Manny Robles: Not home for the holidays

Light heavyweight contender Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (left) and trainer Manny Robles. Photo credit: Stacey Verbeek


Unlike many others, trainer Manuel Robles will not be spending this Thanksgiving holiday with his family because his charge Vyacheslav Shabranskyy faces Sergey Kovalev at the Theater at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday night (HBO 10 p.m., ET).


So what will Robles be doing on Thursday?


“I’m going to be spending Thanksgiving on my own, room service,” he said chuckling, last week, while working with “Slava” at Legendz Boxing in Norwalk, California. “I’m going to be looking for a place to crash, a place to hit for Thanksgiving dinner.”


For Robles, his time in the “Big Apple” is just beginning.


“It’s not just next week but three straight weeks, starting with Shabranskyy and Kovalev; then we have (Oscar) Negrete with Rey Vargas for December 2nd,” explained Robles, of the card that takes place the following week at the big room of the Garden, which features the fistic finale of Miguel Cotto. “And then, November 9th, with Michael Conlan. I’m going to spend a lot of time in New York.”


The trainer will be racking up the frequent flier miles.


“I’m coming back next week after Shabranskyy’s fight; God willing, we come back with the world title. I come back Sunday and leave again the following Tuesday, at least be here for Conlan’s last sparring session. It will be his last week, so I’d like to be here for Conlan and watch him spar that Monday before I leave again the following Tuesday.”


Conlan is part of the undercard at the Theater at MSG, that features the duel between WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and WBA junior featherweight beltholder Guillermo Rigondeaux on December 9. For men like Robles – who has a wife and three kids – this is all part of the business. Robles, who’s on the road for seemingly half the year, says, “This is how we provide for our families. We have to sacrifice just as much as fighters do. Spending time away from the family and kids, it’s such a special holiday, a special occasion like Thanksgiving. It’s tough. It’s not easy but my wife understands that this is how I’m able to provide for my family’s future.”


World-class trainers understand that this is not your normal 9-to-5 gig. It’s 24/7/365.


“My job is year-round,” explained Robles, who has worked his way into a position, where he’s regularly involved in high-profile fights that take place around the world. “I don’t get a break; I can’t think of the last time I was able to stay home and really enjoy the holidays, Christmas, New Year’s. But I think this will be the year, though.


“I’m hoping – I’m keeping my fingers crossed – this will be the year where I’ll be able to take a break, Christmas, New Year’s, and come back fresh for the New Year and get it done again. Have another great year like the one we did this year.”


When you train world champions like WBO featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez and WBO junior featherweight titlist Jesse Magdaleno, along with the aforementioned boxers, free time is scarce. But Robles – whose father was a noted trainer – hopes to make it up to his wife soon by “going some place hidden on the beach, some country with no cell phone and not have to worry about a fight,” said Robles, with a laugh.


But honestly, being at work is where he wants to be.


“I love it. There’s no other place I’d rather be than the boxing gym, with my boxers, and working on the craft and trying to get better,” he says. “As a coach, I try to grow everyday, try to become a better coach for them.”


Robles faces a daunting challenge, as his man is a decided underdog versus the “Krusher” but he feels as though he’ll be bringing in a much different fighter than the one who got stopped by Sullivan Barrera last December. Since then, “Chingonskyy” has rebounded with victories against Larry Pryor (KO 2) and Todd Unthank May (TKO 7).


“Without a doubt, he’s definitely motivated for this fight. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. Before, when they first announced the fight with Kovalev, it was “great going up against one of the best and we wanted that challenge,” says Robles. “Now, we know we’re fighting for the world title. It’s even more motivation. This is what fighters wait their entire lives for, the opportunity to fight for a world title and who better than with one of the best fighters in the division?”


(Kovalev-Shabranskyy is being contested for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title. The belt was last held by the now-retired Andre Ward.)


“I’m expecting the best Kovalev. I’m expecting a motivated Kovalev. I’m expecting a Kovalev to come in 100 percent prepared, ready mentally and physically,” continued Robles, who devoted singular attention to Shabranskyy, leading into this fight. “So I’m not overlooking anybody. I’m not overlooking Kovalev. I think it’s going to be an interesting fight.


“And I like our chances.”





Here’s the Thanksgiving edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and me.





Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan-Antoine Douglas was officially announced as the co-feature supporting Billy Joe Saunders-David Lemieux on December 16 on HBO…IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. will face Lamont Peterson on January 20 at the (P)Barclays Center, which will be televised by Showtime…So Miami is now ranked second by the college football playoff ratings, huh? OK, I’ll take it…So Chip Kelly is headed to Westwood and UCLA, huh? Well, things just got that much more interesting in the Pac12…I can be reached at and I tweet (a lot) at I also share photos of stuff at and can also be found at




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