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Bynum Posts up at the Wild Card

Bynum & Roach
Bynum & Roach

Whenever the NBA lockout ends, don’t expect Lakers center Andrew Bynum to come back in the physical condition of Shawn Kemp (the perennial All-Star, who infamously gained another half-a-person) as he returned to the Cavaliers for the shortened 1998-1999 campaign. Six days a week, Bynum gets in a daily workout at the renowned Wild Card Boxing Club, the home of trainer Freddie Roach and fistic standouts like Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

In a sport that features mid-sized men and Lilliputians, Bynum certainly stands out.
When told of the “Rain Man” reference, he laughs, "This is my way of getting confident and just really getting in shape and getting to that next level," he said a few Saturdays ago, after he had worked the pads with Roach. "Boxing workouts are unbelievable workouts and they work on the total body. I’ve had a couple of injuries in my past, so I just need to be able to be strong in my whole body. So that’s why I’m doing it."

No, Bynum’s not training for a rematch with bantamweight JJ Barea of the Dallas Mavericks.


"It’s a great workout; it’s getting me in shape, giving me confidence with my hands and my ability to protect myself. Really, it’s great for the core," said Bynum, who is just the latest in a legion of professional athletes who have added some sort of combat training to their regimens. The big fella who was in Las Vegas for the Amir Khan-Zab Judah fight says he has new found respect for prizefighters, "Yeah, for sure; what they do is incredible. They work out every day, all day. I’m doing two-a-days right now and it’s pretty hard. We do stairs, swimming, lifting, lots of different things. It really is important to have a really strong core and to have footwork and those things definitely translate to basketball. So that’s why I’m doing this."



Believe it or not, Bynum is the second center to have worked with Roach, who helped future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal on his reality show “Shaq Vs.” as he battled Oscar De La Hoya in a reality show “bout.” "Andrew’s learning quickly and he’s a very good athlete and he’s actually picking up pretty quickly," said the trainer. It’s a strange sight to see Roach inside the squared circle with Bynum. Not only does he look like Muggsy Bogues next to him but he has to hold his hands abnormally high to work the mitts. Right now, there is no extra stress on his shoulders. "He’s not developed a big, big punch yet, so as he gets better, it’s going to get more difficult."


Perhaps Bynum is too big to have ever been a boxer (after all, he’s a good five or six inches taller than the Klitschko brothers) but as rare as true post players have become in the NBA, quality athletes at the heavyweight class are becoming almost as rare in this country with the lure of other sports like basketball and football. Roach agrees, stating, "The thing is, there are easier sports. There’s only one heavyweight champion of the world and the thing is, there’s a lot of great basketball and football players, of course. So I think a lot of the big guys are going that way and it’s an easier route. Boxing’s a tough business."


In the next two seasons (provided they take place), Bynum is slated to earn over $31 million. It’s this right here that has plus-sized athletes on the basketball courts and not in the gym like years past. The Lakers have certainly made a sizable investment in Bynum, who is one of the true bona fide “5’s” in the league. As the purple-and-gold eventually transition out of the Kobe Bryant era, it will be Bynum who is counted on to be the cornerstone of this storied franchise.


If he has an Achilles Heel, it his right knee (Bynum still wears a brace), which has had him missing significant time on the court. In the last three seasons, Bynum has played no more than 65 games in any of the regular seasons. It seemed as though that every time he was about to ascend to All-Star status, he’d come up gimpy. It got to a point last year where Lakers fans held their breath every time he battled for a rebound. It seemed Bynum’s knee was held together by duct tape and Super Glue.


Boxing, it seems, is being utilized to set the mental tone for Bynum to play a full season. It could be the difference between him spending the rest of his prime as a Laker or being packaged in a deal for Dwight Howard or any other commodity. He’s just 23 but with the wear-and-tear on his right wheel, some believe it’s an old 23. Randy Smith or AC Green he isn’t but his mission is to be that guy that can be counted on every single night.


"That’s always been my goal and I think boxing will really, really help me with that," said the native of New Jersey. "Strengthen my calves, strengthen my quads, strengthen all the areas that are around the knee and it’s working on footwork, which are all great for basketball and then obviously, in basketball, you get rest; you get timeouts and fouls and things like that. Boxing is not rest; you’re always protecting yourself, three-minute rounds. So if I can make it through a 12-round fight, then I know I can make it."


Helping in this pursuit is Alex Ariza, the strength-and-conditioning coach for many of Roach’s blue-chip boxers.


"I started with Andrew a couple of weeks ago," Ariza said at the Wild Card on Tuesday afternoon before getting Jorge Linares warmed up for his day’s work. "I just thought it was going to be a temporary thing; he was just going to be here for a couple of weeks. But he asked me to be his full-time trainer for the year, now, his strength-and-conditioning coach. So we’ve done his body composition a couple of weeks ago; we sat down, found out what his problems were or what he felt was hindering him. Obviously, he had a conditioning problem. He’s kinda prone to injury, things like that. So I sat down with my other partner, Teri Tom, and we just went over a whole program we’re going to carry out for the whole year to train him. Trying to reconstruct and rebuild him, hopefully get him to be a real force to be reckoned with in his sport."


