MANHATTAN BEACH >> Manny Robles trains world champions. He also holds onto his card in the carpenters’ union. Local 409.
He still pays his dues, too. It’s boxing. You never know.,
Eight years ago Robles was in the seats at the world championships in Milan, Italy, cheering wildly for Oscar Valdez. His lone voice was so strident that Valdez would look down from the ring, bemused.
“Oscar would say, ‘Who is that crazy nut?’’’ Robles said.
Today Valdez is the WBO featherweight champion, a flag-bearer for Top Rank’s future, and Robles is his coach.
Shortly after that Robles found himself alone in the 25,000 square feet of The Rock Gym in Carson. Its proprietor, Michael King, had built it with money from his career as a TV syndicator. King’s vision was to breed a parade of American heavyweight stars. Robles was training there. Then King died.
Today The Rock Gym throbs again with Valdez and WBO junior featherweight champ Jessie Magdaleno, along with Alhambra heavyweight Dominic Breazeale, former Olympian Terrell Gauscha, tough middleweight Jason Quigley, up-and-comer Mick Conlan. Robles’ business is so good that he’s soon moving to an even fancier gym in Norwalk, called Legends Boxing.
The nail has become the hammer.
Valdez meets Manuel Marriaga at StubHub Center Saturday night, the Punch Bowl where even the most mundane fights gain drama. Magdaleno will fight Adeilson De Los Santos.
Valdez and Magdaleno hope to fight twice more before 2017 ends. More wins and Robles might be sawing his way to Trainer of the Year consideration.
And there is Manny Robles Jr., 22. Manny trains him, too, although not without misgivings. The kid came up through Team USA as an amateur, and he is 12-0.
“I fought, too, and my dad (Manuel) trained me,” Robles said Thursday, sitting in a hotel lobby.
“I was 5-1, but I kept getting injured. My dad said, ‘You know, I think it’s time for you to hang it up.’ If it had been anyone else saying it, I wouldn’t have listened.
“The gym was Azteca in the city of Bell. Julio Cesar Chavez, Hector Camacho, Jorge Paez would train there. I would put on the mitts. I was about 15. My dad had world champs, too, like Reggie Johnson, who won the middleweight and light-heavyweight titles.
“He believed in treating his fighters like family. My wife threw me a birthday party the other night at the house, and my guys were there.”
Robles had trained amateurs in USA Boxing. He was in Milan because he was coaching the national team from Sri Lanka. When all his fighters were done, he hung around to watch the Americans and the Mexicans.”I don’t know, I just wanted to support them,” he said.
Valdez won the bronze medal. In the semifinals he lost to Vasyl Lomachenko.
But Valdez finally met his superfan. He and Robles became friends.
Then Valdez lost to Jo Jo Diaz by one point in the 2011 world championships in Azerbaijan. “The guy training Diaz? Me,” Robles said. “Oscar is always giving me grief about…