Spotlight on Mark DeLuca, Fighter/Trainer (Or Is It Trainer/Fighter Now?)



Spotlight on Mark DeLuca, Fighter/Trainer (Or Is It Trainer/Fighter Now?)

Tomorrow night Top Rank boxing has an intriguing world title fight between WBC 130lb champion O’Shaquie Foster (21-2, 12 KOs) and Abraham Nova (23-1, 16 KOs).

A potential x-factor in the fight that has flown under the radar is Nova’s head trainer Mark DeLuca, who is quietly becoming one of the best trainers in the sport today.

DeLuca, a Marine who’s still also an active pro boxer, is absent from social media these days.

He is not interested in any limelight, or proving anything to anyone, just focused on preparing his fighters to the best of his ability.

Despite his humble nature, DeLuca deserves credit for his work as a coach and for the strong New England stable that he has built.

The trainer/fighter DeLuca wraps hands of the fighter Nova

He is a successful pro himself, holding a 30-4 record with 18 knockouts and is still a quality name in the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions.

He was ranked as high as #7 in the world by the WBA at 154lbs after a career-best win over Brandon Brewer (23-0-1 at the time), and was awarded the opportunity to headline a Matchroom Boxing show overseas against former world champion Kell Brook (40-3, 28 KOs).

Though he came up short, he fought valiantly and picked up quite a bit of British fans despite being public enemy number one all of fight week.

Since then, he has continued his career as a fighter but has also dabbled in the training game and has now shifted his focus to aiding some of the best talent in the New England area alongside co-trainer Matt Ryan.

DeLuca has been around Abraham Nova for over a decade now since they first began training together under the tutelage of Hector Bermudez, who will also be in the corner Friday night.

He has seen Abraham grow up with his own eyes, and believes the timing is perfect for him to fight for a world title.

“I’ve seen him in a bunch of different stages as a fighter and as a human being, as a man,” said DeLuca. “I’ve seen him when he was eighteen years old, early twenties and now he’s in his thirties and about to fight for a world title. I remember young Abraham and have seen him go through growing pains so to speak. He’s a wise man now, his experiences through the game have made him the world challenging contender that he is today.”

He touched on Nova’s lone career blemish, a knockout loss at the hands of Robeisy Ramirez (13-2, 8 KOs).

DeLuca spoke on how important it was for Abraham to prove to not only any doubters, but also to himself, that he was still a force to be reckoned with.

His two wins since then have proven that he belongs at the world level and is worthy of this big time fight, the trainer asserts.

“Abraham answered a lot of questions that he had for himself which is more important than anything. After a loss, it doesn’t matter how you lose, you question yourself, you question if you can be a world champion.

“So more importantly Abraham proved to himself that he has what it takes to be a world champion by getting off the deck, coming back and beating a good fighter like Adam Lopez and then another one, a former world champion like Romero.

“He’s seasoned, he’s fit, he’s had ups and downs and that’s what makes a real champion. It’s not the undefeated record, it’s looking at the resume. Who he fought, how he fought them, how did he face adversity, did he bounce back? He checks all those boxes so he’s ready to rumble.”

The team aspect is something that he has really bought into. The EverybodyFights gym in Boston is filled with hungry pro boxers who push each other day in and day out to be the best version of themselves.

The team includes Nova, Irish light heavyweight prospect Thomas O’Toole (8-0, 6 KOs), WBC silver middleweight title holder Francis Hogan (16-0, 14 KOs), former New England welterweight champion Mike Ohan Jr (19-2, 9 KOs), well respected regional welterweight Brandon Higgins (10-4, 5 KOs), and talented lightweight prospect Jonathan De Pina (12-2, 5 KOs) all training there full-time along with a number of amateur boxers and other professionals who train their part-time.

“The team aspect I think is big. Boxing being an individual sport, you got to do a lot of the things on your own but at EverybodyFights we have a good crew of pros. I try to keep them all close to each other, their training schedules all on the same page because they all learn from each other, they push each other. One’s having a bad day, the other picks them up and I feel like that’s the best way to learn, having a good peer group around you.”

DeLuca attributes his training style to his experience as a Marine.

Every day in the gym, he has a plan for each fighter and has certain goals that he wants them to hit to make sure they are on track to be able to compete at the peak of their powers come fight night.

His discipline has been passed onto his fighters which has made for a special gym environment.

“Luckily, maybe it was because I was a former marine but I got that military regimental mindset. I like planning out each phase of camp. When Abraham comes to camp, I have little goals I’d like to hit along the way, little milestones along the way to make sure that he peaks for fight night.”

Something that’s been a hot topic in the sport for a long time has been the conversation surrounding boxers becoming trainers.

Being maybe the only active world class boxer and trainer at the moment, Mark touched on the benefits that it has and how his experiences in the boxing game only add to his confidence as a trainer.

“Me being a fighter helps me as a trainer. That’s been a question, a debate as long as I can remember. Does a trainer need to have been a fighter to be a good trainer? To answer it quickly, no. History has proven you don’t with Angelo Dundee and Cus D’Amato and a couple other trainers who weren’t fighters.

“You can ask John Scully about this question. This is a big topic with John Scully, shoutout to John Scully, but it definitely helps me when I’m training fighters. Maybe the relatability, the empathy part of it. Credibility for sure, and I wouldn’t be confident in myself trying to teach a young fighter how to or guide them through the life of boxing if I didn’t do it myself. I just wouldn’t be confident personally so it definitely helps me.”

Abraham Nova has nothing but glowing reviews for his trainer. He spoke to me on how Mark is more than just a trainer and how beneficial it is to have someone with big fight experience in his corner for an opportunity like this.

“He wears a lot of hats. He’s not just a great trainer, but he’s a great friend, he’s a great person, great role model, he’s a class act guy. Him being a fighter, he understands the pain of how my body’s feeling. It’s crazy, he knows something I did and he knows how my body feels. I’m like, wow, how do you know? But he’s a fighter and he’s been through the journey, he knows the whole process that I’m going through. He can relate to a lot of things with me and we have good chemistry.”

When asked about Nova’s opponent, O'Shaquie Foster, Mark made it clear that he has respect for him and that they are heading into battle against an elite level prizefighter.

Much like with his fighter, he credits a lot of Foster’s success to his ability to overcome adversity which has made him the champion that he is today.

“O’Shaquie is kind of a mirror image of Abraham,” DeLuca said. “He’s had ups and downs too and that’s why he’s a world champion. He’s coming off some good momentum, beating Rey Vargas and then this great performance against Rocky Hernandez. We’re in there with a real one, we’re in there with a world champion, there's going to be no easy fights at this level.”

He respects Foster and his team and knows what they are up against on Friday night, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t confident in the ability of his team and most importantly, his fighter.

“No fear no doubt, Abraham Nova will be world champion come February 16th.”

DeLuca is just beginning his second act in the boxing world.

He has always been highly respected in the boxing world for what he has done inside the squared circle, but I think his work in the corner as a coach can make him a major name in the sport for years to come.

This is just the beginning of what could be a special run, and I can’t wait to see where it takes Mark and his entire team.

The O’Shaquie Foster vs Abraham Nova card will be aired live on ESPN this Friday night.

The main card begins at 9 PM ET and will feature Bruce Carrington (10-0, 6 KOs) in a ten-round featherweight contest against Bernardo Torres (18-1, 8 KOs) as well as a ten-round co-feature in the 130lb division between Andres Cortes (20-0, 11 KOs) vs Bryan Chevalier (20-1-1, 16 KOs) before the main event.