The position of trainer in the sport of boxing is perhaps the most crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting together a successful fighter. The best trainers command a great deal of respect for their unique abilities to raise the performance levels of their boxers and as a result, are in high demand the world over.
Ronnie Shields, a former two-time world light welterweight title challenger himself, is one of these rare birds, training or having trained such current or recent champions as Juan Diaz, Vernon Forrest, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Kassim Ouma, Jesse James Leija and Jesus Chavez among others.
This week, the Houston, Texas native is in Manchester, England, bringing light welterweight contender Juan Lazcano, 37-4-1 (27), in tow for a challenge against IBO/Ring Champion Ricky Hatton, 43-1 (31), in front of 55,000 fans at City of Manchester Stadium this Saturday.
"I'm here in England to train Juan Lazcano for his fight with Ricky Hatton and make no mistake, we have come here to win," said Shields flatly.
Hatton is returning to fight in the UK for the first time since 2005 after a four bout American tour came to a close when "The Hitman" was leveled by pound for pound king of the sport, Floyd Mayweather, last December.
While Mayweather mastered the defensive approach to dealing with Hatton's attacking style, Shields doesn't envision his fighter trying to take a page from the same playbook.
"Juan is a completely different fighter than Floyd Mayweather, so we can't really follow Mayweather's fight plan against Ricky," said Shields. "But Juan is a top class fighter, one of the best junior welters in the world and we're going to surprise Ricky Hatton and beat him."
Hatton is as well known for his grueling regimen while preparing for fights as he is for his lack of that discipline between contests and Lazcano's trainer thinks that the toll of such will be Hatton's downfall.
"He lives a very bad lifestyle for a fighter," said Shields. "Anyone who goes out and drinks the way he does, it has to take an effect. Personally, I think it started taking an effect in the Floyd Mayweather fight. Floyd Mayweather isn't a big puncher, yet Floyd knocked Ricky out. As could be seen, round and round after round, Hatton got more and more tired and that's for the simple reason that his lifestyle is starting to take an effect on him.
"Just watching the fight, I could see this happening round after round, and after about the sixth round, I thought that Floyd had the chance to knock Ricky out because Floyd hurt him with a couple of those check hooks. Gaining all that weight, losing all that weight and then gaining it all back again, that takes a hell of a toll on your body, I don't care who you are."
Despite the long odds his fighter must overcome to defeat Hatton in front of a British record-breaking amount of highly partisan hometown fans, Ronnie Shields remains unshaken in his Saturday night prediction.
"Juan Lazcano is going to push Ricky all the way through those twelve rounds," he said. "We're going to make him fight for 12 rounds, so there's no excuses, no nothing; I've been hearing something about how he's been sick, but if you're sick, don't get in the ring because then you've got an excuse. But if you do jump in that ring, then you have no excuses.
"When Juan beats Ricky, we don't want to hear anything except for his team to say that Juan Lazcano was the best fighter that night."
Saturday, May 24, 2008 will feature the biggest selling fight in the history of British boxing, IBO/Ring light welterweight champion Ricky Hatton vs. Juan Lazcano, in front of 55,000 fans at City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England on a shared production between Frank Maloney Promotions, Punch Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions.
Chief support features IBF light welter champion Paulie Malignaggi, 24-1 (5), vs. former titlist Lovemore N'dou, 46-9-1 (31), and Commonwealth welterweight champion Craig Watson, 12-2 (4), defending against Matthew Hatton, 33-3-1 (13).
Two other championship fights will be featured with English light middleweight title bout between the champion Andrew Facey, 19-5-1 (6), going against Manchester's Thomas McDonagh, 31-1-2 (6), and Liverpool's Mark Moran, 9-0-1 (2), squaring off with Danny Wallace, 12-4-1 (6), for the vacant English super bantamweight title.
Two-time British light middleweight champion Jamie Moore, 28-3 (19), also sees action on the card, facing Esau Herrera,14-3-1 (6), of Mexico City in an eight rounder.
Any remaining tickets to Hatton vs. Lazcano can be purchased on www.ticketmaster.co.uk , www.seetickets.com and www.gigsandtours.com