a boxer beating his unbeaten record. In your opinion, how important is it that a boxer has that all important “O” to his name?

RH: To me it isn’t that important. You win some and you lose some. But you have to win when it counts. Glenn Johnson showed us that and many other fighters. Rios just lost to a kid that has a lost. It’s good to have that “O”, but being a champion undefeated or defeated is the goal to have.

SA: Do you feel that people tend to overrate boxers too quickly these days?

RH: Some are overrated due to flashy boxing and poor opposition. But that’s where boxing is making a mockery of the throw backs. They fight less skilled fighters in the pros. That’s where the job of journeyman comes in at and take losses on purpose. But overrating boxers can be a fan thing more so. And most of those people don’t know shit bout boxing. Trainers don’t overrate I don’t think, but promoters do. Some Promoters def don’t know shit bout boxing.

SA: Can you name a few up and coming boxers/prospects that you feel our readers should be paying close attention to? Anyone that you may be involved with?

RH: Now that’s a big order to fill so I’ll keep it in STL. Stephon Young, Derrick Murray, Troy White, Keandre fast hands Gibson, Danny Williams may be back. He can come back strong. Lavalle Wilson out of Arkansas, Dominique Dolton out of Detroit. Just to name a few. R.I.P Preston Freeman - he was our most promising Pro.

SA: If you could change one thing about the boxing world, what would it be and why?

RH: The snakes Period. No explanation needed.

SA: You know Devon “The great” Alexander pretty well. What is your prediction for the fight against Uk’s own Kell Brook?

RH: Hands down Devon’s going to kill this clown, he has too much skill for Kell. We gonna whoop on Kell. Make his eyes lips and nose Swell. (laughs)

SA: Do you have a message to all our readers?

RH: Stay tuned to boxing on Sylvanaboxing.com, where you will grow into a world of boxing knowledge. Thanks for having me.

Marcellus Williams, coach Ronald and Jarvis Williams and coach AL Fitz.