Ehikhamenor the ‘Contender’ now ‘trainer to the stars’
NEW YORK – Hino Ehikhamenor has no plans to return to the ring.
The 32-year-old Ehikhamenor last fought in 2009, when he lost in the finale of The Contender, season four, to future world title challenger Troy Ross. That was the final fight of the entire series, and it turned out to be the last of his career. He wasn’t retired by a health or managerial issue, but rather his own foresight.
“It was a reality kind of thing,” said Ehikhamenor, who retired with a 15-4 (7 knockouts) record. “I said ‘Hino, you love to party, you love to not eat right, women and all of the above that were restricted for a top 10, top 15 contender fighter.’ It took a long time to come to that decision because I got a lot of calls to go overseas. Good money, too. I even got a call the other day. I have no intentions of going back in the ring.”
With the realization that his prize money would run out eventually, Ehikhamenor looked back to the gym for his next source of income. It wouldn’t come from a comeback fight, but rather from taking over on the other side of the punch mitts. Ehikhamenor took a job at Trinity Boxing in New York’s financial district, catering to the fitness needs of the area’s Wall Street types.
Now, the Nigerian-born, Queens-raised Ehikhamenor lives in downtown Manhattan in a full-service luxury building. This, despite admitting that his own boxing career wasn’t particularly successful. His two highest profile bouts – against Ross in 2009 and Herbie Hide in 2008 – both ended in defeats, and his two trips to the New York Daily News Golden Gloves finals ended in losses to Carlos Sanchez.
He has seen fighters that he grew up with abandoned by those closest to them once their careers were on the downslide.
“How many fighters do you know that have been retired a long time, never won nothing…” Ehikhamenor began before trailing off and picking up the thought down the line. “I know fighters, five-time world champion Junior Jones and them that don’t have s–t. Iran Barkley. These guys who were 10 times better than me, their boxing records are going in the Hall of Fame. I just took what I had and ran with it.”
“I wouldn’t have been like those other boxers, ‘I need to fight this fight to get paid even if I take a beating.’ Thank God I never had to come to that.”
Now, among his Wall Street clientele are celebrities, such as NFL Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin and Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland. He has also trained several professionals, including Francisco Figueroa and Shamir Reyes. Whether athlete or musician, all who put on gloves with him attain a newfound respect for the sport.
“Curtis Martin told me one time, ‘I’ve been to the hardest knocks of all training camps in my life. College, high school, everything. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,'” recalls Ehikhamenor. “(Martin said), ‘I’m a Hall of Fame athlete.’ That don’t mean s–t. With the boxing, it humbles you.
“He sparred; he was like ‘Whoa!’ and everybody says the same thing after they come train.”
This Thursday afternoon, in front of the same Madison Square Garden where he fell just short of a Golden Gloves title, Ehikhamenor will be working pads with his client Carmelo Anthony, an All-Star forward for the New York Knicks. The event, which will promote Anthony’s “Do:More” campaign for Degree Men underarm deodorant, will begin at 2 p.m. with boxers trained by Ehikhamenor warming up the crowd before Anthony and Ehikhamenor take to the ring at 4 p.m.
Ehikhamenor, who has trained Anthony and his wife for a number of years, is featured in the campaign’s commercial. He believes boxing can benefit a basketball player’s abilities.
“Boxing is hand and eye coordination. Most of all, I feel like just with anything you do, lawyer or cook or whatever, after you box you feel like you can do anything. Everything else is easy to you.”
Still, despite working as a trainer, his loyalty remains to the sport. “It touches me to my soul whenever I hear somebody go ‘I saw that HBO fight, that guy sucked!’ I say, ‘What? His suck is way better than any of you motherf–kers talking s–t. You know what he had to do to train to fight that fight? You couldn’t do it.'”
As more working professionals take to the boxing ring to improve their health and appearance, Ehikhamenor will be there to offer them a unique experience. With shows like HBO’s 24/7 and Showtime’s Fight Camp 360 familiarizing more fans with the inner drama of boxing, more of them are looking for their own taste of that world.
What better way than by working out with a boxer who has been there?
“They want to emulate,” said Ehikhamenor. “Why do you think I’m working out now? Because I know staying in shape is my resume. Every time I walk down the street people be like, ‘Yo, are you an athlete?’ I get that every day. I go to my clients’ events because they want to show you off because they have a trainer while their friends just have gym memberships.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.