Monday, September 26, 2016

The SNB Interview -- Brian McIntyre

Brian McIntyre, head trainer for junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford, has seen his status in the sport ascend as his star pupil has become one of the best talents in boxing. From Omaha, a speck of flyover country previously ignored by the boxing world, McIntyre has helped to shape one of the more improbably journeys to the top of the sport. 

Stressing family, community, teamwork, preparation, consistency and work ethic, McIntyre, through trial-and-error, has fashioned a complete fighter who has the skills and Ring IQ to take on all comers. Working with Crawford since the amateurs, McIntyre and his fighter have a bond that's inseparable. Together, along with assistant trainer Esau Dieguez and Red Spikes, Team Crawford has forced the boxing world to take notice of Nebraska boxing. Through their efforts, HBO has made annual pilgrimages to Omaha. Resulting from Crawford's success, other Nebraska fighters have also signed with big promotional companies. 

McIntyre has immersed himself in the Omaha community. He has helped to revitalize Nebraska's amateur boxing program and has cultivated the B&B Boxing Academy, which has taken scores of kids off the streets and put them in a nurturing, positive environment. 

Intelligent, profane, wonkish, sensitive, practical, combative, jocular, prideful and selfless, McIntyre wields a bevy of characteristics that cuts a unique figure in the boxing landscape. As a journeyman fighter in his own boxing career, he has imparted some valuable lessons onto his prodigy. Without a guidebook or a how-to manual, he, along with members of Team Crawford, has helped to create a terrific fighter and a point of pride for the Omaha sporting scene.

In the following interview, McIntyre talks about the key moments of Crawford's masterful performance from earlier this year against junior welterweight champ Viktor Postol. Through expertly studying Postol's tendencies, Team Crawford was able to neutralize a significant threat. With some choice words for Postol's trainer, Freddie Roach, McIntyre provides no quarter for the vanquished foe or his team. McIntyre also looks back at the big matches in Crawford's career, recounting the challenges and triumphs in the Yuriorkis Gamboa, Andrey Klimov, Hank Lundy, Thomas Dulorme, Ricky Burns and Breidis Prescott fights.

Not content to rest on his laurels, McIntyre believes that Crawford can still improve. In his opinion, the final step in Crawford's evolution as a fighter isn't physical or technical, but one of confidence. In addition, McIntyre hopes to find the next boxing champion from Omaha, working with several undefeated professional fighters as well as dozens of amateurs. Even though he has become one of the top trainers in the sport, McIntyre knows that his work, his life's mission, is far from complete.

Interview by Adam Abramowitz:

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Brian, Congratulations on the victory over Postol. Looking back on the fight, how would you assess Terence’s performance? 

From 1 to 10, I give him maybe an 8. He should have let his hands go a little bit more but we were being a little cautious because of Postol’s reach, his range.

From looking at clips at Postol, what was the main strategy for the fight?

The main thing was don’t let Postol set his feet. Keep him moving east-to-west instead of north-and-south. We looked at some of his fights and if you make him move to his right he won’t throw many punches. He can punch really well going forward and going backwards. So don’t let him come forward. If he moves forward, you got to move to the side. Don’t move towards him. We worked on circling him, keeping him turning where he couldn’t set his feet. But if he can set his feet, he’ll throw a lazy jab, like of a rangefinder jab, and then he’ll throw a right hand under or over-the-top of a guy’s jab. That’s how he stopped his last two opponents.

In your opinion, why was it important for Terence to fight Postol mostly as a southpaw?

We knew that Postol hadn’t really seen any southpaws. I figured it would be easier for Terence to move him to his right in a southpaw stance. That way he could keep his lead foot outside of Postol’s.

Was that also a strategy to neutralize his jab?

Oh yeah. Definitely that. Keep him turning.

I wanted to talk about some earlier fights in Crawford’s career. Perhaps the first time that he caught the general boxing public’s consciousness was when he moved up to 140 lbs. to face Breidis Prescott as a last-minute replacement. What was your advice to him about whether he should take that fight?

We jumped at it right away. We knew that Terence was a hell of a fighter. We were just waiting for our chance. We had seen Prescott before on film. We had seen that style in the amateurs. It wasn’t anything we were scared of. We were just waiting for our opportunities to come.

