‘Blue Chip’ in Big Bear
In preparation for his outing against Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz as the opening bout on this Saturday night’s HBO Pay-Per-View card at Madison Square Garden in New York City, lightweight hopeful Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin spent the first half of his training camp at The Summit Gym in Big Bear, California, under the guidance of Abel Sanchez.
For Martin, training alongside IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (who faces Daniel Jacobs in Saturday’s main event) was something he cherished.
“It’s just experience that you have to come up here and get,” he said in early February at The Summit. “Just training in the high altitude with Abel and everyone’s up here competing with each other and pushing each other to the limit. You’re training with ‘Triple G,’ seeing how successful he is and all the excitement around him. It just makes you want to push harder and get to the peak that he’s at.”
When asked if the time spent up there has made him a better fighter, the native of Chattanooga, Tennessee stated, “Yes I think I’m growing every day as a fighter. Working with Abel, I feel I’m bringing out more skills, more power in both hands and working on different things. I love it.”
When you ask any boxers who come to Big Bear of the biggest adjustment, they’ll tell you it’s the high altitude. Martin explained, “The first four or five days, you’re going to burn. You’re going to hurt. You’re going to feel like you can’t breathe. Even when you walk up the steps, it takes a lot more energy to do things. It definitely has a good effect on you.”
So what’s it like to see Golovkin ply his trade on a daily basis?
“It’s everything,” said Martin, 17-0 (10). “He’s at the number one pound-for-pound spot, so just seeing him and be able to work beside him, it just pushes me harder and he’s a well-rounded guy. You’d never know he’s world champion or a number one pound-for-pound guy. He pushes you just as hard as you push yourself. He encourages you to be better. He actually helps you with whatever you need, punching right, punching harder, technique, everything. He helps you.”
As you see Sanchez put the boxers through their daily grind, it’s clear that he’s very much about the very basic foundations of the sport. There’s really nothing fancy or revolutionary going on here. Case in point, the emphasis on shadow-boxing, which everyone seems to do for a good five rounds or so before moving on to anything else.
Martin admits the focus on the fundamentals “was very shocking to me, being here. It’s very basic stuff, just at a consistent pace, a hard pace focusing on hurting your opponent and being a professional boxer.”
There is a no-nonsense ethos at The Summit. If you don’t work hard – or with others – well, Sanchez will jettison you from the gym – as former unified light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev learned several years ago.
“I love it because we eat, breathe and sleep in this house. We never really leave, only to go to the grocery store. It’s like you have no choice but to be focused here,” said Martin of The Summit, which has a house attached the gym. This facility was built by Sanchez himself, “so we don’t ever have to go to the car to go anywhere, so we’re never late to the gym. We don’t have an excuse not to be here. One thing I love is everyone is here to push each other and we push each other to the max, especially in sparring.”
Sanchez says of Martin, “He’s a pleasure to have around because he works as hard as everybody else. He just never complains. He’s down here on time. He’s early. He’s one of the first guys here and he’s willing to try the things we’re trying to teach him. He’s got great talent. He’s got great skills. He’s more of a boxer that doesn’t want to hurt nobody. We’re trying to explain to him, in order to be marketable, in order for K2 (Promotions) or his promoter to move him, he’s gotta be able to sell tickets, be fan-friendly.
“I’m not saying I want him to go to war; I want him to use his skills in a manner that the fans want to come back and see him.”
But Big Bear and the solitude isn’t for those who are not solely focused on their craft.
“Actually, I’ve thought about that before. This ain’t for everybody,” said Martin, chuckling. “This is like going to college – you make it fun. Most people don’t like this environment, just being here and not being able to go anywhere but I love it. It makes me focus and there’s been so much success out of here. It’s proven.”
That said, Martin notes, “Last time, I didn’t bring my PS4; I did this time.” He’s also a bowling aficionado, who says he averages around a 160. “I can get to 200; I can bowl,” he claimed, laughing.
“There’s a lot of guys that come up here; they’ve got to understand that these guys are serious about their craft, serious about improving, serious about giving their craft a couple of years to make it better and, if you give yourself that chance, you will never have to look in that mirror and say, ‘I wish I had done this,’ or, ‘I wish I had done that,’ and Ryan’s one of those guys,” says Sanchez, who, on any given day, will have IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev in the gym, alongside highly-regarded former lightweight title challenger Denis Shafikov. For this camp, junior welterweight prospect Alex Saucedo (who fights tonight) was a constant presence.
Sanchez notes, “But I think the temp and the attitude of the gym is set by Gennady. Gennady works hard, so everyone wants to emulate.”
(On this particular afternoon, Sanchez basically let Golovkin run the show: “As you noticed in the training today, I kinda let him guide the troops and I sat back and made the comments that I make in correcting guys but he sets the pace. He’s the one moving everybody and, even though he may not be saying much, the looks and the effort is really what’s doing the talking for Gennady.”)
The last part of this camp was spent back in Cleveland, Ohio with Martin’s head trainer Joe Delguyd. When asked if that situation was awkward, Martin says, “That case has a funny way of working itself out. I’m thankful to have Abel as my assistant coach, helping me, providing a facility for me to come here. The second half of camp, I go back home and work on technique and break down the fight with my coach Joe. Joe knows I like to be here; I love it here. It’s just a different environment and it excites me. It gets me focused and I love it.”
Delguyd, who runs the Old School Boxing Club, says, “(Ryan) really likes it there; he really likes the whole monk-like situation, no distractions. I think he likes the challenge of the altitude. So I think there’s a lot of good things that happen for him there.”
So does he notice a difference in his boxer when he returns from Big Bear?
“I notice a difference right when he comes back. You know how that works – the benefit of the altitude,” answered Delguyd. “He’ll reap that benefit for a couple of weeks when he’s down to sea level. So he looks incredible running and has a lot of endurance with the sparring. I hope we’re still going to see that next weekend and I think we will. He really hasn’t been back that long.”
Delguyd – who just prepped Antonio Nieves for his recent outing on “ShoBox” last weekend – says, one day, he’d like to join his fighter at The Summit, “It would be great to be up there and experience it.”
Martin is managed by the young and enterprising Timothy Van Newhouse, who has pushed hard for his client to be associated with K2 and wanted his fighter to experience this atmosphere, “The obvious benefits of Ryan training in Big Bear are he’s interested in the effects of the elevation. He believes it’s helping him physically. Moreso, the serenity of the environment, the variable routines and sparring partners provide him with a high-level of self-confidence.”
Van Newhouse adds, “Balancing half the time in Big Bear and at home is our way to develop a happy medium for the team.”
Martin is a believer that iron sharpens iron.
“Definitely, everybody here is sharp; the sparring is very intense. Abel pushes us to the max. I mean, you can’t get better than that,” says the 24-year old. After spending most of 2015 in SMS purgatory, his career is now finding some traction.
“2017 is a breakout year for Ryan. I plan to have him on the schedule at least three more times after the March bout. I project we will go from prospect to contender and hold a world ranking in all of the major sanctioning bodies. Lastly, I hope to get Ryan a fight in Chattanooga. The mayor, the sports committee and the city’s dignitaries are all ready for his homecoming,” Van Newhouse stated.