And yes, the right knee is a point of emphasis in their overall plan.


"It’s one of those things; sometimes you never know what they’re doing and what they’ve done in the past," explained Ariza, who admits to not being all that knowledgeable about hoops. "Sometimes it can be an overdevelopment of the quadricep muscles and lack of development on the lower part of the muscles and that can cause the instability in the knees and things like that. So right now, we’ve gotten away pretty much from the strong, heavy lifting on the lower body, focusing more on his quick-twitch muscles. We’re doing a lot of speed drills, lot of cone drills and we’re also doing some strength-and-conditioning on his upper body."


Ariza says what he puts Bynum through is similar to the “Pac-Man’s” paces prior to a fight. "Mostly like Manny’s, also like Amir’s. He didn’t have that mobility- the ability to move side-to-side- that well. What I’m trying to do is build confidence in his making the moves and the sharp movements and things like that and that comes over time and just doing repetitions and repetitions and repetitions of those kind of drills."


The aim is for Bynum, who has put in six NBA seasons, to hover around 285 pounds while lowering his body fat. He meets with Ariza six times a week but this work stoppage has had an effect on them. "The lockout is preventing me from their facilities, which is a big problem. Unfortunately, we got kicked out of UCLA’s gym and so it just becomes harder and harder to find places [to work out] because again, a lot of the equipment is made-to-order for those kinds of size of guys. He doesn’t fit in normal, regular equipment. We’re left to coming up with inventive exercises and weight lifting equipment, things like that. We have to home-make it, pretty much,” laments Ariza.


As it relates to the “Sweet science,” he can keep it simple and this will continue to be a part of his physical routine in the future.


"I’m definitely going to continue boxing; it won’t be at that clip because obviously, I need to get on the basketball court and play but I’m definitely going to be alternating boxing days and basketball days," said Bynum. Don’t expect him to go all “Too Tall” Jones but Roach did mention that Bynum, "bought headgear with the bar and so I think he intends to spar. He’s not ready for that yet but he will spar someday, yes, I feel. He’s bought all the equipment."




(OK, if you don’t give a hoot about the NBA or the Lakers, I’d advise you to skip this section of the article)


As a lifelong Lakers fan, I had to ask, was Bynum stunned by how the eventual World Champion Dallas Mavericks had swept them out of the playoffs? He was blunt in answering, "No, not really. I really believe we didn’t practice hard enough to get the job done. So I think next year everybody will come in with a new focus and really be antsy to get that championship again."



(To which I’m sure Allen Iverson would respond: But seriously, it’s similar to a fighter who doesn’t hit the pavement to get his roadwork done, watches what he eats and puts his time in the gym, right? "Pretty much," said Bynum, chuckling softly. "You don’t do your work in the gym and then you get knocked out. That’s what happened."

Yeah, the Lakers were Michael Spinks to the Mavs’ Mike Tyson this past spring, no doubt.

As for their new coach, Mike Brown, who replaces the legendary “Big Chief Triangle,” Phil Jackson, Bynum said, "Actually, I haven’t gotten to meet him yet. I talked to him on the phone a couple of times. He seems like he knows what he’s talking about; he’s got some things that are definitely going to benefit us and help us defensively. That’s always his mindset. So that’s what wins championships, to be able to defend teams and if you can hold teams to 80-point games, 90-point games, you always have a reasonable chance to win. I think with him at coach and conditioning and defense, offensively, we’re a caliber of team that can come back and do it."

OK, I didn’t have the heart (or guts) to ask him if the team still had “trust issues.” I wasn’t going there.


- Like everyone else, I was surprised- but not necessarily stunned based on recent history- by Kelly Pavlik deciding not to fight this weekend against Darryl Cunningham in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, basically stating he was making a business decision in turning down a $50,000 payday for a tune-up fight and a $1.35 million package to face IBF super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute on November 5th.

What is really troubling (among many things) is that Pavlik believes that he’s being paid “peanuts.” This seems to be a serious lack of perspective here, especially from a young man who is as closely associated to this economically depressed region as Pavlik is/was. Forget the payday he was due to receive for facing Bute, what percentage of Youngstown considers 50-grand an overwhelming amount of money?

I’ve never been one to argue with athletes’ ability or yearning to make as much money as possible or them making certain financial demands. They only have one career and it has a relatively short shelf life but this here seems so misguided and downright delusional. Perhaps back in 2007 and 2008, in the wake of his big victory over Jermain Taylor, he could’ve commanded that price tag. Problem is, the calendar has turned to 2011.

For months, NFL players were locked out. Here, Pavlik seems to have done this to himself and like a “Ghost,” for the time being, he is invisible.

- Could it be that maybe- just maybe- Pavlik just doesn’t want to do this anymore?