I know that there were some differences of opinion between your team, Top Rank and some of the management. How did taking that fight ultimately get decided?

From Top Rank’s perspective, I think they dialed [manager] Cameron Dunkin for his perspective and when they called me and Terence, we jumped at it right away.  So, going into the fight, Cameron made it known that he didn’t like the fight. I just told him, “Listen to us. Don’t worry. We got it.” We had been with him since day one but he wasn’t really familiar with us because we had never prepared for a big fight like that. But he had confidence in our camp and we had confidence in Terence. He just wanted a little more time before we had our chance on the big stage.

When facing an opponent like Andrey Klimov, who is mostly trying to survive and is not making a real effort to win, what advice do you give Terence in the corner?

At that time of his career, with Klimov, it was still a learning process in every way. TV. Big-time fights. More money. Our main thing was just win the fight. Don’t try to go for the knockout or don’t try to look pretty. Just do what we worked on in camp. Get the job done.

After the fight, people said we should have done more. Well, we should have, but we beat him. It was a learning process. Every step is a learning process.
In the Yuriorkis Gamboa fight, Terence got hit with a number of big punches. How concerned were you in the corner with Gamboa’s offense and how Terence was taking the shots?

That’s a good question because we knew he was fast. We tried to prepare for his hand speed, especially how he fights off-balanced. He’ll throw a jab and then a right hand over the top and then he’ll be gone. We didn’t really think about his foot speed but what we did work on was him jumping in and jumping out.

Sometimes he likes to throw that right hand just to throw it, so he could come back with that hook. Just for a rangefinder. And I said to Terence what are you going to do when you he does that. And sure enough, he hit him with it. And first thing Terence said after he got hit was, “I’m going to do this,” which is a split-second reaction. Boom. We worked on that in camp. We worked on his right hook – and Gamboa going in and going out, going in and going out, going in and going out. We just kept repeating that. And thank God we worked on that because that right hook changed the fight. It was spectacular. And after he caught him, the fight went his way.

Was it difficult finding sparring partners for a style as unconventional as Gamboa’s?

Definitely. It was hard. Very hard. It was so fucking hard. We used some guys up in Fort Carson, Colorado; they were amateurs. The W-Cap team, the elite team in the United States, is there. So they had some smaller guys there. But to try to and find a professional fighter like that, it was hard as hell.

Was Terence ever hurt in that fight or did he just take a couple of shots?

In the 9th or 10th round, Terence got hit with a good shot. I think he got buzzed a little bit because he got careless. But he was all right after that. He recovered really well. He got the stinky leg thing but the first thing he did was get low, the same size as Gamboa. He grabbed him, turned him, and walked him backwards. We worked on that – if he ever got hurt. Get down low. Keep your hands up high. Try to grab him as soon as possible. Turn him and get the other guy off his rhythm. But once he recovered, he was cool after that.

Let’s talk about the Ricky Burns fight. It was the first time that you had gone overseas for a bout and it was a title shot. What was the feeling like during camp and the final week in the U.K. as you were getting ready for that fight?

We had a damn good camp. We did have a little problem with the weight. We had to pick up the running. We were running at night. That fight was in February so we had to train in the snow and shit. But all-in-all, it was a very good camp. We had some very good strength and conditioning trainers. We had to train a certain way for Ricky Burns. We had to make sure that everything in Terence’s arsenal was really sharp. We knew Burns had a good jab so we wanted to take away the jab. When he threw the jab, we wanted to throw our jab, to go underneath his, to catch him. He [Burns] threw his jab like Ali used to throw his jab. He didn’t have the bounce in his feet like Ali did but he would throw the jab and streak out with it. It’s almost like he got an extra two or three inches on it.

But we worked really hard on just staying sharp. It was hard to find sparring partners for that type of style too. Ricky Burns was way better than Viktor Postol. Everyone is like, “Oh no, fuck that.” Yes he was. Ricky Burns was a way better fighter. He was tough.

Was there any concern in that week in Scotland?

No, we got a lot of threats and shit. I kept my eyes open but nothing happened to us. Overall, everybody was pretty nice to us. Some members of his team got mad at me because I didn’t give him any credit afterward – I think I compared him to a third-place Golden Gloves winner.

