Dave Coldwell is quickly becoming one of the most established trainers within British boxing.
Dave currently has world champions Tony Bellew and Jamie McDonnell under his wing, as well as European champion Gavin McDonnell and Olympic Bronze medalist David Price. In his relatively short time with his new stable, he has conquered America by guiding Jamie McDonnell to two impressive victories over the previously undefeated Tomoki Kameda and most recently pushed Bellew onto world honours with an impressive stoppage win over the dangerous Ilunga Makabu.
InstantBoxing.com’s Luke Madeira has been speaking to Dave, and here is what he had to say:
First of all congratulations on your most recent win with Tony Bellew – has it sunk in yet?!
Yeah I think it has. I’m still on cloud nine to be honest with you. It was a weird one because I was straight back in the gym with the twins and with Pricey but now I’ve got a kind of inner satisfaction. I’m just happy to be honest.
Going into the fight, how much did you know about Ilunga Makabu and did you feel that Tony had the power to get him out of there early?
Since we heard that Makabu was WBC #1 and he was going to be the man to fight for the title, I’ve watched him fight countless times and we knew it was going to be a daunting task. Just because some people don’t know the name doesn’t mean he can’t fight. He’s very heavy handed and a good body puncher but I’ve always said the way that Tony was training, despite everything that went wrong in training, I said to him that his right hands and left hooks were the best they have ever been; technically, speed and power wise. I said to him it wouldn’t surprise me if he did him early. As soon as Tony landed clean I believed he would hurt him. We talked about having a hard fight and having to box but also engage at times and make it a dog fight. No matter how you expect a fight to go, the drama still grabs hold of you and still surprises you.
It seems that Tony thrived under the pressure of fighting at Goodison Park, but going into the fight was it a worry for you?
Yeah that was the only thing that I said to him. I was 100% confident that Tony was going to win that fight and I told him so, but the fight was his to lose if he let the occasion get to him. My only thing was letting the occasion and emotion get to him, letting the fact that he had been there on those stands as a kid and now he was there walking to the ring for the fight of his life. That was the only worry I had, you don’t know if it is going to affect a fighter. It worried me so much so that when we talked about where the fight was going to be, one of the options was to do it on the [Anthony] Joshua undercard, and I told him to do it on that. June 25th, get in, do the business and get out. No pressure of fans and no pressure of selling the fight but it was Tony that was adamant that he wanted it at Goodison. He said to me winning a world title on the Joshua undercard isn’t going to mean anything, but winning the world title at Goodison Park would mean everything. At the end of the day he had the pressure on himself and he had to deliver, and that’s what he did.
What were you thinking at the end of the first round when Tony had been dropped?
I wasn’t particularly panicking. It does’t surprise me when a fighter gets dropped in boxing. You need your fighter to switch on and not let it affect him. When a lot of fighters get dropped their mentality and belief changes. You can get dropped in a fight and adjust, but you can’t let it put you in a negative spin. You’ve got to carry on and go about your business which is what Tony did. As he walked back towards the corner, because when he got dropped he looked straight at me and then walked to the neutral corner, I said to him ‘look at me’ because I didn’t want him looking out to the crowd and his focus being away from me. He sat down and I just asked him how he felt and how his legs felt and let him have a second to himself. He told me his legs were fine but his nose had gone. The way he said it was in a typical Tony Bellew way, so I knew he was ok and that’s when I just said to him that I thought he had got greedy. The whole way through camp I said that I didn’t mind him attacking as long as he knows there is something coming back on the end of it and he was alert for that. He got a bit carried away and didn’t think about what was coming back from Makabu, and consequently he got dropped on his arse! He adjusted really well after that.
Was that night the best night in boxing for you so far?
You know what, I am so lucky that I have had some brilliant nights. I’ve had some huge nights in boxing but that is without a shadow of a doubt #1. That tops everything. Myself and Tony have been mates for about a decade now and he’s the reason why I came back to boxing. He asked me to come back and train him, I had no interest in coming back and coaching. I had no interest in staying up until two or three o’clock in the morning watching videos of sparring and analysing things. Because he’s my friend, he asked me for my help and the goal was the step up to Cruiserweight and win a world title. Because of Bellew I’ve now got the McDonnell twins and David Price who are all successful fighters. I had to complete the mission with Bellew, we had to win a world title because he was the reason that I came back. It was only right that the mission was completed, I would have been devastated if we hadn’t of won a world title. Now we have I kind of feel like the pressure is off. I don’t feel pressure for me as such, the pressure I feel is that I know what it means to the fighters that I am working with. When Curtis Woodhouse won the British title I knew what pressure he was under because I knew that was his dream and his life. He gave up football for it so when he won the British title, that meant everything to me because of what it meant to him. It’s the same for Bellew, I knew exactly what it meant to him. Bellew is a kid that never get the credit that he deserves and there are so many people that because he has a personality, they want him to fail. If you haven’t got a personality people say you’re boring and you’re never going to get any public interest, but if you have got a personality people slag you off because they want you to get beat. He’s a kid that deserves credit because he has done something that nobody thought he could do. Nobody thought he would win a world title at light-heavyweight and when he stepped up to cruiserweight, they said he’s definitely not going to win a world title. People picked against him for Cleverly because he would be too fit and too good a boxer, Bellew beat Cleverly so then they make excuses about Cleverly. The Masternak fight saw a lot of people picking Tony to lose and he won, the same as with the Makabu fight. He has become a WBC World Champion, he hasn’t just won a little minor version so he deserves credit. The manner in which he won was incredible after getting put on his arse and having to get up in front of all of those fans and everybody that he loved. I just want him to enjoy the moment and enjoy what is coming to him because he has had a whirlwind eighteen months. You’ve got to realise as well as the things that have been going on alongside his boxing career. Even negotiating for the Creed film and then going out to make the film, and then when the film was out having to do all the promo stuff. All that has been running side by side with his boxing and that’s a hell of a lot of pressure for one man. Especially someone that is an emotional man like Tony, and alongside that he has had a family to look after and spend time with. It’s a lot more than just winning a world title. I’m really proud of him.
