David Coldwell: Climbing Off the Canvas

Photo Credits: Ed Sykes

You would be hard pressed to find a man within the world boxing scene who has more experience than David Coldwell – a former amateur and professional fighter, manager, promoter and trainer.

One might expect that suffering the slings and arrows of some 20 plus years in the cloak & dagger world of boxing would leave a man quite jaded. Furthermore, one could not have blamed a man like Coldwell who’s had some very public failures for giving up his dream having a career in boxing altogether.

The truth is very different.

David Coldwell is not only a true success story within Britain’s domestic boxing scene but one of the most genuinely liked and likable figures in the sport. 

Today (July 6th) on his 42nd birthday, the BOXRAW Blog takes a look at what has made David Coldwell an unsuspected yet unqualified success.

From Kolkata to Sheffield  

Coldwell was born in the East Indian capital city of West Bengal Calcutta on the 6th of July 1975. Calcutta currently swells with a population of more than 4.5 million souls and has a rich history as the most important metropolis in East India. The locus of trade, art, education, the sciences and political consciousness.  

The city grew up around several principle villages that later came under the rule of the Nawab of Bengal within the fierce Mughal dynasty. In 1690 the British East India Company (HEIC) was granted a license to trade for the many sought after goods in and around The City of Palaces, indigo, spices, tea, and gems were there for the taking, so it was no surprise that by the mid-18th century the (HEIC) had turned their interest away from trade and toward empire building. 

The HEIC with a mandate from the British Crown maintained its own army to enforce the rule of the British Raj that had been installed by the early 1800s.

It’s as though Nike had formed a standing army in Vietnam where it houses many factories to produce Air Jordans with the blessing and backing of the US government to prop up a friendly regime that could be relied upon to protect its shareholders’ interests. 

India went through a painful process of regaining self-rule over the course of more than century. By the mid-19th and 20th century Calcutta became the nucleus of the awakening of the Bengal Renaissance that would eventually contribute to the largely nonviolent Indian Independence Movement that granted India full autonomy on the 15th of August 1947.

The scars of British Colonialism were felt (and are still felt) in India today, however, Calcutta once again became a center for rising pride and nationalism as the city officially changed its name to the Bengali pronunciation Kolkata in 2001.

Young David would eventually move to Sheffield in Yorkshire England however in contrast to his new sunny environs Coldwell had a very rough upbringing – not hard to imagine, a young boy attempting to leave the harsh conditions of Calcutta, economically devastated for several decades following independence from the crown. 

His dark skin, ‘funny accent’ and small stature (Coldwell only stands 5’3”) made him an easy target for bullying and harassment. 

Coldwell would beg his mother to let him try boxing from 10 years old, inspired by his hero Sugar Ray Leonard and later Mike Tyson. 

Boxing was a way to survive, a way out!

Wins & Losses

By the tender age of 15 Coldwell had left home, he was on his own and tucked into Ingle Gym, the fight factory of Brendan Ingle. 

Ingle saw the idleness of the youth in and around Wicobank began holding dances every week and eventually formed a boxing program out of the St. Thomas’ Boys & Girls club also.

Ingle’s gym would eventually produce Cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson and the one and only Prince Naseem Hamed, Coldwell recalls training next to Hamed vividly:

“There were other fighters there at the time who would go on to have great careers in the game but ‘Naz’ had it all.  He talked a great game but he could also back it up.”

Coldwell would eventually turn pro himself in in 1996. He boxed for some four years and has 19 bouts to his name, more than 100 professional rounds in the bank but by his own admission lacked the confidence to translate what he could do in the gym on fight night.

I fought in about 20 professional fights, won the Central Area Flyweight title and fought some really good fighters including taking Jose Lopez Bueno the full distance just a few months before he won the WBO World title, but through my career, I always suffered from a lack of confidence.  I needed to believe in myself more in the ring but always struggled to do so.

Coldwell retired from fighting after a second consecutive stoppage loss in August of 2000.

However, Coldwell was already starting to train fighters with Uncle’s blessing and at just 25 moved into that capacity at Ingle’s second gym location on the Manor Estate in Sheffield.

Coldwell with Mcdonnell

Photo Credits: Lawrence Lustig

He found quick success and built several fighters from the ground up:

My first job in a corner was when Ritchie Wenton fought Scott Harrison and, in later years, I trained Kell Brook and Curtis Woodhouse to British titles. I also trained Ryan Rhodes when he won European, and later on when he challenged Canelo Alvarez for the WBC world title.

Not long after Coldwell struck out on his own and formed Coldwell Boxing with friend and business partner Spencer Fearn in Rotherham. On the second floor of a gym out of a relatively nondescript storefront Coldwell would take Jaime and Gavin McDonnell and Ryan Rhodes to regional and European titles respectively.

Coldwell also began managing and promoting these fighters as well, boxing had become his full-time vocation and he could not have been happier. 

Then suddenly the opportunity of a lifetime came. Adam Booth and David Haye had caught wind of what Coldwell was accomplishing with essentially a shoestring budget and in 2008 tapped Coldwell to helm the fledgling Haymaker Promotions. Leveraging the name of popular British cruiserweight and heavyweight slugger Haymaker Promotions was a new and challenging endeavor for Coldwell.

Unfortunately, a deal with broadcaster Setanta Sports collapsed, forcing Haymaker stable fighters like George Groves and David Price to go elsewhere. Then in 2012, David Haye retired from boxing (the first time) in July 2012  after losing to Wladimir Klitschko effectively putting the final nail in Haymaker Promotions for the time being and long-time protégé Ryan Rhodes had also retired from fighting.

