Interview with Evander Holyfield's Trainer Ronnie Shields

Staff Wright FightNightNews

Ronnie Shields knew he would be a trainer from almost the first day he stepped in a gym.

Shields went from helping coaches who were overcrowded with kids to training some of the best fighters in the world. Shields won a Golden Gloves tournament as an amateur and fought for a world title as a pro. The only world title he's worried about now is the one his fighter, Evander Holyfield, hopes to get a shot at by defeating Fres Oquendo on Nov. 10.

Enjoy what Shields had to say about his career, his training of Evander Holyfield, and a surprising answer regarding the time he spent training Mike Tyson.

Robert Jones: Before becoming one of the best trainers in the game you were a fighter yourself. At what age did you know you wanted to be a boxer?

Ronnie Shields: Actually, when I first started at 13 years old. I used to watch Muhammad Ali with my dad, before Friday Night Fights and all. I never really thought about boxing until some of my friends who I played football with were all boxing. Just one day they asked me to come by the gym with them. I asked my mom if I could go, and she said yeah and I went, and the rest is history.

RJ: What was your greatest accomplishment in your boxing career?

RS: I think winning my first National Golden Gloves title in 1975 as an amateur (125- pound division.) I think that would probably be it.

RJ: At what point did you know you were interested in training?

RS: Well, actually when I was 15 years old. We had so many guys in the gym. We only had about three trainers and we had about 75 guys. So, we all just kind of helped each other out. I really enjoyed doing the pads with the guys and showing them what to do and stuff like that. I said, �Man, I like this stuff. I like doing this.� When I quit fighting it was just a natural for me to go in and start working with people and starting training with them.

RJ: How instrumental have great trainers, and your mentors, Lou Duva and George Benton, been to you?

RS: I learned so much from both of those guys. The knowledge that these guys know, you know, they just passed it on to me. They passed the torch to me and I'm just grateful for learning so much. I still use a lot of those methods today that I learned from George and Lou.

RJ: Was Mike Tyson, who you trained for the Lennox Lewis fight, the most difficult of fighters you've ever had to train?

RS: Actually, Mike was one of the easiest fighters I ever had to work with. I had a great experience with Mike.

RJ: How much better has Holyfield looked after getting the long needed shoulder surgery?

RS: I'll tell you what. What he needed was to rest it. That's what he really needed. After the Larry Donald fight, it's now been almost two years since that fight. That was a blessing is disguise for him. That's what he really needed, he really needed to rest that shoulder. He needed to get to that point where he could throw combinations and not worry about anything happening. As far as injury is concerned, his shoulder is completely healed. People are really going to see on November the 10th, just like he showed him four weeks ago, the combinations that he put together. I could see if it was a one punch knockout people say, �Oh, anybody can hit anybody with one punch,� but, what Evander Holyfield did that night in Dallas, Texas was incredible. With the amount of punches he threw and with the way it happened, he just proved to people that I'm back and that I'm back in a big way.

RJ: You've been in Holyfield's corner for a long time. How does the fight rank up with all the big fights Holyfield has been a part of?

RS: I think because of the situation this ranks right at the top. Just for the simple reason that so many people have just wrote him off completely. Every fight for him now is a world title fight. So, every fight is a huge fight. With Evander Holyfield, he wants to sit back and fight 16 or 20 more fights to try to win the undisputed championship of the world. He wants hard fight, after hard fight, after hard fight, until he gets that title shot. That's the most important thing in the world right now. He doesn't just want to win the heavyweight title. I think that's where a lot of people get it mixed up. He wants to be undisputed, so that means he's got three belts out there that he wants. WBA, WBC, and IBF, those are the titles he wants.

RJ: Holyfield says that he would like to be champion again before the 2008 Olympics. Would you like to try to get him to his goals a little before then?

RS: Well, no, not necessarily, I realize that there's a path we have to go through. I realize that. I realize that it's going to take different fights to get up to that goal. I'm just saying that he's not going to be around for five more years to try to win his undisputed championship of the world. It's going to happen, I think, in the next two or three years.

RJ: In this unpredictable world of boxing it seems it would be really hard for Holyfield to even get a chance to unify all the titles? Do you think he would be happy if he could just rack up or two titles?

RS: (Laughs) It's going to be hard, you know, because you have mandatorys and such like that. I think that if you fight the guys that are champion, and if they don't have a title, people are going to look at that as it is a world title. It all depends on how it's all going to play out. I think if boxing is in a good state, a good state in that moment, people are going to say this is the fight we want to see. You know, forget all these mandatorys that all these different guys have. That's not a championship fight, that's a bigger mandatory then anything.

RJ: Fres Oquendo has a history of fading down the stretch in fights. Holyfield has never came into a fight in bad shape. Is Oquendo's apparent stamina problem a factor in your strategy for this fight?

RS: The most important thing is that we take Fres out of his game plan right away. I realize that Evander has to be in great shape. You know, he's always going to be in great shape. Fres Oquendo is such a good fighter that we have to get to him early. We have to get to him early and we have to let him know this is the way it's going to be all night long. We want to put something in Fres Oquendo's mind that every time he goes back to his corner he's going to say, �Man, I have to go back out for this again.� I don't want Evander to have to wait eight, nine rounds to try to get this guy out of here.

RJ: With Sam Peter tied up in a rematch with James Toney there seems to be an opening for another challenger for WBC champion Oleg Maskaev. If Holyfield gets by Oquendo will you guys try your best to jump on that situation?

RS: Well, I'm a firm believe in fighting one fight at a time. It's easy for me to say of course we want to go after the world title right after this fight. But, I do realize we do have to win this fight first. With Evander Holyfield, he doesn't just have to win it; he has to look very impressive in doing it. I think Evander Holyfield is going to go out in with this fight and look impressive. Then, people are going to demand, saying, �He should be fighting a world title fight.�

RJ: Thank you very much for your time. Is there anything you would like to add in closing to the readers at

RS: The only think I want to add is people have been saying, �Evander Holyfield is washed up, he should sit down and take a rocking chair, kick it back, and go sit down some where in the corner.� But, if you saw this last fight you see that he didn't knock this guy out with one punch. He hit him with a series of combinations that people hadn't seen from Evander in a long time. This is just a small indication of what he's going to do to Fres Oquendo. Just tune in and you'll see that you should never underestimate a man who's whole heart and soul are into God. He is the Real Deal and there is no doubt about that.


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