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Danny Davis: Road to the Helm and other Weighty Issues

By Luis A. Cortes III

Just as a professional fighter does when he first enters the professional ranks, a trainer must prove not only that he has the knowledge and skill to take on the essentials for someone’s career, but that he also can be the chief in charge of the hectic 60 seconds between rounds. For Danny Davis of Philadelphia, it’s been a long journey to the point of being the man at the helm for his fighters. One that has produced, if nothing else, a sense of just what the sport is like on every level. Davis, a former prizefighter himself, decided to call his short professional career a day once and for all, back in 2000.


This was, of course, after he realized that his skills and understanding of the sport would be better used if he were the person passing it down to younger talent. Davis felt that since he needed to be around the sport in one form or another, training and especially strength and conditioning would be a nice area to settle into. For Davis, it was a natural fit.

“It all started back in the mid 90s. I was still an active fighter,” said Davis. “I got mixed up with the Ivan Robinson crew. That really didn’t take off until he was getting ready for his first fight with the late Arturo Gatti.” Davis was helpful in preparing Robinson during training camp. Along with helping Robinson’s conditioning, he was able to help with what has become his signature attribute, working his fighters on the pads.


“I’ve always been sick with the pads, man,” Danny says as he sits next to a set of pads on the ring apron at the Joe Hand Gym. If Los Angeles has the Wild Card Gym as its Mecca, Philadelphia has the Joe Hand Boxing Club (among others). It’s a gym that houses a who’s who of professional fighters from the Philly area. Name a fighter from the area over the past 20 years and they have either trained or have come to Joe Hand for some sick sparring work at some point in their careers. It’s the gym where Danny Davis has settled in as his home base for an ever-growing stable of fighters at different points in their careers. 


After Robinson had his success in the two Gatti fights, Davis used this to solidify that he indeed knew a thing or two about the Sweet Science, and not just from the giving-and-taking-punches side of things. 


Davis says, “I’ve always been around the area, with all types of fighters. Once the fights for Robinson happened, sure it helped that I was part of the team that helped Ivan get prepared. But in no way did things instantly happen.”


It was around the turn of the decade that- while Davis decided to finally call his own professional fighting career a day- that he got in with one of the best old-school minds in the area.  “I started hanging around Champs Gym and Mr. Bouie,” said Davis. For those of you who are not aware of just who Mr. Bouie is, that would be Bouie Fisher, the man and mind that saw a young fighter fresh out of jail that had the swagger of one mean dude and made him great. Simply put, if not for one Bouie Fisher, there would never have been a Bernard Hopkins. 


If you’re not from the Philadelphia area or haven’t had the pleasure of sitting with one of the old-school trainers, it’s hard to explain exactly what it feels like when you’re around those types of minds. Everything about the sport is dissected in ways that are similar to what writers do. These trainers make sure they lock all the doors and close all the windows, in terms of their fighters. They want to make sure that their charge is prepared for battle in every way.


“Mr. Bouie came to me one day and told me that Bernard had heard about the pad work I was giving people in the gym and he wanted to try me out,” recalled Davis The rest, as they say, is history. Once Hopkins tried him out, it was a marriage and, from then on, Davis was a mainstay with Team Hopkins. But as a result of working with Hopkins, Davis, at times, had to put other things to the side. 


“It got rough ‘cause I would have to put other things that I was doing to the side whenever Bernard would go into training camp,” admitted Davis. In other words, it was hard for the trainer, who couldn’t branch out on his own. “I had to stop working with Eddie [Chambers] because of the scheduling conflicts. I mean, these are other grown men who are also full-time fighters. So when you tell them, ‘Hey, I got to go work with Bernard,’ they understand. But they also need that full-time attention.”


Davis’ travels with Team Hopkins have taken him around the world. He had his stints in Los Angeles with Hopkins back in 2007 and has even been able to possibly ply his trade out on the west coast. “I just felt that Philadelphia is the place for me. I feel as though Mr. Bouie passed a lot of what he had in terms of his mind down the line to me,” he said, fondly. “Philadelphia is the place to be, if you are going to continue to train fighters in that tradition.”


