“From the Root, to the Fruit” that is an expression that I learned from Emanuel Stewart. Emanuel was a legendary boxing trainer and television fight commentator; we would talk boxing on the telephone periodically. It refers to taking a fighter from his first day as an Amateur all the way to his Pro-debut. Sadly, Emanuel Stewart passed away on October 25, 2012.

When R.J. Laase first stepped into Chuck Horton's gym, Chuck knew he would become a great fighter.

When R.J. Laase first stepped into Chuck Horton’s gym, Chuck knew he would become a great fighter.

Of all the many fighters that I took from the beginning of their amateur career all the way to their professional debuts, two fighters stand out to me the most: RJ “T-Rex” Lasse and Gary “Stone Cold” Eyer (I will be writing more about Gary Eyer on a later date).

R.J. first came into my life when he was around 14 years old. Horton’s Gym, which I once owned and operated, was holding open enrollments. I had just moved my gym from its starting location in Gary-New Duluth to downtown Duluth, MN. In order to accommodate for my enlarging membership, I needed a larger space.

I can remember very clearly a shy young man standing behind his mother peeking around her shoulder. I was sitting at a folding card table that I was using for my front desk, as I really haven’t even opened officially. There was just something about that kid that I liked right off. I recognized a little of that spark that is in every good fighter. That just needed to be nurtured.

I believe that every fighter has there own set of attributes that make them unique, and the job of a Boxing Coach is to improve upon these attributes to improve their fighter.

R.J. is what I call a “Rhythm Fighter.” These type of fighters use rhythm and timing to their advantage against whomever they are fighting. The key to victory against this style of fighting is to take the lead away from them early, and to impose your will on them. R.J. was also blessed with an incredible will to win. So he is a double threat to whomever he faces.

Even though R.J. won his first fight easily, Chuck is always intense when he's ringside.

Even though R.J. won his first fight easily, Chuck is always intense when he’s ringside.

I used to play a sparring game with R.J. and Gary both when they were kids called “Ali & Frazier” where I would mimic the styles of these legendary fighters. Ali was smooth with graceful movement; Frazier was a Philadelphia pressure fighter. R.J. and Gary would adjust their style to better defend themselves, as I would switch roles playfully. R.J. was the absolute best at this game. He had the speed and timing beyond his age. His rhythm was smooth and natural.

We would also play a game called “Gunslinger” which I learned down in Juarez, Mexico. The trick to this game is to take two car tires and push them against each other till they touch. Each fighter stands on one tire facing each other while placing their gloved hands down at their sides in a gunslinger like pose. Then they take turns trying to hit each other. This greatly improves the fighter’s head movement while also improving balance (Pay attention to my blog, as I will be posting this drill along with many others for anyone to use for their advantage, free of charge).

On October 13, 2007 at the Mortorlli Gym, in Superior, Wisconsin, R.J. “T-Rex” Laase made his Professional debut and was able to demonstrate the fruits of our labors. His debut was on the undercard of his stable mates, Zach “The Jungle Boy” Walters and Andy “Kaos” Kolle. The show was sold out well beyond the max capacity. The crowd was electric and charged for battle. R.J. and I knew a lot about his opponent Raphael Magdaleno because he had already fought Gary “Stone Cold” Eyer. We both knew what to expect and we were not surprised when he came out of his corner charging and pressuring from the opening bell.

R.J. easily won his debut that night and in doing so put on a clinic of everything that he and I worked on all those years in the gym. I was really proud of him that night for his ability to put up with not just the pressure of his opponent, but also the pressure of debuting on such a big show.