Meet The Contender Trainers - Tommy Brooks

By Barbara Pinnella

Most boxing fans know the name Tommy Brooks. It might surprise you to know though, that Brooks has been training since he was 14 years old. He has trained some of boxings' most famous fighters, most notably Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko, Yuri Foreman, Junior Jones, and Evander Holyfield, to name but a few. He admitted that he has been very fortunate. In fact, he is working with Holyfield right now, and that fight should be sometime in May. He told me that the fight would be a rematch between Holyfield and Nikolay Valuev, who he fought last December in Switzerland.

But Brooks was also a fighter, and won seven in a row before experiencing two consecutive defeats. I was wondering if that was what caused him to give up his career in the ring. He laughed before answering. “I felt I had other attributes – I didn’t have to fight if I didn’t want to. That’s not taking anything away from those I came through the amateurs with, like Ray Leonard, the Spinks brothers, and Aaron Pryor.”

Brooks did not find out until relatively late that he was going to Singapore as a trainer for The Contender. Actually, he was expecting the other trainer to be Buddy McGirt, but John Bray ended up replacing McGirt at the last minute. No problem there though, as Tommy and John get along just fine. “I get along with everybody!” he said, laughing. He continued to chuckle when he said, “John’s a piece of work, they broke the mold when they made him,” He then got a little serious. “He’s a sweetheart though, he’s a real good person.”

After the first two fights which Bray’s fighters won, Tommy’s men dominated the tournament. To Brooks, there was an easy explanation. “The guys that listened were the guys that won! Like I told them when we were there, ‘I can tell you how to beat anybody, but you’ve got to do it.’ This is business. If they do what you tell them to do they can be successful, if not, well, they’re going home.”

When I mentioned that I was a little disappointed that Felix Cora, Jr. did not go on, Brooks said, “You get caught, you get caught. You get one opportunity. That was the thing I was trying to get across to the guys. You get one opportunity, and if you make one mistake it costs you the whole ball of wax.

“And not just in the Contender program,” he continued, “but in the fight business.”

There was one question that I wanted to ask both of the trainers. I wondered what one fighter was a surprise with his tenacity and which one was a bit of a disappointment. “There wasn’t really a disappointment,” Tommy told me. “I thought that Hino and A.K. stepped up to the plate. I really didn’t see them doing as well as they did.”

As far as the finale is concerned, Tommy has no idea whose corner he will be in. But it really doesn’t matter to him. “I’ll be happy to work with either one of them, both of them are nice guys.

“I really enjoyed myself,” he continued. “It’s fun seeing new talent, but even more so, it’s working with the guys. They’re trying to achieve something in their lives, and some of them just don’t realize that this is the kind of business where you can make it overnight. A tournament like The Contender can put you out there. Like I was telling the guys, you’ve got to sell yourself. Win, lose or draw, sell yourself, because people will come back and ask to see you again.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be involved,” he told me. “The Contender people did one hell of a job putting that program together for those guys. They had everything at their disposal. They had a chef, they had a masseuse, you name it, they had it. Some of the guys just didn’t take advantage of it.” That’s kind of like that “you can lead a horse to water” thing.

Don’t forget, if you can’t be there in person, watch The Contender Finale this Wednesday on VERSUS. Check your local listings for the time.

My thanks to Tommy for speaking with me. Good luck to he and his fighters in the Contender Finale, and of course also with Evander Holyfield!

Be safe and God Bless,

Viva La Raza,