Prior to Sergey Kovalev’s historic and life-changing defeat of boxing legend Bernard Hopkins this past Saturday in Atlantic City, I spoke with Kovalev’s new strength and conditioning coach Quan Paxton.
The Detroit, Michigan product who now works in Marina Del Rey training and conditioning a wide array of athletes, told The Shadow League that Kovalev would defeat Hopkins because of his discipline, dogged conditioning and deft boxing skills, which he was sure Hopkins underestimated.
The Vegas odds were on “The Alien” but Paxton never doubted that it would be a night to crown the new king and confidently predicted that "Krusher" Kovalev would dethrone the “old lion” and usher in a new era of dominance at the light heavyweight division.
Since that glorious night, Coach “Q” has been recognized throughout the boxing community as a prophet of sorts and his talent as a Strength & Conditioning Coach/Trainer is starting to get props and spark conversations in the boxing world.
I spoke with an obviously emotional and elated Paxton shortly after Kovalev’s 12-round masterpiece over Hopkins.
Coach Q: Thank You man. We worked so hard man. It was a magical night man. We really went H.A.M. It really was cool. And I thought about you after we were leaving and I said man let us get part 2 of this interview going because the ink you gave me, everybody saw that man.
My phone’s been going crazy with calls from all of these boxing sites because I called it, when everybody else was tripping.
Gamble: You predicted it. I wrote it and boom. Power of The Shadow League.
Coach Q: Yeah man...You had a great article. This one reporter called me on my way back from Atlantic City, probably after reading your piece, and asked me, “How did you know and believe in him?” What they don’t understand is that I wouldn’t train someone and help them get ready for a pro fight that’s going to change their life and not believe in him. That just doesn’t work. I wasn’t raised that way. I’m a Christian man and anything that I do, I pray on. It’s about having faith and discipline.
Me and Sergey we put in a lot of work with this. On my way home I actually dropped a couple of tears because it was a crazy night for us man. Changed my life. Changed his life too.
Gamble: You predicted Sergey would win because Hopkins underestimated his pure hand skills.
Coach Q: Yeah…I felt like Hopkins was going to underestimate him because looking at the previous people that he fought I felt like Hopkins felt like maybe Sergey wasn’t ready for the A-level yet. But what you gotta’ understand is, when Russians fight, Russians have a very extensive amateur background. Sergey fought close to 200 people just as an amateur so I felt like he may have seen something like Hopkins once upon a time.
But don’t get me wrong. There’s nobody like Bernard Hopkins. He’s a true legend. True champion. But…basically Russian amateurs, when they are brought over to the US, they tend to be more seasoned fighters than our American fighters take them for.
Gamble: Who’s the next victim for Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev AKA “The Body Count”?
Coach Q: We looking at…We looking at Jean Pascal, the former 175-pound champion maybe. Adonis Stevenson, he’s scared to step up. Sergey really wants to kick his butt. I’m thinking one of those two, but we really want Adonis because he has the WBC belt and that will set us up for a mega fight. And we’ll punish him for getting out the deal we had in place earlier this year.
He pulled out, switched networks and got a new manager and that was the only way he could do that. He was with HBO, so we were setting it up for that fight. So then he messed around and switched management and went with Al Haymon. Now he’s with Showtime. And now he’s going to have to come to us to get that fight and we gonna' charge him big time (laughter).
We want that last belt though. We’ve got three of them now. We just want to dominate until we can’t go anymore. Once we get that WBC belt, every fight he has, Sergey is going to be a very rich man.
Gamble: What was the atmosphere at ringside and within camp before and during fight?
Coach Q: It was amazing. I had my family there. We were front row and had half of Russia there behind us. I had better seats than a lot of actors and entertainers, so a lot of people were wondering who I was. I was getting questioned all night. So when Max Kellerman walked up on me and Roy Jones Jr. walked up on me and we took pictures and stuff, that’s when people found out I was Sergey Kovalev’s strength & conditioning coach…you know...then they’re eyes got big and they were like, “what do you think is going to happen tonight?” Then I started telling them exactly what I thought would happen, that did happen.
I lost my voice which I’m still dealing with right now. Every round was very nerve-racking for me because B Hop is a very tactical fighter and you just never know what can happen because one punch can change the fight.
When we got to Atlantic City. I already had his weight at 176-177. Normally he would come to fights at 180 and have to rehydrate all the way down. So this camp, I just prepared him earlier because I didn’t want him to have weak legs with Bernard. I feel like Bernard was going to unload the clip in the 11th and 12th rounds and if Sergey was going to get hit and I did my job by making sure he had the strong legs to withstand it, then he’d be alright.
Gamble: It seemed like B Hop rocked Sergey in that 12th round but Sergey didn’t budge.
Coach Q: It was something because Bernard had caught him with a shot and he turned around and caught Bernard with a shot. I didn’t want him to just step off the gas. Cause I don’t like when boxers finish a fight with their hands up with two minutes left and just "BS" around thinking they have it sewn. I wanted Sergey to finish the fight strong. Dominate and impress the world. And set his legacy. So for me every round was very serious. I was nervous. Facing a true legend like Bernard Hopkins…man… I just felt like we had to dominate every round and not make it close, because you know sometimes the judges can be trippin’. I felt like he needed to go in there and really put on a spectacular performance and that’s what he did.
Gamble: What’s next for Coach Q? Now that your conditioning skills are in higher demand and you’re part of a World Championship boxing team, how will you further impact the boxing game with your training and conditioning approach?
Coach Q: “I’m going to get back to Cali and get back in the gym training amateur fighters. Work with the young guys and maybe train the next Olympic boxer coming up. I got a lot of other fighters who want to train with me now. I’m going to get back to my regular clients and just fine tuning my skills. My number one goal is to become a top boxer-trainer. I want to mix the old school with my new endeavor. The boxer-trainer that can instruct you in the ring and also condition you. Today’s boxer-trainer relationship is different than it used to be. They break up jobs within the camp and have this guy handling this aspect of training and another guy handling another aspect.
I wanted to step into the game and be well-rounded. That’s why I work with John David Jackson (Sergey’s Trainer) who’s been mentoring me and I’ll go back and forth from Cali, to Ft. Lauderdale to Vegas and keep fine tuning my skills and then when the next cats comes I’m going to train Sergey like we’re broke again and we’re going to change history again.
Gamble: Is this your destiny or did you get lucky?
Coach Q: I’ve been boxing since I was a young guy. I had an uncle who was a boxer and a martial artist and I been hitting the bag and doing different boxing related stuff for a long time. I told Sergey’s manager Egis Kilmas when he gave me the opportunity, “Look man I’m going to become one of the best trainers. With your help I think I can become one of the greatest and he just looked at me. I said I’m telling you, I’m going to take Sergey to another level. He said, “Ok. Show me.”
You know Egis is this Russian guy...millionaire…He’s from the Show Me State. Show me what you can do. So now after this fight man, he hugged me so tight and shook my hand and thanked me for all the work. Even (Main Events promoter) Kathy Duva and all of these people walked up on me and said I’ve never seen him in this kind of shape before.