We all know what a traditions Philadelphia is known for. For all of the stories and facts that are tossed around about this city and the fight game, one thing is certain: Philadelphia produces throwback fighters and throwback champions. “No one could ever replace Mr. Bouie…ever. Brother Naazim [Richardson] is the closest thing aside, from me. I mean, he [Richardson] learned everything from him as his mainstay pupil,” Davis points out.


But while Brother Naazim focuses on the main fighters out of the Golden Boy stable, Danny Davis has settled into the Joe Hand Gym with his own growing stable of fighters. “I loved my time with Bernard and that crew,” said Davis. “I have nothing but good thoughts about my time with them. I’m always just a phone call away, but its time to continue forward.”


In other words, its time for Danny Davis to step out from the shadow and come into the light as a head trainer for all of his fighters, which is a benefit to those who come to him for tutelage. “If you are looking to get into shape and to be as strong as you can be, I’m not hard to find. If you are looking to work on the finer points of the game, I’m not that hard to find. If you want to fight in the Philadelphia tradition, again, I’m not hard to find.” 


All of these attributes are things Davis is passing on to fighters like Mike “No Joke” Stewart, Ray “Tito” Serrano, and Jason Sia. “My fighters are always in shape; I got Mike Stewart later in his career. But for a fighter that has faced what he has already in his career, I make sure he can handle the grind and continue forward with his passion,” said Davis.


With Ray Serrano and Jason Sia, who is a hard-hitting Filipino (who also fights as a southpaw. A shocker there), he has the opportunity to nurture these younger area talents. Davis marvels, “It’s crazy; I’m going to have a Puerto Rican and Filipino fighter fighting in the Philadelphia style, as if they were black middleweights from the ‘70s. I can’t wait to see the outcome.”


Fist Notes/Weighty Issues…


Man, is it just me or are you as un-attracted to HBO and the way they handle situations that are current within the sport as I am? It seems to me that they try to be unbiased about fighters and the people that are involved with the business end of the sport when it best favors them.


Note to the network: Don’t sit back and blame a fighter like Joan Guzman for taking a fight in the lightweight division when he knew he couldn’t make the weight. At that, you even tried to degrade him with that fighters’ code B.S. that he should have lived up to. FIRST of all, when every other entity around you in the business has no code (including NETWORKS), why the hell should you, as a fighter, try and live up to this code? 


It’s clear that everyone is on their own in boxing. If you are looking for solidarity and unions, put on football pads or pick up a bat. Honestly, if Guzman turned down this championship rematch with Funeka, would he still have gotten a television date? Of course not; so let’s examine this closely. 


If you could make your largest purse by just signing the dotted line to fight on HBO, wouldn’t you be tempted? Even if you knew that you couldn’t make weight and even if you would have to pay a $25,000 penalty and you couldn’t fight for the belt? A championship belt that is similar to one you had already?   


Here is the kicker, a fighter like Guzman has been on television before and he has held a belt. For Guzman, he is at a point in his career where he needs exposure to help his popularity and to create a buzz, or flat out just make the most cheddar that he can.    


Unfortunately, exposure in boxing equals television dates. Plus, if I have to pay a $25,000 fine and still make more money after expenses, fines, and payouts (managers, trainers, and training expenses) by taking the fight on HBO than if I were to say, “Hey, HBO, sorry but I can’t make weight. I can’t fight. Take me off the show; don’t give me another date until God-knows-when, if ever. Oh, and, by the way, it’s okay, because I’ll fight anywhere else but your television network for peanuts in some club where no one would care. Just so you keep the supposed integrity of your network,”…what choice do YOU think I’d make?


Now is it me or does that whole situation sound funny?  I mean, come on, HBO, if you are not going to take on the responsibility of being able to positively affect the sport, don’t ever get on a high horse ever again. Don’t pin everything on a fighter, but then again, that is the constant way of this business. If you don’t want to take blame for things and situations that occur in the sport- because in the end, you still benefit- point the finger at the fighter.   


Everyone gets their due; everyone gets their pay; everyone gets to rape (oh, I meant “reap”) the benefits of what the fighter does inside the ring, except for the fighter and his family. But when the fighter turns around and plays the system in his favor, he is uncontrollable and a disease to the sport. Wrong, point the finger where the finger needs pointing. Stop calling out fighters like Hopkins and the ones who have the smarts not to be punked by the system the problem.                                


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