Do everything as a team

Team Crawford are not a disparate group of specialists who meet up for a strategy meeting once a week. As co-manager and head trainer, Brian McIntyre explained, the three main coaches work incredibly closely together:

“I tell Jamie Belt, our strength and conditioning coach, certain things we want Terence to work on – his footwork, his handspeed, his coordination – and he’ll implement the workout, but the whole team goes to every workout.”

“We are not just a team, we are like a family,” added assistant trainer Esau Dieguez. “Even though I’m the only Latino in the team and Jamie Belt is the only white guy [laughs]. I think it’s very important because us staying together makes him feel comfortable and part of a family. When we run, all of us run – some of us less than him – we go to work, we go to baseball, always together. We play chess, dominoes, skating, bowling, just have fun like a family.”

Crawford appreciates the variety of influences. “My co-trainers Esau Diegez and Brian McIntyre are unbeatable to me; two minds are better than one,” stated Terence. “They get me the remedy to go in there and win. They have different styles as they both used to box.”

Prepare for every eventuality

The desire to be versatile comes from Crawford himself. At an early age the Omaha man would learn techniques and moves quickly before attempting to perfect them from both the orthodox and southpaw stances. That need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and different opponents is satisfied by Crawford’s current training set-up.

“We do a lot of bag work and I put on a protector and I get to see where his shots are landing,” McIntyre revealed. “We’ll work on different scenarios: if a fighter’s jumping in at him, if a fighter’s running, how to cut the ring off, if a fighter’s going to stand there and bang with you, how to keep him turning, keep moving your head, stay low, stay in the pocket.

“With Gamboa, we worked on him jumping in and out, catching him on the way in and the way out. We worked orthodox and southpaw. [In the fight], at first orthodox wasn’t working because we missed that right hand, then he switched up and caught him coming in. Once he hurt him, he switched back to orthodox and started catching him with that right hand easier.”

Prevent injuries

Belt’s principle goal is to keep Crawford fit and healthy. Strength and conditioning has a vital role to play in terms of performance, but injury prevention is a crucial added objective.

“I wasn’t making guys huge,” Belt said of his work with clients during the period when he first met Crawford. “I was teaching them how to do things efficiently and recover very fast. The way I was doing it was preventing injuries, the most important part of a strength and conditioning programme. But a byproduct of that is improved performance.”

When Crawford began training with Belt, the young boxer had very little knowledge or experience of strength and conditioning, having relied on the traditional staples long associated with the sport. Belt found Terence refreshingly willing to learn, however.

“He had a very high level of cardio and I was lucky enough to get Terence when he had literally no strength and conditioning experience,” the amiable Belt noted. “He did everything very old-school. There was a lot of long-distance running, a lot of push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups, that’s all he’d known. I had to change the way he thought.

“If you think about boxing as a sport and relate it to running, is it really a long-distance run? Not really. It’s intermittent bouts of sprints. He was weak in the core, he had weak hamstrings and didn’t know how to use a lot of stabilisation muscles. So it was teaching him how to lift weights first then progressing later onto how to be an athlete. He was very open.”

Swim to win

Crawford enjoys two swimming sessions a week during a typical training camp and McIntyre, despite being a boxing man, has a sophisticated understanding of the benefits of this method.

“Swimming is for his core, speed, lungs and recovery time,” outlined McIntyre. “For his lungs, we do a ‘3-5-7’: after three strokes, he takes a breath, after five strokes, another breath and after seven strokes, another breath. We see how long he can swim under the water, the goal is to go down under water for a length of the Olympic-sized pool [50m] and back, that takes about a minute and 15 seconds. To help his recovery time we do sprints in the pool. Down and back, the best time I like him to beat is 32 seconds, and it should take no longer than five-seven seconds to recover, by the end of camp. You’re building your endurance, your lungs and you need those lungs in the later rounds. It also helps your will and focus.”

Bolt is a big advocate of swimming for fighters, noting the lack of wear and tear it exacts on Crawford.

“We’ll swim for 30 minutes-to-an hour every night,” he told us. “It’s non-impact, basically, easy on their joints. It helps with recovery, regeneration of muscle cells and fibres. It’s not natural for him so he has to work a little bit harder, it’s a different type of cardio from running. I think it helps tremendously on the cardio side.”

Prioritise sparring

Belt appears a man thoroughly without ego. Jamie knows his role in the camp and embraces it, without ever exceeding his remit. He recognises, correctly, that one of his key responsibilities is to ensure Crawford is in optimum condition to get the most from his boxing training. That means not pushing him too hard on sparring days.

“We spar every other day and those days are very important,” Bolt insisted. “We do not like to lift weights on his sparring days. We want Terence to be as fresh as he can on those days. On his technical days, when he’s hitting pads, doing tactical and technical stuff, that’s when he’ll lift weights.

“Some days we work harder than other days, so it might be one day really hard, one day slow. We don’t try to kill him. It depends how long he goes on the heavy bag and power-punches with the other coaches, he might only do a few rounds with me. It’s different every day. We have him throw a lot of punches, we need to keep his arms in condition, I don’t want him to get tired in the later rounds.

“It’s very scientific, like his running, it all depends on where he is at in his recovery. If I feel like his legs are trashed, he’s sore and not feeling it, we’ll run three or four miles nice and light. But the days he’s feeling good or we need a big push, we’ll do a lot of sprint work, some intervals, running up hills. We split up the days, so one day we’ll do long distance, the next day sprints, the next day hills, and then reverse back into that.”

The pair also alter their training location as camp progresses.

“We work together every day,” Belt revealed. “We always start our camp here in Omaha about 12 weeks out. But when we get six weeks out, we’ll get away from distractions and go to the mountains in Colorado. Three days a week, we’re doing circuit training with weights, working on speed and agility, then four days a week, we’re running up mountains and a lot of stairs, that kind of stuff.”

Crack your cardio… and believe

When it was announced that Crawford had secured his long-awaited mandatory shot at WBO king Ricky Burns, many pundits predicted a changing of the guard. Crawford appeared the more talented operator but the reigning champion was known for his experience, iron will and – crucially – his conditioning, a quality that had built his reputation as a reliable 12-round performer. Instead of quavering at this perceived disadvantage, Belt approached it as a test of his skills as a coach.

“I had done research on Ricky and he was touted as a cardio monster and he is,” Bolt recalled. “I took that as a challenge and changed the way Terence trained.

“Now we’ll start with rounds of four or five exercises – 10-15 reps each – that last five minutes and I’ll slowly build it up week by week until a round takes 15 minutes, so it’s 15 minutes work with one minute of rest.
It’s hard and I had to instil that before the fight with Ricky Burns.”

Crawford’s self-belief was also important going into his first world title fight and will continue to be.

“Coming up the way I did, I wasn’t taught to be scared,” Crawford pointed out. “I been in places where a lot of people have been cheering for the other guy but they can’t fight for him. I go into every fight confident; it’s just my ability, heart, dedication and belief in my skills.”