August 15 2009, I’m sitting ringside with Danny Green at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Danny had just beaten Argentine Julio Cesar Dominguez by TKO to win the IBO cruiserweight world title on the undercard of Roy Jones Jnr-Jeff Lacy.
Knowing that Jones is a future Hall of Famer - and that he’d have his eyes set on Danny’s new belt – the Green Machine showers, cuts his victory celebrations short to go out and watch Roy in action and, of course, challenge the American superman to a world title shot in Australia.
Jones Jnr was frightening (well, for me) to watch.
He absolutely destroyed Jeff Lacy, he took him to school. I’ll never forget how, at the end of the sixth round, Roy looked towards Danny while throwing a flurry of punches and seemed to ask; “Do you REALLY want some of this?”
While it seemed chilling, Danny looked to me quite calmly and said: “I’ll beat him”.
Danny always aimed high and his confidence was always inspiring. From that moment I witnessed the planning that went into that campaign, he knew what he needed to do.
As Green prepares to fight Anthony Mundine for their grudge match in Adelaide next February, I can recall how he and his trainer Angelo Hyder worked out their plan to conquer Jones tactically, physically AND mentally.
Danny showed at each training session how much he wanted this fight. He knew he needed to want it more, and needed to be hungrier than Jones was. Of course I’ve seen athletes highly motivated to perform, but I’d never seen a preparation like this one.
Danny would walk into the gym for a strength and conditioning session and as soon as the warm-up commenced he was ‘on’. The intensity of his work outs was ... awe-inspiring.
To paint the picture and try and take you through a typical set in the gym (without going into too much technical detail around the planning of his training) visualise Danny doing a typical strength/power exercise , it would be specific athletic movement and repetitions designed around what he needed.
Some of these exercises are done in your regular gym but we’d perform exercises to convert his strength into striking power you may not normally see. What I can almost guarantee is you would not see the intensity Danny displayed.
We would do things like smash into a tractor tyre with a sledge hammer and I’d love hearing the ‘SMACK’ sound from that final little ‘SNAP’ that was similar to him turning his knuckles a few inches before making contact with his opponent.
To finish off a typical set Danny would do some specific movement with a focus on throwing-power using a light medicine ball, the key to which was ‘execution of speed’.
The quality he displayed was always at a higher level than most people in a gym because Danny was always visualising how whatever he was doing would help him in the boxing ring.
The rest periods programmed into these session were just as impressive - and important – and on par with the actual work we were doing.
You see, Danny made use of EVERY second in that gym, even his rest.
I’d watch as he moved in front of a mirror, working on something from the previous night’s sparring session.
If I wanted him to stand still and rest I would give him hand speed drills, he’d use a wrestling dummy shaped as a human body that was set up in the corner of boxing ring.
He visualised hundreds of times the image of himself stalking Roy into a corner and what to do with Roy when he had him there.
I normally left Greeny alone but I would keep an eye on the time I needed him back on an exercise.
I can still hear the rhythm of the slapping sound that was played on the stuffed leather ‘human’ dummy and I can feel that steely focus . . . the ‘Green Zone’ . . . he’d get in when he worked.
His energy was like that of a 21 year old and he always loved his work. I’d tell him at every session “you are in the prime of your life, let’s enjoy it”
Everything that happened on fight night - December 2, 2009 - was planned for, practised for or ‘owned’ by Danny.
The feeling in his dressing room pre-fight was so powerful; a feeling that NOTHING would – or could - stop Danny tonight. It was deep and it was real.
He warms up as normal, but with more focus than I’ve seen before. He’s CRACKING the pads sharper than I’ve seen him do with Angelo. He’s perfected his taper and was peeking to the minute.
Angelo Hyder was at his coaching best. When the pad work looked to have come to an end he yelled “no, your eyes aren’t spot on yet”. So it continues… tap, tap, tap . . . Boom. Finally, Angelo nods in approval; “YES, Danny, now you are ready”
Danny stays relaxed and makes everyone in the room form a circle and dance one at a time.
The mood is upbeat and inspired by the sense of seizing the moment I probably pulled out one of my best Vanilla Ice ‘Running Man’ dances. The dance is his ritual and Greeny insists on everyone grooving away because he doesn’t want anyone showing any nerves.
The TV production crew enters the room and yells “time to go” … the Green Machine crew waits . . . and waits . . . and waits . . . until the television producers demand we go. Danny tells everyone to relax and says “let’s make him wait”.
The TV crews are anxious and are pleading “c’mon lets go” as Danny’s fight song ‘Land Down Under’ by Men at Work booms through the stadium.
We’re being rushed by the television producers on the walk from the rooms to the ring when Danny suddenly stops before we reach the tunnel, raises his hand like a traffic cop and says “boys this song goes for nearly four minutes, I’ve heard it hundreds of times. HE can wait”
Roy was in the ring getting frustrated and ‘cold’. For the crowd it was like being at a wedding and wondering whether the bride is going to turn up. Greeny loved it; he was clearly enjoying his work and walking out with a smile on his face as Roy grew even more frustrated.
The fight starts and it’s great to see Danny following his plan. He continually goes to Roy’s body. We know he’s willing to grind, willing to apply relentless pressure, willing to wear his famous opponent down for as long as it takes.
He stalks Roy, even growling at him. We’d often talked about the need to be a ‘hungry dog’ so it gave me great pleasure after the fight to hear him say, “’H’ [Hayden], I growled at him” and we laughed.
The growl he spoke of occurred at 1 min 03 sec into the fight when both men simultaneously jabbed and connected with each other.
At 1 min 10 seconds into the fight Roy was in the corner when tap, tap, tap, tap, tap… left to the body and left to the body again pushing him back and then there was an almighty ‘CRACK ‘that echoed around the stadium.
Green’s right hand connected like a sledge hammer with precise timing and speed. The commentator (Andy Raymond) screams with excitement “ when you beat a legend you become a legend!”
Roy climbs to his feet and attempts to hold on. Danny’s hunger, power and tenacity would soon bring the fight to an end and the explosion of happiness that followed was the reward for a person who’d worked so hard and wanted it so badly.
He was someone who aimed high, who had a plan, who trusted the plan and seized an opportunity.
Do yourself a favour and sit through the 122 seconds again. Then watch the feelings explode post fight and realise there is a truth in the concept that THOSE WHO WORK THE HARDEST ARE THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE.
- Hayden Knowles, exclusively for Sportsta.