News November 2013

Lee Beard Takes The Reigns For Malinga's Title Bid

20.11.2013

By @John_Evans79

On December 21, Vusi Malinga will meet Darlington’s Stuart Hall for the vacant IBF bantamweight title.

Malinga, 21-4-1 (12 KO’s), will be a long way from home when he enters the First Direct Arena in Leeds but will be able to call on some local knowledge. A month ahead of the fight, the 34 year old South African has touched down in the UK and has enlisted the help of Manchester based trainer Lee Beard.

“A couple of years ago I was training Argenis Mendez for a fight with Cassius Baloyi in South Africa. It was an IBF title eliminator. I’ve always kept in touch with Baloyi’s promoter – Branco Milenkovic – and he’s always spoken really well of me,” Beard told Livefight.

“Vusi was telling me that his father died this year and his father was his trainer. He’s been working with his brother who’s also a fighter but when they got the title fight they wanted a trainer. Branco promotes Vusi and he contacted me and asked if I’d work with him for this fight. It’s a good opportunity. I’ve never worked with an African fighter either so it’s a good challenge.”

The fight will be Malinga’s third attempt to claim a bantamweight world title. In 2009 he suffered a first round defeat at the hands of the quality Hozumi Hasegawa. Malinga started tentatively and was unable to deal with the Japanese southpaw’s left hand. ‘Marvelous’ has improved since that night and his brave but unsuccessful challenge to then IBF champion Leo Santa Cruz last June is probably a better gauge of his abilities.

“He came over on Monday. I’ve seen him fight before when he boxed Leo Santa Cruz. I rate Santa Cruz very highly, I think he’s class, but he went over there and had a good fight with him,” Beard says.

“I worked with him today and he’s tough, he’s very, very strong and like a lot of South African fighters he’s very gritty. He had decent head movement too. We’ll just work on a few things as we’re going along. I won’t try and implement too many things as there’s not much time until the fight so I don’t wanna confuse him. I’ll work with what’s got him this far and just try and tighten certain areas that I think I can do.

“I’ve always been lucky enough to train southpaws and I work with them very well. I’ve got Jack Catterall who’s a southpaw. I worked with him today and it was very easy.”

Having fought Hasegawa and Santa Cruz on their home turf, fighting Hall in Leeds holds little fear for Malinga.

“I’m not worried about fighting in his hometown,” he said. “The only thing that can defeat me is if my mind isn’t focused and I’m very focused for this fight. I don’t know anything about him really [Hall]. I just want to train very hard and win the fight.

“It’s a fine here and we’re training very hard for this fight. Lee is a good guy and trains me very hard so I’m happy to be training with him. I’m willing to take this chance because I’m getting old now!”

Should Malinga beat Hall, he would become Beard’s second world champion. Although the extremely talented IBF super featherweight champion Argenis Mendez entrusts his development to Beard, the trainer operates out of the limelight. A second success on the world stage would surely see a steady stream of fighters beating a path to his door. Who knows? Maybe some of them may even be British.

“I wish I could train some English lads! Over the last few months I’ve been asked to train about eight different fighters. From Mexico, Los Angeles, Florida, two African fighters.

“I think a lot of people don’t actually realise that I’m actually here! I think a lot of people think I’m in America. I was at Steve Wood’s show in Blackpool and a lad came up to me about training and asked if I was back from America. I never went to America!

“I’m here and I’ve always been here. I’ve got a few British lads and some good amateurs that are on their way through. I’m not in a rush anyway. I’ll just see how it goes.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in America and people there have seen me work in the Wildcard or with Floyd [Mayweather Snr] and in Miami and New York. At Mendez’s last fight in New York, we were all sat around talking and there were some people with big profiles there. One of my assistants – Johnny Roye, who’s a great trainer – said ‘You get so much more credit and respect here than you do in the UK’.

“It’s because of my age I think. I’m nearly 39 now and maybe people think I don’t have the experience. At the end of the day, I have more experience than most of them here. How many British trainers have Dominicans, Africans and Mexicans and world champions come over here to train with them?

“People don’t give you one or two days to work with them. Most of it is a trend, I’ve worked with fighters who have undefeated records or world titles and they work with me and it clicks straight away.

“For example, Mendez had about 350 amateur fights and won everything pretty much and Joan Guzman the same, they chose to work with me over some big profile trainers. They actually did trials. A few days with one guy, so many days with another and a couple of days with me and then decided. They didn’t just follow the trend. They got the feel for me. It’s like try before you buy.

“I just keep working and doing what I’m doing. It’s not that much of a deal to me as the smaller the numbers the more quality time you get the fighters. I’m a hands on, one-to-one trainer so that you can really implement what it is that you want to work on and not get too tied up with things.”

If Beard continues to enjoy success at the highest level, the calls will come. In the meantime, Beard is clearly relishing the diverse opportunities coming his way.

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