Brooklynfights.com caught up with leading online boxing coach, Johnny Nguyen, of Expertboxing.com. Nguyen’s sites does over 1MM minutes of YouTube views per month on topics ranging from footwork to defense and punching technique.
Tell us about what ExpertBoxing is, when you started it and why.
I started boxing in 2004 becoming really passionate about the sport, training and watching fights. Around 2008, I decided to take a break and do some other things but in my fear of forgetting all the great tips I had picked up over the years, I wrote them down on a notepad on my computer so that I could review them after my break from the sport. In my one moment of genius, I decided to look online and see if anybody else had already written anything similar and to my surprise, very few websites offered any truly helpful information about boxing technique. Even though I considered myself a beginner, I figured my advice could still help out many other beginners who had to overcome the same struggles I did. And so I started a website and it took off right away, hundreds of people leaving supportive comments and begging for more articles. I never caught up with the demand and so I’m still quite busy with it today.
Your YouTube channel, ExpertBoxing, has 92k subscribers and 1 million minutes of video views per month. That’s pretty significant. With that in mind, how would you describe your role in boxing?
I think of myself as a contributor and supporter of the sport. I do see myself as a teacher but I do it by not only sharing my knowledge but also by sharing my passion…I think the latter is more important. I truly believe that if you make people feel good about themselves, empower them to become stronger and have fun, enjoy their new-found strength and confidence…they naturally take the initiative to learn more and improve themselves. I have only a finite amount of time and effort I can spend with fighters in person. So taking on an online medium through written articles on my website and videos on YouTube has definitely allowed me to make a bigger impact in the sport by reaching people all around the world. I love the sport and would love to see it grow.
Any plans to use emerging technologies (VR comes to mind) to advance the craft of online boxing training?
I’ve never thought about that. I’m not here to become the ultimate teacher. I care more about getting people passionate about the sport and hope they will find their direction to whatever goal it is that they choose.
Where did you learn technique? And how did you learn to teach it?
I learned how to box in a boxing gym. I had many great coaches. Guys that trained amateur champions, professional champions, international teams, etc. I was never taught how to be a trainer…many coaches/fighters simply had a respect for my intelligence, my natural skills, and my understanding of the sport. Everybody loved sparring or learning from me, and other coaches could trust me to work with their fighters in sparring without beating up them up. I think one thing that made coaches comfortable with me was they trusted that I would never abuse my position of authority and that I would always ask a question or refer a fighter to a more experienced coach if the time came for it. Other coaches could see that I had an eye for detail and that I had a true passion for the sport and brought a healthy energy to the environment. It’s a stark contrast to the typical ego-heads you see at the gym, that’s not me at all. I guess it was from receiving the respect of other coaches and fighters that I felt free to share with other fighters what I knew and nobody ever said anything to me. Of course, I’m always picking up new things along the way.
Are you training any fighters in the gym or does the site keep you tied up?
The site keeps me awfully busy and I do have side passions and other things in life that I enjoy. I do help train other fighters from time to time but they are my friends and they have their main coaches now. Some have become trainers, some are training for more serious amateur tournaments, some have or are turning pro.
You’ve talked about training at an underground club in LA. What’s the story there?
There was a generous man in the community with a passion for boxing that decided to open his own private gym. He made it available only to himself and other boxing friends. These other boxers would then bring in their fellow sparring partners, training buddies, or personal training clientele. And so it was a personal gym where everyone was connected to somebody else and there was no fee required. Over time it became popular as a community sparring gym since other more popular gyms (like Wildcard) were always busy with the pro fighters preparing for their fights and hardly anybody else ever got a chance to spar. Our gym was known as one of the friendlier places for sparring where fighters and ordinary people alike could come together and spar at their own pace and enjoy the art of boxing regardless of their skill or athletic ability. It was a beautiful vision come true and I’m quite proud to have been such a big part of it.
You attribute your footwork technique to dance training. Talk a little bit about how dance informs boxing.
Oh man…this is a whole new can of worms. I already had what many trainers considered “naturally good footwork” in boxing so I thought the transition into dance would be easy. I was totally wrong. Dance (depending on which kinds of dance) can be a whole other level of athletic skill and precision. It’s like comparing cartwheels to gymnastics. To make a long story short, dance training has really improved my FUNCTIONAL core strength and FUNCTIONAL leg coordination like no other training I’ve ever done before. I’m shocked fighters have never figured out any of the drills they do in dance training. It’s like comparing a modern-day tractor to a stone-age hammer. Dance training is legit…I move better, hit harder, and have way better balance.
What active pro do you respect most and why?
There are 2 angles to this question. As a fighter, I support my teammates. They are my family, my comrades, my sparring partners, etc. I’ve trained with them, sparred with them, celebrated with them in moments of triumph, and shed tears with them in moments of defeat. I know what they gave up to move to another town where they had no friends, to have to earn their respect in the gym, to sign slave contracts just to get last minute fights against over-sized opponents. I know what they go through and the sacrifices they make every day to follow their dreams. I respect them more than anything because of their courage to stay tough when the times are hard, and the humility to work hard even when they are successful.
As a boxing fan, I like Manny Pacquiao. I wonder if it’s because he’s Asian like me…hmmm. But I respect him a lot because of his crazy life story, how he came up, what he’s achieved in boxing as well as outside of boxing. Because of who he aspires to be, the way that he conducts himself. I think he understands the bigger picture…that we are all here to do our best and to inspire others to do the same…and to respect everyone. He’s a great role model and it’s really just the cherry on top that he happens to be an awesome boxer as well. And of course, I love hearing about the Pacquiao legends around the SoCal gyms of when he first came here and nobody knew who he was back then.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you would give to young amateurs coming up?
Follow your dreams, train hard, fight often. Never forget this is the hardest sport in the world. You have to give 100% just to be average. Celebrate your wins and losses. Search for a trainer who understands and cares about you, and helps you grow quickly. Some fighters do well in big gyms with big name trainers and big name fighters to iron each other out. Some fighters do well in smaller gyms with more peace and monk-like training. Find your place in the world and grow your spirit.
Pacquiao or Mayweather?
Right off the bat, I can’t help but feel Mayweather wins clearly. I think he’s too big, too skilled, and has the better style for winning today’s fights (running, stalling, elbowing, clinch tactics, potshot). Pacquiao doesn’t have the right size (too small) or frame (low height/reach) to fight Mayweather…but I do feel Pacquiao’s speed and fight style might impose some problems. With that said, I enjoy what I see in Pacquiao’s demeanor during their press confidences. I have a feeling Pacquiao is full of self-belief and scheming up something nasty for Mayweather. It should be a fun fight to watch regardless. My head picks Mayweather, my heart picks Pacquiao.