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Profile: Coach Anthony
Coach Anthony comes out ahead
By Larry Hanover

It’s easy to see why Anthony Rodriguez’s free YouTube videos have a massive following. The Delran-based boxing trainer draws in viewers with action-packed titles like “Mike Tyson Killer Combo!” and the “Philly Shell Defense.” Plus, pro boxers and MMA fighters sometimes drop by to help execute the moves.

Wearing a baseball cap and a sweatshirt sporting #BoxingLife, “Coach Anthony” talks up the importance of whatever technique he’s teaching. He gives a jargon-free description of the lessons and then demonstrates them in action. Wham!

“I teach what people are scared to teach,” says Rodriguez, 37. “People feel that if they give away the information, they’re going to lose some kind of financial gain. I kind of did the opposite. I teach everything and don’t charge for it. It built a community of people who trust my instructions. I sell more in-depth versions of what I currently give for free on YouTube.”

The counterintuitive business philosophy really proved its worth in 2020 when gyms were required to temporarily close. Rodriguez had already built his YouTube channel to 100,000 subscribers in the 2 years before the lockdown.

Suddenly he was adding 10,000 -15,000 every month, with the total surpassing 180,000 by the fall. The sales of digital downloads on his website, which give a deeper dive into boxing techniques, shot up as well. When he shifted to Zoom training, he had a solid client base.

“The fact that everybody was stuck in their homes really helped the videos gain some traction,” he says. “I’ve been doing basically the same thing I’ve always done, just now from the comfort of my home. I’m still training people, but through a lens.”

For Rodriguez, becoming a YouTube star is the latest step in pursuing his passion. Dabbling in boxing as a kid in Queens, N.Y., he got more serious about the sport after moving to Florida at age 16. Rodriguez worked his way up the amateur ladder, making it to Florida’s boxing championship tournament. But his career was thrown off course when he injured his wrist in a fight at 22. Although he returned to the ring a few years later, he switched to training after realizing his fighting days were over.

As a trainer, Rodriguez has surpassed anything he had ever done as a boxer. He has been in the corner for bouts broadcast on HBO and Showtime, and trained national fighters on their way to championship titles. In 2018, Rodriguez got to share in championship glory when his trainee, Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, captured the International Boxing Federation super featherweight title.

“It’s humbling because everything I said I wanted to do other than professional boxing, I’ve already accomplished,” says Rodriguez, who moved to New Jersey in 2011 to set up shop in Delran.

A highlight of his training career, he says, has been getting close with one of his boxing heroes, Jeff Mayweather, the uncle of all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr. They met when mixed martial arts fighter Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal asked Rodriguez to join his team as an assistant to Mayweather. Rodriguez hesitated at first, saying he would only agree if he heard from Mayweather directly.

Coach Anthony (left) spars with a student

 

“Jeff Mayweather called me personally and said, ‘You’re the first one to have that kind of respect. Most people would’ve just taken the job,’” Rodriguez recalls. “From there, we really built a great friendship. I talked to someone I never imagined meeting and now he’s in my cellphone and we’re friends, it’s surreal.”

Rodriguez has worked with male and female amateur fighters, including 18-year-old Olympic hopeful Natalie Dove, but says it’s just as rewarding to train people with no intentions of making a career out of sparring.

“Working with someone off the street is different because you get to build somebody. You get to teach them and watch them develop,” he says.

On the other hand, he says, training elite athletes has its advantages. “It’s a different level of skill you get to apply,” he says. “When you work at the world championship level, you can apply boxing skills that only an experienced fighter can do.”

A major motivation for making the free videos is the reach it provides far beyond South Jersey. “I understood if I wanted to reach the world from one location, there’s only one way to do it, and that’s through the internet,” he says.

Rodriguez is excited about what the future holds post pandemic. Since he was able to replace the income he lost from the gym via the internet, he figures the promise is sky high once he again has a facility. He takes pride in having found a way to survive – and doing it on his own.

“I saw a lot of gym owners on Go-FundMe,” he says. “I never asked anybody for any money. I just adjusted and did something that would work for me.”

January 2021
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