Eddie Futch

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Eddie Futch
Personal information
Nationality  American
Born (1911-08-09)August 9, 1911
Hillsboro, Mississippi
Died October 10, 2001(2001-10-10) (aged 90)
Sport Boxing

Eddie Futch (August 9, 1911 – October 10, 2001) was a boxing trainer. Among the fighters he trained are Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, and Trevor Berbick, four of the five men to defeat Muhammad Ali.

Eddie Futch was the trainer of record for Joe Frazier, Riddick Bowe, and Montell Griffin when they defeated and handed future Hall of Fame fighters Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, and Roy Jones, Jr., their first professional defeats. In Baltimore, Maryland, a new Boxing gym is being built in honor of the Hall of Fame Trainer it will be called Futch Gym and will be opening as early as fall of 2014.

Youth and Amateur Career[edit]

Futch was born in Hillsboro, Mississippi, but moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan when he was five years old. They lived in the Black Bottom section of the town. When Futch was a teenager, he played semi-professional basketball with the Moreland YMCA Flashes. He planned to attended the YMCA College School at the University of Chicago, but when the Great Depression happened, he was forced to continue his job at the Wolverine Hotel to support his family. Here is where he trained promoter and trainer Don Arnott[1]

In 1932, Futch won the Detroit Athletic Association Lightweight Championship, and in 1933, he won the Detroit Golden Gloves Championship. He trained at the same gym as Joe Louis, the Brewster Recreation Center Gym, and often sparred with the future champion. A heart murmur prevented Futch from turning professional, and he began training boxers.

Hall of Fame Trainer[edit]

Eddie Futch was an outstanding trainer, perhaps the greatest who ever lived. He prepared fighters to perform their best at the highest levels of the sport for several decades. Champions who worked under Futch's tutelage include Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Michael Spinks, Alexis Arguello, Marlon Starling, Wayne McCullough, Montell Griffin, and his first world champion fighter, Don Jordan, who was crowned world welterweight champion in 1958.

Training Joe Frazier[edit]

Eddie Futch was first hired by Frazier, and his chief cornerman and manager Yank Durham to help him prepare for a fight with "Scrap Iron" Johnson in 1967. He trained Frazier to stay low and constantly bob and weave, in order to create a sense of persistent motion and pressure. This also took advantage of Frazier's lack of size to make him an elusive target. It was unique fighting style that enabled him to get inside where his punches could reach his opponents without taking as much punishment as boxing with a more conventional fighting style would.[2]

The tactic proved to be highly effective, and Frazier remained undefeated, winning the New York title from Buster Mathis, and WBA crown from Jimmy Ellis with devastating knockouts. All of which led to the inevitable showdown with Muhammad Ali in the bout promoters deemed "The Fight of the Century" which took place in March 1971 at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Training Ken Norton to fight Ali[edit]

Norton recalls in his Autobiography that Futch's masterplan for his first Ali fight was for Ken to try and out jab Ali. Although a pressure fighter Norton had a good jab. This would Futch reckoned play mind games with Ali who was so proud of his own jab. The plan seemed to work.

Fight of the Century[edit]

In developing Frazier's strategy for the Ali fight, Futch thought it important for him to land body punches on Ali consistently throughout the fight in order to wear him down. Additionally, Futch noted Ali would often lean his head out of a punches way so you'd hit nothing. Ali couldn't do this with the body. So 'kill the body and the head dies' was the time old boxing proverb and plan. He also felt that Frazier's constant bobbing and weaving would make Ali uncomfortable because he would often have to punch down at Joe's head (Ali almost never threw body punches) and he'd never had to do that before. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in watching films of Ali, Futch noticed that his uppercuts were thrown sloppily, and incorrectly from a technical standpoint (Futch said Ali threw what he thought were uppercuts.) He instructed Frazier to throw a left hook over the top of, Ali's right uppercuts, and told his fighter to expect to beat Ali to the punch when doing so. In the 15th round, when an exhausted Ali opened the round by throwing a half-hearted uppercut, Joe Frazier feinted a left hook, and then unleashed a huge sweeping left hook at Ali's head, which floored him, creating an iconic moment in boxing history.

Frazier won the fight by a unanimous decision, and was recognized as the undefeated, undisputed champion of the world. It was a great achievement.


Four and a half years after the Fight of the Century, Frazier and Ali met for a third and final time in the fight known as the "Thrilla in Manila" in September 1975. Futch served as Frazier's manager and chief second for this fight, having inherited those duties from Durham who died from a stroke shortly after Frazier's defeat by George Foreman in 1973.

Futch's chief concern for this fight was that Ali not be allowed to repeat the illegal tactic of holding Frazier behind the neck, as Ali had in their 2nd fight, to create extended clinches that kept Joe from getting inside, and allowed Ali to get needed rest during their non-title second bout in 1974. A disappointing match which Ali won in a 12 round decision. By Futch's count Ali had done this 133 times in that fight without being penalized. He also did it against Foreman in his defeat of him in Zaire, leaving little doubt as to his intentions in the upcoming Manila bout. Sensing trouble, Futch vetoed (Ali-Foreman ref) Zach Clayton as referee, as well as two others suggested by Ali's promoter, Don King. He instead told Filipino authorities that 1) Ali was going to ruin what was to be a great event for their nation by constantly tying up Frazier illegally, and 2) assigning one of their countrymen to referee the bout would reflect well on the nation, and be a source of pride for its populace. This resulted in the appointment of Filipino Carlos Padilla, who sternly warned Ali on multiple occasions throughout the bout that he would be penalized, thus preventing him from doing it as often or effectively as he would have liked.[3]

As for the fight strategy, Futch wanted Frazier to try to bait him into throwing the uppercut again - this was attempted without success. He thought the key to the fight would be Frazier's constant attack on Ali's body, including punches to the hips when Ali effectively covered up his torso along the ropes. He told Frazier to be patient and deliberate in his attack, and to concentrate mostly on the body when Ali went into his rope-a-dope strategy so that he would not exhaust himself as Foreman had. This was brutally effective. It resulted in an exhausted, stationary Ali with hematomas on both hips, who informed his corner that he could not continue following the 14th round. Tragically for Frazier, Ali had landed enough punches to close his one sighted eye, rendering him nearly blind in the ring.[4]

At the conclusion of the 14th, which was a terrible round for Frazier, fearing that Joe might lose his vision in his one sighted eye (his right), Futch stopped the fight over Frazier's objections. After finding out that Ali would not have continued, and seeing him pass out in the ring after briefly attempting to stand and acknowledge the crowd in victory, Frazier became deeply bitter at Futch for his decision. Futch, however to his dying day never expressed any regret over what may well have been the most consequential decision ever made by a trainer.[5]


  1. ^ Futch, Eddie (June 1993), "It's Been a Long Road to the Top", Boxing Illustrated 36 (4): 37 
  2. ^ Anderson, Dave (1991). In the Corner. Wm. Morrow & Co. p. 288. ISBN 0688094465. 
  3. ^ "Thriller in Manila". BBC Films. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  4. ^ "Thriller in Manila". BBC Films. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  5. ^ "Thriller in Manila". BBC Films. Retrieved 2012-10-13.