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Cotto's strength coach MacMillan: "He's been improving week by week"

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

Gavin MacMillan, the strength and conditioning coach for 140-147 pound boxing contender Ruslan Provodnikov and YFC welterweight champion George St. Pierre among others, has added a new client. Three-division champion Miguel Cotto, now in the back end of an illustrious career, has added both Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and MacMillan to his team on what he hopes is a successful final run towards immortality.


It’s been a long day but its been a good few weeks,” MacMillan told on last Thursdays episode. “We’re pretty excited for Miguel to get to Florida and to get to the fight. He’s been improving week by week so its been great.”


Roach works with St. Pierre on his stand up game while refining Provodnikov’s puncher-boxer ways at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. MacMillan was already working with GSP when he was brought on to work with Provodnikov. The move to work with Cotto was a natural one.


Freddie recommended me to him,” said MacMillan of Cotto. “When he came out here we met. We started up together and there was an immediate connection. [Cotto] understood what I wanted to do and why. So we just started getting to work. He is an extremely hard worker. Very dedicated and a complete professional. I have been very happy with what he has done, with his attitude. I can’t say enough about it. Absolutely it’s Freddie’s recommendation that put this together.”


MacMillan brings a scientific approach to his balanced regimen, emphasizing balance in nutrition as well as the type of work each of his athletes use to reach their respective peaks. With a veteran of many wars like Cotto, a young man of 32 in any world not combat sports, its not the years but the mileage you have to manage.


I knew he had been off for a good nine months. He’ gotten away and spent time with his family. But he wanted to get back to work,” said MacMillan. “We start at 5 in the morning and he puts in a minimum two hour workout. The first couple weeks we’d come in and work mitts with Freddie in the afternoon. That has slowly transitioned into his sparring. We’ve had to hold him back on some things but they’ve been replaced by others things that don’t really beat up your body as much.”


MacMillan explained that in boxing, the training can often be of the “Harder not smarter” variety. His aim is to change that with his fighters. Most fighters use the between fight period to eat and relax, allowing themselves to get completely out of shape. Thus, training camp becomes more fat farm than fight camp.


“The thing that I have really learned having been around this for awhile with these guys, is most of the fighters really work out to lose weight. They don’t really work out to get better athletically. And that’s what’s been our goal with all of this,” explained MacMillan.


Roach said that the work MacMillan has done with Cotto’s physique heading into their 154 pound fight with Delvin Rodriguez October 5, leads him to believe that Cotto might have a run at 147 left in him. Because the emphasis is not on losing weight, Cotto and Roach will now have plenty of time to focus in on putting the game plan into physical action.


“I’m not sure if you saw the pictures out of his media day but if [Cotto] needed to make weight Monday we could do that easily,” said MacMillan. “His focus this last few weeks will be on his strategic work with Freddie and how they are going to implement that into the fight. I think he is in great shape already and we are making sure we are going to finish the job.”


The topic turned to Provodnikov who is fighting for the WBO junior welter title against Mike Alvarado October 19 in Denver, Colorado. In his last fight, Provodnikov challenged Tim Bradley for WBO 147 strap, dropping him late and buzzing him throughout. MacMillan doesn’t see a problem with Provodnikov moving back down 7 pounds.


“No, I don’t think it will be because that is the weight [Provodnikov, a career 140 pounder] has always fought at. So I think that Ruslan will be able to transition [from 147 back to 140] quite easily. Its all a matter of nutrition anyways,” said MacMillan. “ And what your exercise regimen is. The tougher thing for Ruslan is that he is always in very decent shape. And looks after his body 24/7 around the year so he is very lean. So we have to be careful about what he’s eating and make sure he doesn’t get too depleted. These guys sweat all this stuff off and it’s not the fluid loss, it’s the mineral loss that really affects them. And so we make sure we keep his minerals balanced, that way his energy will stay high and keep his body burning fat and we should be fine.”


