Joe Joyce’s coach Ismael Salas says ‘I made Savon’

Top Cuban coach Ismael Salas, who will be in Joe Joyce’s corner this weekend, walks Declan Warrington through his journey from Cuba to Asia, Australia and the United States.

The son of a Cuban-American middle-class engineer and a Cuban mother, Ismael Salas was one of six siblings born and raised in the southern city of Guantanamo, and his talents gradually took him from there to Havana, then Asia and Australia. he previously managed the careers of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Jorge Linares as another successful Cuban export in the US.

“What happened in Cuba at that time was so beautiful,” said Salas Boxing news from his first steps in his career, which he has taken so individually. “It’s normal to come home with bruises, like a war medal. We’ve cultivated this mentality – ‘If you go out into the street, don’t come back crying’. That’s why there are so many fighters in Cuba. [My parents] were very harsh and very strict. My father, at 19:00 everyone had to sit at the dinner table; not at 19:05. That’s the discipline I bring with me.

“I grew up in the neighborhood; Cuban society then played a lot in the street, fought in the street and lived every day. The only boxing gym there was two blocks from my house. One day when I was eight or nine years old, I started watching fights there; every tuesday and saturday they had cards. I started to love it – I didn’t know why, the adrenaline was pumping – and I said to myself: “This is my choice.”

“Boxing was only for the lower classes at that time. My parents wanted me to be an engineer like my brother, father, grandfather; they hoped that one day I would become an employee at an American base, but I chose a different path.

“My mother didn’t understand that I liked boxing. Still, I continued to fight and hide [it]; mother started beating me. But once he said, “If you like to do it, there’s one condition—if you stay in school, I’ll let you do what you like.”

“I graduated [in Santiago de Cuba] At the age of 20 and the coach there saw my potential as a coach. I was lucky to train [as a fighter] Around the best trainers in southern Cuba, with real quality. Cuban legendary coach Jose Maria Chivas is the one who really saw my potential.

“I went to university and got a master’s degree [in sport and science], but at the same time he was asked to work with the Guantanamo team, already working with Olympic gold. I started training them. I worked with Felix Savon, Joel Casamayor and many others. After that, everything got serious.

“I was [soon] organizing boxing seminars around the world. The Cuban government used it as a kind of propaganda in the 1980s. After the 1984 LA Olympics, because Cuba didn’t go – they killed a lot of dreams, it was the Cold War and it was bad for Cuban fighters – Cuba tried to sell their system by sending us.

“I started going to Mexico, Venezuela and then North Korea in 1986. We spent 18 months in North Korea working with the national team [in Pyongchang] – it was very difficult. System; what I learned during that time, the Cubans complain, but I realized that we live free. North Korea was crazy and I don’t think that has changed. I could not refuse; not possible. But it was a challenge for me; I have loved challenges all my life.

After returning to Cuba, Salas was redeployed to Pakistan, where he spent three years starting in 1989 in Islamabad and Karachi, preparing the national team for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, after which he suddenly and finally began to work with professionals and for real. became her husband.

“While working with Pakistan, I went to Thailand several times and met my Thai [former] a woman there, in Bangkok, after the Olympics,” said Salas, who was fluent in English, Spanish, Thai and Japanese. “After that, the Thai government asked for my services, but the Cuban government said no.”

“I went over to Thailand, from Barcelona to Bangkok. I was offered a job in a boxing gym; I had been very honest about the offense and told them I had never seen a professional fighter in my life. They gave me a house and I started working like crazy.

“I suffered a lot. I had been without a passport and was in Thailand illegally. When my fighters were supposed to fight in Japan or the US, I could never go. The Thai government [after being recruited to work with the Thai national team] asked Cuba for help in different sports, not boxing. They said, “If you have Salas, we won’t help you,” so I lost my job. I had three children in Thailand [Salas also has four children living in the US and another in Cuba]and he had no job.

“My case went to the UN Human Rights [council] “I only went back to Cuba last year for six days – and they forced the Cuban government to give me a passport because at the time I wasn’t Cuban, American, Thai or anything.”

Ismael Salas (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Opportunities gradually opened up, first in Japan, where Salas met her now-husband Kocom while living in both Tokyo and Osaka, and then in Sydney and Perth with Danny Green, before – almost inevitably – she gradually moved west and started not only training. some of his countrymen, but Odlanier Solis, who defeated David Haye as an amateur [with whom Salas would briefly work].

“2008. In 2008, I went to Hamburg, Germany, when I was asked to work for Gamboa, Solis and [Yan] Barthelemy and split my time between Australia, Bangkok and Hamburg,” the coach explained. “Then in 2009 I went to Miami and worked with Gamboa, [Erislandy] Lara and Solis, then with Rigondeaux and then a break between Miami and Germany.

“After that I decided to stay in the US and not move. I was very successful in Asia, but if you want to make it as a boxer or a trainer, you have to get recognition in the US. I would analyze a lot of trainers – Freddie Roach, Robert Garcia, Virgil Hunter, Manny Steward, Buddy McGirt. That’s the mentality, isn’t it? I’m very competitive.

“Then [the late] Rafael Garcia, who was my friend for many, many years, was his advice. “Salas, come to Vegas; I can introduce you to many people. It wasn’t good for me financially at the time, but I went to Vegas and then a lot of fighters started coming. I live by boxing, it’s the only thing I do.

Of the best he has worked with, he recalls: “When [Rigondeaux] hit me with the first hit “Oh, amazing.” When we started camp, he doesn’t like to cook. ‘Are you crazy crazy? Looking for a title shot without sparring? You is to set.’ He did his sparring and in the fight, rounds one through five, he didn’t want to do anything. He likes to play; he’s a great, great fighter, but [could have been a lot more].

“I hated the guys around Gamboa — I hated it, the egos. I always like to take a back seat. Gamboa was an amazing fighter. Amazing. Sorry, great fighter, great, great fighter – and we had such a good bond – but I can’t control your personal life. They make their own decisions.

“Savon is not human. He’s like a machine – it’s like Joe Joyce, he’s so powerful, so big and so many things at once. If Cuba had qualified for the 1988 Olympics, it would have finished fourth [gold medal]. The first punch he threw in his life was with me. I made Savon.