Khan and Porter have been on nearly parallel paths. While Khan was contemplating moving up to 147 pounds last year to fight then-titlist Devon Alexander, he instead decided to hold out for a possible May date with Mayweather. Porter ended up taking the fight with Alexander last December and lifted his IBF belt in a 12-round unanimous decision victory.
“It was going to be me fighting Alexander but I was told to leave that fight for a bigger fight in the future. But it’s a sport. We all get along with each other. We have a good relationship. I think it’s good when you get two fighters, especially two world-class fighters, training together. Because you kind of push each other, motivate each other,” said Khan.
Porter echoed the sentiment.
“Well, you know, I’ve known [Khan] for awhile,” said Porter. “First and foremost, I have to respect him. I have to respect what he’s done in the ring. Aside from that, we both know this is a business. As easy as I can smile, I can get down and dirty and do my business. We’re friendly out here but if the time comes, we’ll hit the switches.”
Angulo was scheduled to begin training an hour after Porter, Khan and Escalante. “The Aloha Kid” as Escalante is known, more than held his own in the drills, at times setting the pace.
“It’s great to work out with world class athletes like these three,” said Escalante. “We push each other. I am happy to be working with them. Like Victor Conte always says, ‘If it’s not fun don’t do it,’ so we push each other to have fun even when it’s not fun to work hard.”
“I feel really good, comfortable. When Remi say, ‘Here’s the last lap,’ I get really happy and you can run [faster],” Angulo said with a smile and laugh after his session was over. “This is my third camp with Remi and this time, he is more focused on my work. Every day when I come in for Remi, he follow my work all the time.”
No one pushes the fighters harder than the 81-year-old Korchemny. When he is not explaining to them how to do an exercise, the octogenarian will do the drills himself, including a leg lift that would convince anyone that making it to 81 is a possibility. He is clearly a general willing to work as hard as his soldiers.
“[Remi] does the same [drills] but also he brings me something different all the time,” said Angulo. “One thing I appreciate about Remi? I don’t care who you are. Remi push you. I don’t care what your name is or who you spar. I don’t care. If you aren’t working good, Remi will tell you.”
Porter lights up when I mention Remi. Getting that coach with all the right info and the willingness to impart it is not easy. Watching Korchemny work with the fighters through a series of drills from sprints in various arm positions to hopping up the bleachers to elastic band work, the bond he has with his athletes is palpable. And the love they have for him is even more so.
“It’s a very special thing. The guy still drives here himself. He gives the wrong directions sometimes…” laughed Porter. “All in all, he’s a great person. He’s a great coach. I said, ‘Remi, man, this might’ve been the hardest session I’ve had with you.’ And he just touches his belly and he laughs. He’s got a good heart. He’s going strong. Hopefully, I can get some years out of him and take all this information he has to offer.”
And through it all, Conte is there offering advice to their various team members who come to watch and absorb the knowledge being freely shared. It’s a happy group.
“Victor here and Remi help us out by putting us through a program, which isn’t easy,” said Khan. “It’s always good to see new faces, new champions because that way, when you are tired, they motivate you to go harder.”
“Everyone is having fun and that’s what you get when you get a group of guys who are used to this type of training and are prepared for this type of training,” said Porter. “You can always try and challenge each other and bring each other up and that is the best thing about being out here. I’ve got some camaraderie out here. Some guys that I grew up with [are] out here. And all in all, you got to make what you are doing fun. If it ain’t fun, why do it?”
Angulo spoke about the work Khan has been giving him in the gym, this being his third camp with Korchemny and fourth with trainer Virgil Hunter. By all accounts, he looks great in sparring. On the track, he looked as good as he has ever, even breaking a personal best on his final 400 time.
“I am very happy,” Angulo said. “Virgil, he is very close to all his fighters. [Andre] Berto, Falah, Stan [Martyniouk], all the fighters he has working together; that’s why it is a really good camp. The speed of Amir is very important for me. I know [Saul] “Canelo” [Alvarez] has speed but I don’t think he is faster than Amir. Amir has a lot of experience. He has fought tremendous fighters before and I am really good shape.”
Part of Korchemny’s way of pushing the athletes he trains is to yell out the times of each man as they do the same sprint drills. No athlete can stand someone beating him.
“It’s good to know what your numbers are. I remember doing this a couple months back and I got 58 seconds and that was amazing,” said Khan, not so much bragging but showing surprise at his own potential being realized. “Normally, when I start doing this, I get like 65, 66 seconds - but coming back and doing it in 61 seconds. The first time I run since the last two or three months, hitting 61.5, it shows all the work I am doing is working. All the strength work I am doing with my strength-and-conditioner, Tony Brady, it’s only making me stronger doing the sprints. My legs are strong. We’ve been doing a lot of lower body exercises. It’s kind of given me the extra edge coming here because I know my legs are going to be strong.”
Porter said the mere presence of a fighter in his weight class increases his focus.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” agreed Porter. “[Khan]’s in my weight class and I have to be on top of my business day in and day out, so whenever we’re on the track together, whenever we’re in the gym together, I got to one-up him in any and everything we do. I try to beat him on a lot of stuff out here to try and tell him I could do it but also, to tell myself that I can do it. That’s the competitor in me.”
Porter also stressed that staying in shape and finding new levels within yourself is essential to long-term success.
“Very important. My dad has preached that to me my entire career,” said Porter, “and I am finally getting to the point now where I understand it and I respect it. This has to be your day in and day out. It has to be your everything. Your every focus has to be boxing. That’s not to say that I don’t go to the movies or anything like that but when I am in my training or in my off-season, off-fight training, it’s all important. To stay at the top of my game, so I am not from here [reaches below him] starting up. I’m here [reaching up above his head], gradually climbing to the top.”
So is there any possibility Khan and Porter could square off?
“In the future, it could happen,” said Khan. “We have the same promotional team but at the moment, nothing is being said. But we just respect each other and that is what it is about. At the end of the day, we end up pushing each other.”
At the end of the session, the fighters all posed for a photo, smiles on their faces, fists raised. They had each worked as hard as I’d seen them, focused, smiling and intent on reaching and moving past new limits.
Said Escalante, “It’s always motivating to work with the best coach at the track and also working with successful athletes is very motivating to train hard.”
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