"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…" John Donne, 1624.
I can't be certain, but it is safe bet to guess that John Donne never stepped inside a boxing ring. Back-street prizefights can have been of little interest to a religious poet in Jacobean London.
But Donne was certainly on to something when he wrote that no man is ever truly alone. Even the boxer, surely the most isolated man in sport, is just one clod of earth from a much larger continent.
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For when the first bell tolls, it tolls not just for the boxer, but his trainer too.
When Joe Calzaghe takes on Bernard Hopkins in the early hours of Sunday morning, he will have his father Enzo in the corner behind him, as he has for the last 18 years and 44 professional fights – all of them victories.
Their intense, enduring partnership is one of the most documented in the sport, but it is far from unique. Behind every fighter, there is a trainer putting the "shadow" in shadow boxing.
Let Eurosport-Yahoo! guide you through a murky, gritty and somestime plain crazy world with our Six Golden Rules of the Boxing Cornerman…
1. Get yourself a back story: R-E-S-P-E-C-T is everything in the fight game; get yourself a history (real or imagined), and you've far more chance of making it in a sport that lives on its legends. With any claims to a history in the pro ranks likely to be exposed as a sham faster than a Floyd Mayweather Jnr wrestling match, a shadowy amateur career is always a safe bet.
Perhaps speckle your story with shady references to some bare-knuckle bouts in underground car-parks. Even better if you can throw in an orang-utan named Clyde.
2. Get a nickname: Boxing loves a nickname. The Brown Bomber; The Cincinnati Flash; The Cinderella Man; The Italian Stallion; The Count of Monte Fisto. But it isn't only boxers who deserve nicknames; trainers and cornermen deserve them too – even if you have to make up your own. Make sure you give careful consideration to your new moniker.
One rule of thumb would be that your legacy on the public psyche increases in direct relation to how many consonants you have in your nickname. So, while "The Disciplinarian" to be a fitting nickname for trainer, it isn't as good as "The Totalitarian Disciplinarian Who Once Wanted To Be A Veterinarian But Instead Became A Barbarian Vegetarian…" Get the picture?
3. Smack-talk to your heart's desire: If you are lucky enough to make a living from the fight-game, it is your birthright to talk smack to people - and it would be a crime to waste that opportunity. In what other sport are vile, obscenity-littered rants not only tolerated, but actively encouraged? That said, it is important to note that while at its best some well-directed trash-talk can strike a pre-emptive psychological blow ahead of a fight, get it wrong and it just sounds so-ooooo lame.
If you are ever in any doubt just stick to the rule-book of legendary crack-pot trainer Roger Mayweather: Threaten unprovoked attacks with baseball bats, toss in some fairly run-of-the-mill "prison be-atch" abuse, swear a lot, and then begin slurring your words and mumbling inaudibly like a park-bench hobo cussing some imaginary demon.
4. Keep it simple: Fighters tend to enjoy simple, straightforward advice, whether in training camp (Faster! Harder! Higher! Chop that wood! Run up that mountain! Punch that slab of meat!) or in the middle of a fight (Move your head! Use your jab! Stay down! Finish this bum and let's go home!).
The time in between rounds should be like a pit-stop: smooth, rehearsed, slicker than cat shit on a lino floor. Just try to make it better than that F1 pit-stop a few years ago when Jos Verstappen almost had his face turned to pizza by the enormous fireball that engulfed his car.
5. The truth hurts – so lie: If your man is winning a fight, tell him he's losing – it will keep him motivated. If he's getting an ass-whooping, tell him he's winning – it will lift his spirits. If he asks whether his nose is broken, tell him he looks gorgeous, even if he looks like Steve Bruce after he's been hit in the face with the ugly-spade.
6. Love him like a son: Boxing is a brutal sport, and watching your fighter getting his face jabbed to a bloody pulp cannot be a pleasant experience – especially in the current namby-pampy, compensation-culture world of people suing Cruise Control manufacturers because their campervan crashed whilst they were in the back making a cup of tea.
And so, although it might go against every instinct in your body, there may come a time when your man is getting such a beating that it's time to toss in the fabled towel. Or, if you've got a sense of style, fly into the ring on a paramotor and carry your fighter out like an angel (wearing Farah slacks…). Like Mickey Goldmill's last words to Rocky Balboa: "I love ya, kid."
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