Joe Pastore finds love in boxing again
As is the case in boxing, fighters who reach the elite level of world-class competition always have a team that helps the fighter prepare from the start of their careers. Along with a head trainer, nowadays there is usually a strength-and-conditioning coach, a dietitian/nutritionist and other members of the entourage who handle all other tasks done in order to make the fighter comfortable and take mundane daily errands off their hands.
In recent years, this has become more prevalent in elite fighters’ camps. These members of the team are often highlighted on pre-fight programs used to help promote major championship fights and pay-per-views. However this was something that wasn’t as commonplace 13 years ago. Joe Pastore is a strength-and-conditioning coach, now turned head trainer, whose journey in boxing this past decade is unique, to say the least.
Back in 2005, Joe Pastore, Marshall Kauffman and former IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron were on the cusp of superstardom at the elite level. It was a trio that was formed by Kauffman, who, at the time, was Cintron’s head trainer. Pastore was brought in to ensure that Cintron was constantly in peak physical condition. “I met Kermit because Marshall asked me to work with him,” states Pastore. “We had a great thing going. Kermit is a natural. Physically he was dominant.” Considering Cintron started boxing at the age of 19 and, as a result, did not have an extensive amateur background, that didn’t sway Pastore’s view of how far Cintron could go in the sport, “I knew, from the first time I saw him train (in 2000), that he was a special, natural athlete.”
However, things didn’t turn out the way Pastore envisioned. In 2004, Cintron defeated Elio Ortiz on NBC and took out Teddy Reid on HBO (in Cintron’s first appearance) to capture the WBO interim strap. Due to those two wins, Team Cintron was given the opportunity of a lifetime. A fight for the WBO world welterweight championship against Antonio Margarito as the main event for an extremely rare pay-per-view show on ESPN. What occurred that evening in April of 2005 would shape the future of Pastore’s career in the Sweet Science. Margarito dismantled Cintron in five rounds and instantly the criticism toward Team Cintron was so heavy, it washed away all of the accomplishments they achieved in such a short period of time. They were viewed as overrated in the public’s eye. In the following months, a fallout would ensue between the three members of the team. As a result of this tumultuous time, their five-year run as a trio came to an end.
Kermit Cintron moved on to train with the late Hall-of-Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. Eventually he would capture the IBF title before losing it to Margarito in a 2008 rematch. For Pastore, he moved on from the fallout as well and continued to offer his services in the sport. “I worked five fights with former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman” states Pastore. “We worked well together; this included me preparing him for his fight with James Toney. He called me for three weeks straight asking me to come to his next training camp. When I decided to go, I called him and, for no reason at all, he never picked up the phone or returned my calls. I haven’t talked to him since.” Years later, you can sense just how frustrated Pastore felt about the business side of the sport. “I was disgusted after that. I was done with the sport for good.”
However, as anyone who has been involved with boxing in any form is aware, just when you think you’re out, it pulls you back in. This was the case with Pastore, who received a phone call that was a blast from his past, “Kermit called me up and we talked everything over.” It had been years since the two last spoke and, as is usually the case among friends, family and those with whom someone has a true connection. Time healed the wounds that remained from their fallout. The end of that conversation sucked Pastore back into the sport from which he had walked away years before. “(Cintron) asked me if I would work with him again and I agreed.” Eight years later, two old friends got back to doing what they did best together.
In 2013, they reunited and, since then, although Cintron is in the twilight of his career, they’re trying to make one last run for glory. With Pastore conditioning him, Cintron has yet to lose another fight. While the competition has been below the elite level, you get the sense that Cintron is one crossroads fight victory against an up-and-coming name from possibly getting one last crack at the brass ring.
As for Pastore, other than helping Cintron with conditioning during his training camps, a trip together in 2013 to the East Reading Boxing Club in Reading, Pennsylvania helped reignite his passion for boxing. “I was there for Kermit but I saw this 13-year-old kid hitting the heavy bag and moving. I got the same feeling I did when I first saw Kermit train.” Pastore was watching Xavian Ramirez and it was this first encounter that truly changed everything for Pastore, “He was already something like 36-4, by the time he was 12 years old.” Despite having that many fights under his belt at such a young age, Ramirez didn’t have a steady trainer. “He was being trained by the owner of the gym, who is a good man. He asked me if I would get involved with ‘X.'” Enter Pastore, who knew he had to make the transition to head trainer. To the credit of the owner of the gym, he realized, with Pastore’s experience, great things could be achieved by this talented adolescent.
