Date: The, 11 Dec 2001
Subject: Women’s World Championships: ‘ We can be the Best”
Dear Dr. Voy !
My name is Michael Kozlowski. I am 40 years old. After five years of study in the Soviet Union, I received a masters degree in physical education with a specialty in coaching boxing.
Presently, I train boxers at Gleasons Gym in Brooklyn, NY.
In the short time that I have been in this country (only two and a half years), I have accomplished an enormous amount. My student, Jill Emery, became a two time National Champion, won the year 2000 Feenix Cup and was awarded “USA Boxing Athlete of the Month” twice (May 2000 and October 2001). Another one of my boxers, Yuri Foreman, won the bronze medal in the National Golden Gloves two years in a row. He is also the year 2000 champion of the Washington,DC Mayors Cup, where he was given the “Best Boxer” award. Additionally, I train champions and medalists of the New York Golden Gloves and the New York Junior Olympics.
In 1985, I began my coaching career in the Moscow Olympic Boxing Training Center. In 1991, my student,Sergey Grigoriev, became my first Russian national champion (178 lbs). Since then, I have making champions and medallists of all ages both in and out of Russia.
In 1990, as head coach of the Moscow regional team,I collaborated with the coaches of the Turkish National Team to make a training camp for the Under 19 European Championship.
One of the Turkish coaches of that Team, is now the Head Coach of the Female Turkish Team ! What a surprise it was to see him at the Women’s World Championships in Scranton after all these years!
Mr.Doganeli (President of the Turkish Boxing Federation) invited many Russian coaches to work in Turkey.They worked together to elevate Turkish to the level it is today. I’m proud to have played a small part in this.
I lived in Israel from 1995 to 1999. In that time I made Israeli Champions of all ages. In 1997, William Shahada, the President of the Israel Boxing Association, made me the Head Coach of the Israeli Boxing Team. In 1998 for the first time in Israel boxing history, the Israeli team brought home a silver and a bronze from the European Championship. Furthermore, an Israeli Boxer placed 5th after beating Kazakhstsn and the Ukraine in the Under 19 World Championship, in Buenos Aires.
My students defend a number of Flags: Soviet Union, Russia, Israel and USA ! The first time I heard the USA anthem played was at the Feenix Cup in Finland, year 2000 when Jill Emery won the Gold. Her first bout in this tournament was against a Russian, who she stopped in the first round. In the final she beat Anita Duzce of Hungary, who recently received the silver in Scranton.
I am writing to you about my experiences prior to coming to America, home of Joe Luis, Mohammed Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard – my heroes, from my first day of boxing in Kazakhstan. I have a lot of experience with international amateur boxing, which is why I would like to share my opinions about the Women’s Training Camp for the World Championship in Scranton, PA.
I was in Camp Jill Emery, from day one. When I first met the Head coach Christy Halbert, I explained that I have 25 years of experience with the European Olympic stile boxing. Furthermore, I stressed that I was there to support the whole team, not just my student. I wanted to help the team, in any way I could, to get accustomed to this style of boxing.
Although two weeks is not a lot of time, I new I could show them several exercises useful in fighting European boxers. These are important lessons the USA boxers and their personal coaches could take with them to prepare for future international tournaments. I quickly realized the coaches of the US team were not interested in any input from me. They had no use for my international level of boxing; but they had no problem making use of my international driving experience when there was not enough transportation provided to get the girls to and from the gym!
At first, I was surprised that the coaches never asked me what my boxer did prior to the camp. They seemed to have no interest in what her level of physical conditioning and preparation was, not did they do anything to measure this in the boxers at the start of the camp. However, this was insignificant in comparison to what I would witness as time went on.
As a coach on the Russian team, we would train in one facility with the Russian Track and Field athletes, skiers, speed skaters, atc. Even these elite athletes would never run a one-mile race at 7:30AM, as it goes against the laws of biology. Doing this when the body is still coming out of the sleeping mode stresses the heart and breaks down the athletes over-all conditioning.(As a medical Doctor, I am sure, you can understand this).
Team USA first run the one-mile race, then did an additional 30 minutes of sprinting with only one week left before fighting. This approach is disastrous. Anyone knows that in the week before a major competition, all strenuous physical exercise should be minimized. All training should be geared toward the fight.
The Head Coach further “prepared” the boxers in the week before the competition by adding a training session at 11AM. This is in addition to the main training session at 6 PM. After the meals and countless team meetings, there was no time to rest between the morning, afternoon and evening training. Even a horse, under this kind physical and mental pressure would collapse. Needless to say, the girls started getting sick just before the competition.
My Friend, the Head Coach of Norwegian team put it best when he sarcastically said,” My team is not strong enough to train three times a day, the week before competition.”
The main training session took place in the evenings. Jill Emery and Eileen Kuwaye conducted the warm-up everyday. I don’t understand why my student was put in the coach’s position, when she should be thinking only as a boxer. I was there to bring out the best in her boxing, not to watch her teach.
Furthermore, after everyone thoroughly warmed up, Coach SIMPSON then lead an additional 30-minute stretch focusing on the same muscle groups. The end result was a one-hour stretch ! This is far too much ! The last weeks of the training camp’s purpose is to prepare the body for the competition, not for physical conditioning. The boxers where to arrive at camp already in shape.
Throughout the two-week camp, the girls only worked on the double jab and a “one-two” punch combination. With this “arsenal” they were expected to compete on a world level.
