By Richard Hubbard
Pro-file: Adrian Gonzalez
Bouts: 12 (11 wins, 3KOs)
Trainer: Lee Beard
Not many fighters could be credited with introducing their own trainer to the sport – particularly one now viewed as among the most respected in the business.
In the corner of lightweight contender Adrian Gonzalez is the man he calls Dad, Manchester trainer-manager Lee Beard, who adopted the young Gonzalez after marrying his mother.
With Latino looks and a name to match, Gonzalez is not the typical product of the fight factory run by Beard a stone’s throw from the Etihad Stadium, home of his footballing favourites. His story began in California, where his mother was relocated as a toddler from Manchester, and circumstances eventually dictated she would repatriate the young American at the age of five.
A desire to avoid being swept up in the gang culture inhabited by his Mexican father was the principal reason behind young Gonzalez returning to his mother’s roots and spending his formative years in the North-West before a twist of sporting fate took him Stateside again.
Not a trace of an American accent remains in the voice of the now 24-year-old, with his twang decidedly more Corrie than Cheers.
“My mum wanted me to have a better upbringing so she sacrificed pretty much her whole life to come over to England and start afresh,” reported a proud Gonzalez ahead of his 12th professional fight at the Manchester Arena on October 10. “She brought me over here as a five-year-old American and I did all my schooling over here.
“I lost my accent in primary school pretty quickly after three or four years and that is it now, Manchester is my home.
“It was massive, not too hard for me because I didn’t know much better, but I know it was a great sacrifice for my mum. I feel like me doing well with my boxing is kind of repaying that – hopefully I can get some good money behind me and look after her.
“She met my stepfather Lee and it is a good story we’ve got, with him being my trainer and we’ve kind up come up in the pro ranks together. I feel blessed.”
Gonzalez’s boxing story began at the age of eight before he began punching for points in the juniors at 11. A couple of years later a visit to the gym of local boy made good, Ricky Hatton, began a new chapter for both father and son.
“When I was 13 or 14 I got introduced to the Ricky Hatton camp and Billy Graham said to come down – literally any chance I got to be around the pros I took, I always wanted to be a pro. As an amateur I always had that flashy sort of pro style, which didn’t really suit me well then.
“I was preparing for a fight one day and asked Billy Graham if it was ok if my dad came in to help me and they said ‘yeah sound, bring him down’. Dad came down, they saw us working together and I think they saw a diamond in the rough with my father.”
And from there the career of trainer Beard took off, firstly with the amateur club Phoenix Camp ABC within Hatton’s gym.
“I take credit for it!” laughed his first pupil. “We’re getting big now, it started off with me at eight years old being too nice of a kid and working on a bit of self-defence in the living room and it kind of progressed from there.”
The association with Team Hatton eventually led to a US return for Gonzalez after his execution of boxing drills caught the eye of one Floyd Mayweather Snr. After a little negotiation with mum over the completion of education, Gonzalez was drafted into the Money Team and awarded the nickname ‘White Floyd’.
“We were going over to America a lot with Ricky fighting in 2006-07ish time and when we were over there I met Floyd Snr,” he recalled. “He does a lot of stuff with kids and little boxers, he is a people person and will spend a bit of time with them and play a few games on the pads and stuff.
“He was doing it with all the kids and came to me and we went for about an hour straight. We ended up doing a full pad workout and he said to my father ‘this kid is good’. So we kept coming down training and I was a bit star-struck to be fair, with a big celebrity that I’m used to seeing on TV in the corner of Oscar de la Hoya and I was there training with him.
“Dad is one of those guys, even though he was my trainer, he wanted me to see a lot of different trainers. He has not got a big ego at all and I think that is what serves him well. If his ego was bigger he’d be a bit more well known. He is well known but I think he could be a lot bigger than he is – he doesn’t like to be in front of the camera and prefers to be behind the scenes and stuff. He dictates from behind rather than in front.
“Floyd Snr asked me to move out there with him and I got the offer while I was still in High School. I got my mum on the phone and she didn’t believe it was him, she was like ‘put my son back on’ asking ‘who is this guy?’ She was then a bit star-struck as well.
“I went over when I was 16 in my final year with GCSEs coming up and mum said to him ‘let him finish his GCSEs and I’ll send him over to you’. That was it, I went over at the end of August 2007 and moved over to be with Floyd for two years. I was living with him and part of the family.
