Morris East is Determined to Prove Pinoys Are Good Boxing Trainers, Too
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Mon, 05 Apr 2021
Vintage photo of East with Chavez Sr who nearly came fight each other.
So much is known and written about the fighting quality of Filipino boxers, of how good, even great some of them are from the time they were introduced to Western style boxing, whether amateur or professional.
However, very little is known or written about how good Filipino boxing trainers or coaches are albeit the Philippines producing nearly seventy world boxing champions and about half a dozen Olympic medalists in about a century of practicing the sport.
This is primarily because the focus of attention has been on the successful boxers, many of whom hardly mention the contribution of their mentors, particularly those who not only discover and introduce them to the sport but patiently build the foundation of their future success.
Another reason is, let us admit it, colonial mentality: We do not think very highly of our native trainors as we do foreign coaches. Most so called local experts would recommend that if promising fighters to be developed to their full potentials, they have to at least undergo training under noted foreign, mostly American trainers.
That is not 100 percent accurate or true.
I can cite the case of Gerry Peñalosa whose style of fighting was okay for his division littered by fast, stylist Asians but one boxing factotum said would not be enough if he were to fight the likes of Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero. So he recommended that Gerry undergo training with Freddie Roach who proceeded to build his body into a muscular one and improved his punching power but at the expense of his former speed and flexibility. So what happened was Gerry lost his world title to a fast and stylist Korean to whom he also lost in a rematch. He also lost to the fast stylist Korean Japanese who came after the Korean. Meanwhile, the bruited Danny Romero was sent to school by a Thai stylist who would also nearly beat him if not for foolish braggadocio that allowed Gerry to knock him out in the later rounds.
Of course, there is no denying the coaching brilliance of Roach with Manny Pacquiao. But Manny is a once a generation or many generation natural phenomenon. He was a KO artist from the time he was with Leopoldo "Polding" Correa who honed that skill until his transfer to bosom buddy Restituto "Buboy" Fernandez. Buboy, now a Bicol vice mayor himself, proved his worth when he guided Manny during Freddie's absence. But the perception is Buboy learned much from Freddie, which is partly true as many great trainers owe their knowledge and skill working with great trainers before them.
Another reason for the low regard to local trainers is that some of them never boxed before and some who did, were not very successful. But that's a proven fallacy in boxing coaching. There are lots of cases that proved a successful trainer need not be a former fighter or a successful former boxer. We can cite the cases of non boxers Angelo Dundee and Cus DAmato, even Emmanuel Stewart and Teddy Atlas and former boxers Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Floyd Sr and Roger Mayweather, Robert Garcia and yes, Freddie Roach. What is important is their influencing presence and their power to motivate boxers to believe in them and their own selves.
Former boxer and world champion Rodel Mayol and non boxer Nonito Donaire Sr. are very good boxing trainers but they are not very well known. It is because they content themselves training just local fighters, in the case of Nonito Sr., his own son, Nonito Jr. and are mainly based in what they call home.
However, many boxers and managers from other Asian countries are beginning to see the advantages of training in the Philippines under Filipino boxing mentors.
The biggest hurdle to making known and big in international boxing coaching particularly in the US, according to former world boxing champion now respected trainer and manager Morris East is the issue of race.
East said he was able to enter the circle because he is half Black or Afro-American.
"Well it's also an advantage that I'm half Black coz they are territorial so it's hard to get into their world... to tell you the truth they accept me more than my Pinoy side. They are prejudice against me. My US colleagues gave me the credit for being the best pad man which meant a lot to me. Also one other coach that boosted my confidence was the late Emmanuel Stewart he told me, 'Young man I'm watching you, good luck and keep up the good work'. Coming from someone as well known as he was, it means the world for someone like me originally from the province (Zambales)."
East said: "Not in my wildest dream would I thought I would be training several world champions to name a few Chad Dawson, Ishe Smith, Badou Jack, a Chinese champion, Xu Can and others."
It was farthest from the plan of East to become a boxing trainer as when he moved to the US after losing the WBA junior welterweight title to Juan Martin Coggi in Argentina, the aim was to make a comeback.
East related: "This is what happened when I came back to the US I wanted to do a comeback since I was still in my late 20's and I was rated #3 in my weight class so I decided to move from San Diego worked with Billy Moore son of Archie Moore and Abel Sanchez trainer of Terry Norris and GGG and many others then when I was in Las Vegas and I tried my luck on my own... I didn't sign up with anyone coz of my bad experiences so I was a free lance boxer but all my tentative fights were either cancelled, my opponent got injured or they would back out when they saw my record coz I was also the first Filipino to be Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year... so I was so frustrated and my wife told me maybe God is trying to tell you something and she suggested maybe I should learn the skills outside the ring."
He continued: "I took her advice and she told me learn from the best and so I started volunteering in gyms until Eddy Mustafa Muhammad gave me a break because I saw he had so many boxers and I could tell he needed help until we got to know each other. He finally saw my work ethics and since he knows all these boxers it was my foot in the door from there I've worked with Edward Busa, Robert Garcia, Peewee Whitaker, Nonito Donaire Sr and several others ... that's when I discovered I had a knack for training and I have a gift of gab to get the boxer fired up and I now realized I still could be in boxing and not get beaten up hehehe".
East said that after recovering from a long bout with naso pharyngeal cancer, he is back with Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s The Money Team as trainer consultant. "They've called me already but I just need some more time to get back my health and I want to be back in the gym soon," East said adding "I really hope so but I can still train and teach someone with the skill how to do pads coz I still know champion moves and I know how to develop skills."
East said he would like to believe "I still have a mission that's why the Lord spared me."
And that is to prove that Filipinos are not only good at fighting in the ring but also in training and preparing boxers for fight.
East is the youngest world boxing champion produced by the Philippines when in 1992 he knocked out whom he called Japan's version of Pacquiao at the time, Akinobu Hiranaka in the 11th and penultimate round of their 12 round bout for the WBA junior welterweight title. He was just 19 years and one month and a day old at the time.
He confided that at the time there was also a plan to pit him against then fast-rising Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. who had previously also beaten the legendary Puerto Rican Edwin "El Chapo" Rosario from whom Hiranaka won the WBA title which East wrested.
East said highlight of his previous trainer's stint was when he simultaneously handled Zab Judah and Nonito Donaire, Jr. Judah went on to become a unified world junior welterweight titlist while Nonito was a multi division world champion in five weight classes.
One episode that he said was memorable with Judah was when Judah low blowed Floyd Mayweather, Jr., hitting him on the nut, which he said was never in the plan or strategy. "When Zab and Floyd fought he was still very young and was so hot headed unlike nowadays he's calm, matured and mellow and he's a businessman on the other side of the fence. He has a promotion involved with celebrities."
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
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