The real-life ‘Cutty,’ Calvin Ford
A familiar face sauntered over to press row this past Saturday night at the Theater at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Trainer Calvin Ford, who is from the local area, wasn’t there just to check out the festivities. He also happens to train IBF super featherweight titlist Gervonta Davis, who is in the same division as Vasyl Lomachenko, who defended his WBO title in the evening’s headliner.
Yeah, call this a recon mission.
“Wow…wow,” said Ford, laughing as this was brought up. “I was trying to keep it low-key but nobody don’t know me. I keep it quiet and whatnot. No, but (Gervonta) is part of the start and the only way you’re going to be a star is you’ve got to see the stars. So Gervonta wants to be a pay-per-view star, so you gotta reach for the stars. So we’re just coming to look at (Lomachenko) and see him in person how he really looks.”
Being on the down low and trying not to be noticed, at one point, was par for the course for Ford. Long before he was an up-and-coming trainer, he was in the drug trade. Yes, he was into the life and he is actually the real-life inspiration for Dennis “Cutty” Wise, one of the characters on “The Wire” (one of the most iconic and important series ever produced by HBO).
“Yes, that’s true,” he said with a chuckle. “People are like, ‘Man, I never knew that.’ Yes, I came home from doing a federal bid – racketeering and conspiracy – and I came home. I actually tried to give my kids something to do and I ain’t looked back since.”
In this excellent feature on Fightland.com, Ford was described as “a lieutenant for one of the city’s biggest drug rings.”
When asked just how realistic The Wire is, he replied, “A lot, I’m living proof.”
Ford recalls that the very same authorities who once did stakeouts on him actually came to his gym, the Upton Boxing Center, to tell him they had noticed what he was doing for the local kids in the community. “I just say, ‘I’m doing it to give back,'” says Ford.
Ford makes it clear that, for all the talent that has come through his doors (and many more are lost to the allure of the streets), his priority, first and foremost, is to provide structure and discipline in order to produce productive citizens.
“That’s the truth. If you look at Baltimore, again, we’re trying to change the mindset. You take them traveling; Parks and Recreation helps us with funding to take kids to the nationals, to give them a chance to see life and that’s what it’s all about – to give back,” explained Ford, who runs a thriving amateur program. “Now, we’re starting a new program in our gym, teaching them about life. How to walk away from certain situations and not get caught up.”
But the harsh reality is some kids will be statistics. It’s a reality Ford understands and it’s why it doesn’t necessarily discourage him. Life in these parts is not an “ABC Afterschool Special.” He himself lost a son to the street life.
“I was part of the streets – that’s the street life,” he said, bluntly. “I can’t get discouraged. You choose to live the street life. You’ve got to deal with the street life. Again, when I see kids that’s not part of the streets get caught up, that’s what hurts.”
This Friday night from the very same venue in which Lomachenko defeated Jason Sosa over nine rounds, the latest edition of “ShoBox” takes place. One of Ford’s prized pupils, welterweight Malik Hawkins, who was originally scheduled to face Taras Shelestyuk (who dropped out with an ankle injury), is now paired with Carlos Soto. Shelestyuk was a fight Hawkins and his team had targeted.
“We’ve been doing everything. (Hawkins) was definitely focused for that. We looked at (Shelestyuk); his ranking was real high and that was Malik’s whole goal, to get up in the rankings, so he could really show his true talent,” Ford said of his prospect, who has a mark of 10-0 (7), “but, again, that’s part of the business. Malik has been in the gym doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s just waiting to fight.”
There’s no question his team believes Hawkins can be moved relatively quickly.
Ford says, “I think we’re doing good, right now. We would’ve made a major move if that fight would’ve went through. So that was just like putting him on a fast track but it fell through. So I always look at it – things happen for a reason. So we’re going to see after this fight to see where we’re really at.”
Also on this card is the pro debut of Hasim Rahman Jr. – yes, the son of the former undisputed heavyweight champion.
“Right now, it’s hard work,” Ford says of the young “Rock.” “That’s the champ’s son; we don’t play that. He says, ‘Man, y’all murderers down here,’ but I’m seeing some good things out of him and he knows we’re no nonsense. He sees Lorenzo Simpson come out the gym; he sees Malik come out the gym. He seen “Tank” (Davis) come out the gym. He’s seen them from babies and his mom would always tell him that he should come home and train with us.
“Just watch him; you’ll see,” continued Ford, who, when asked to describe Rahman Jr., would only divulge, “We’ve got a lot of good tricks but I don’t want to put it out there.”
It’s clear that Ford is a trainer with whom you’ll become very familiar in the near future. His story will be told over and over again and we’ll get to know him well. “I really don’t look for the recognition because I get that in the amateurs because they always see me with amateur champions,” said Ford.
But isn’t the money in the pro ranks?
“Yes, it is but I don’t chase the money,” said Ford, who, in a prior life, did just that. But now? “I chase the glory. I let the legacy of our gym – because you know the stuff that goes on in Baltimore – I’m trying to change the mindset of these kids and make a difference at home.”
Ford and Upton Boxing Center are going to make a run here.
“I’m trying to; I’m trying to put Baltimore on the map. With the team I got, everybody, they see the vision. They see the vision; the city gets behind us, all the kids in the gym. Tank doing his thing, Malik doing his thing and we got Hasim Rahman in the gym now, so we’re doing something special,” says the determined Ford.
His goal is very simple: “To make Upton like the Kronk Gym. Somebody has got to step up, so I’m taking that challenge.”
Top Rank Promotions announced on Monday that WBO welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao will face Jeff Horn on July 1 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia…Trey Lippe-Morrison has been forced to withdraw from his June 9 fight with a broken hand. This seems to be a persistent issue…“Billions” has been nothing short of superb in its second season on Showtime…So the Lakers can’t even tank (and I don’t mean Gervonta) properly?…As an Asian, I’m really glad my United Airlines flight on Sunday morning wasn’t overbooked…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.