Coldwell next tried to tap into the growing online streaming market with Coldwell TV where he could tailor content to feature fighters in his stable as well as other domestic talents. The fees for streaming skyrocketed quickly proving financially untenable. Coldwell TV ceased operation in fairly short order.

It was time for Coldwell to reassess

It all may have been for the best as it turned out; by 2011 his daughter Brooke, then 11 and son Theo, now five had been missing their dad. Coldwell had been burning the candle at both ends by this point for years.

I was managing and training so many fighters, and I didn’t get in ‘til late at night, especially when my son [Theo] was born, and I wasn’t seeing him…For me, it’s really tough because I’m really family-orientated. I missed tucking my kids into bed and things like that.

Coldwell was about to step back from training fighters and focus on management and promotion which as it happened he’d developed a good head for over the years. 

Once again, the phone would ring for a new opportunity and Coldwell just couldn’t say no.

A life’s Work - Back in the Saddle

Coldwell had been told all throughout his childhood that he wouldn’t amount to anything, ‘too small’ they said, ‘who’s he going to beat?’ he was jeered as a trainer ‘what’s he know? Who can he train?’ 

It would take another misfit who many had written off to drag him back to training fighters.

I blame Tony Bellew.

Coldwell says categorically (if sarcastically) it is The Bomber from Liverpool that got Coldwell to take up the mitts again and put his boxing brain back to work.

Bellew had just suffered a crushing defeat to Adonis Stevenson – blitzed in six rounds. It appeared Bellew had reached his ceiling. Bellew reached out to Coldwell and they had a meeting in Liverpool and decided they would be a good fit:

He asked me to have a chat, I went to his house, sat in his kitchen. We spoke and he asked me if I’d train him. I said, ‘Yes.’… I love working with him. He is the most driven, dedicated fighter I’ve ever worked with. He always wants to improve. I like that because he wants to be perfect. I don’t think you can ever be perfect, but if you chase perfection, you’ll get the best out of yourself. We’re very similar in that respect.

Coldwell turned the Bomber’s career around and became not just a trainer or manager but is one of Bellew’s dearest friends and for Coldwell that is of equal importance. To invest his time and energy he has to like you he has to want that success for you because he wants the best for you only, so rare in a sport that chews up fighters and spits them out once they have achieved some success. In a cynical business, Coldwell is the ultimate optimist.

Tactically, Coldwell instilled in Bellew a better defense, economical footwork and they took advantage of Bellew’s move up in weight from draining himself to make 175 and increased his Kayo percentage at Cruiserweight.

As Bellew’s trainer he pulls no punches you might say, he gave Bellew the business in the corner in between rounds during his gutsy win over Mateusz Masternack and Bellew gives Coldwell full credit for the win.

The pair had marched their way into a bout for the vacant WBC Cruiserweight title to be held at Goodison Park, the home of Bellew’s beloved Everton FC.

Their opponent was a savage punching southpaw from South Africa Ilunga Makabu. His impressive record stood at 19-1 with 18 knockouts. 

With enormous pressure on Bellew to perform in front of his home crowd and equal pressure and doubt hanging over the head of David Coldwell the two men fulfilled a life-long ambition to become world champions with the 3rd round KO of Makabu to the elation of the partisan crowd at Goodison. 

The wild ride was not over as Bellew angled for worldwide recognition and the money that comes with it, Bellew talked his way into a high-profile fight this past March against the one and only David Haye. Coldwell's former business partner. 

The acrimonious build-up prior to the showdown between Haye and Bellew this past March got quite ugly, fists and insults were slung back and forth between the principles but Coldwell himself became a target of Haye’s ire, Haye’s trainer Shane McGuigan also got involved in the heated exchanges – once again Coldwell must have flashbacked to those days of being insulted, picked on and bullied.

You're shit, David. 

You’re shit, your fighter is shit.

And you’re going to be visiting Bellew in the hospital. 

That's what Team Haye thought and quite a large segment of the boxing world thought as well!

But Coldwell and Bellew proved their mettle and boxing brains on the night! Much is made of the injury Haye suffered in the 6th round and understandably, as of this writing a rematch is one of the several likely scenarios for Coldwell and Bellew – but to have it right Coldwell crafted a plan to out-box Haye for the first half of the fight to drag the front-runner into the latter rounds and sap that punching power. Within two rounds Bellew had made Haye miss and was countering over top with right hands, by round four Haye was gassing and Bellew was standing his ground. 

When the towel was thrown in the 11th round saving Haye from further punishment both Bellew and Coldwell shown grace in victory. Coldwell could have gloated but like in the build-up to the fight, Coldwell took the high road.

Coldwell with Haye after Bellew Fight

Photo Credits: Press Association

David Coldwell has been there and done it in boxing, but winning championships and high profile fights on Saturday night doesn't change that Coldwell would be there come Monday morning to take Brooke and Theo to school.

Some years ago when David first opened Coldwell Boxing Gym in Rotherham out of a converted office space David made sure to set aside one room that could be fitted out with desks, chairs, books and supplies to help the kids in the neighborhood that would come through those doors to excel at their studies while they learn the sweet science. After all, those boys and girls would still need to do their homework before becoming ‘the next world champion.’

David knows what it’s like to have no advantages in life, to be counted out. 

He understands the struggle and this anecdote is about all you need to know about the kind of man David Coldwell is and why the diminutive immigrant from half a world away can rest easy in the knowledge no one will ever count him out again.

Happy Birthday David Coldwell. 

BOXRAW stands behind you and regards you as an inspiration to anyone fighting to make their dream come true!





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