Provodnikov experienced his first breakthrough as an upper echelon pro after helping Pacquiao prepare for Tim Bradley in 2012. Ruslan seemed to hit the next level in terms of skill and confidence, carrying that into his bout with Bradley. To hear MacMillan tell it, he has had a similar experience with Cotto.


“There’s a great respect between the two,” said MacMillan. “To Miguel’s credit he has been a really positive influence in terms of encouraging Ruslan. He sees the talent and the potential he has. Miguel has been around this a long time. He knows all the fighters. He knows what their strengths are. He knows what their tendencies are. He’s been great with it and we’ve really appreciated the input. I’m telling you, man, I can’t say enough positive things about Miguel and what he has done for me and I am sure Freddie would tell you the same thing.”


MacMillan said he is grateful for the fact that both Provodnikov and St. Pierre have enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) for a few reasons. The stigma in boxing, unfairly, is that strength coaches are the one who bring performance enhancing drugs to the gym. Having his fighters willingly entering into arguably the world’s most stringent drug testing protocol, is not only a ringing endorsement of his work’s cleanliness but also gives him a screening process for clients. MacMillan will not work with anyone using or looking to us PEDs.


“Well yeah, it is for a lot of reasons. Because for number one if guys are taking this stuff I won’t work with them,” said MacMillan. “Anybody that knows me knows that. I don’t want anything to do with it. There’s too many of the trainers that are in boxing or are in MMA that are pushing [PEDs]. I don;t know what the percentage is but its really high. And most of the [commissions] aren’t testing for HGH [Human Growth Hormone] so that goes unaccounted for. And now that they’ve legalized if your testosterone falls below a certain level [The T/E ratio test and/or Therapeutic Use Exemptions for synthetic testosterone] they are making it legal to take it by prescription, it makes it an even tougher issue.”


The accusations of PED use are frustrating accusation for St. Pierre and MacMillan, prompting GSP to undergo testing with VADA to clear the air once and for all.


“It’s really hard to, because George was here last week, it’s really hard to sit and listen to these people say that he is taking steroids or done this or done that. Its completely false,” said MacMillan. “This guy is a complete professional. He is really strict, especially when camp comes, about what he is eating, what he is putting in his body. Again, he is a very experienced professional in what he is doing. But because he is built the way he is, they say ’OK. He must be juiced.’ I have that same kind of build. If I do resistance work, I get very big and cut very quickly. I don’t take anything and I never have.” did a well-researched and written piece involving St. Pierre, his opponent Johny Hendricks and GSP’s attempt to get his UFC 167 fight tested by VADA. GSP ended up doing the testing while Hendricks will only be undergoing testing on the night provided by the Nevada State Commission [NAC]. The article is must read material considering the recent firestorm of criticism of NAC Athletic Director Kieth Kizer.


I know its really frustrating for [GSP] it’s really frustrating when your opponent refuses to do it and the reason they put in the press is because ’Well, you already have been doing it and gotten away with it so what’s the point?.’ I mean what kind of answer is that? If he has been doing drugs then it is going to show up on his tests,” said MacMillan.


MacMillan went further, endorsing VADA and explaining why he, GSP and Provodnikov all want to continue working with the group. In a climate such as today’s combat sports world, with TUEs for TRT, giant T/E ratio loopholes to jump through and the possibility of undetectable drugs, extra testing is the one safe haven for clean athletes.


If you know the people at VADA, you know that they are dedicated to what they are doing,” said MacMillan. “We encourage VADA testing. Freddie is the one who recommended to George that we go through VADA. Its the same thing group we went through with Ruslan’s camp because we know we are getting. And we know that they are going to do it in a fair manner for everybody. Its not an even playing field out there and anybody that believes that it is is just naive. There was that report just released out of Australia or New Zealand that calculated the percentage chance of an athlete getting caught doping is 2.3%. So how is it not worth it to these guys, right? I mean, the amount of money for a lot of these people at stake. When you look at the debacle that has happened with Alex Rodriguez. I mean, c’mon. That’s one of the most high profile players in the sport.”


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