Justin Gamber is one of the most underrated coaches in boxing. His biggest claim to fame is guiding Caleb Plant from the amateur ranks to world titleholder, but there is far more to him than that. The mastermind behind Blair Cobbs’ recent victory over Adrien Broner, Gamber shared his thoughts on his own journey into the sport, as well as his time in the corner of Plant and Andy Ruiz Jr., in this second installment of a recent conversation with BoxingScene.

BS: What has been your journey in boxing? 

Gamber: I started boxing as an amateur when I was a kid, and I boxed on and off as an amateur. I was never really consistent with it. I fought at some national tournaments, but in my mid-20s – by the way, I’m from South Dakota – I moved to Nashville, and that’s where I started coaching in 2006. I was mentoring under Coach Christy Halbert, and she was an Olympic coach in 2012 and maybe different Olympics since that. She was a great mentor to me, and I started there. She had me working on some top national teams, at first with fighters like Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman, Rau’shee Warren, Danny Jacobs and Michael Hunter – all the top amateurs at the time – and a lot of them turned into great pros.

I eventually started working with lower-level pros in Nashville and just started getting experience. I eventually moved to Las Vegas and started working with Andy Ruiz there as an assistant for a year or two, and then I decided to move back to Nashville and open up my own gym. I was in a long-distance relationship at the time – my girlfriend lived in Nashville, and I decided to move from Las Vegas back to Nashville, and there was really only one fighter on my mind when I moved back. It was an amateur named Caleb Plant, and I went back and opened my own gym and started working with Caleb Plant, turned him pro, turned him into a world champion, and eventually moved back to Las Vegas, and the rest is history.

BS: Any Andy Ruiz memories?

Gamber: I’ll tell you this about Andy. I felt like I figured out how to get the best out of him. But I figured out that when he was willing to work, to push him hard. When I could tell that he wasn’t really going to do anything, don’t even try. Just give him the day off, just let him go, but push him when he was willing to work. And that was the mentality and the strategy that I had with him, and I felt like I got the most out of him. In my last fight with him [in March 2013], we got him down to the lightest weight of his pro career – 246 pounds – to fight a fighter that Deontay Wilder had previously fought, guy named Matthew “Gator” Greer, and Andy fought him in the last fight that I coached him. Deontay had knocked this guy out in two rounds. So we wanted to do better and stop him in the first. Andy dropped him four times in the first and stopped him in the first, the lightest weight of his pro career. Top Rank, his promoter at that time, had never been happier. From what I had been told, it was a success. But after that fight, it was hard to get back into the gym with them. I think, honestly, we were supposed to get into the gym, or somewhere around 15 times once we did get in the gym, he didn’t show up very much. That’s why I got frustrated and decided to move back to Nashville and open my own gym and try to make something out of this kid named Caleb Plant.

BS: Hardest puncher you ever saw?

Gamber: Andy Ruiz. I don’t think he’s the hardest puncher, but I’ll say this: I have never been more concerned for sparring partners’ health and well-being than when Andy would spar them. Like, he had the ability to really cause damage and to hurt people permanently. I was even concerned about people getting killed sparring against him. He was dangerous back then. We talked a little bit the last couple years, but I haven’t seen him in a while. But back then, he was dangerous.

BS: Best gym fighter?

Gamber: I started coaching in Nashville, and people may not remember Jonathan Reid. He was on “The Contender,” I think Season 1. He fought William Joppy for the WBA middleweight title in the mid-2000s. It actually was on the undercard of [Felix] Trinidad against [Fernando] Vargas, and he lost. He got stopped in four rounds, and he never really made a huge dent in the pros. He never had a lot of success, but he was a vicious dude in the gym, and he was a sparring partner for a lot of different guys. I think I heard Antonio Margarito brought him in. I kind of think of him when I think of the best gym fighters that I’ve seen.

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