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Olympian Cooperized Boxer Takes on Vegas Fight

I’m sitting in the marketing office brainstorming ideas for our holiday social media videos for when an idea comes to mind. Next thing I know, we’re heading over to Cooper Fitness Center because Boxing Pro Derrick James just happens to be training 2012 Olympian Errol Spence Jr. for a Dec. 13 fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. We realized it was perfect timing for our holiday social media plans and we decided to make the ask.

Having been to “watch parties” seeing Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and others go round-for-round, I admittedly had no idea of what training for a professional boxer entailed. I quickly realized it takes a lot of mental strength, agility, discipline, drive and determination. We got what we needed for our video, but watching Spence’s work ethic was humbling. To say I was exhausted just watching is an understatement, but a light bulb went off and I knew it would be a great story. What motivates James? What makes him a great boxer?

A week later, I walk into a dark boxing studio to find Spence with laser focus warming up for his training session with James. James has been training Spence for 6 or 7 years, so it was interesting to hear his advice on what it takes for Spence to succeed. “Stay focused and in the moment—be focused and alert.” That advice seems simple but for someone with more than 35 years of experience as a boxer and a coach, it holds more weight. Spence will tell you, “[his] dad got [him] into boxing” on the last day of school, as he needed something to keep him busy for summer. He started in 9th grade and never looked back. It was something he always wanted to do, so he focused on training and sharpening his skills.

So what does a day of training look like for 7x National Champion with 14 wins and 11 knockouts? Spence arrives at the gym around lunch time and spends two hours “hitting the bags, hitting the mitts and sparring.” But that’s not all, later he runs 5-6 miles for cardio. It’s evident that he’s humble because the week before I stood next to his dad watching him do plyometrics with a weighted vest with ease and precision. A quick scroll through his social media channels and it’s easy to see how far he’s come from a pint-size baseball player to a respected boxer. Spence describes a good boxer as having “mental determination, focus and self-motivation” and it’s clear to anyone who has seen him training in Cooper Fitness Center, he certainly fits the bill.

“Never be satisfied, always focus on evolving and never get settled in a particular way. Set short and long-term goals,” says James. It’s easy to see why Spence trusts James with his boxing career. The boxing pro has years of experience and knowledge from his own career, but also from what he’s learned from his mentor and former boxing coach.

About that upcoming fight, Spence will surely be prepared when Mike Arnaoutis steps into the ring but it’s unlikely he’ll be listening to music to get ready. The 24 year old admits, “[he] listens to Jay Z and T.I.,” but he doesn’t really listen to music before his matches.

Aside from training Spence, James provides private and group lessons for everyone from teens to adults. Cooper Fitness Center offers sports training with pros in basketball, boxing, tennis, martial arts and swimming in addition to more than 26 certified personal trainers. For more information, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com/Pros or call 972.233.4832, ext. 4430.


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