Boxing: 'Trainers can talk themselves stupid but in the end it comes down to what the fighter can achieve for himself'

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The last time I saw Richie Giachetti he was holding forth about the advisability of being first in an outbreak of hostilities.

Giachetti spoke from experience. A scar slanting down from the inside corner of his left eye to just below his cheekbone is the result of being assaulted with a glass. "Swear to God, I didn't know the guy," I remember him saying. "He comes over, takes a glass and shoves it into my face. I hit him. Then he pulls a knife and tries to stick me. Somehow, I got hold of the knife and stuck him three times."

Giachetti, who spent seven hours in surgery, learned that his assailant died in hospital. "The cops spoke to witnesses and decided it was justifiable," he said.

Another time, when standing up for black friends in a Cleveland bar, Giachetti almost lost his life from a blow with an ice pick that went in just underneath his heart. "The doctor told me that if it wasn't for my muscle tone I would have died," he said.

What I am coming around to is the news, broken last weekend by The Sun's informed boxing correspondent, Colin Hart, that Giachetti will train Mike Tyson for an attempt, on 3 May, to regain the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship from Evander Holyfield.

A couple of days later, confident that the engagement would not deter Giachetti from exercising his mouth, I put in a call to Don King's training camp where he was conversing with Tyson. "So you are together again," I said, alluding to the four contests Tyson undertook under Giachetti's supervision between losing the undisputed title to James "Buster" Douglas and a conviction for rape.

The main reason it was difficult to learn much about Tyson after his release from prison and before coming up against Holyfield last November was that all his fights were short. The performances raised suspicions of decline, especially in application and timing but it took Holyfield's victory to make them apparent.

Habits formed in Tyson under the concentrated drilling of his mentor, the late Cus D'Amato, were no longer evident. "Above all, Mike had stopped jabbing," Giachetti said. Central to the learning process in boxing, the jab as demonstrated by his work with the former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes is a Giachetti trademark.

"We need to improve on that, Mike's head movement, and get him throwing combinations again instead of trying to take guys out with one shot," Giachetti added.

The relationship between a fighter and his trainer can take more than one form. As long as it works they do not have to like each other. Before their acrimonious split, Tyson worked well with Kevin Rooney, probably because Rooney, to use an American expression, was always prepared to put himself in the fighter's face. "I guess they fell out a lot," Giachetti said, "but that's no bad thing if it gets results."

Tyson's loss to Holyfield confirmed the shortcomings of his corner men. As the crisis deepened, they had no worthwhile advice to offer. The impression was that they would not have found their way across the ring with a guide dog. "I don't want to get into that," Giachetti said. "I'm here to do a job. I've sat down and talked about things with Mike, reminisced, gone over things we worked on the last time. It's probably more mental than physical. I'm not laying down a harsh regime; it isn't going to be a boot camp operation because Mike is at a time in his life when that wouldn't work for him. We'll put in some hard stuff, plateau off, then get going again."

The psychology Giachetti intends to employ is based on the detonation caused by Muhammad Ali when he beat George Foreman in Zaire to regain his title.

"Most everybody thought that Ali was finished, that George Foreman would put him in the hospital," he said. "But in knocking out George he became bigger than ever. That's what Mike has to get into his head. So you lose. So what. It isn't the end of the world. It's for him to do not me. Trainers can talk themselves stupid but in the end it comes down to what the fighter can achieve for himself."

If the intellectual approach appears to fit uncomfortably on Giachetti's shoulders, make no mistake he is a genuine hard case. "I want to show you a trick," a young heavyweight in Giachetti's care said recently. "I'm not interested in tricks," the 56-year-old Giachetti growled. "I teach tricks to animals not fighters. If you don't do as you're told I'll hit you over the head with a baseball bat."

The unavoidable impression was that he meant it.