Interview With John Schaeffer

By Ross Enamait - Published in 2003

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with John Schaeffer, strength and conditioning coach for Welterweight prospect Kermit Cintron (17-0 - 16 KO’s). Mr. Schaeffer is a well-regarded trainer who has worked with over 50 world-class athletes throughout his career. His resume includes professional basketball, boxing, and football players and numerous Olympians, just to name a few. He has worked with several fighters including the power punching Ray Mercer and Alex Zolkin.

I first asked John about his current work with Kermit Cintron. He commented by saying, “Kermit is easy to work with. All I have to do is lay the program out and he does it to a tee. Some guys do not want to work. With Kermit, if anything, I have to hold him back. His hard work shows.”

I then asked John to comment on how aspiring boxers can learn from Kermit’s work ethic when striving toward their goals. John commented by saying “Work ethic goes along with how bad you want it. There are no limitations to your success if you have the desire to reach your goals. In addition, you must be led in the right direction when training.” I agree with John and his theory regarding work ethic. If you have the heart and desire to excel, you alone will decide your level of success. This premise holds true for boxing and life in general.

Steroid Abuse

John also commented on the recent steroid allegations against former World Champion Fernando Vargas. He stated that it is difficult to point fingers at this time. “At this point in time you just don’t know. Someone could have given him one dose in a protein shake that would show up in his system for 6 months.” He went on to say that the situation is difficult to comment on without knowing all the facts.

I then asked John why a boxer would take steroids. He stated that of all the supplements available, steroids would be the last thing he would supply to a boxer. Steroids actually detract from the boxer’s ability to fight efficiently for 12 rounds. Steroids will provide a boost for the first 3 or 4 rounds before negatively affecting the fighter’s performance. Steroids are great for the short-term, explosive athlete such as the sprinter Ben Johnson, who tested positive for steroids after his record-breaking 100-meter sprint in the 1988 Olympics. Johnson’s system contained the anabolic steroid stanozolol, the same substance found in Fernando Vargas.

What is the benefit of steroid use?

Steroids cut down on the recovery time necessary between workouts. You can train harder and expect greater muscle gains because of your increased intensity. In boxing however, cellular growth is not the primary objective. Boxers must increase strength while staying within the confines of their weight class. The boxer must train to increase ligament and tendon strength while initiating a response from a maximum number of motor units. The boxer can thus gain speed, power and explosiveness.

John continued to say that steroids would make a fighter more susceptible to knockout. Steroids cause an increase in blood flow and blood pressure, while reducing the body’s ability to clot blood. This equates to a fighter that is less able to go the distance and more vulnerable to knockout. John added that a problem with many trainers is their failure to understand the true science of conditioning. Each athlete is unique, thus requires a unique conditioning and nutritional program. Many trainers wish to help their athletes, but their actions often come back to hurt them. This may have been the case with someone from Fernando’s camp.

The Proper Way

Let’s put steroids aside and concentrate on the proper way to train for boxing. A boxer's objective is to maximize power and explosiveness, while maintaining his ideal fighting weight. Consider Kermit Cintron, John commented that his body fat is between 2 ½ and 3%. He added that body fat is not an important energy source for the boxer due to the sport’s anaerobic nature. “Kermit has the lean muscle mass of a guy 2 weight classes ahead of him.” This is one of the reasons that Kermit has been so explosive with his punching ability. Of Kermit’s 17 victories, 16 have come by knockout.

John also mentioned the importance of a boxer properly supplementing his diet for enhanced performance. He added that natural supplementation has dramatically improved in the past 10 years. Some of the most popular for boxing include Inosine, Creatine, and mineral supplements. A boxer in training will deplete mineral stores at an exorbitant pace. Minerals are vital to human life. Minerals are inorganic substances not produced by the body. They are required for proper bodily functions. To perform at optimum levels, you must supplement.

As a strength coach, John has been first hand witness to the amazing results that PROPER weight training can produce in athletes from all sports. When asked why so many boxing trainers object to weight training, he responded with the following. “Boxing has simply not evolved scientifically”. He added that other sports have evolved to the point where a 300 pound football player can now run a 4.5 second 40 yard dash. The fact remains that through proper weight training, you can hit harder, faster, and quicker.

In boxing, there is a 3 to 1 work-to-rest ratio. Each round requires 3 minutes of intense work with a 1-minute rest interval. A proper conditioning program will pattern itself around these time intervals. John agreed that those who run 5 miles each day are simply not training specific to their sport. By running 5 miles, the athlete does not condition the two anaerobic energy systems. Instead, boxers should focus their “roadwork” around sports-specific sprint and interval routines.

Many veterans to the fight game will read this in disbelief. Surely there have been several world champions that never subscribed to a weight training and anaerobic conditioning routine. John was quick to point out, “Just because someone was a World Champion, does not mean they were the best that they could have been”.

These are important words to remember, as you must always look to optimize performance. Eventually, you will meet an opponent with an equal skill set. The difference in the fight will often be determined by who is the stronger, better-conditioned man.

It is not enough to train hard, you must train smart.

John Schaeffer runs his own personal training center. His contact info is below.

E-MAIL [email protected]

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