FOR years boxers were held back by the ‘knowledge’ that lifting weights would make them too heavy and slow. Evander Holyfield’s 1990s training regime opened eyes and the influx of strength and conditioning coaches has opened doors.
With fighters and trainers increasingly prepared to listen to new ideas, the opportunity to try new regimes has multiplied in recent years, although given the number of ‘fads’ in fitness, it is unsurprising that a sport with traditional values would meet another with scepticism.
However, CrossFit is more than a ‘fad’. It’s a global brand with growing communities in every far-flung corner of the earth you can imagine.
Cities like Las Vegas have as many as 30 boxes (CrossFit terminology for gyms). There has been no plateau. CrossFit is a sport that, during tough financial times, is growing like few others. It is a constantly varied form of high-intensity training, often incorporating functional movements. It caters to all levels of fitness with scalable WODs (Workouts of the Day) to include cardiovascular and gymnastic exercises as well as Olympic and powerlifting techniques.
Old school met new world when Robert Guerrero started using CrossFit to help prepare him for his return to action following a May 2013 defeat to Floyd Mayweather. He’d considered CrossFit before but, at a crossroads for the first time in his career, he decided the time had come to innovate and experiment.
“I’d tried it one time but never stuck to it,” Guerrero says. “I was sceptical about the weight but one of the main guys from CrossFit, Dave Castro, who runs the [CrossFit] Games, is a good friend of mine. We sat down and talked to see how it could benefit me in the boxing ring, we tried it out and it felt good.”
The 31-year-old started getting ready for his return to action against Yoshihiro Kamegai in Carson, California, nearly a year after the Mayweather experience. Five months out, he went to Castro, who set him up with trainers and programmed him to become a superior athlete to the one he was when he faced Floyd. He went to CrossFit HQ, a ranch in California, and learnt by watching leading athletes doing what they do.
“I’ve worked out with some of the best CrossFitters in the world and just watching them work, [seeing] how fast and strong they are,
how much weight they throw around with ease, it’s incredible,” Guerrero remarks.
“The Ghost” trained alongside CrossFit royalty including Jason Khalipa, Rich Froning, Chris Spealler and Neal Maddox, among others.
“When we started doing it, Dave wanted to bring in some of the top competitors to give me an idea of how strong and fast these guys are,” Guerrero remembers. “He brought out Spealler and just watching someone who’s the same size as me, a little bit shorter but the same build, to watch how fast he could move the weight really opened my eyes.”
That explosivity translated to the ring. Guerrero, who does his boxing training with his father, noted how the hip movements from Olympic lifts helped him with leverage in his uppercuts and there were numerous translations.
“It’s just a great workout, the cardio, the intensity and everything. It’s super-hard and then we meshed it in with boxing and tailored the workouts to mimic boxing rounds. It really stepped my game up,” Guerrero points out.
Of course there were concerns. He needed to keep an open mind and let CrossFit work its magic, not worry about his preconceived ideas.
“It was about the weights,” he says of what had played on his mind, “bulking up and getting too tight, losing some speed; those were my main concerns, but the more I got into it, the better I felt. It felt like my speed, strength and stamina increased. I PR’d [achieved personal records] in everything.
“I was doing it every day for about five months and then the last month up until the fight we started tapering down, three days a week, and then we went down to two days a week but for a good five months it was CrossFit every day, working smart but hard.”
Before long, Guerrero was sold and his lifestyle was changed. And it was backed up when he went 12 hard rounds in a Fight of the Year contender with Kamegai and fought at a frenetic pace.
“I could feel the benefit in the fight, throwing power shots and combinations, being able to stand there with a guy like Kamegai,” Robert continues. “He came to the ring at 162lbs. A lot of people don’t realise I started as a 122-pounder and now I’m fighting at 147lbs, so to be able to go punch for punch with 147lb fighters, the proof is in the pudding.
“I’m very surprised about how cynical people can be about CrossFit, but from the boxing world, there’s a lot of scepticism out there because of the weight. It scares fighters and trainers who are like, ‘I don’t want to bulk up,’ because that was my fear too.”
Guerrero, however, is now sold on the concept. Not only is he back training in his box, but he went to the CrossFit Games as a fan and will continue to use it in his training camps.
“Definitely,” he concludes. “Since I started CrossFitting I’ve pretty much made it a lifestyle.”
GUERRERO’S TOUGHEST WORKOUT
“I think the hardest workout I did was the Filthy 50,” Guerrero recalls. “That one was tough.”
50 box-jumps (24-inch box)
50 jumping pull-ups
50 kettlebell swings
50 step walking lunges
50 push-presses @45lbs/20kgs
50 back extensions
50 wall-ball shots @20lbs/9kgs