‘Mad Respect’ For Adrien Broner, He Can Have A Rematch, Says Blair Cobbs’ Coach

Justin Gamber is a Las Vegas-based boxing coach who has worked with the likes of Andy Ruiz Jr., Caleb Plant and recently coached Blair ‘The Flair’ Cobbs to victory over Adrien Broner. The well-respected coach rarely gives interviews but here, in the first of a two-part Q&A, he reflects on that upset victory and explains why Broner will forever have his respect.

BS: You spoke of your own ring rust leading into Blair Cobbs’ fight with Adrien Broner. Can you talk about that? 

Gamber: The last time that I had anything to do with boxing, leading up until January this year, was when my buddy Frank Stea from Top Rank asked me to go to lunch with him, and he wanted me to come back to the gym and start coaching again. So between Caleb Plant fighting Canelo Alvarez [in November 2021] and January this year, I took a break. 

I wasn't planning on not coming back to boxing, but I wasn't really thinking about boxing. So I didn't really feel too rusty getting back in. I have enough experience. I started coaching in 2006 and I never really had a break between 2006 and 2021. I never really felt too rusty. It felt fresh to me [even though] I hadn't worked mitts with anybody in more than two years. I hadn't been coaching sparring or coaching in a fight in more than two years. It's been a little while since I had done that, and it wasn't nerve-wracking. It wasn’t like my confidence was low or anything like that. It just felt fresh, like it's been a while, but at the same time, [I thought] ‘I got this’.

BS: Were there any doubts or concerns that the game had changed?

Gamber: I wouldn't say that there were doubts. I will say that, like when you're in the gym, grinding day in and day out, not every day is a great day. Sometimes your fighter will have, maybe not the best sparring session and I will say there were probably days when I asked myself, am I the same guy that I was before? Am I the same coach as I was before? But just like a fighter should do when he has a bad day, you think about it. You kind of process it. You figure out what you did wrong and what you can do right, and tomorrow is a new day. I took that approach as a coach, I licked my wounds a little bit when Blair wouldn't have the best sparring session or, or maybe we didn't have the best day of training, and thought about how we could do better. And then the next day was new, and I went about trying to make it better and trying to fix the mistakes that I felt like he did make.

BS: When did you know Blair Cobbs would be a fighter you put all of your energy into?

Gamber:  I would say that I felt good about our training throughout but really, for me, I didn’t know until he fought, until we had our first fight under our belt, until the fight with Adrien was over. Then I was like, okay, now I know what I'm working with, now I know what I'm dealing with. 

I worked with Blair a few years ago when I was training a number of guys. I was training Caleb Plant, Shane Mosley Jr., Jeremiah Milton, a lot of guys. For me as a coach, I don't want to have too many guys, because I love to give a lot of one-on-one personal time with each one. When you have five or six guys, it's nearly impossible for how I coach. Me and Blair, one on one, without anybody else, that's the deal.

I first started training him a few years ago, and it was just for a couple months, because I did have so many guys and I guess he felt that he wasn't getting the time. I was going out of town a lot, and he went back to whichever coach it was at the time, but when I first started coaching him, years ago, a lot of people were telling me about his attitude - or about [how] he's difficult. And I'll tell you, I never had a problem with him. Never had a problem, now I set the tone from day one. I said, you need to listen to me and I think I got kind of in his butt a little bit. When I first met him, he was talking. He interrupted me and cut me off. I think I snapped at him a little bit, but I wanted to get his attention, and I got it, and I never had a problem with him. He’s always shown me a lot of respect and, really, between a fighter and a coach, you got to develop trust, and that doesn't happen overnight. 

I felt like we definitely earned his trust during this training camp because at the beginning of this training camp, I wouldn't say that he was listening perfectly,  but how he listened, he did a better job of listening as our camp went on and, then, on fight night, when he fought Adrien, I mean, he listened to everything I said in the corner. It was perfect. I feel like that was kind of like the culmination of me gaining his trust.

BS: What did you think when he said he was going to be fighting Broner?

Gamber: When I first heard that Broner was the potential fight for us I was thrilled but, to me, I was like we'll see if Adrien even shows up. You hear a lot of fighters talk about they're going to get this fight and they're going to get that fight, and Blair came back and said that, and I believed him, but it was kind of hard for me to believe that it would actually happen. But I loved the fight from day one, and not only for Blair, but for myself, taking two years off, and then my first fight, I got an opportunity to coach a kid against a four-time world champion like Adrien Broner. It’s a dream come true match for me. But I knew what was going to happen. 

BS: What were the observations that you made about Broner beforehand?

Gamber: I've always known that he was a tough guy. I've always known that he's a gritty dude, but to get your tooth knocked out and to get your arm broken by one punch, but then to fight another eight rounds, and it was not like he was in survival mode. I mean, maybe in a sense, but he was pressing Blair. He was moving forward. 

So I have mad respect for him, his grit and his heart, you know? I wasn't expecting an Adrian that was throwing a lot of punches beforehand, because he hasn't shown us in a number of fights that he's going to really let his hands go. But, for this fight, we don't really know if he might have let his hands go. Had he not hurt his arm, and when you get your tooth knocked out… I can't imagine a guy getting their tooth knocked out and then just going all out with their offense, because when you go all out with your offense, you leave a lot of holes in your defense, a lot of opportunities to get hit. So I kind of feel like those circumstances with him getting his tooth knocked out, with him hurting his arm, that probably played a big part in him not letting his hands go. But I have respect for sure, as a fighter.

BS: Where does Blair sit in the welterweight division?

Gamber: Slightly under the upper echelon. I would put, like, Boots Ennis up there. We're not on that level yet, but I think he's right underneath that. I think the sky's the limit. I don't know what his next fight is going to be. I've heard some different names, I've heard mention of Ryan Garcia, who isn't a welterweight, but Ryan's been calling out Errol Spence. Errol's a welterweight on the verge of moving up to junior middleweight. So why wouldn't that be a potential fight for us? 

Maybe Adrien Broner wants a rematch. He gave us this opportunity, so I feel like it would only be right for us to kind of repay the favor and give him another crack at it. But maybe that's not anything that he wants, and I can understand why he wouldn’t. Blair’s a threat to anyone in the division.

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