By Steve Kim Updated on April 29, 2024

Spence vs James

Picture for Spence vs James

I have to admit I didn't have Errol Spence versus Derrick James on my 2024 bout sheet.  If you haven't heard by now, not only is the former unified welterweight champion splitting up with his long time trainer, but they are now suing each other. 

So just like that, after one loss, one of the most successful unions in boxing has dissolved. And the reason why is very simple -- money. 

If you want all the sordid details, read Jake Donovan's comprehensive piece in Ring Magazine:

Now, in situations like this there are usually three sides to the story. The plaintiff's, the defendant's, and then truth which is oftentimes somewhere in the middle. 

Picture for Spence vs JamesShowtime Sports

But I will say this, the reality is that trainers are often the most unprotected figures in the sport. While everyone else works with written contracts that are binding and backed up by the commissions, trainers are left with an oral agreement, or a handshake.

And what do they say about those types of contracts?

They are as good as the paper they are written on.

The Spence-James tandem was one of the most successful in boxing. They began their journey together and eventually reached great heights. But unfortunately, after last summer's loss to Terence Crawford, things changed for whatever reason. And yeah, you can speculate that the results of the fight may have impacted what James received for that training camp. Many times trainers go into fights not knowing exactly what they will get paid.

Picture for Spence vs JamesShowtime Sports

The general industry practice is for the chief second to receive 10-percent of the fighter's purse. This is especially true if that said trainer has been with the boxer from the beginning. If you're a hired gun that is brought in later in a career, generally a set fee is negotiated for that upcoming bout. 

Unfortunately, for many long-standing trainers who have been with fighters since their four round contests, the fighters don't mind giving up 10-percent of a $1,000 purse. But taking that same percentage of a seven-figure payday is a bit different. It's at this point that many get their earnings capped. 

You could argue that nobody should make that much per fight if they aren't taking the punches - which is valid.  But trainers will contend that at the beginning of these careers they make pennies on the dollar in terms of the hours they put in. Think about if you're working with a boxer for six weeks, on  a bout that pays the boxer $500. Well, you can do that math on the $50 that trainer gets. 

Picture for Spence vs James@derrickdjames1

A well-respected trainer also told me that many times lower purse amounts are put on commission reports. This means that their percentage is off that amount. Yeah, this is a tough racket. In other sports, coaches are rewarded for success. In boxing, they are capped at a financial ceiling.

It is worth asking: what is the true value of a trainer that gets the most out of you, and can prepare you for battle better than anybody else?

I'm making no judgement on this particular situation, but what is happening to James is nothing new. Ray Leonard and Angelo Dundee split over money. More recently, there was Gennadiy Golovkin and Abel Sanchez. Years ago, Sanchez refused to come off his percentage with Terry Norris, and walked away. 

James will be OK. He recently led Ryan Garcia to a huge victory over Devin Haney. Garcia is one of the highest earners in the sport. After a tough 2023, the former 'Trainer of the Year' has shown that he hasn't forgotten how to prepare a boxer. Now he will be working with Frank Martin as they face Gervonta Davis in the summer. 

Picture for Spence vs JamesGolden Boy Promotions

There is no need to start a GoFundMe campaign for him.

But in recent months, James made comments that after Garcia, he would no longer train boxers. This would be it for him. You wonder how much this situation with his most noted pupil weighed on his mind when he made that statement. 

My advice for trainers out there is very simple: get a binding contract, and always have legal representation on hand. Loyalty only gets you so far.

Boxing is a tough sport. It's an even tougher business. 



While Jose Ramirez won by wide margins on the cards versus Rances Barthelemy, he actually got buzzed more than once in what was an entertaining affair in Fresno....Also on the Golden Boy card, Vergil Ortiz took care of Thomas Dulorme in one with a well-placed body shot in the first. Now he's on to his August 3 showdown against Tim Tszyu....It looks like the end of the road for Joseph Diaz who was halted by Oscar Duarte....Raul Curiel is looking like an improved fighter lately.....Are Bill Haney and Floyd Mayweather still at it on Instagram Live?.....I can be reached at








About Author
Spence vs James
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.