Kenny Adams, a longtime trainer and former amateur and Olympic boxer himself, will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame next week alongside the rest of the Hall’s Class of 2024. Known for his transformative impact on fighters such as Edwin Valero and Vince Phillips, as well as his pivotal role with the 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team, he has guided numerous champions and Olympians, earning him an iconic status among boxing insiders and enthusiasts. In a recent conversation with BoxingScene, Adams shared insights into his unique boxing journey and illustrious coaching career.

BoxingScene: When did you know that you were going to be a Hall of Famer?

Kenny Adams: Yeah, I thought that early on, because I’ve been very successful with boxing, even as a fighter, and leading up to becoming a trainer, where I went to two Olympics, I won many plaudits through boxing. Yeah, definitely, I knew it would happen.

BS: You remember one moment in particular?

Adams: The biggest thrill, I think, was being the assistant coach on the 1984 Olympic team, which was one of the greatest boxing teams the United States has ever had. Pat Nappi was actually the coach at that time, but I was his assistant and he had been my coach in the Army.

BS: What do you think of modern boxing currently, because the game has really changed, especially with the social media climate. How have you seen boxing evolve and what’s your opinion on professional boxing currently?

Adams: I think the game has changed. I think what brought the change about maybe is the type of fighters that we’re having today. There’s some great fighters out there, but they are not getting an opportunity like they need. I think what has to happen is the trainer’s have to step up to the plate. That’s where it needs to be. Trainers got to move to the plate. They got to be led in the right direction, and that’s very important. That has to be done.

BS: Vince Phillips-Kostya Tszyu – what do you remember about that fight?

Adams: Phillips was strong, tough, lean and mean. Hard to beat. He took it to the next level. [Tszyu] was really a great competitor, but Vince was too strong. Not only did he have strength, he was very conditioned. That was one of the particulars that I always had, anyway. Vince was with me most of the time during that time frame; always had him in great shape, great condition. All of my fighters are in shape all of the time. The greatest thing that can happen for guys to move to the next level is to be in shape, and be in good condition, and all of my guys always were in that direction.

BS: What do you remember about Edwin Valero? I believe you trained him at one point.

Adams: Hey! Edwin Valero was a monster. He was really a monster. This guy could punch. He could throw shots and everything. From Venezuela, that’s the one you’re talking about. He was on top of business. He was really, really on top of business. He asked me one time – and it’s funny that he did that – but he said, “Kenny.” I said, “What?” He said, “Give me a Viagra so I can punch, so I can really work.” So I did give him that. I gave him a Viagra – and he worked. He worked. He worked. He worked.

BS: Who is the biggest puncher you ever worked with?

Adams: Ray Mercer.

BS: What made Mercer’s power so different than anyone else that you ever worked with?

Adams: I think a lot of fighters have good power, like Kennedy McKinney, Eddie Cook, and most of that was because of the strength and conditioning that we [worked on]. Early on in their career, we worked with strength and conditioning people who were from another part of the world. That is where the strength and conditioning was exploding – from the Russians – and they were very much strongly into that.

BS: Who is the fighter you wish you could have worked with?

Adams: Who would I like to have worked with? One who I would have liked to spend a lot more time with, to be honest, was Pernell Whittaker. I worked with him sometime during the times we went on trips and things of that nature but I wish as a whole I could have been with him most of the time. Pernell Whittaker was a dynamite fighter, left-handed, he could do anything. He had speed, power and quick hands. Very good. But I had somebody that was very much like him. Two people that I know that I got a blessing out of, Kennedy McKinney and Eddie Cook. Both of those guys could punch – one was left-handed and one was right-handed – and they were very explosive. Great fighters.

BS: OK, who is the most gifted fighter you ever worked with?

Adams: “Sweat Pea” Whittaker was very explosive and has to be one that you would want to call out. But I have to put McKinney still in that latter part. Kennedy McKinney was there. Diego Corrales, you could put him on that level. He had power, but he was not the boxer that so many of them were.

BS: Who was the hardest worker you ever worked with?

Adams: It is kind of hard to distinguish or say who was the hardest worker, because I played this game – “It is my way or the highway.” I did not go for anybody that didn’t work hard. So all of my fighters worked hard. I can just start with 106-pounder Brian London, Kennedy McKinney, Eddie Cook at 112. All these other guys. All of them went to the next level.

They all worked hard, paid attention and took care of their business. I just had a bunch of fighters who really wanted to be fighters. That was super-important to me, that these guys make it good to move to the next level. It’s hard to distinguish or pick anyone in particular, because all of them worked hard. We worked on strength and conditioning. That was always a big part of what I did. I learned my strength and conditioning in Germany, up in the Bavarian Alps. That’s where I first learned about strength and conditioning, which in all cases is where the strength and your endurance and stamina comes from. I was adding that along with the running that was done also.

BS: Any other thoughts or advice? 

Adams: The big thing that you had to do with all these guys is make them push to the next level. That was a super-, super-important thing for them to be able to do the work – hard work and no play. That’s where it is at.  Another thing is, I think, what played the best role that I can say, is what I learned from the people who started over in Germany, was strength and conditioning. Strength and conditioning plays a super part in the way the guys train and the way they work. And that, to me, is a key to each and every move to the next level, to be the best [a fighter] can be – and that’s where it is at.

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