Saturday night, Bob Ware will be on the ring apron, in front of almost 17,000 people and tens of millions watching worldwide, for one of the biggest events in boxing history. But in a world of sycophants, he doesn’t like attention, giving interviews, being on camera, or more than modest acknowledgment of a job well done.
Until the day before Floyd Mayweather’s most recent fight, Ware had no idea he would be in the pound-for-pound king’s corner for the first time.
Less than eight months later, the 43-year-old native of Gary, Ind., will be back in Mayweather’s corner for the second time, against Manny Pacquiao at MGM Grand here, boxing’s most important event in at least four decades.
Until he was tapped to replace Leonard Ellerbe in the Mayweather corner for the Marcos Maidana rematch Sept. 13, the biggest fights Ware had worked involved Guillermo Rigondeaux and Ishe Smith.
Yet he says this fight doesn’t seem more important than others he has worked.
“It’s like it’s just another fight to me,” he said. “Fight night, I’ll just be there to do whatever it is that needs to be done. I don’t know, maybe it’ll change fight night. But I don’t think so. I just look at it as another fight.
“The reason I don’t get nervous, or get jitters, I’m not in the ring. I’m not the one that’s going to get hit. And also, if I’m nervous, that can affect the fighter. I don’t have that problem.”
Ware stepped into the public eye the night of Mayweather-Maidana II. Ellerbe had worked the corner in every Mayweather fight going back to the 1990s, but his duties as CEO of Mayweather Promotions increasingly have pulled him out of gym activities.
Meantime, Mayweather made a change in hand-wrap specialists. After more than a decade with Rafael Garcia serving in a dual role, he assigned Garcia strictly to cut-man duties, and tapped Ware to wrap his hands.
Because Ware didn’t know until the day before Mayweather-Maidana II that he would work the corner, there was little time to coordinate duties.
A fighter can have up to four seconds in a title fight. Mayweather’s chief second was head trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., and the assistant seconds were Garcia, Ware and assistant trainer Nate Jones. Though no formal decision has been announced, those are expected to be Mayweather’s four seconds again Saturday.
Ware’s primary duty is wrapping Mayweather’s hands, which is done in the locker room. So his first round break during live action was a get-in-to-fit-in moment.
“By that being the first time that I had worked with them in the corner, I pretty much just saw how things would go the first round,” Ware said. “The second round — I mean, if I’m doing something, I like it done a certain way. So I just saw that there were certain things that I would be able to do, and I did it.”
Ware declined to be specific about the tasks he thought went uncompleted during that first round break.
Yet, “there were a few things that I saw,” he acknowledged.
Two obvious ones: After the first round, no one in the corner administered water to Mayweather. Garcia used an enswell on Mayweather’s face and pulled the fighter’s trunk band and protective cup away from the body to facilitate breathing, but no one had water.
The rest of the fight, Ware stepped onto the ring apron for round breaks with a cold water bottle in one hand and towel in the other.
“The reason to have a few people in the corner is to make sure a few things can be done at the same time,” he said. “I just made sure he had his water and a cold towel on his head, pull the cup out if I have to. Make sure the stool is there so he doesn’t have to wait, he can sit down as soon as he gets there. Just taking my time, wiping water off the mat.”
Ware is sensitive to having replaced the 85-year-old Garcia as hand-wrap specialist. He moved to Las Vegas 10 years ago after being laid off himself, from a phone-company job back home.
“I never want to hurt anybody or put them out of business,” Ware said. “I’m not that type of person. I don’t want anything bad for anybody. And it’s not about me or Rafael, it’s about Floyd. So whatever makes Floyd happy, I’m good with it.”
There were rumblings that Garcia would be fired altogether after the Maidana rematch, but when the Pacquiao fight was made, Mayweather called the veteran back to camp to serve as cut man.
“I don’t have a problem with Rafael,” Ware said. “Some people may think what I did was wrong. I didn’t do anything, I was asked to do something. I never tried to put him out of his position. I did what I was asked to do. And fortunately for me, Floyd was happy with it.”
As to why Mayweather made the change, Ware simply said he wraps hands a little differently and that divulging too much would betray trade secrets.
He said he applies extra tape “in certain places” but that it is the padding in his wraps that differs. He only would say he uses “a certain type of conforming gauze.”
“My pad is different, definitely. It’s a material I get. … It is just gauze and athletic tape, but you can use a couple different things for the pad, and what I use for Floyd, and other people with bad hands, is pretty good,” Ware said.
There have been rumors that Mayweather has nursed bad hands during training camp.
“You saw how he was punching on that bag. He doesn’t have hand problems anymore,” Ware said.
Last month, Mayweather had a minor problem with skin peeling off of the knuckles of both hands.
“That happens,” Ware said. “When you use gauze and you wrap someone’s hands, you take it off, and you see they (the hands) are kind of white. The gauze pulls all the moisture out of your hands. You have gauze rubbing up against dry skin, sometimes it can (peel the knuckles).”
The condition is avoidable by applying petroleum jelly or a good lotion before wrapping, “but Floyd doesn’t like that,” Ware said.
Ware participated in boxing, karate and mixed martial arts “but I never liked crowds.”
“I still don’t,” he said. “I don’t like pictures, I don’t like videos. I just prefer to do what I do and get paid.”
He didn’t plan to work in boxing when he moved to Las Vegas but gravitated to Mayweather Boxing Club because he had a nephew who trained there. He also had met Roger Mayweather many years earlier while visiting Grand Rapids, where his parents had friends.
Ware quickly found himself helping former world champion and gym manager Cornelius Boza-Edwards with whatever tasks needed to be done, and training amateur boxers like his nephew during open gym hours.
He never thought it would lead to an active role in the corner for the pound-for-pound king of boxing.
“Whatever somebody needs, I just try to help them,” he said.
After the Maidana rematch, Floyd Mayweather Sr. said he liked the experience Ware brought to the corner, including the pace at which the new addition got in and out of position between rounds — quickly when needed, more deliberately when buying a few extra seconds.
As for the fighter himself, “I don’t think he said anything other than, ‘I appreciate you,’ but he always says that,” Ware said.
“People don’t have to compliment me,” Ware added. “You don’t have to say anything. If you’re not saying something bad, then obviously I did something right. If he doesn’t say anything to me at all, I’m OK.”
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