"That’s what I’m beginning to think," said his frustrated promoter, Bob Arum, who states unequivocally that this decision was the fighter’s and his alone. "I mean, this was on him. He caught everybody in his camp unaware."

It’s pretty clear that Lucian Bute and Showtime should look for a new opponent on November 5th ("Well, if I were Jean Bedard [of InterBox], I would certainly do that," stated Arum) and I say we call the “Road Warrior,” Glen Johnson, out of the bullpen. I talked to his manager, Henry Foster, as the news broke and he flat out said they are ready, willing and able to go. Be reasonable and the fight is made.

Honestly, at this point, I like this fight better than the one that was originally slated to take place.

- There seems to be a breakdown in communication within Top Rank, Zanfer Promotions and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. At around 6 PM on Tuesday, Arum said that Chavez Jr. would not be fighting on September 24th. "Not for me, he isn’t. We ain’t doing anything. Fernando’s [Beltran] not doing anything. Freddie’s [Roach] not doing anything. Freddie can’t be with him."

Arum would clearly prefer that Junior return on November 19th, where an HBO date awaits him. "He wants to fight September 24th but nobody is on the same page as him."

But just a few minutes later, manager Billy Keane told Maxboxing, "I’m not really sure; I have not spoken to anyone in terms of Chavez’s promoters, be it Beltran or Bob, but I just got off the phone with Julio about an hour ago, who told me the fight- that he was told from Fernando- is a go September 24th [against] Ronald Hearns in Mexico. Alex Ariza is planning on going out there in a week or so to start training him."

OK, this much is for certain: Pavlik ain’t fighting this weekend. That I know.

- I read with some amusement over on (
) about how Sergiy Dzinziruk’s team might have to file legal action against HBO because the network may not be able to live up to their promise to bring him back in 2011, as promised for accepting the assignment to face middleweight king Sergio Martinez in March.

This was a lose-lose on both sides for HBO, while Dzinziruk’s co-TV packagers, Gary Shaw and Artie Pellulo, made out like bandits, securing their guy an $850,000 license fee and a return engagement for a fighter who is a beige spot on a beige wall in this country. Not only did they get a fighter that is unknown to their subscriber base to face Martinez but after getting hammered to the canvas five times by “Maravilla,” they now are obligated to bring him back (I’m sure for another hefty amount).

This is like that really bad trade in the NFL, where you not only acquire a player and pay him big bucks but you give up future draft picks. Said player becomes a huge disappointment, an albatross on your salary cap, if you will.

At least when the Redskins wasted $100 million on Albert Haynesworth, it was just as a free agent. I guess this is more like how the Minnesota Vikings got duped into building Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas dynasty for Herschel Walker.


Arum also told me that he is still looking to find a date available to stage the rematch between WBO featherweight champion, Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez at the end of 2011…The official numbers have come in from the NSAC for Khan-Judah; it did a gate of $725,475, with 4,554 tickets sold, 1,725 unsold tickets and 2,405 comps given out at the Mandalay Bay on July 23rd...The bizarre ending of the Ricky Burns-Nicky Cook fight (where Cook was felled early by a back ailment) reminded me of that classic line from Michael Keaton’s character, Hunt Stevenson, in “Gung Ho” (which is one of my favorite movies) where one of the last hurried cars off the assembly line falls apart after just a few seconds. Stevenson proclaims, "Hey, outside of that, I thought it ran great!"...Randy Moss, for an all-time great- and I think he’s top five at his position- I think he still underachieved. He never got rid of certain issues and that’s a shame. That said, to me, he’s a first ballot Hall-of-Famer; his numbers are simply too overwhelming...Forgot to comment on this before but it’s official: Francisco Bojado is Ryan Leaf...Is it true that they are doing a “Friday Night Lights” movie based on the TV show?! Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE!...Thoroughly enjoyed the Hall-of-Fame special on Ed Sabol on NFL Network, “The King of Football Movies.” I love NFL Films; you could say the Sabol Family were my babysitters on many days alone at my home as a youngster. John Facenda’s voice still gets me worked up...Speaking of WR’s, here’s my top ten from the University of Miami: 1- Michael Irvin, 2- Eddie Brown, 3- Andre Johnson, 4- (tie) Santana Moss/Reggie Wayne, 6- Lamar Thomas, 7- Leonard Hankerson, 8- Wesley Carroll, 9- Stanley Shakespeare, 10- (tie) Randall Hill/Horace Copeland. Just missing the cut/honorable mention: Kevin Williams, Chris T. Jones, Roscoe Parrish, Yatil Green, Jammi German, Daryl Spencer, Andre Brown, Dale Dawkins and Andre King. By the way, this is strictly on their careers while at Coral Gables...I don’t care who is sanctioning it or what but if Erik Morales-Lucas Matthysse is a go, I’m all in on that fight. “El Terrible’s” bad-assery knows no bounds (and score one for the INS in nixing Jorge Barrios)...

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