Al Sands’ boxing career has grown with every match, and he’s risen to the top of his game. With every fight he enters the ring a better version of himself. Getting here has been an enormous effort on his behalf, but there have been others in his corner and in his camps all along the way. One of those people is Chuck Horton.
Horton stepped away from boxing in 2011 and turned the gym responsibilities over to his protégé, Zach Walters, who started training boxers a few months earlier. Walters knows a thing or two about boxing. Before transitioning into his coaching career, he helped Horton pioneer professional boxing into Duluth and the Twin Ports where Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters was a headline pro. Horton saw coaching as a good transition for Walters when he hung up his gloves.
“Chuck told me to grab a cup of coffee and swing over for a walk in Mid-March of 2011. I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to go for a walk on the snowy roads, but his tone was serious so I knew it was important. A few steps into the walk he told me he wanted to hand over the gym. He told me to come up with my own name and start fresh.” said Walters about starting Jungle Boy Boxing Gym.
Taking over the responsibilities was a crash course for Walters. When Horton stepped away from the gym the other pros that were still active severed their ties with Walters and the gym. One boxer, however, stayed through the transition. That boxer was Al Sands.
Although he was a good professional boxer, training a pro and guiding him on a career path was unknown territory to Walters so he looked to Horton for guidance. Horton was happy to advise him but also pointed out that Walters would need to learn his own lessons. Horton’s sage council at monthly progress meetings helped to get Sands’ career going. They called the arrangement having a “Sitrep” and the success continued to build. Many of Walters’ fans became reengaged in the sport, escalating support for Sands and increasing attendance at events.
Once Sands had captured the Minnesota State Title, Walters saw it was time to transition him into a Main
Event Fighter. Walters once again sought out Horton, but this time for more than just advising. He asked
Horton to return to boxing and help with Sands’ career. Honored by the request, Horton came back as a part-time/supplemental trainer to help Walters with the final weeks of Sands’ training camp. It was a perfect arrangement to relieve some of the last-minute pressures felt when putting on a boxing show. Sands went on to assume the role as Headliner for the January 2014 Black Bear Casino “Cold War” card. His next fight was for the NABA-US Title. The proof was there, the supplemental training was working.
As summer neared, Walters had a baby on the way and increased responsibility at home. He scrambled to keep training camp on track but he was struggling. Sands did his part and busted his tail every day of camp. Horton stepped in for the final days of training as planned and Sands went on to successfully retain his State Championship. It was a gutsy performance and Sands showed everyone that he is not just talented, but also very tough.
Following this bout the message was clear to Walters. He asked Horton to step in further, to come in as Sands’ full-time trainer. Horton didn’t require much time to mull it over. He saw the need, but knew it meant he would be returning all the way back to boxing. He had never planned on that after turning things over to Walters, but true boxing professionals never really leave the sport. The hooks are always there. During those prior months Horton had again become infatuated in the sport and a return seemed like a natural progression. “The Shark” was back.
The current camp for Sands’ big fight with Andres Taylor has been nothing short of magical in regard to his
ring development. Horton has spent daily hours with him in the gym, and Sands has responded. He has shown every quality that a future world champion should; fast shots, quick feet, devastating punches in close and long range, endless amounts of energy, and a focused intensity. It is the kind of training you just cannot ignore. You can’t help but get sucked in and forget about everything else. Seriously. Watch.
However, getting to this point hasn’t come without a cost. Horton has spread himself thin by putting priority measures on Sands’ preparation. He is also pursuing a college degree while keeping up with his own family responsibilities. It has been a careful balance, one which requires extreme discipline. But somehow Horton has been able to maintain harmony and the final weeks of camp are closing according to plan.
As Horton would explain it, training camp is an extreme test of delayed gratification. The hard work starts early for a fighter, and most of it is uncelebrated in closed training sessions. There is no crowd to cheer you on, just the boxer and his trainers. The goal to be 100% on fight day is not easy to meet. There’s a danger of peaking early. Training too hard can lead to injury, but not training enough would leave a boxer underprepared. Training camp is read by the trainer on a daily basis. Plans change. Training times change. Remaining liquid in camp is crucial. Horton knows these things and knows when certain elements of camp are needed.
But it’s not just a good trainer that yields success in the ring. The boxer has to have the ability to listen and follow the teachings of the trainer. This kind of chemistry is important. There must be a mutual trust and respect between the trainer and his boxer or no amount of coaching will help him advance. When watching Sands and Horton in the gym it is clear that connection is there. With this foundation in place there is no limit to the heights which Sands can ascend.
Reaching stardom in boxing takes an immense effort from a fighter. But there are also immeasurable efforts from others that help him become all he can be in his career. Looking back through the lens of history, it would appear that Al Sands is on a great journey with the team of Zach Walters and Chuck Horton. Horton’s return as a full-time trainer is huge. With him there Walters is free to keep the gym in order and further develop the path on which the cruiserweight will emerge with a World Title.
By all means, don’t miss Al Sands’ next fight at Black Bear Casino on October 25th, 2014. You will be watching history in the making.