Eddie Lam: “Skye is a great character, a great boxer, she’s quality.”
By Lewie Laing
In boxing, fighters put it all on the line, every time they step between the ropes. Should they win under the bright lights, they stand centre stage, receiving a wave of plaudits and positive attention, and rightly so. It is, however, in the darkened corners of the ring, where we find those whose craft quite often goes unnoticed, yet without it, fighters would be lost.
One man who enjoys being in the background is boxing trainer and cut-man Eddie Lam, who, alongside Al Smith, runs London’s IBox Gym with a flourishing stable of fighters such as Skye Nicholson, Caoimhin Agyarko, Dennis McCann, Archie Sharp, and Pierce O’Leary to name but a few.
Eddie Lam is a former amateur fighter, having almost 60 bouts. He adopted an aggressive, brawling styling, often leaving himself bloodied but with a feeling unmatched anywhere else. He admits he wasn’t the smartest fighter, having started boxing in his teens, the basics and all-important fundamentals were harder to nail down, and Lam just enjoyed a tear-up. On the verge of turning professional, one conversation saw those plans change.
“I had 56 senior amateur fights, my first fight at 17 years old. That’s too late to start, I was playing catch up. I wasn’t clever enough, to be honest, those top fighters are the clever fighters. I liked the brawlers, I was quite aggressive and I actually enjoyed getting hit. Getting a bloody nose I used to think was great. But that isn’t the way to go.
“I was thinking of going pro. I went to a few gyms and did a few sessions and met Darkie Smith. Darkie was a good coach and the first thing he said to me was, how many tickets do you sell. I felt insulted. I had won London novice titles, I was top 10 in the country in the boxing news rankings, and I thought I was a big shot. But boxing is a business and that’s something I had to learn.”
Those early experiences in boxing for Lam have certainly had a last affecting. His boxing style is not a style he actively promotes or teaches to the fighters in the IBox gym. The lessons he has learned from day one and the knowledge he continues to build are something he is forever passing on to his fighters.
“I’ve learned so much as a pro coach in the last 12 years. All my fighters, they’ll move their heads constantly. And even shots that do land, they are taking them on the gloves, or they are taking the power out of the shots, riding the shots. You’ve got to try and miss every shot. Boxing is a game of little moves.
“Outside the ring, I remember what Darkie Smith told me, and it’s funny because it’s the first question I ask young fighters these days; how many amateur titles have you won, or how many tickets can you sell. Compared to the amateurs, pro boxing is a business, and that’s also something Al (Smith) told me straight away.”
Eddie Lam has stepped into the spotlight more lately than ever before due to his work in the IBox Gym, alongside Al Smith, and for the fact that he has taken up the role as head trainer in the corner of rising Aussie star, Skye Nicholson.
The fact Nicholson approached Al and Eddie speaks volumes for the work they are doing as trainers, and the results they are producing for their fighters. It’s a small but effective team and one that Lam is grateful to be a part of, knowing they all add something different to the fighters they work with. Reputation can be everything in boxing and the reputation of the IBox gym has travelled across the world. Nicholson is the gym’s first female fighter and the link-up was far from a given.
“Since I started training Skye (Nicholson), I’ve been asked if I’d go out on my own as a trainer but for me, we are stronger as a team. Me, Al, Paul Taylor, and a few others, we have a good team. If we are going to achieve anything, we have to do it together. Al always mentions me in the same breath as him anyways, we all play a part. We all add something different, Al Smith is very technical.
“I’d never trained a girl before. It’s always been men in the gym. We have twelve fighters in the gym. When she approached us, we told her we would love to train her but we were too busy. We knew she would be boxing in America and in different places around the world, and it would take a lot for one of us to be travelling around with her. She came over from Australia anyways, turned up, and said I want you to train me for my first few fights, if it doesn’t work out I’ll go. And she’s been here since. Skye is a great character, a great boxer, she’s quality. We didn’t realise how big she was in Australia!”
The amount of time given up by trainers is often overlooked but Lam’s work with Nicholson highlights just how taxing it can be. A stable of 12 fighters who all have fight dates and need to be adequately prepared. While some fighters will gel with one coach more than another, everyone plays a part. It isn’t just about maintaining a balance in the gym, but also outside it, as Lam fully appreciates, especially with trips around the world becoming more of a constant fixture.
