How the 9/11 attacks changed the life of Katie Taylor's coach Ross Enamait
American Ross Enamait has been the most important man in Katie Taylor’s life for the last six years. Yet he remains a relatively anonymous figure in her remarkable rise to the top of professional boxing – and that’s exactly how he wants it to be.
When Taylor was at her lowest ebb after her shock defeat in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, she sought out Enamait – then a relatively unknown boxing trainer based in Vernon, Connecticut – and asked him for permission to train in his gym.
Her father, Pete, guided her career from the moment she first laced a pair of boxing gloves, but they had split in late 2015 and Katie didn’t have a dedicated coach/trainer at the time of the Rio Olympics.
Enamait has admitted he didn’t know who Taylor was when she asked him, via a Twitter message, whether she could attend one of his training camps. At best, he was lukewarm about the idea – but the Bray star persisted.
At the time, her primary concern was preparing for the European amateur championship, which was due to be held in Sofia in November 2016.
In the end, Taylor’s persistence wore down Enamait’s reluctance and so began a professional relationship which changed the face of women’s boxing.
The American’s own story is a fascinating tale.
In a rare interview a couple of years ago with ‘The 42’, he explained how the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York changed his life.
Though he had a grounding in the sport as an amateur fighter, in 2001 he was working as an investment manager in the city. He had graduated with a degree in economics and finance from the University of Connecticut.
Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad were due to fight for the unified world middleweight title in Madison Square Garden on September 15.
Had the planes struck the Twin Towers an hour later, Hopkins, Trinidad, and others associated with the fight may have been among the casualties as the Wall Street gym – where the pair were due to stage a media workout – was crushed beneath the collapsing skyscrapers.
The fight eventually went ahead on September 29. Enamait’s company gave him free tickets to it. He had an epiphany during the contest.
“I was sitting ringside. And it was during that fight I realised, ‘You know what? I’m leaving the company. I’m not going to work for anybody else – I’m going to do my own thing’.”
Those fateful attacks had a profound effect on everybody in New York City, and for Enamait, it made him reassess his life.
“You only live once. I’ve got one chance here. I’m going to do it my way. I think I resigned maybe two or three week later.”
So, the man who first fell in love with the sport while watching Roy Jones Jr in action at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 began a second career as a professional boxing trainer.
Initially, he set up his business in Atlantic City on the New Jersey coast. As well as training fighters, he also authored books and produced video tutorials and training programmes for boxers. Taylor had read all his books during her early amateur career, and was a fan from a distance.
Initially, she was due to spend three weeks in Vernon in September 2016. She has been there ever since. During her initial visit, Enamait got her sparring with male pros and one female pro fighter.
He realised she was a unique talent, and the idea of her turning professional gained traction.
At 14 minutes past midnight on October 4, 2016, a 91-word text message dropped into Eddie Hearn’s mobile phone. It was from Taylor – she wrote: “Hi Eddie, I hope you don’t mind me reaching out like this out of the blue. I’ve been seriously considering turning pro for the last few months.
“I think I can do for women’s pro boxing what I did for the amateur sport: bring it into focus and generate a serious interest. I already have a great fan base. Of course, the pro game is impossible without a great promoter so I’m wondering if you would be interested in talking more about this? Much appreciated, Katie.”
Within seven weeks of that text, she made her professional debut at the Wembley Arena with Enamait and Brian Peters, her manager, in her corner. The pair have been there for her 19 subsequent fights during which she became the undisputed world lightweight champion.
Enamait moulded her into the pro fighter she has become. Taylor acknowledges there is a world of difference between being a successful amateur fighter and a pro boxer.
Given his disdain for personal publicity, it is not surprising to learn that Enamait’s favourite sportsperson is Bill Belichick, the famously undemonstrative coach of the New England Patriots.
Enamait is unfailingly courteous, but never contributes more than a couple of pithy observations at post-fight press conferences.
Professionally, he faces his biggest challenge on Saturday night. His ability to read the fight correctly and offer Taylor the right advice in the 60 seconds between rounds will have a big bearing on the outcome.
But his destiny has always been bound up in events in Madison Square Garden.
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