The Fundamentals ... With Calvin Ford

The long-time trainer of world lightweight champ Gervonta "Tank" Davis shares his boxing wisdom as he prepares his fighter to face four-division world champ Leo Santa Cruz in an epic showdown Saturday night on SHOWTIME PPV.

WBA World Lightweight Champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) began boxing at age seven. From day one, he’s had the same head coach: Calvin Ford. Based out of Upton Boxing Center in Baltimore, Maryland, Coach Calvin has worked with Davis and others since they were kids, helping to keep them on the straight and narrow and mold them into disciplined athletes. 

This Saturday, October 31, Ford will be in Davis’ corner when his fighter takes on four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) in the main event on SHOWTIME PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). As his fighter winds down camp for the biggest fight of his career, here are some of the most important boxing lessons Ford has imparted to him, in his own words.

The Jab

“The jab to the body is something old,” Ford said. “It’s good to use it sometimes because everybody jabs to the face. So we just mix it up, showing different variations, and making sure the distance is good. 

“There are actually three speeds to the jab. Some people don’t know that. You’ve got a regular person speed, then you have a hard, stiff jab, and then you have a jab that’s really quick—that’s the speed when you’re trying to really hurt them, like you’re taking that jab and turning it into a power punch. You just have to be quick with it, and that comes with repetition.”

Footwork

“He's actually better than what he’s shown,” Calvin said about Tank’s impressive footwork. “I want more out of it—like stepping to the side, doing certain pivots. Like when he's playing basketball, actually."

Combination Punching

“Speed is a big factor in boxing. The faster you can punch, the easier for you to not get hit,” Ford explained, regarding Davis’ hand speed and combination punching. “Everybody sees the first punch coming, so if you can’t get him with the first one, try to get him with more than one. Combinations show people the speed you have. They see you’re punching fast, precise. Not just once. Not just twice. But you’re ripping off three or four shots at a time and the punches connect. That’s what gets the crowd jumping up in their seats and going crazy. That’s what makes boxing exciting.”

Distance 

“When you’re on the inside [as a southpaw], you’re more subject to get caught with certain shots because you’re closer to them. Tank feels comfortable on the inside but he’s a great outside fighter too. We don’t get to see certain things unless the fighter brings the best out in him.

“[Inside fighting] is old school. Everybody likes Floyd’s [Mayweather Jr.] style of fighting. Floyd would pot shot, boom. But if you go back and look at the younger stage of his career, he fought on the inside. Sugar Ray Leonard did more damage on the inside. Aaron Pryor was a beast on the inside. Mike Tyson…well, you know.” (laughs.)

Defense

“I always tell Tank, ‘The same way you have the right to hit them, they have the right to hit you. You better do it to them before they do it to you.’ Take a page out of Floyd Mayweather’s book: hit and don’t get hit. Defense is so important because one punch can change the fight.”

Ford discussed the ability for a fighter to think and survive if he’s ever hurt in a fight. “Basically, that’s self-taught. If you know you got hit with a good shot, you got to do something to recover. A lot of them try to punch back. No! Get yourself together. Get out the line of fire. Move around. Try to beat the clock—because that’s what it’s really based on. If you got to take a knee really quick to get your eight count, take it. 

There are actually three speeds to the jab. Some people don’t know that. Trainer - Calvin Ford

“In the gym they see what they should do when it happens to somebody else. That’s the best lesson. When you see it from the outside, and somebody’s explaining to you ‘This is what they should’ve done,’ it’s going to register more.” 

The Mind 

There was a memorable moment between rounds in the Davis-Yuriorkis Gamboa fight when Ford could be heard telling Gervonta, “When I say penitentiary, put that knife in him.”

“That night I forgot I was on the mic, and you’d be surprised at what coaches tell their fighters to get them to tick,” explained Coach Calvin. “I use a lot of terms to tap into what Tank is thinking. We’ve been together for so many years. It worked. It was a great button to push to get him to do what I needed him to do, because it was a great finish in that fight [12th round knockout]. This is my saying: ‘He can get you from one to twelve now. Which one you want?’

“The video went viral. The funny thing about it is people say, ‘Look at Tank’s face! He was in the zone!’ I looked at that tape and I was like, yo, man, he was sure enough into it! When I got off the plane, they was saying, ‘There’s Coach Penitentiary right there!’ And I thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’” (laughs).

Ford described how he helps his fighters prepare for adversity in the ring.

“When I see Tank not paying attention, that’s when I get on him. People don’t know this, but fighters get lackadaisical sometimes in a fight. It’s like a part of you gets bored a little bit. So you start letting your guard down. Main thing I work on as far as a situation like that is that he’s paying attention. ‘You got hit with a good shot. Look at me.’ To make sure that you understand I’m saying something to you. If I see that you ain’t paying attention to me when I say something to you, that means something’s seriously wrong.”

Training Camp

“This camp (for the Leo Santa Cruz fight) is not my traditional camp but he’s doing everything I need him to do. The traditional camp, you got coaches waking a fighter up to go running, things like that. I told Tank, ‘You grown, you at this level, so at some point in your life you have to take charge. So you get up and do the running when you feel like it, just make sure you call me when you do it.’ I’m getting more out of him [now]. 

“This opportunity at this time in my life, it reminds me of when I used to watch Floyd and his dad. And now I got the person who wrote the blueprint helping me. So I feel like, Wow…People don’t understand that Floyd is really passing the torch to Tank. But he’s doing it in a different way—he’s letting me still do my job, and I’m learning off of him as a coach to make sure Tank is understanding what Floyd is trying to give to him.

“I listen to the commentators and what they’re saying about my guy, and I try to tighten it up. Old school Michael Jordan used to do that. I try to shut the writers up.”

Leo Santa Cruz

“[Volume punching] is Santa Cruz’s strength. Every fight I’ve seen him in, he throws a million punches. Look at Paul Williams. He threw a lot of punches. But guess what? One punch can change a fight. You can throw a million, I just got to get one good one. I know Santa Cruz is coming like that. I invite him to come like that. But if I can change his style of fighting, I got him.

"I’m happy and grateful for where I’m at too. This fight right here, all the work I put in with him…Thank you, Tank.” 

For a closer look at Davis vs Santa Cruz, check out our fight night page. 

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