Feature Story

Q&A: Nacho Beristain

By Gabriel F. Cordero

Photo: Chris Cozzone

Among the 2011 class of inductees to the International Boxing Hall of Fame this weekend is legendary Mexican trainer and manager Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain.

The 67-year-old Beristain has trained 22 champions including three Hall of Famers, Ricardo ‘Finito’ Lopez, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez and Daniel Zaragoza. Currently he trains one of the best fighters in the world in recent years, three-time world champion Juan Manuel Marquez, who is a serious contender for the Hall of Fame in the future.

How do you feel now that you’re about to enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York?

A lot of emotions. A feeling of gratitude to many people over a long time. I’ve been in in boxing for 52 years and reaching this maximum honor for me is a culmination of what boxing means in my life.

Anyone special to express gratitude to?

Many people. Adolfo Perez, my children, my 22 world champions, my friends, boxing fans and the press who have followed my life in boxing.

Note: Trainer Adolfo “el Negro” Perez hired Nacho as his assistant trainer and give him the chance to work in the gym with professional fighters.

A sad moment in boxing?

The death of my wife and my son Ignacio in 1979. That situation was sad in my life but it gave me strength to continue and believe that each day they are with me and inspiring me to continue in boxing

Who is Nacho Beristain really?

Someone who has lived and will always live for boxing. A father of 4 children who have been the best in the field of education and professional life. A man that if it is necessary to work one hour, I prefer to work three or four done well with dedication and love for what I do. I arrive at 8am at the gym and go at 3pm but with the satisfaction that I did something for those kids who see a better tomorrow in boxing.

What is the source of your success as a trainer?

In my desire to learn to be a trainer, the government gave me the opportunity to be on the Olympic Committee and to be in four Olympics, which allowed me to develop as a trainer. When I decided to enter professional boxing I was able to implement what I learned. Every day I think about how to evolve and support the rhythm of training.

Is there something the sanctioning organizations should change?

That the respect for the boxer prevails and that they protect his health and both personal and economic integrity. I think it is time for governments to look closely at this issue and put a stop to many fights. The boxing organizations are family consortiums or corporations and boxing has become a big free market of supply and demand.

What are your plans after the Hall of Fame?

Continuing to work. After 22 world champions, to see if I can reach 25. There are some such as Juan Carlos Salgado and Eduardo Escobedo and others that I hope will be crowned world champions. I’ll stop being in boxing when I no longer has the energy and health, but while I have them I will continue in boxing.

What the difference between boxing yesterday and today?

You used to have to go a long way to be a world champion. It was a privilege, an honor to become world champion and a journey full of challenges and obstacles. Today it is easier to be world champion due to TV and the commercialization of the sport. I’ve seen the recent coronations of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and didn’t feel the same atmosphere of the glory of victory as in earlier eras. Today we know who will be crowned world champion.

Who would you have liked to train?

Bernard Hopkins. He was born for boxing, a complete and disciplined boxer. The ideal boxer we all want to find is only born every once in a while.

What will be the legacy of Nacho Beristain to the boxing world?

My commitment and dedication, from the gym until the last minute of the fight. Living every day with the triumphs and failures of the boxer — to be with him in the corner and every day like a father, part of his life in society.

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