It's said that understanding the subtleties of a sport allows you to excel in it. To see how Bobby Cassidy Sr. understood the subtleties of boxing, you can look at Donny Lalonde's successful title defense on May 29, 1988.
The afternoon fight took place outdoors in Trinidad and Tobago, and Cassidy picked up quickly that the sun would shine on the fighters as they fought. He also saw spots of shade where the sun's glare was hidden.
"I said to myself, 'Why is this ring so bright?'" he said. "It’s a two o’clock fight, obviously, but I said to myself, 'We can work this to our advantage.' We did, and it worked perfectly."
Cassidy had Lalonde work his opponent, Leslie Stewart, into spots that hid the sun's glare. Stewart still had to deal with the glare while Lalonde unloaded on his opponent. Lalonde ended up a winner by technical knockout.
"He'll hug me to this day and say that I helped him win the championship," Cassidy said. "He’ll give me the glory that I deserve."
Boxing is an emotional sport, and Cassidy is an emotional man. As a trainer, he was attached to his fighters, and was emotionally invested in their success or failure. When one of his fighters, Godfrey Nyakana, lost a title fight, Cassidy took it harder.
"Who knows what happened to him when he went home, but I was crying my eyes out then," he said. "I get close to my fighters. It’s good and it’s bad. You feel their pain."
Cassidy focused on getting his fighters to trust themselves. "Training is more of a reconditioning of [a fighter's] brain, so he really believes in himself," he said. "All of a sudden, you point out something in the gym, you do this or that and they’re believing in you."
The boxers he trained were learning from a man who knew some of the sport's legends and saw them fight firsthand. He fought an undercard bout before the second title fight between the recently deceased Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in 1974, and he saw both fight on separate occasions.
What Cassidy remembers most was Frazier's contempt for Ali, which stemmed from Ali's public discrediting of Frazier. "I started watching the commercials for the fight," he said. "He just belittled him and treated him like he was nothing. I knew some guys [that knew Frazier], and they kept saying that this was the worst thing this guy could do, that Frazier’s going to try and kill him in the ring."
"He never forgave him," he added. "He never will forgive him. They won’t be hugging each other."
Cassidy's boxing résumé is impressive; he trained two champion fighters and finished his own boxing career with an impressive record of 59 wins (26 by way of knockout), 16 losses and three draws. But his career, to him, was incomplete.
"I should’ve gotten a title shot," he said. "I fought enough contenders and beat these contenders where I should’ve been fighting for a title. That still annoys me to this day."
"Kid Shamrock," an off-Broadway play based on Bobby Cassidy Sr.'s life and career, is running through Dec. 4. For more info on the play, check out our article from last week.