PETER DOBSON is not one of Dave “Scooter” Honig’s better known clients, but he is nevertheless given the fitness Guru’s undivided attention at the Competitive Gym in Port Washington, New York. That is to say he is being tortured like all the rest.
The 25 year old undefeated Bronx welterweight is being put through a workout that makes boot camp look like a recreational facility. Dobson has weights on his back, then he explodes onto a platform, crouches and jumps up. From there it is onto the medicine ball. The old time trainers routinely had the ball slammed into their fighter’s midriff but this is a new era. Dobson jumps up takes the medicine ball and repeatedly slams it into the heavy bag going up and down from the pushup position. In between that he does a side stepping drill on the small indoor track going over the low hurdles. Dodson continues practicing his footwork by side stepping shuffleboard boxes while keeping his hands up simulating what he would do in the ring. He gets down and does pushups before being told to take a short rest.
Honig had already been putting the fighter through his paces for a long period of time when we had arrived, but wasn’t about to give Dobson any slack. “Get serious” he barks. The fighter has been but nevertheless nods, understanding he is there to be pushed to the limit. The kind words from Honig will come after Dobson’s next fight a few weeks later when he improved to 6-0 (5).
After a short rest period Dobson gets on a customized punching machine. He then pushes a cart with weights on them doing an explosive sled push. A few more minutes elapse and he transitions to pushups Rocky Balboa style. Sit ups follow from various positions done with ankle weights on.
Modern technology knows no bounds. Dobson is given what we are told are brain exercises. He lifts his toes and keeps touching Honig’s hands with them. “This is called a central nervous test” says Scooter. “His left side is not as good as his right, but both sides are satisfactory.”
Honig’s clients vary. He has worked extensively with Jameel McCline, Oleg Maskaev, Vinny Maddalone, Zab Judah, Vivian Harris, Danny Jacobs, Luis Collazo, and Frank Galarza among others. However, his highest profile client has been the rapper LL Cool J with whom he has worked with for years. They have written two books together on nutrition and fitness. Honig also worked with actor Leonardo DiCaprio for 12 weeks when he was in filming for the movie The Departed.
“Getting an actor or actress in shape is no different than getting a boxer ready for a fight,” says Honig. “You have to devise nutrition, cardiovascular, and strength plans. It is the same with singers. They have to have strength and mobility to perform.”
Honig had formerly served for 22 years as a physical education teacher in the New York City school system. He left the security of that job to devote all his energies to high fitness training. It is a move he has never regretted. “Nothing compares to fight night and seeing all the hard work pay off for the boxer I worked with. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know that I played a small role in his success.”
Honig is routinely referred to by his nickname. He has a strong bond with the fighters resulting in many of them becoming friends as much as they are clients, but in the gym it is strictly business. “I hate Scooter whenever we work together” says Maddalone. “He never gives me any slack. Some of the workouts he puts me through are harder than the fight itself. But I know if he didn’t care so much he wouldn’t push me so hard.
Jacobs, in training for his upcoming fight with Peter Quillin, concurs. “Scooter’s the man. I have only worked with him for a couple of fights but can already see the difference in my conditioning. One of the best moves I made was bringing him into camp. Although he is there to help me physically, mentally he is also an asset. Scooter is a great guy to be around and always has me thinking positively.”
Scooter understands what his role is and realizes he has to tread carefully to avoid dissension within the fighter’s camp. “I’m second to his primary trainer, but we both have to work as one. The most important thing is communication. If the fighter is scheduled to spar on a Thursday, I can’t give him too grueling of a workout on Wednesday. What I do takes a burden off of the trainer. He can concentrate fully on the boxing and technical aspects leaving the conditioning part of it to me.
“Lack of dedication is the hardest thing I have to deal with. I can’t be with the fighter twenty four hours a day. Some don’t adhere to their diet and then we have to worry about taking off weight at the expense of their conditioning.”
When asked what has been his biggest thrill to date, Scooter pauses and reflects for a few seconds. “I would have to say Zab beating Micky Ward was the most satisfying. I had to get him into great shape to absorb all the body blows. Collazo stopping Victor Ortiz was big for me too. Everyone thought he was done, but I got him into tremendous shape and he won by a second round knockout. Just being associated with Danny Jacobs is a thrill because he is a cancer survivor who made it all the way back.”
Honig believes in leading by example. He keeps himself in superb shape and prides himself on being a nutritional expert. “I’ve been doing this for thirty years” he says. “I love my job and the fighters I work with.”