An interview with Dave Coldwell – the ultimate boxing man
Dave Coldwell is a boxing trainer, manager and promoter – and even used to box himself. As I spoke to him on Friday afternoon, it was clear the 39-year-old still loves the sport of boxing as much as he did when he first put on a pair of gloves. A success in and out of the ring, his story is all the more remarkable considering its beginnings.
“I was what you call your classic school wimp,” he laughs. It becomes immediately obvious that the strong pillars of support Coldwell has built around him now, contrasts starkly to that of his childhood. “I got bullied at school and I had a bit of a hard childhood. I got to 15-years-old and thought ‘I’ve got to do something about it,’ so I started boxing.”
With an already solid boxing pedigree, Coldwell started training fighters at just 21. “I’ve had a gym since 1996. So, yeah, I’ve trained fighters for a long, long time,” he smiles as he reminisces of the days where it all began.
“I started off with kids, bringing them through – I had a little amateur club. Then I looked after fighters who were turning pro and off we went.”
Despite all of his successes, Coldwell remains as humble as he was when he started off in the corners of boxing fights. Still, he is willing to watch, examine and learn in order to progress himself as a man and as a trainer. “I have worked with a lot of people. Before I even got going myself, I worked in corners – just on the spit-bucket – but working corners with the great fighters and the great, great trainers. So I always listened to what they say and do with their fighters.”
May 2008 saw Coldwell become Head of Boxing for Hayemaker, where he worked alongside the biggest names in the sport. The world title fights he helped assemble, which had so-often captured the imagination of the British boxing public was just a taste of things to come. However, he is quick to point out he was deserving of such a position.
“By the time I worked with Hayemaker, I had promoted over 32 shows anyway. I knew David Haye and Adam Booth [David Haye’s trainer] for a few years – in fact before David even turned pro. They kept saying to me ‘When are we going to work together?’, and eventually they came up with the model for Hayemaker. So we had a meeting, explaining what we were going to be doing and asked me if I fancied becoming Head of Boxing, and I jumped at it.”
The fondest events, years later, still bring a smile to Coldwell’s face. “You’ve got to say winning the world heavyweight title with David – that was massive to be involved with; then a defence with John Ruiz, that was great; the event with Audley Harrison – and although the fight wasn’t great, the event building up to it was absolutely fantastic.
“So there has been some really good highlights with Hayemaker. The [Wladimir] Klitschko fight was huge, just on a global scale – though, again, the end product wasn’t as good. But, yeah, some good nights.”
He is one of the hardest working men in sport. A trainer, manager and promoter leaves him with little time for himself. But perhaps it reminds him, that chasing a dream, is hardly work at all. “I look after 32 fighters – it takes up all the day. Each job is different. Different stresses, you’ve got a different pressure for different jobs.
“The promoting side of things is very, very hard work without the television – as you haven’t got that sort of budget. But you are wanting to put on quality shows. I don’t enjoy the night [when promoting] because I’m too concerned about how many fighters are going on and whether the fans are enjoying it. Then when I do start getting a bit of enjoyment out of it, is when I start seeing Twitter – I can see what the feedback is like.
“If the fighters have done well, if the show is a good show, then yeah. But by then, I’m already planning the next dates. I think promoting-wise, is the one I cannot really sit back and enjoy as much. As a trainer, you have a good win you can sit back and relax for a bit – while the fighter is doing his thing, you can enjoy it a little bit. But as a promoter, I’m yet to find that.”
Although Coldwell can perhaps come across as arrogant and cocky on television, being able to talk to him was an inspiring experience. In reality, he is as humble as they come. Coldwell shows something that has been lost among people, let alone in sport – passion and loyalty to his fighters. “My biggest success in boxing? That’s hard. When you think about it, there’s been some big nights. The dream for Ryan Rhodes when he came back was to get respect off the public and to get his British title back. That night was fantastic. Then when he went over and fought Jamie Moore in a massive domestic fight; and then he went to fight Canelo Alvarez for the WBC world title.
“Curtis Woodhouse was a guy that everybody told me was a joke – and I’m wasting my time with. ‘What am I doing with a footballer?’ Then he ended up winning the British title – that was a massive night. Then, for me personally, Tony Bellew has been a good mate of mine for over a decade. I knew exactly how much that fight against [Nathan] Cleverly meant to him. So for him to get that win – that was a massive occasion.
“So I can’t say one night that means more than every other else. It’s a difficult thing to narrow down to. I would say..I don’t know! I am quite emotionally-attached to these guys who I work with and I know what it means to them – so it means a lot to me.”
After all of the success, he still refuses to forget the roots of his childhood. He and his business partner, Spencer Fearn, catered for not only the elite boxers in the country, but to also disengaged teenagers in the area.
“My business partner, Spencer Fearn, owns a company called ‘Life Skills’ which looks after disengaged kids. So we set up a boxing partnership to teach them the foundations of English and Maths. We set up a classroom – we have tutors for that and then on the boxing side we taught them how to become coaches and get a physical education. Unfortunately that stopped because the government stopped with the funding and the grants for that, so we don’t do that anymore.”
Every time his success is brought up, he is quick to praise others. But there is one man who gets a special mention. “I have been really fortunate to have worked with the guys that I have worked with. I have been lucky to have worked with Jimmy Tibbs. I have had Jimmy Tibbs in my corner and I have learnt a lot from him.”
His recent achievement through training Tony Bellew to victory over long-time rival Nathan Cleverly, a fight on the main-event on pay-per-view with Sky box office, is something that still brings a sparkle to his eyes. But, as ever, there is only a quick smile and nothing else. Coldwell is always one to remain calm, focused and composed in the lead-up to a fight – and is the same here. There is nothing that can affect him. “To be honest, in terms of remaining calm, I have been involved with a lot of big fights,” he explains.
“[George] Groves against [James] DeGale was big. I’ve been around working with David Haye against [Wladimir] Klitschko and Audley Harrison. I have been around big events and big fights so I don’t get ruffled. It is not a case where I get nervous. I am nervous for the fighters, because I know what it means to them. But as far ‘how do I keep calm?’ I think you can speak to any board official – I don’t really keep calm in the corner when the fight is on because I’m shouting.
“I am not one of those guys that sit there and just watch and be cold. I am quite emotionally-involved so I get a bit hyper and excited and I keep getting told off for shouting. But that will never change, they’ll have to take my licence off me before that changes.”
Asking him about one fighter who we should keep an eye out in 2015, there is a straight answer. Without hesitation, he names light-welterweight boxer Robbie Davies Jnr who is undefeated with eight straight wins.
Not one to look back, Coldwell does what he always does. At the end of the year he will reflect briefly on the successes and the disappointments of the past 12 months. But, like always, he aims to surpass the previous year in the next one.
“I say it every single year – I look back and think ‘wow’. It has been a great year. We have done this, we have done that. Then I aim to just work hard to outdo the previous year – this year has been no different.
“This year, to be honest, has had a lot of ups and downs. We have had fighters that have been a bit of a disappointment on certain things. It has probably been the hardest year for upsets – for what has happened to Jerome Wilson – so it has not been the easiest year. But the highs that have come with this year have been fantastic.”
At the end of 2014, Dave Coldwell can look back and be proud of his achievements. No doubt, however, he will be looking to the next step ahead. Some names will remain unforgettable in British boxing, and Dave Coldwell is fighting hard to be remembered forever.
Picture credits: Dave Coldwell (Instagram)