“We have to split the team from time to time. We have fighters on different shows and different promotions, so it can be difficult. But we go with it. Al managers a few fighters, whereas I keep out the politics of the game. I just love the gym work, pads, and sparring, I also enjoy being the cutman, I can wrap hands. Al and Paul wrap hands more than I do. I like being right in the middle of it.
“It’s more challenging with all the travel. It’s been hard balancing it with other fighters and my family life. My kids are older now but my Mrs comes to the shows with me wherever they are, Skye always has a ticket for her which is nice for me, she’s part of the team. Her and Skye get on great.”
Long physical sessions, hours of planning, fight analysis and travelling aren’t for everyone. After 12 years, Lam is still as keen as ever to keep growing as a coach and improve. Hours of practice go into making sure what he passes on to his fighters, is correct and that it will be effective come fight night. Boxing for Eddie is not a job, it is his life, and something he would be lost without.
“It’s very busy in the gym, it’s been nonstop. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Boxing is all I know. It’s my passion. Even at home, the Mrs always tells me off for being on my phone, but I’m sat watching boxing, fights, different moves on the pads that I can use, and I’m always studying something boxing related. I love the sport and I’m still trying to learn it. There’s always something new to learn. I try everything out on the bags before I teach them to the fighters.
“I was watching a video created by Tony Jeffries (former Olympic bronze medalist and pro fighter), talking about running and how the old-school methods would be to get up at 5am and pound the roads. Jeffries said it doesn’t matter when you run and that your rest is just as important. When I watch little things like that, I’m always learning. I used to do it the wrong way. Little sleep, early morning runs then I’d be sparring and getting my head knocked off and I’d wonder why! I’ll tell my fighters now to maybe do sparring before running because they are boxers, not runners. The boxing comes first.”
Eddie Lam certainly loves the game and all that comes with it. While being a pro coach, he also trains amateurs, and takes boxing fitness sessions, understanding boxing helps a lot more than just those who step between the ropes to fight.
While the business side is something he keeps away from, teaching and coaching are his bread and butter. It isn’t just what he can give to a fighter to help win titles that matter to Lam, what keeps him driven and motivated is also watching the people he trains, grow in life and hit their goals. The part Eddie Lam plays stretches way beyond the confines of the boxing ring.
“I like seeing the fighters progress, whether in the ring or in life. Bradley Skeete, we had him fight for a European title. We’ve had British, Commonwealth, and Southern Area champions. I want to go further now, I want World champions, otherwise, what’s the point.
“Seeing fighters progress in life, that’s a big thing to me. I’m off to one of the lads’ weddings later this year, he’s had two little girls, seeing him at 23 years old, to now and how far he has come in life, it’s amazing. As I say, you’re in the gym day in, day out around boxing but take a step back and you see how much of an impact you make. It’s very rewarding and makes it all worthwhile.”
“I get a big demand for people wanting to train, some just for fitness, a few amateurs. Whether it’s people wanting to lose weight or an amateur fighter winning fights, I try to help people where I can because what may seem small to you, might be big for them, and helping people achieve their goals, it means a lot to me.”
While 12 years might seem an eternity to some, it is merely just the beginning for Eddie Lam, who is not one for standing still. He understands there are coaches in the game who have been doing it for 20 and 30 years so to get to their level, there is still a lot to learn and a long way to go.
Next on Lam’s agenda is a World title. The IBox gym is yet to take a fighter to a world title win but he feels the current crop in the gym is not too far away from changing that.
“Me and Al always talk about the first world champion, have little bets on who we think it will be. The nearest currently is Archie Sharp, he is probably one or two fights away from a World title fight. All of our fighters are good in their own ways and can all reach the top. I think we’ll have world champions within the next couple of years. And once we hit that goal, I’ll see where we go after that.
“It’s strange, three years ago, all I wanted was to be respected by my peers, to be respected as a good coach. Now I want to be a world champion trainer, and success breeds success, once we get one, more will follow.”