In this corner with Russ Anber: A night at the Garden
Photos: Russ Anber Instagram
In his latest column, Russ Anber gives the view from the corner at Madison Square Garden as he works with Callum Smith, sees Andy Ruiz Jr upset Anthony Joshua and has a titanic pool battle with Liam Smith...
It’s always special to be at the Garden.
I’m proud to say I’ve worked there numerous times including when Sergio Martinez fought Miguel Cotto.
On this occasion, I was lucky enough to be working for Callum Smith, who as far as I’m concerned is the best super middleweight in the world. It’s a real honour to have been part of Callum’s team since 2014. I’ve travelled all over the world with him taking care of his hands and making sure he’s comfortable.
At one point when we were stood on the MSG ring apron – where Angelo Dundee must have stood alongside Muhammad Ali all those years ago - I turned to Paul Smith and said: ‘imagine what it would have been like to be here on 8 March 1971!’ Let’s be honest, as big as Joshua vs Ruiz Jr was, it pales into comparison with Ali vs Frazier 1!
I thought Callum gave a very good performance against Hassan N’Dam. He is getting better and better. His left hook did some damage, but he also has a great right hand and is a genuinely two-handed fighter with debilitating power in both fists.
It all springs from excellent technique and great stance - elbows in, hands held high. There’s no wasted energy with Callum and he can fight 12 rounds without any problem.
I said to Callum afterwards: ‘you looked great, but plenty of people will tell you that, it’s my job to tell you what to work on, and you need to get in the gym and focus on your left jab.’
Punchers have a tendency to neglect the jab, you see. I’m not talking about pawing with the jab, I’m talking about snapping it out like Tommy Hearns or Larry Holmes. The jab is what sets up your left hook and right hand and breaks fighters down.
After Callum’s fight we were given ringside tickets for Joshua-Ruiz but, to be honest, if I can’t be in the corner I’d rather watch a fight on TV than six rows back in the arena, so myself and the Smith clan stayed in the dressing room to watch.
Based on the odds, Ruiz’s win ranks as a big upset but when you look back in boxing history you’re often left wondering just how much of an upset some of these ‘upsets’ really were. The odds-makers often only look at one side of the equation.
Take the first Ali vs Liston fight. Ali was a 7 or 8-1 outsider, which in hindsight is crazy for a man who was an undefeated pro who had won an Olympic gold medal and had beaten fighters like Doug Jones, Sonny Banks and Henry Cooper.
Yes Ruiz beating Joshua was an upset but should he have been an 11-1 underdog? I don't know how that happened – here was a guy with 33 professional fights, just one split decision loss and over 100 amateur fights. He can fight!
All of us in the boxing world were saying, hey Ruiz can fight, he's not just coming here to lay down, this could be difficult for Joshua. But the bookmakers aren’t always boxing people, and were probably influenced by Ruiz’s physical appearance, which is proof you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. He has all these so-called deficiencies – lack of height, no abs, lots of body fat - but if you can fight, you can fight!
Similarly, just because you look like a Greek God doesn’t mean you’re gonna win a fight! Boxing is not about aesthetics, it’s about how well you throw punches, how good your hands are, how well you move your upper body, how good your balance and feet are.
I think Ruiz’s speed surprised AJ. Every time he tried to mount an attack Ruiz fired back and landed cleanly. I think that bothered Anthony and he didn’t have an answer.
Another highlight of my time in New York was continuing my cue sports rivalry with Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith, which began a few years ago in Manchester.
The fact Liam was in New York with his brothers who were going out and having a good time and yet he wanted to play pool and hang out with me is kinda cool!
Liam and I played American pool for two nights at Steinways in Queens. I beat him the first night and he beat me the second night.
The funny thing is, on the second night when we got a taxi to the pool hall ‘Beefy’ didn’t say a word the whole way there. We played a few frames and ate some dinner - still he said nothing! We played the rest of the match - not a word!
Of course, when the match was over and he’d won the fucker didn’t shut up all the way back to the hotel!
Russ Anber is on Twitter and Instagram @russanber.
Russ was speaking to Luke G. Williams