We the boxing fans, and sports fans in general, arguably spend a tad too much time debating the unproveable.
Who is/was better, Floyd Mayweather or Sugar Ray Leonard? Opinions are bandied about ad nauseum, no consensus is reached, everyone could have better spent their time hitting the gym for a cardio blast…
But some elements of the “Were they better back in the day” discussion are worthy of pondering. Old timers, many of them, will insist that the practioners back when they wore younger man’s clothes, were cut from sturdier cloth. Perhaps so…Maybe what they went through, many of them, just to get to a place where they could compete on big stages, made them into tougher beings. Maybe in this age, in too many ways, we are coddled, and those ubiquitous cell phones have helped shape us into lazier louts, too prone to web surf and pursue Instagram likes instead of doing those early AM road-work sessions which are a bitch to to do at the time and only maybe will pay off down the line.
But one thing that I think offers merit as something we do better than back in the day is nutrition. I mean when done right. Julian Rodriguez is a young gun junior welterweight, 15-0 (10 KOs), who is chomping at the bit to get tested at that next level, so he can soon make that leap into those more meaningful fights, against higher caliber opposition, which will bring the possibility of title shots and outsized paydays. We chatted about where he is as a fighter, what he has coming up, and how eating right has helped him feel better and fight better.
The 22 year old NJ resident has been away from the ring since a win over Jerry Belmontes last November. He will glove up Friday, Nov. 8, at the 2300 Arena in Philly, on a Russell Peltz card, clashing with Dario Ferman, a Mexican boxer with a 14-2 mark.
“He’s a tough Mexican guy,” “Team Hammer Hands” told me. “Is it a step up? We’re supposed to be on a big show Dec 9, Lomachenko versus Rigondeaux, on ESPN, that would be a step up. This will be more so a tune up, get the rust off, though really I woudn’t label it a tune up. I was off, a combination of minor injuries and contracts that needed to be ironed out. We did that successfully. I’m still with Top Rank, but I don’t have a manager, I’m in talks with a manager. I was staying active in the gym, sparring with Danny Garcia for the Keith Thurman fight. I wasn’t on the couch, but it was frustrating. It is hard, being off. You have to keep it from getting to you while training and I believe I overcame the obstacle successfully.
Part of his optimism stems from the fact that he was making inroads to improve in a crucial but still underrated area: nutrition. Since early June, Julian has been working with Elite Lifestyle Cuisine, a healthy meal service headed by Carlo Filippone, who was national champion body builder. Julian said he did research on food services aimed at athletes and he sampled the Elite fare. He was hooked. “I have friends who are pro athletes who recommended getting on to a nutrition/food program,” Julian said. “It really benefits me. I’ve been in the gym since age 7, and was more so working off the food I ate. I was in good shape..now, I’m not exaggerating week and a half eating right, with Elite, I saw a complete change in my body and the way I felt. I had a lot of energy and cutting weight doesn’t feel like cutting weight. I’m not dried out or hungry…the meals are so delicious I don’t feel like I’m dieting. So camp is that much easier. I love their turkey meatballs, they are healthy and taste great, the grilled chicken and potatoes and string beans, the beef stew is great..I haven’t had a meal I didn’t like.”
Filippone had the model for the business in 2006, he said. He spent over 25 years in the fitness sphere, and has a program and comprehension of needed nutrition for athletes, and models, and moms….everyone, basically. “With Julian, we provide the understanding to tune in to his physique, and pay attention to the closer we get to the contest, so he’s not sacrificing anything,” said the founder, who provides the boxer with meals, and some supplements. “Closer to the contest he’s not losing strength, he’s not light headed, he can sustain energy deeper.”
And yes, Julian’s regimen would be different than some of the NFLers who use Elite. “He has to go through weight cut, he has to rely on leaner meals rather than drinking the shakes the football players might. No bananas and oats and such, as the NFL guy would. There’s no scale they are aiming to. The nutritional difference boxers in the 1960s and 70s, they ate whatever they wanted, they mostly weren’t up to speed on nutrition,” Filippone continued. “Some freaks looked the part, of course. But now people are smarter, and more and more future champions are understanding about nutrition. I have friends who box and do MMA, I see guys lose MMA fights because they didn’t lose weight properly, they didn’t pay attention to their diet in the months leading up to the fight. I mean, Conor McGregor lost to Nate Diaz the first time because of that.” In that event, Mystic Mac went from his customary featherweight up to welterweight, from 145 max to 170 max. “He was eating whatever he wanted to get to 170… over- consumption slows you down, Conor didn’t have the energy to stand up with Nate…it’s a perfect example why eating right and proper attention to nutrition is so important. He was sluggish and didn’t have the lungs…and I’m not sure he even realizes that’s why he lost. I knew he wouldn’t have the lungs!”
Let us be clear…in and of itself, all things being equal, the more talented athlete will usually win a contest. But all things are not always equal…if one boxer has spent the first weeks of camp in heavy weight shedding mode, then his foe, who has been eating “right” and doesn’t need to drop 20 pounds in the first month of camp, owns an advantage there. And, as Julian Rodriguez looks to exit out of prospect mode, to contender status, every opportunity to gain a legal edge makes it that much more likely that he will make that leap, and reap the rewards that are sure to come. You are what you eat, indeed…