Terry Southerland

I said goodbye to my parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, March of 1992, driving my car to NYC. I told them I would be back in a few weeks.  I was going to train at Gleason’s Gym with the legendary trainer Victor Valle Sr.

I didn’t actually make it back till Christmas of that year.

I met Victor for the first time upstate in Monticello, NY. My manager had called him over and over again to train me, and Victor rarely took on new fighters. He was about 75 years old at the time and had trained  Gerry Cooney, the heavyweight from NY, and Billy Costello, the welterweight champion from upstate, among others. My manager called him so many times, without telling me that Victor finally said “OK, send him out! He can stay one week and I’ll check him out”…  We were training at Kutcher’s, the site of many boxing training camps in the past. I was told that I would be sparring with Glenwood Brown from New Jersey. Glenwood was preparing for a welterweight title shot against Meldrick Taylor. Me and Glenwood sparred almost every day, and I ended up staying for close to two months. When camp was over, Victor asked me to come to NY to train with him.

So I arrive on a Sunday, walk into Gleason’s on a chilly Monday morning. I hadn’t been in a gym in about three weeks, because I was just enjoying time with family and friends in Cincinnati before I went to NY to train. I can’t even express in words the excitement when I parked my car downstairs and ran up the two flights of stairs to the gym. I felt like I could leap over all of them, I was THAT excited. I was greeted at the door by one of the owners, the late Ira Becker. He really reminded me a lot of Rocky’s trainer played by Burgess Meridith. He led me to Victor and my new manager ( long story), Dennis Rappaport. I was so pumped up to be in a place that had rings that so many champions had boxed in, so many bags that some of the greatest boxers in the world had punched, and to jump rope in the same spots that so many of the men that I had seen on TV and in person put their hearts on the line preparing their hearts and minds for battle. I came from a family that is very religious/spiritual, so I can only describe what was nothing less than a “Temple” to me. I felt like I was floating on air for the first 15 minutes, but was quickly brought back down to earth.

Imagine my surprise when I was told that I would be fighting the coming weekend in Atlantic City. I was told by my Manager “He’s just some fighter from Boston, nothing to worry about”. He kept saying that the guy was ordinary and, I know what you fighters are thinking – how many fights had he had in HIS lifetime.  Well, I have no idea about that, but it did cross my mind to ask him. But, right then I had three days to prepare for a fight.

My opponent’s name was Ray Olivera. I had two guys to spar with: One was a much older, probably bantamweight fighter named Dominick Minaco, and the much bigger, I think middleweight, Earnie “M16” Mateen.

After sparring with them for three days, I set out for Atlantic City. I had two things on my mind: a) I thought they were throwing me to the dogs, and It was a sink or swim, fight or die, win or leave New York situation. B) I was there with people who obviously didn’t care about me at all. So I thought. In my mind, it was Win or Go Home!

Ray Olivera went on to win many fights and many championships after that fight, including setting records for the amount of punches thrown in a fight…  But that night he was handed his first loss. That night I met a very good friend, and my next trainer, Hector Roca. He was training Arturro Gatti. We shared a dressing room. Hector would later become my trainer, and one of the best I ever had.

I would return to Gleason’s to train for another 10 years. I saw sparring sessions from some of the current and previous champions that have been so much more fascinating than their appearances on television.

When I first got there, I would work out in the morning, then come back later in the evening just to watch and learn. Gleason’s was, and still IS, an institution. There I also surprisingly found community. Bruce Silverglades is the owner. Although I search for apartments all the time for people now, my first apartment was through one of Bruce’s resources. He also is a matchmaker, and many fights are set up through him and Gleason’s. The promoters often make it there, and have many connections there as well. If you are a fighter of any kind, there are resources to be found there. If you are a trainer or a coach, and may not be as sharp as you would like to be in boxing or striking, or even if your fighter might need help with his striking abilities, this is the place you want to get to. In my 10 years there, I received what could only be considered the equivalent of an Ivy League education in Boxing.

I spent about 15 years training people as well as other trainers in a health club environment. For the most part, there really are not a lot of those trainers that have ever had a match, or have even really competed in boxing at all. In one way, it doesn’t matter. Most people only want to use the boxing motions as the vehicle for getting themselves in shape. We all know that you can get exhausted doing most physical things.  Boxing is one of those things that will challenge most people. Know something about the trainer trying to teach you boxing or martial arts. Ask questions.

If you are in a position where proper technique matters, go to a place where proper technique has practical  uses. If you are a boxer or martial artist who is involved in competition, I would absolutely recommend going to their website: www.gleasonsgym.net. There you’ll get a sense of the history and why so many champions have come out of there.

Although this may almost sound like an advertisement for Gleason’s, it’s really not an advertisement at all. I am just a little frustrated with fighters going to a health club to train for a fight, and can’t understand why something is missing from their boxing.

There are other “Temples”.  Wildcard Gym in Los Angeles,  Joe Frazier’s in Philadelphia, The Kronk Gym in Detroit, and many more that I will pass on, as we come across them this year. I would really implore you all to get to a “Temple”.  If you don’t live near the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, NY, and Gleason’s isn’t a possibility, I will mention some along the way. I just really believe that if you want heat, get to the source of where it comes from.

If you want heat, go to where the fire is BURNING!

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