In your mind, what would be the ideal move for Tony next?
I’d like to get a voluntary in as soon as possible really, and then something like the Lebedev fight. There’s also some talk of a David Haye fight. He’s won a world title so I want him to secure his families future to be honest. That’s what I want because he’s got his family to look after and I want him to secure their future. I want him to get the big fights and win them, and then get out of the game when he is in the financial position to do so.
How do you personally feel about the David Haye fight?
I think it’s a massive fight. The thing is, I know people expect Haye to walk straight through Bellew but we don’t actually know how good David Haye is now. He had close to four years out of the ring, that’s a long time and four years where he’s partying about. His Instagram has always been about having parties and living the life, you don’t know what that’s done to him. Is he the same man he was when he was at cruiserweight? Probably not. When he was at cruiserweight he was the best man out there and a phenomenal fighter and a good heavyweight, but we don’t know how good he is now. The one thing about Bellew is, he can punch. It’s not like you’re talking about an invincible heavyweight that doesn’t get hit and hasn’t been hurt before, he has! Both fighters have been hurt before and that’s why it’s a fun fight. Fo everyone watching, that’s a fun fight because either man could get knocked out. If Bellew lands a shot on David Haye, he’s hurting David Haye. If David Haye lands a shot on Bellew it’s the same. We’ll see what kind of weight it would be and whether it works out, but at the end of the day people can say what they want. Bellew will be a lot tougher fight and a lot sterner challenge than the other two guys he has fought in his comeback. He’s talking up the fight with Shannon Briggs like it is some monstrous event but what has he done over the last few years? He’s forty four and a man that has openly said he has had problems. Should he be fighting someone like David Haye? Well not David Haye in his prime. You don’t know what they’re like now, one thing is Briggs can punch and they can both talk so it will sell. For a casual out there it’s a great fight and it’s one a lot of people want to see because potentially it could be exciting. In the scheme of things in world boxing is it a massive fight? Not really. It is because David Haye is a huge draw and Shannon Briggs has got a huge gob on him. We don’t know who much Shannon Briggs has got left either.
Moving on from Tony’s success to some questions that I have been asked to ask you from various different fans, how have you found training David Price as well as the McDonnell brothers and Tony?
Great. He’s slotted into the gym absolutely fantastically. He’s a great student, he does what you ask him to. When you see his results and how he has done, it makes him want to work even harder. He’s great to work with.
Why did you decide to link up with David Price and vice versa?
I got a phone call from his promoter, Nisse Sauerland, asking if I would be interested in training Pricey. It was similar to with Bellew. First and foremost we are mates and we’ve been friends since my Hayemaker days. Pricey didn’t want to ask me himself because he felt that I would have to say yes if he asked. Nisse asked me and then I had a chat with Pricey to see why he wanted to come back and what his motivation was like. If the reasons were right I said I would take him on and when I talked to him, I believed in the reasons that he said. I said yes to giving it a go and it’s been great. I enjoy working with him, obviously physically it’s very challenging but it is what it is, I enjoy it.
In your opinion, who is the most talented fighter that hasn’t yet won a world title?
That’s a tough one from the top of my head. Off the top of my head that’s really difficult to answer. I think Callum Smith is a big shout, for me he’s a fighter with a bit more experience that will do a great job out there. That’s a tough one for me to be honest.
Do you feel you’ve improved as a trainer from being involved with Adam Booth over the years?
Yes 100%. The funny thing is myself and Adam are very similar without us knowing about it. Once we started working together we started to realise that we did similar things. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from working with Adam over the years. He’s probably somebody that has influenced me the most without a doubt.
Having been a trainer, corner man, manager and promoter, which have you found the most challenging?
Promoting for the simple reason that it’s a business. I don’t like putting the pressure on fighters to sell tickets, for me that’s the most difficult thing. Managing fighters, I’m guiding kids careers which I enjoy. Training fighters, seeing improvement is something I love. When I promote I love putting on shows that the fans love but like I said I don’t like letting go of fighters because they don’t sell tickets. I’ve had to let go of fighters that I believe in but financially I couldn’t do it.
Would you consider training anybody else or is four the maximum for you in the gym?
My limit is probably six. I would definetly have one more, quite possibly another if it’s the right fit and it’s somebody that I get excited training with.
Since you and Robbie Davies Jnr went separate ways a little while back, how far do you think he can go in the game? And where do you think he ranks amongst his various domestic rivals?
I think he is one of, if not the best prospect I have ever worked with. I believed he could be a world champion when I had him and I still believe he will be a world champion now. It’s just about his development and learning things with every fight.
By Luke Madeira, follow Luke on Twitter @lukemadeira15