But going back to the last question: Burns is way better than Postol. That would be a good fight. Burns-Postol. I bet Burns would beat him.

One thing that Ricky Burns has shown throughout his career is that he doesn’t quit if he’s behind and I think that Postol was a little checked out in the second half of that fight.

Yeah, Postol didn’t know what to do, him or Freddie Roach. They didn’t have a fucking clue what to do. They didn’t have a game plan.

In your opinion, what has been Terrence’s best performance as a pro?

Every fight he gets better and better. They’ve all been really good. I liked the way he knocked [Dierry] Jean out. I liked the way he knocked [Hank] Lundy out. All of them have a different style and you have to be able to beat that style. So I don’t know. That’s a good question. The Prescott performance was actually a pretty good performance. He could have knocked him out but I kept telling him to play it safe and don’t get careless. The Gamboa fight was great too.

I’ve always told him that sometimes you got to box and sometimes you got to fight. Sometimes you can box the shit out of a motherfucker but sometimes you won’t be able to box. You got to bite down and fight, like you’re fighting in the street.

How would you assess the differences between Crawford as an orthodox and as a southpaw?

If you look at it, Terence is a way better boxer when he’s southpaw than when he’s orthodox, going in for the fucking kill. He’ll hurt a guy in southpaw and as soon as he has time, he’ll turn around to orthodox.

I’ve always thought that Terence is a little bit more defensively responsible as a southpaw. Is that something you’ve noticed?

I don’t really look at it like that. He’s a little more cautious.

From my perspective, he doesn’t seem to get hit as cleanly as a southpaw.

He doesn’t. When you look at him in orthodox, he does get caught because he’s trying to land that big punch.

What does Terence still need to do to improve?

If you look at the Postol fight, we hit Postol clean with the right hook. One of the things we worked on in camp was the right hand. We worked on pushing Postol to his right because he drops his left hand a lot. When he goes to his right he won’t throw a lot of punches. So that’s like a free shot. Terence wouldn’t really commit with the jab but he needed Postol to come towards him so he could hit him with the right hand.  So I told Terence you have to trust in your speed, your power and your ability. And he was like, “You’re right. You’re right. You’re right.”

So it’s about developing trust in himself. In the Klimov fight, I said throw the left hand around. Push him to his right so he can run into your overhand left. He said, “I see it, I see it, but…” And he didn’t throw it.  He needs to trust in his ability to do the things he wants to do. But I understand where he’s coming from because he’s the one out there fighting. I told him to take a look at it another way. Don’t let it fall by the wayside. Think of another way that you can do it, whether it’s a feint or beating him to a spot. Think of another way
Does he always know when he has an opponent hurt?

Yeah. Pretty much.

I noticed that there were times in the Lundy and Dulorme fights where Terence hurt them but then he backed off a little bit. Was this a strategic move or was it a case of not knowing when a guy is hurt?

Most of the time, he’s just taking his time. Just setting it up. We don’t like to rush or anything like that.

What have you taken from your own professional career that you have been able to impart upon Terence?

Just being a boxer period. I’ve seen a lot of styles out there and you got to know your boxer’s style. I always tell kids you got to understand your style. One thing I noticed as a fighter and a trainer, I can pick a fighter apart. I look at demeanor. How to carry yourself the week of the fight…at a press conference.

I knew Lundy was all mouth. Whenever you go somewhere, he was the loudest one in the room. He’s like one of those guys in the movies who’s always running his mouth. But he does have heart. He’s a fighter and if you fight at his pace, you will make him look fucking good. But if you push Lundy, he can’t do anything. He can’t fight past his pace. He gasses out.

And with Dulorme, his manager, his trainer and his promoter did more shit talking than he did. So that tells you right there that he didn’t want that – that he wasn’t ready for a fight like that.

With Postol, they were so confident. They were arrogant – his trainer, his manager. They were so fucking arrogant. Postol was walking with his chest out like he was the shit. I watch demeanor. When I’m coaching, I say to them. Watch them. I try to split everything down the middle. If we’re walking through the hallway, we’re not moving aside for them. They move for us. It’s just a psychological thing that plays out during the course of the week. At the end of the day, most of the guys don’t want that kind of [psychological] fight.

