This week Boxing News and Views had the privilege to call into the legendary Johnny Tocco Boxing gym for the first time while here in the US.
It was sparring day when I arrived, so I got to witness first hand some high intensity action between both top level amateurs and professionals straight off the bat.
Upon getting to the club when you walk in the door, you know straight away that you’re in an old school boxing gym – where tradition and developing fighters are at the heart of what happens day to day.
I watched over 20 rounds of sparring at least on the day of some high calibre stuff, both technically and fight-wise.
But it wasn’t all about offence mind you, the original Phily Shell and Crouching Crab styles of boxing were also utilized by some of the guys.
People like the Mayweathers (and before them James Toney) have used these styles and distilled them in today’s times in a more upright position, popularly known as the Mayweather shoulder roll – but they did not invent it coach Luis Monda pointed out to me.
On the day at the Johnny Tocco boxing gym, one fighter did at least 10 rounds of sparring to the best of this writer’s counting, 34 year old lightweight Rashad Ganaway (18-5-1-10KO).
Ganaway fights for the vacant USBA lightweight belt on June 10th in his hometown of Arkansas and was deep in preparation for his bout with Cody Richard.
What was really impressive I thought was the standard of the amateur fighters at the gym – young fighters who could more than hold there own and provide excellent sparring for the pros.
Coach Luis Monda was very proud of this fact when speaking to him about it, as he also touched on various things with me about the gym’s history that I wasn’t aware of before.
Founded in 1955 Tocco’s is one of, if not, the oldest gym in the fight capital of the world.
Steeped in history, the club was founded by Johnny Tocco who was a famous cutman and boxing trainer in the States.
One day Tocco was approached about letting a young fighter from his hometown of St.Louis train at the gym.
It turned out to be none other than Sonny Liston who went on to become heavyweight champion of the world and share the ring with boxing legends such as Muhammad Ali.
It became Liston’s home gym throughout his career and to this day various items have been preserved to remember him, including a tyre that Liston used to hit with a sledgehammer during training.
All in all, the Johnny Tocco boxing gym wasn’t just a lesson in watching the modern day development of fighters within the sweet science within an old school, proper boxing environment, but it was a trip down boxing history lane with the many pictures and posters of famous fighters and fights that have been associated with the gym over the many decades since it’s inception.