'Thoughtful' Dave Coldwell continuing to learn from Virgil Hunter and the best

Dave Coldwell is reaping the rewards of time spent with Virgil Hunter at the American’s gym.

The Rotherham-based trainer was in San Francisco with Ebanie Bridges for her IBF bantamweight title fight in December with Miyo Yoshida, and capitalised by observing the methods of someone he considers one of his profession’s greats.

He watched Hunter – best known for his successes with the great Andre Ward and Amir Khan – preparing Joshua Buatsi for his victorious fight with Dan Azeez, and enhanced his relationship with a trainer he first got to know in the UK.

Coldwell, who before guiding Tony Bellew to the WBC cruiserweight title revived the career of Ryan Rhodes, also previously worked under the respected Adam Booth, and explained of Hunter to ProBox TV: “Just listening to him talk. It sounds quite basic, but listening to him talk about how he had Andre [Ward] from a kid, and the experiences he had… 

“When I’m watching him train Buatsi – I’m quite hard to work with, ‘cause my standards are really high. Any mistake you make and I’m on you, ‘cause I want to iron it out as much as I can. ‘Fuck me – you think I’m hard, listen to him and Buatsi.’ It’s the attention to detail. 

“Listening to him, and the same sort of mentality, I’m smiling. That’s why he had someone like Andre Ward. There’s a big difference between elite and very, very good, and sometimes it’s the expectation and the persistence to not allow yourselves to dip your standards. 

“I was lucky enough to have breakfast with him once, when he was in England. We was probably about an hour, an hour and a half, just sat, and I just shut up and listened to his experience. I’m a massive Andre Ward fan – I’ve watched countless hours of Andre Ward, and listening to how Virgil is in the corner and how he teaches… To be able to sit there and just listen to him is unbelievable. 

“When I was coming to San Fran[cisco] I messaged him to let him know to see if there was any chance I could come. ‘Dave, you’re welcome anytime.’ For me to train one of my fighters in the same gym Andre Ward and Virgil Hunter worked in for years and developed in was a big moment for him. They let me lock up the gym and I’m just there in the gym with my fighter. There’s things that happen in your life. ‘How did that happen?’ That was one of those.

“When I saw him in the UK it was just after his illness [Hunter fell into a coma brought on by prescribed medication]. He looked older – like someone who’d been ill – but I actually said to him [in San Francisco], ‘I can’t believe how well you look’. He’s in shape, and very, very sharp.”

Coldwell worked with Booth when Booth was guiding the career of David Haye, and helped end Haye’s career from Bellew’s corner after Haye recruited Cuba’s Ismael Salas – another of the trainers Coldwell holds in the highest regard.

“I’m a thinking man,” he continued. “It’s like when I first started working with Adam Booth. When we met we realised we both have similar philosophies and our thinking’s very aligned, so we worked together really easily. It’s kind of like that with [Ismael] Salas and Virgil – I’ve got the same principles and thought process. It’s just that these guys are elite, so there’s little details you pick up. 

“Salas is one of my top, top elite coaches – someone I always look up to as well. So I wanted to go to that gym. I had Jamie McDonnell against [in 2015, Tomoki] Kameda, and Tony Bellew against [David] Haye, and we’ve always kept in touch since. 

“As soon as I knew I was going to Vegas, ‘Can I come and see your gym?’ He welcomed me. ‘This is your gym – use it as you want it.’”