The CBZ Newswire

Former Boxer and Current Trainer, Steven Stokes Speaks Out

by on Apr.13, 2016, under Boxing News

By “Ice” John Scully

Steven Stokes, Marines vs Yamar Resto, Army at 1997 CISM Military Games

Steven Stokes, Marines vs Yamar Resto, Army at 1997 CISM Military Games

 

“Great fighter….he was one of the most complete technical amateur fighters I’ve ever seen.”

- 2000 U.S. Armed Forces 132 pound Champion Orlando Cordova, talking about Steven Stokes.

Over the course of my years as an amateur boxing coach I’ve been able to travel the country and see some of the biggest names in the sport as they’ve competed in regional and national tournaments well before they became known to boxing fans from all over the world. From the likes of Brian Viloria, Jeff Lacy and Jermain Taylor to Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, Floyd Mayweather and many others, I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them at the relative beginning of their development .

I’ve also gotten to witness even more many talented and accomplished boxers perform in the very same rings who for one reason or another didn’t quite reach the professional heights of the formerly named. Some of them didn’t sign with the right manager or promoter who could bring them where they wanted to go and where their talents maybe should have brought them, some simply never panned out as professional fighters while others simply never turned professional.

Highly decorated U.S Marines welterweight/light middleweight Staff Sergeant Steven Stokes, a Communications Radio Chief, was one of those who simply never turned professional. Military duty, most notably two separate tours in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom), were his top priorities at the time when most of his peers and former opponents were joining the punch-for-pay ranks.

After his service was completed Stokes enrolled in Kaplan University where he impressively earned his Associates of Science in Criminal Justice, Bachelor’s Degree in Juvenile Justice, and Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Global Issues in Criminal Justice.

On Saturday, April 16, he will be inducted into the United States Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame at Camp Lejune, North Carolina along with the likes of Carmen Basilio, Ken Norton and Leon Spinks.

Over a decade and a half removed from his final amateur fight in 1999, Stokes now is as dedicated to the careers of boxers and MMA fighters now as he was to his own career. He’s obviously knowledgeable, motivated and passionate about what he does.

I have always said that its very obvious to me that there are trainers, just like there are boxers, out there who likely have as much talent, passion, skills and love for the game as do the famous names in the sport. They just haven’t been discovered yet. Some may never be discovered on a national or world level but they definitely stay focused and ready with deep hopes that they do.

Steven Stokes working at his California gym with his 5 year old son Amir.

Steven Stokes working at his California gym with his 5 year old son Amir.

I recently interviewed Steven over the course of several weeks and came away with much more knowledge and even more respect for the man in and out of the ring. Married to his wife LaNisha (a woman he refers to as his “backbone”) they have four children (Steven Jr., Attiyana, Sterling and Diezyl), he is currently training fighters at Combat Sports Academy in Dublin, California.

It’s my honor to give you here what may be for many of you the first look into the past, present and future of this decorated fighter, soldier, husband, father and trainer.

ICEMAN: Steve, first of all let’s start from the very beginning. Tell the readers who may not be familiar with you about yourself and your boxing. When, where and how did you begin boxing?

STEVEN STOKES: My name is Steven Stokes, born and raised in Rochester, New York. I was raised in a household by my grandmother (Martha Ferguson). I started boxing in 1987 at a boxing gym called Rochester St. Martin’s which had great boxers training there like Charles “The Natural” Murray, Robert “Push-Up” Frazier, and Curlie Sanders. I got involved in boxing through my friendship with a guy who was well-known in the city by the name of Charles “Killer” Crews. I would always follow his boxing career when we were in school and I would always ask him questions.

One day he asked me to come to the gym but I wasn’t really into boxing at the time because I was playing basketball. It wasn’t until a mutual friend of ours started going to the gym and got pretty good in the sport.

My thoughts were, “If he can do it, I know I can do it, too!” And after going to the gym I was bitten by the bug and I’ve never looked back.

ICEMAN: How many amateur fights did you have and what do you feel were the highlights of your amateur career?

STEVEN STOKES: I started boxed from 1987 until 2000 and had 160 amateur bouts. I was a three-time USA Armed Forces Champion. In 1997 and 1998 as a welterweight and in 1999 as a 156 pound light middleweight. I feel my entire boxing career was a highlight from starting out in competing in the Silver Gloves, Junior Olympics, National & International Dual Meets, Olympics Trials and etc. But, the major highlights were the friendships that I gained and still have this very day from people within the boxing fraternity. That is priceless because you get to see the things you had a chance to part-take in with people you’ll always have memories together with.

ICEMAN: You must have some good memories from national tournaments and seeing other future stars and champions? Who were some of the boxers in other weight classes that stood out to you from back then? Any big fights you remember watching from the audience?

