You know that feeling you get when you find a couple of 20$ in a jacket that you haven't worn in a while. Some things can gain a redolent sweetness beyond its natural value once they are forgotten and seasoned with a little time, and so as with this story.
Charles Douglas started boxing for me in 1980, he had never won anything of significance before then. He did win the 32nd St. Naval Base Championship which means he probably beat-up two guys that had never been in the ring before, such is the nature of a local Navy boxing tournament. Charles was a decent athlete and as he trained under me he began developing some serious skills. I dedicated much time to work with Charles and the Tucson Invitational was coming up and that would be a big test for him. Charles was a traditional stand up, in and out, one-two type of fighter, and he waltzed through that tournament winning all four of his bouts decisively. His opponents weren't slouches either, Charles beat a highly ranked fighter, and the tournament victory garnered Charles the number 7 spot in the national rankings and an invitation to represent the USA in the Kings Cup in Thailand.
The Kings Cup was a huge international tournament with teams representing their countries from all over the world. It was one of those meat grinder tournaments, you had to fight many times to win, It was before the rule change that banned fighting twice in one day.I worked exclusively with Charles for the next three months preparing him with a hard precise training program.The day came for team USA to depart for Bangkok, I was at the gym when the phone rang, it was one of the coaches for team USA, he advised me that Charles was refusing to board the plane, and asked if I would talk to him. Charles gets on the phone and in a disquieted voice He begins to explain. He said "Coach Benny, you got me into the best shape of my life, but! you never let me spar and you made me do fundamental drills over and over like a beginner and I'm just not ready!"I urged Charles to trust me and after a few minutes I managed to persuade him to board the plane.Charles was right with the facts but rather askant on his evaluation. Yes, I only let him spar twice in 3 months, most trainers would have you in the ring sparring 3 to 4 times a week in preparation for such an event. He was also correct that I had him preform fundamental drills over and over.I won't bore you with all of my fundamental exercises and my training philosophy, I'll just say I learned from one of the best and developed my own training program. Aside from that I became fairly adept at the mental aspect of boxing, examining the tendencies of an opponent when he gets hit and so on, and more importantly knowing the mental makeup of my own fighters.At the Tucson tournament it was a good thing Charles faced his toughest opponent's first or he might not have won that tournament, as his nose became very sore and in his last two bouts I noticed that instead of stepping in with his jab, Charles would just lean forward not moving his front foot. It's little clues like this that need to be understood, it made him less aggressive as he was protecting his nose. Charles wasn't one of those tough guys that the more you hit them the harder they fought, Charles was all technique, style and a strategic type of fighter. I knew I would not be in his corner for the Kings Cup so I pounded him with repetitive fundamental drills to keep him sharp, and I knew he had to be healthy, no sore nose or bruised ribs etc. so I didn't let him spar much, instead I used a simulated sparring technique I developed using the mitts in a very unconventional way. I understood Charles, I knew I had to train him this way if he was to have any chance of winning a medal, but I also knew it was difficult for him to trust a coach who was basically the same age as him.About 12 days later I got a phone call from the team coach in Bangkok, Charles had won the tournament, out of the 12 boxers on the USA team, Charles was the only one to win a gold medal, pictured is Charles receiving his medal. Strangely though, upon returning from Thailand Charles never came back to the gym and I never heard from him again.In 2006 I was training a team of police officers to fight in a tournament called the "Battle of the Badges" and who walks in but Charles Douglas, I guess he heard I was training there and came to see me. After a rather normal greeting He pulled me to the side and said."I am so sorry for not trusting you for the way you trained me and for the way I acted, forgive me for not coming back to I the gym to thank you, I never would have won those tournaments if it wasn't for you."Well, I really wasn't expecting that, I was kind of stunned, but the odd truth is I felt sorry for Charles, to win a huge victory like that and not be able go back and celebrate with the coach who got him there must have felt very hollow, It never bothered me that Charles doubted my approach, I was a very young coach who trained him in the most unconventional way, most boxers would have reacted much as He did. But after my methods bore fruit, I must admit I was disappointed we never tipped the cup in celebration. But I now felt a release, I was finally able to honor him as he so deserved. It would have been easy for him to just let it slide, but for him to feel the need to talk to me after 25 years was special, and I am glad I finally am able to say, congratulations Charles Douglas for not only winning the Kings Cup, but for wearing the gold medal with dignity