Jan. 26 (Reuters) – It’s been almost 23 years since the fight that ended Joey Gamache’s boxing career and changed his life, but the Lewiston native is still deeply committed to the sport, living in New York City and training the next generation of boxers.
“I started boxing when I was 9. I’m 56 now. It’s served me well in so many ways. Being a coach is good,” Gamache said in a recent phone interview from Manhattan’s Mendez Boxing Gym, where he trains Heavyweight contender Otto Wallin. “I feel like I’m in New York, it’s a great place. It’s a great opportunity with great contacts. New York offers a lot.”
Gamache won the World Boxing Association super featherweight title in 1991 and 1992 as a lightweight. In Wallin, a 32-year-old, 6-foot-5 heavyweight from Sweden, Gamache sees a fighter who has the potential to join him as a world champion.
“He’s always improving,” Gamache said of Wallin. “He’s a hard worker. He’s a southpaw but also has a strong right hand. He has good footwork.”
Wallin will face off against Helaman Olguin on Friday at the Castleton Banquet and Conference Center in Windham, New Hampshire. This is Wallin’s first fight since May 26, when he scored a unanimous decision over Rydell Booker. Gamache will be in Wallin’s corner.
Wallin is 24-1 in his career, his only loss by unanimous decision to heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on September 19, 2019 in Las Vegas. While Wallin lost the fight on all three judges’ cards, he left Fury with a memento – a cut above the champion’s right eye in the third round that took 47 stitches to close. Wallin is ranked 17th out of 1,340 heavyweights in the world, according to boxrec.com, and while he’d like another shot at Fury, he’s not sure Fury is up for a rematch.
“I don’t think (Fury) has mentioned my name once since we fought,” Wallin said.
The story goes on
For Gamache, boxer training is a second act that he almost didn’t realize. His last fight against Arturo Gatti on February 26, 2000 at Madison Square Garden almost killed him. Gatti came to the fight weighing approximately 160 pounds, well over the agreed limit of 141 pounds. Gatti won by a second-round KO, and Gamache was on the canvas for seven long minutes before leaving the ring and then spent two days in the hospital. In a lawsuit against the New York State Athletic Commission that went to court in 2010, Gamache testified that he suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the fight and battled depression and severe migraines.
At the trial in Albany, New York, Judge Melvin Schweitzer ruled that while the commission did not properly weigh Gatti before the fight, it did not result in the knockout in the fight.
Gamache said he doesn’t address how violently his boxing career ended.
“After the Gatti fight, it was a bit difficult to get it out of my mind at first. Over time I stopped thinking about it. I’m blessed to be here doing something I love, training fighters.” Gamach said.
Wallin and Gamache met in Denmark in the spring of 2013 while Gamache was living in Europe training fighters there. At the time, Wallin had just completed two pro fights and was looking for a coach who would help him take the next step in his career.
“We clicked and we’ve been together ever since,” Wallin said. “He was at the highest level. He knows how to work on the fundamentals, the footwork and the movements. He knows the game inside out and that’s important.”
What Wallin likes about Gamache’s training style is his calm demeanor. In a sport that’s by definition loud and hectic, Gamache stays level-headed, Wallin said.
“He doesn’t talk much. He says what it takes,” Wallin said. “He’s a quiet person and he brings that to fights.”
Wallin also appreciates Gamache’s attention to detail.
“Before I met Joey, I wasn’t used to one-on-one training. His best advice is to keep it simple. You don’t have to do flashy things. Get the gym work done and take things seriously,” Wallin said.
Olguin, Friday’s opponent, is 9-4-1 in his pro career. Olguin has not fought since a KO loss to Terrell Jamal Woods on August 14, 2021 in Salt Lake City. A scheduled fight against Roney Hines was canceled in December.
“[Olguin]is a guy you can’t sleep on,” Gamache said.
It was just over four years ago, on January 19, 2019, that Gamache was mugged on the street while walking with a friend to the Mendez Boxing Gym on 26th Street in Manhattan. The attacker caught Gamache by surprise and broke his jaw. Now fully recovered, Gamache shrugs off the incident.
“All those years of fighting keeps you fit for real life,” Gamache said.
Real life is coming your way fast. For now, Gamache is enjoying it.
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