STEVEN STOKES: Going to the nationals were some of the high points definitely when boxing because you got to see what level you truly were on with other competitors. There were many gifted boxers I got a chance to witness in boxing but some that stood out to me specifically were Fernando Vargas, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and David Reid. I remember watching Floyd Mayweather Jr. moving up to open-Class and running through the national tournament as a 16 year old in Little Rock Arkansas. Also, watching Ricardo Williams and Andre Ward winning the national championships in Colorado Springs as an open class fighters.

In International fights I would say having the pleasure to meet and witness the great Cuban Olympic Champion Felix Savon box in the 97’ World Championships was special to me.

ICEMAN: As a decorated and well traveled amateur boxer you no doubt matched up with many tough and accomplished boxers. Who in your opinion are the top three or four guys you matched up with?

STEVEN STOKES: In my opinion the top three boxers I’ve matched up against were:

1) Marian Simon (Romania) 1996’ Olympic Bronze medalist. I fought him in the 1998 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary and he was my first major opponent that I boxed on an International level. He was a very mature and seasoned fighter Internationally and he defeated me early on in the tournament

2) Nariman Atayev (Uzbekistan). I boxed him in 1997 at the CISM (World Military) Games semifinals. One of the toughest fighters I’ve fought in my career. He was very strong and his ring I.Q. was very high. I lost to him in the semi-finals and won a bronze medal

3) Darnell Wilson, 1991’ National Golden Gloves at Little Rock, Arkansas. It was my first national tournament as an open class fighter and it was a tough fight because Darnell was such a crafty and awkward boxer. I lost to him on the second day of competition.

ICEMAN: How about in the gym? Any good gym memories to share from sparring with some tough opponents?

STEVEN STOKES: As far as training in the gym there were many great memories I can remember. I was a member of the All-Marine Boxing Team and our gym was known as the famous “Snake Pit”. So, that name served its purpose well because every day you trained there you knew that you had to put out in order to maintain your keep! There was a high standard as far as boxing as a Marine. Morally as much as anything. Meaning keeping to the highest standards of competition and making sure that you stay ahead of the game when it came to the standard operating procedures of Marine Corps Standards (SOP). Physical fitness, education, promotions, etcetera. There were always gym wars in the Snake Pit and some of my most memorable were against Hank Markin, Edgar King, and Terry Baker. The sparring sessions against Hank Markin and myself were epic because the both of us are very strong-willed, Type-A, Alpha Dog mentalities so neither one of us wanted to lose anything when it came to training, especially sparring.

ICEMAN: Now you are training guys in California. Do you have any particular guys you work with that you can mention here?

STEVEN STOKES: I train all athletes in boxing within combat sports, from muay-thai, kickboxing, mixed martial arts and boxing. Some of the fighters I currently train are Muay-Thai World Champion Kevin “The Soul Assassin” Ross, WFC Muay Thai/ MMA Amateur World Champion Zach Bunnell, and Bellator Light Heavyweight MMA fighter Jason Butcher

ICEMAN: As a trainer now, tell any fighters or managers out there why you believe you have what it takes to be a successful trainer and a positive addition to their team. Don’t be shy, tell us what makes YOU a good trainer?

STEVEN STOKES: What sets me apart from other some boxing trainers, in my opinion, is that I have traveled a lot and had time to spend in many other boxing gyms. I notice that the title “boxing trainer” comes a dime a dozen. I don’t consider myself a boxing trainer; anyone can become certified through USA boxing or train a good prospect and call themselves a “Trainer.” I consider myself to be a teacher of the sport of boxing. My ambition is simple: Teach boxing the way it was taught to me, with passion, discipline, precision, and respect for the art.

Let me be clear, I am not a pad (mitts) man or a cardio boxing instructor. I teach boxing to individuals that have championship mentality.

I have been trained by, in my opinion, some of the most elite coaches in the boxing community including Roosevelt Sanders of the United States Marines, Gloria Peek, JC Davis, Bill Meartz, Robert Johnson and Robert Michael to name a few.

If a fighter, regardless of their combat sport, wants to fine-tune their boxing skills, I know that I have the real fight experience, training experience, and overall boxing expertise to get them to the next level with their boxing skills. As a teacher, the most gratifying experience is when the person you are teaching is able to absorb what you have taught, apply it using repetition, and properly execute the technique in action and this is exactly what I strive to accomplish as a boxing teacher.

 

Quotes: 

“The wait in the dressing room before a professional boxing match -that last hour- could be enough to strip a man who never boxed before of whatever pride, desire and heart he THOUGHT he had”

– Iceman John Scully, April 2002

“Boxing is a tight-knit fraternity. Everybody knows everybody. But a line in the resin will forever be drawn separating those who step into the square ring and those who DON’T. Many, many people make money on a fight, but when the bell sounds, only two people answer it.” – Randy Smith, February 2003, Journal Inquirer (Manchester, Conn.) Newspaper

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