“I got the nickname ‘White Floyd’ over there and I said I’m not white, but they said I am because I don’t speak Spanish.”
It was doubtless a boxing education that money can’t buy, perhaps with the exception of Floyd Jnr, but a tempting offer from familiar faces across the Atlantic meant Manchester was once again calling.
Hatton was entering into the promotional game and Gonzalez was to be the poster boy for the new organisation.
“It was more training out there, but I fought in the Golden Gloves, got to the final of the California Gloves and got ripped off because they knew I was the English kid and got robbed in the final. It was one of my best performances I’ve ever had and that was from working with Floyd with the shoulder roll and things like that. It worked great in the fight and at that point I knew I was ready to turn pro.
“I then got the offer soon after to jump on the undercard of Ricky Hatton vs Pauli Malignaggi in Las Vegas. They said they were opening up Hatton Promotions and I was going to be the first person to sign. I weighed it up and thought I would get back over and train with my dad, sign for Hatton Promotions and get well looked after.
“I packed up my stuff and moved back to England. That’s why I’m back over here now. It’s good to be back home, I’m quite independent, but you never know what could have happened over there, whether I’d have been looked after properly or if I’d had a falling out with the Mayweathers.
Possession of a steely, single-minded determination is clearly evident in Gonzalez, who now wants to enter the fast lane where his career is concerned, having informed his team that he does not wish to be matched with anyone with a losing record. His desire to push on probably stems from having to force himself into ring exile for two years in order to free himself from a promotional contract after a tight points defeat in his sixth pro bout.
“Going into the fight I was more angry at people outside of the ring, with promotional stuff and managerial contracts than I was inside.
“I wanted to beat people up outside of the ring more than the bloody opponent in front of me. I was young and didn’t deal with it well. I should have wiped the floor with him, It set me back, I was trying to get out of my managerial contract and I froze my way out of it for two years. I was active in the gym but was stuck in the contract and it was horrible. I must have been 19 at the time, two years into my career, and I wasn’t fighting enough through no fault of my own because I was always in the gym training.
“It was hard to motivate myself. I had the time out, came back in when it is a hard road after two years to get the momentum going again. Obviously I’ve got back in, had a few hard fights, a few rough fights and I’m flying now,” added Gonzalez, who is now happily only looking upwards under the guidance of his father and promoter Frank Warren.
“I’m there now, that’s in the past. Depending on how you take it, it makes you stronger and I feel stronger because of it. I’ve not got the 0 any more, I’ve taken the loss and I don’t have to worry about that, which is a blessing as well. I’m at title level now, WBO Inter-Continental and I’ve moved up to lightweight – I am a big, strong lightweight now.
“I feel ready to push on now, win this title, get a few good 10-12 rounders and I want to be looking for world titles in the next year and a half or so. That’s my ambition.
“I’ve got the Latin heritage, I can go through America and can fight over there easily with my American passport. I think I can be quite marketable with the audiences I can attract and I’m ready to really push on now, not looking to be fighting on small shows in 4-6 rounders against opponents with losing records.”
The challenge ahead of Gonzalez now is a neighbourhood spat with Jon Kays at the Manchester Arena. There has been a bit of needle in the build-up to this one, the pair trading a few low blows via anti-social media, with Gonzalez questioning the refuelling habits of the 32-year-old.
“It is a local derby so it should be good,” reasoned the younger puncher. “Tickets are going well, a lot of people are interested and we are getting a lot of people who haven’t bought tickets before coming along.
“I see Jon as a stepping stone. I know him a little bit to say hi and bye, but he seems to have got a bit above himself in his last couple of fights. I’m a very down to earth person and talk to anyone, I’ve no airs and graces about me and don’t really like the cockiness – there is no need for it.
He probably thinks ‘who the hell is this kid?’ The thing is, I may be young but I’ve been around and have been to all the gyms here and in America, sparred great guys, fought decent lads as well. People don’t talk well about me for no reason, they’ve obviously seen me in the gyms and know what I’m about. I’ve got every right to be confident in myself,” asserted Gonzalez, who insists the online barbs are really nothing personal.
“I thought why not? It brings a bit of spice to the fight. I haven’t got a problem with the guy. There is no harm in it and afterwards we’ll shake hands and I’ll take him for a pint – and I’ll have a pint of coke or something! He can take a picture of my belt!”