The Fundamentals With ... Ronnie Shields

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The legendary trainer of undefeated WBC World Middleweight Champion Jermall Charlo breaks down the Sweet Science ahead of Charlo's title defense against hard-hitting Juan Macias Montiel Saturday night on SHOWTIME.

Ronnie Shields

This Saturday, June 19, reigning WBC World Middleweight Champion Jermall Charlo (31-0, 22 KOs) defends his title against Juan Macias Montiel (22-4-2, 22 KOs). The event honoring Juneteenth takes place at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, broadcast live on SHOWTIME (9p.m. ET/6p.m. PT).

Legendary trainer and former boxer Ronnie Shields has coached Charlo, a two-division champion, for the past 15 years. Throughout the years, Shields has also trained the likes of Pernell Whitaker, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield.

In his own words, here is how Shields breaks down the fundamentals of boxing.

It All Starts with the Jab

“Jermall has one of the strongest jabs in the sport,” Shields said. “It’s like a right hand. He’s one of the few fighters in the sport today that has dropped guys with jabs and actually hurt them. We don’t practice on knocking guys out. We practice on letting his speed be his power. 

“Guys have to figure out first, how do I get away from that jab? Opponents are always going to be looking for Jermall’s jab. We're going to make that an issue. Every. Single. Time.”

In 2016, Charlo defended his IBF 154-pound 154 world title against top contender and future unified champion Julian Williams. 

“I noticed that Williams falls in when he throws the right hand,” Shields explained. “So, to me, the natural thing was to throw the uppercut. 

“We wanted to get Williams focused on Jermall’s jab. Once Jermall dropped him with the jab, I knew Williams was going to continue to look for it but also that he was going to try to take Jermall’s jab away by throwing the right hand over the top. 

“Early in the fight, Jermall said, ‘I’m throwing it. It ain’t working.’ I said, ‘Do not stop throwing it. Keep using that jab, let him try to counter it. When he does, you throw the uppercut.’ 

“It happened just the way I said it. Jermall threw the jab, Williams threw the right hand, Jermall just quickly turned and threw the right uppercut, and stopped him.”

Footwork & Positioning

“The main thing we work on with feet is balance,” Shields said. “I know if Jermall has balance, he can do anything he wants inside that ring.

“With his style though, sometimes he throws punches off balance. It works for him. I would never change something that’s working for him. 

“In boxing you always hear people say, ‘Don’t square.’ What does that mean, don’t square? Jermall is so strong, when he squares up to throw a punch, he can knock you out. Why would I take that away from him? 

“Matter of fact, we had a discussion a week ago. The conditioning guy told him, ‘Hey, you’re squaring up.’ I stopped him right there. I said, ‘Don’t say that. Let him square. Let him do what works for him.’ It may not work for somebody else, but that works for Jermall. It’s not the end of the world that he squared up. Look at the result. It might be wrong for somebody else. But I’m going to continue to let him do what works for him.”

I study guys every single day. Trainer - Ronnie Shields

Protect Yourself At All Times

Charlo’s jab is also a key part of his defense.

“His jab is good for his defense because it allows him to see everything that’s in front of him. His jab keeps him at the proper distance, so a guy can’t really judge where he’s really at.”

In the knockout sequence from the Julian Williams fight, Charlo could be seen catching Williams’ jab and right hand, before delivering Charlo’s terrific uppercut. 

Charlo’s catches and counter were all done with one hand.

“Catching punches is something we work on every day,” Shields explained. “Defense is a huge part of our training regimen. It all depends on who we’re fighting. I study guys every single day. I’m studying the opponent, seeing what I think we can exploit.”

Control Distance

“I bring in sparring partners to emulate the style we’re going to fight, but also I get another guy that’s going to make Jermall fight on the inside. I do that every camp, regardless of the style we’re about to fight.”

Educated inside fighting is a difficult skill to learn, partly because it puts the fighter in a vulnerable position—until he’s mastered both offense and defense in close range.

“Training is about putting yourself in a dire situation where you have to do things that you really aren’t comfortable with,” Shields explained. “That’s why I always bring in a guy that’s going to make Jermall feel uncomfortable inside that ring and not make him look so good every day. If a guy looks good every single day in the gym, I think that’s going to be a problem in a fight. I’ve seen guys that weren’t comfortable in certain situations but they would never practice.

“We consistently work on the things he’s uncomfortable with to help him grow as a fighter. If you put a guy in comfortable situations all the time in the gym, then he’s not going to know what it’s like to be uncomfortable in that ring, and that spells disaster.

“Once you step in that ring, you’ve got to know there’s nothing you’ve never seen before. That’s called confidence in a fighter.”

Champion Mindset

“Our relationship as trainer and fighter has always been great,” Shields said. “Jermall trusts that I’m going to do the right thing for him. He knows I have his best interests at heart.

“You can’t train for a guy mentally. He has to be a man and stand up and do it himself. You’re not going to feel your best every day, but just because you don’t feel your best doesn’t mean you can’t do your best. If something happens outside of boxing and you bring that into the ring, it’s going to affect how you handle yourself. You have to be mentally strong. 

“You have to get through adversity. If you don’t get through it, then you’re going to become a failure. That’s just the simple truth. 

“I remember when I was at a fight and I got a call that my father died. Do I bring that into the ring, and not help my fighter? Or do I deal with that afterwards?

“Mentally you have to find a way to block it out. I know I’ve got to continue to do my job because that’s what my father wanted me to do. He would have told me, ‘Block me out until it’s time for you to grieve for me.’

“I tell that story to my fighters because I want them to understand I didn’t choose boxing for you. You chose boxing for yourself. And you chose me as a trainer to help you through the good times and the bad times inside of that ring. But mentally, you have to do that yourself. You have to be strong and overcome everything that’s negative and you’ve got to turn it into a positive. 

“You can have a bad day but give a good effort. And that’s what we got to have.”

For a closer look at Charlo vs Montiel, check out our fight night page. 

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