How has the Omaha fight scene changed since Terence started having success?

We have more fights here, way more amateur fights here than we did before. I made a note to myself that I was going to change the way boxing was here. Put more shows on. Get more kids in the gym, a little at a time. And other coaches started grasping onto that. I told the other coaches to come over to our gym. Watch how we train. Ask for advice. Before, the other coaches just used to bicker back at each other.

Recently, I was talking to the president of the board here. I said, “Before, when we were at a national tournament and the other guys found out they were fighting a Nebraska guy, those motherfuckers started jumping all around the fucking joint because they knew they were about to get a win.” That’s because we were taking bullshit to the tournament.

We still have to get better. Now we have a board that is passionate about boxing. You know…not stealing money from the kids, kids not getting their per diems. It ain’t like that anymore. Kids get their per diems. Coaches get a little bit of gas money.  Things are looking up now.

I counted today. We had 42 fighters in the gym. Eighteen of them were either in the second week or their first week. With the advanced kids, they work by themselves in one corner of the gym and on the other side of the gym, we work with the beginners. It’s coming along.

Who are some other fighters that we should know about coming out of Omaha?

Look at Steven Nelson. He’s a 168-lber. I’m managing him and I train him during camp. Steven was the 2012 Olympic alternate. Look for him. I have Treven Coleman. He was a fucking good amateur. Kevin Ventura was a national Golden Gloves runner up. All of those guys are undefeated. With Kevin and Treven, we’re moving them slowly, one step at a time and they’ve fought more locally. Steven was on the World Series of Boxing team and fought all over the world. He fights mostly on Top Rank cards.

It seems like you and your team are having a lot of fun. Would you say that’s true?

We are. We understand that it’s not going to last forever. With Terence, the key thing is that we keep doing what got us here. We train in Colorado Springs. No distractions. We’re still working hard. I told our guys, the other members of our team, don’t go out and buy a bunch of bullshit that you don’t need. Save your money because there will be some dry months. Prepare yourself for the next fight. Also, stay in the gym and work with the amateurs. They are your future. You want more champions? There are your champions right there. And just soak it all in. Have fun and be yourself.

Who’s a boxing trainer that you’ve looked up to or means a lot to you?

You know, I haven’t been around a lot of trainers because I’m in the Midwest. So, everything that we do now has been a result of trial-and-error. And I never really had a lot of advice. It was just trial-and-error.

But I always looked up to Emanuel Steward because when I watched him, he always had his fighters with him. When we were at a national tournament, they were all around him. He was their trainer, their manager, their uncle, their father. You can’t get any better than that. He used to always take his fighters around with him. It didn’t matter if they were 4-0 or 5-0. Like a guy like Andy Lee. Or amateurs, when they were 16 or 17 – they were always around him and I respected that. I never got a chance to pick his brain but I watched him all the time.

A lot of fans are fascinated by potential matchups for Crawford at 147 lbs. Who do you see, if anybody, as a potential threat in that division?

I don’t see anybody who's a potential threat in that division. One thing I’m going to do is make sure my guy is well prepared before he steps in the ring for any style, whether that’s Garcia, Thurman, Porter, the young kid – Spence. Whoever. I will make sure that my guy is prepared. Anything that someone else can bring to the table I want to make sure that Terence has seen it and worked on it in camp.

One thing about Terence is yes, he loves to box and he loves to fight, but he understands that it’s his job. He knows that people depend on him. If Terence fights on a Saturday, he’s right back in the gym on a Wednesday or Thursday, doing some shadow boxing or whatever. The good part about it is that Terence understands what it takes to be a champion, what it takes to defend your title.

We talked about this just the other day. He said he wants one more fight in the junior welterweight division and then he’ll move up to 147. And when he gets tired of that, he’ll retire. And I want what’s best for him. I’ve known him since he was little. He’s like a little cousin that way… For me, if something hurts Terence, it hurts me too, like a parent. I start coaching with my heart... Listen, I don't want to see him get hurt. I want to see him make as much as he can. Enjoy his life. Enjoy the money that he makes. Watch his kids grow old. That’s what I want for him.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
@snboxing on twitter
SN Boxing on Facebook
Contact Adam at:

No comments:

Post a Comment