In the week preceding the competition I recommended that the girls work two-minute rounds, to simulate the fights. The coaches were not consistently regulating the length of the rounds. At one point, I stopped my student’s shadow boxing after two minutes, because anyone knows that the two or three weeks prior to the competition, the boxers need to get accustomed to working for two minutes with one-minute rest. The Team Manager, Jeannine Hildebrant, who has said many times, “I know nothing about coaching!..”, yelled at me across the gym for stopping my student after two minutes. I left the gym, to avoid further conflict. As it turns out, Coach Simpson later admitted that, although he intended to make the round two minutes, he neglected to end the round until close to four minutes. Furthermore, every couple of rounds, the one-minute rest would last 5 minutes, because the coaches would launch into long, needless explanations about the exercise.
In that time, the girls would cool down. This played a major role in people getting sick. The end result of the main training session was:
- 1 hour – stretch
- 15 minutes – of actual training
- Minimum 1 hour of “Blah, blah, blah…”
In the two hours of daily training, I didn’t see anything that would prepare the boxers for the World Championships. Except for the sparring, the US Team did what we would make beginners do in my former countries. For example, every other day, they did the “rope/duck” exercise where the boxer practices ducking under a rope. Why duck under a rope when there are 20 girls on the team? They can easily and more effectively work together in pairs, to better prepare for the fights!
One week before the competition, other personal coaches arrived. Mattew Olszewski, the coach of Eileen Kuwaye (112 lb), was also yelled at by Team Manager for doing focus mitts with his boxer. The aim was to completely exclude the personal coaches from the training process, even though they were not interfering with the overall regimen set by the head coach. In a conversation my student had with Coach Bobby Lee, he agreed that the personal coaches should be encouraged to do focus mitt work with their boxers, however, he felt uncomfortable expressing this to the Head Coach.
Eileen Kuwaye lost by one point in her first bout. Maybe the Head Coach and Team Manager stole that point from her when they stopped her from working with her personal coach…
More than 10 days before the tournament, other teams began to arrive in Scranton. The Head Coach of the Norwegian Team, Martin Kitel, wanted to work with the USA Team in any way Coach Halbert chose. This was the perfect opportunity for the US Team to get accustomed to the European (now is named Olympian) Style of boxing, especially since one of the Norwegian boxers is the European Champion at 125 lbs.
You may be aware that the leaders of amateur boxing (Russia, Cuba, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, etc) take every possibility to work together before competition, even if they will be competing against each other.
As it happened, Team USA’s Debora Stein, lost her first bout against Norway so badly that it was a shame she missed the opportunity to get accustomed to the European Style more than one week earlier. All the girls, not just Deborah, lost this chance. Other young, talented boxers like Carina Moreno and Jennifer Han missed a great opportunity to prepare for future international tournaments.
I have been hearing about a very talented 106 lb Turkish boxer for more than two years. Two week before the competition, the French Team arrived in Scranton. It just so happens that the French team’s 106 lb fought a very close bout with this Turkish boxer in the final of the European Championships. If only Carina could have sparred just once with this French girl, I am sure would have not had so much trouble fighting the Turkish girl in the semifinals in Schanton.
My student, Jill Emery, didn’t get serious sparring from anyone in the camp. Perhaps, the Head Coach did know about the European boxers, but why couldn’t she consult me? I told her that I was in Finland one year ago with the USA Boxing Team. I knew that the French Team had a 139lb Eurtopean Champion. Why couldn’t Jill, Joy Liu or Angel Bovee spar with this French girl? I am sure this would have only helped Jill Emery in her bout, which she lost by one point to Turkish boxer. It would have only helped the talented Joy Liu in her fight against the Swedish girl (who lost to this French girl three times before), or Angel Bovee, who had no international experience and lost her first bout by only one punch…
These are only a few examples of life in the Women’s World Championship Training Camp. One ancient philosopher said that it is impossible to build something quickly, but you can destroy it in one moment. Training Camp in Scranton was the moment of destruction for the US Team.
Even with the inexperience of the team coaches, the absence of the personal coaches in the girls corner ( USA was only Team that did not allow personal coaches in the corner for the fights); the girls went in the ring and fought like LIONS !!! The gold and three bronze was accomplished by the girls and the girls alone – not by the Team coaching, and not by USA Boxing. These girls have enormous potential.
I fear, Mr. PRESIDENT, that as a result this letter , Jill may not be welcome on another national team, but I feel compelled to try and make things better down the road for the younger, talented girls and their personal coaches.
All gold medals, except for one, went to countries where they follow the European OLYMPIC STYLE of boxing. Even the Chinese and Canadian winners demonstrated this style perfectly.
I know that if we continue in same way, it will be very difficult to even dream about gold in the next World Championships in Turkey.
Maybe this is a good time for US boxing to learn something from other countries. I am not saying learn from Russia, just because I am a former Russian. The Sweden as an example. They brought home two gold medals and two bronze, out of the four girls on their team. All four Swedish girls follow the European OLYMPIC STYLE!
Maybe the assistant team coaches should be selected from the PERSONAL COACHES of the national Champions, as it is done in the countries dominating amateur boxing.
Thank you, Mr.President, for taking the time to read my letter. Boxing is my live!
I came to USA to accomplish something great in boxing, like the great-grandparents of all Americans who came to make this country greater. USA is now my country, and I do not want someone to beat the American Girls inside or outside of USA !