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Mackie on Boxing

Interview for the Everlast Reader, 12/06/06

If you step into the ring and your opponent has Mackie Shilstone in his corner, you know that your luck has just taken a turn for the worse. Considered to be one of the best trainers in the sport, Mackie has worked with professional boxers such as Michael Spinx, Riddick Bowe, Roy Jones Jr. and most recently, Bernard Hopkins, helping them find their ideal boxing weight. The result? Championship belts. Author of numerous health and fitness books including The Fat Burning Bible and Maximum Energy for Life, Shilstone has worked with over 3,000 professional athletes and offers them a proven way of increasing their mass without adding flab. We talked to Mackie about his career and asked him to share some secrets with the Everlast reader.

Everlast: How did you come into the business of training boxers?

Mackie Shilstone: In 1982 I was assisting New Orleans native Don Hubbard, who had a partnership with Michael Spinxs manager. I had helped Don and his wife with their health program, and I offered to help Michael Spinx. I was put on a plane to the Catskills to work with Spinx to prepare for his fight with Johnny Davis. We changed the way boxers did things. Before there was not a lot of analysis on training, and we introduced power training into sports: a 3-to- 1 work-to-rest ratio and good common nutrition. Seventeen years later, Roy Jones Jr. contacted me and it was a whole new world. Our evaluations were much more advanced, we offered unique testing of endurance, fat levels, and heart rate. We accomplished our goal of building muscle without losing speed. Bernard Hopkins saw me training Roy Jones Jr. in a documentary and he called me to work with him. We went the opposite direction with Riddick Bowe and won two titles. We were the first to tell fighters what was the best weight to fight at using CAT scan technology. Ive since expanded to training professional athletes in other sports, as well.

Everlast: How does training boxers differ from the other types of athletes you train?

MS: First of all, boxing is a totally unique sport. Boxing is the only sport where a boxer has a license to kill. If a man hits another man, and the other man doesnt get up, no one goes to jail. Inside the ring, theres no difference between boxing and war. The ring is the theater of operations, with a Geneva Convention called a referee. Everything else is a childs sport. Boxing is controlled aggression. When we (Jones Jr.) fought John Ruiz, we went in there to break his nose, get him to breathe through his mouth, target his chest with shots; essentially reverse CPR to slow his heart rate. Tarver was lucky he didnt have his jaw broken, because that was the goal in training Bernard. I consulted with surgeons as to how to break a jaw. We called Tarver a cobra, because cobras only have one type of attack. I had Bernard Hopkins reading about mongooses, an animal particularly effective in killing cobras. So what Im getting at is that all the other sports pale in comparison. Boxers literally have to look out for their lives.

Everlast: Whats the most important training tip that many athletes seem to miss?

MS: Motivation. The single biggest thing to overcome is lack of passion – complacency. I think the key is to know where you are in the game and know how to recover yourself. Fighters dont realize that this is a year-round sport. Boxing is a sport, whether you like or not, where there is potential for brain damage. You need good, sound management. Professional boxers dont want to do this for a long time. Invest your money wisely. The smart fighters are the ones who got out in a timely manner. Get out with your health. While youre in the sport, do it passionately, but dont pay with your health.

Everlast: What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?

MS: I feel that there are highlights of my career that Im most proud of, but Im not sure of a greatest achievement. I think that the opportunity to work with Michael Spinx was important because it literally started my career. My two title wins with Riddick Bowe were great but it wasnt until I worked with Roy Jones Jr. that I was cast into the limelight. But above all, Bernard Hopkins might be my single greatest feat. Here you have a 41-year old moving up two weight divisions. Not only did he survive climbing the mountain, he conquered it. I dont know if you can repeat something like that. He called me his secret weapon. Jim Lampley said it best: Mackie Shilstone is 3-0 in moving people up in division. I hope that I am able to set the tone for other people. We opened the book and wrote the first chapter.

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Interview: Jonathan Abraham
Photo: Michael Palumbo