Over the course of the next four years of this relationship, Pastore has positioned Ramirez to a limitless and bright future. “He is 81-9 right now. Close to 100 fights and is only about to be 17,” gushes Pastore. “We have won every type of amateur competition that you can. A Junior Olympic gold medal at the age of 14. Ringside Nationals, PAL (Police Athletic League tournament) and Silver Gloves.” Ramirez is not the only young talent trained by Pastore. He also trains David Stevens, a prodigious heavyweight, who is 56-6 in the unpaid ranks. Pastore clearly feels something about these two fighters in his young growing stable.
“These two are special. I have no hesitations about turning them pro right now if I could.” Naturally you would think, with two prodigies, Pastore would push for them to get ready for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. To his credit, he is honest about his feelings about how the amateur ranks are handled, “Everything is politics. They already have the kids they want to go picked. It’s too much, at this point, for Xavian. I truly feel that he is beyond that and is ready for the pros.” For anyone who suspects Pastore is rushing Ramirez to a place he is not yet ready to handle, he adamantly explains that, since day one with both Ramirez and Stevens, he has been training them as if they were already professionals.
This is something that is becoming more prevalent in the sport. Young amateur standouts opting out, as soon as they legally can to join the paid ranks. “I wouldn’t want to turn them pro if I didn’t know for sure that they could handle it. You can call it a calculated decision on my part ’cause of their talent level being so high,” said Pastore. So while Ramirez and Stevens may have already accomplished close to everything an amateur fighter can, just what proof does their head trainer truly have that they are ready to fight grown men?
According to Pastore, and from video that shows Ramirez sparring, maybe the question is: Are some of these professionals ready and do they have the skills to fight Ramirez and Stevens? “Look, ‘X-Man’ (Xavian) and David have been sparring pros in training camps for tournaments since I have been with them. Countless times, it’s the pro fighter that asks for the session to stop,” said Pastore. From the gyms of Philadelphia to the bustling fight scene in Reading, many sparring sessions against pros and other top-rated amateurs in the featherweight and heavyweight divisions have not heard the final bell. This includes a professional fighter from Puerto Rico who was in the area and decided to walk into the East Reading Boxing Club.
“That guy didn’t last a full three rounds with X-Man. He couldn’t handle what was coming at him,” Pastore said, with obvious pride “See, my guys don’t spar just to move. They fight while working on things. I tell them that every time they get in that ring, the other guy is trying to hurt them and prove something. This is serious business.” Full-throttle is another way of looking at it. That is how Pastore trains his young talent and that’s how they spar and fight. Along with the fact his introduction to boxing was as a strength-and-conditioning coach, believing his guys can go 100 miles-per-hour, at all times, is something that isn’t so hard to believe.
Sparring may be one thing; facing live bullets is another. To this statement, Pastore counters with: “No headgear. Everything that you do in the gym becomes habit. Headgear only really protects you from cuts. So why should my fighters have a false sense of security by using them?” In the last Olympic Games in London, headgear was not used in the fights for the first time since the 1970s. This changed after several studies proved headgear doesn’t protect fighters from concussions and doesn’t lessen punishment, other than cuts.
Pastore seems to have all the angles covered, when it comes to his two major young talents, everything from staying in shape and not having to cut weight prior to tournaments to their style inside of the ring – which he says is a little bit of everything, “We take the time to train for all styles of fighters and also train by taking the best that different styles has to offer. You never know when you may need to pull something out of the bag.”
2005 was a long time ago. For Joe Pastore, that statement means more than remembering the years that have gone by. You see when he talks freely about his past in the sport and the rough times he faced that there is a general malaise that shapes the tone of his voice. While situations from that time may be water under the bridge, those old wounds that have been stitched up are still wounds indeed.
You can tell his past has had a profound impact on him. David Stevens and Xavian Ramirez are clearly the reasons Pastore’s tone of voice suddenly seems to have a lift when the subject turns to his experiences training them. He quickly lightens up and goes right into praising the talent he feels he is blessed to be nurturing. It’s clear they are the reason Joe Pastore once again has found love in the sport of boxing. His next step is making sure he finds a promotional company who will be dedicated to moving their careers along the right way.