Sammy Calderon is the very first to admit that he missed being around boxing when he retired after just 20 professional fights.
That was in 2002. But after lending a hand at various local fight cards, as well as assisting Chuck and Pat Nelson with their highly successful K.O. Drugs high school boxing tourney and other area amateur and professional shows, he felt like it was time to get back into the game.
This time, however, it would be as a trainer, a position he said he’s had to learn from the ground up, but he is having fun while doing so at his gym, United City Boxing Club.
“As a fighter I learned a lot over the years but as a trainer it’s like you are learning something different every day about those you are instructing. When I was active, boxing wasn’t my total focus, but now it’s full-time for me,” Calderon said. “My rule is very simple, you give me 100 percent and I will give you 100 percent in return. I learned that rule the hard way.”
The Campbell native had 80 fights under his belt before turning pro at age 20, using the summer before his senior year at Memorial High School for exposure and to work out at Pantonelli’s Gym in Brockton, Mass., the now-famous hometown of one of boxing’s all-time great heavyweight champions, Rocky Marciano.
“Back then I was definitely no ‘Brockton Blockbuster,’ but I did have a love for the game and really wanted to learn. Every day I went to the gym hungrier than the day before,” he said.
Calderon won his first 10 professional bouts and fought on HBO with Emil Tanner of Tanner A.C. serving as his initial trainer.
“Emil [Tanner] showed me a lot and really loved the sport, but he didn’t want to train the pros. He simply loved working with amateur fighters,” Calderon said. “That was when I got the call from Rich Cappielo and an offer to fight for their management team.”
Back in Massachusetts last weekend for his niece’s graduation, Calderon planned to make it a part-family, part-business trip while connecting with various colleagues from his professional days.
He hopes to eventually team up with them in order to train and manage more boxers locally and from the Bay State.
“Richie and Mike Cappielo are both friends of mine and have been big with USA Boxing, promoting many shows throughout Massachusetts and in New England. One is now a matchmaker and the other a promoter for 50 Cent so you can see that they’ve come up through the ranks and have grown over the years within the industry,” he said.
Calderon said the biggest transition he’s had to make from boxer to trainer is learning patience.
“You must have patience when working with young boxers. Too many ex-fighters just expect them to do it the way they did and that is the wrong approach,” he said. “You don’t need to be a former fighter to be a good trainer, but it helps because you understand their mindset.”
Calderon currently trains 20 boxers at his facility, mostly amateurs but several rising pros as well.
Among those amateurs are Youngstown natives Torrance Airhart, who fights at 120 pounds, and Angel Rojas, who checks in at 160 pounds.
He also serves as co-trainer for Lights Out Management’s Darnell “Deezol” Boone while training Durrell Richardson, nephew of local bantamweight champion, Greg Richardson.
Calderon is also in negotiations to add two more professionals to his growing list of trainees.
The United City Boxing Club is located at 6 Jackson St. on the city’s East Side and Calderon can be reached at 330-330-5713.