Mark Salgado scores a 4th round knockout. Inside Mark Salgado’s Training Camp and Successful Professional Debut
Congrats to Mark Salgado for winning his pro debut against the very tough C’maje Ramseur. C’maje Ramseur was a 1-0 boxer with a strong amateur pedigree, fighting in his hometown Sacramento. We had seen him in the amateurs as he beat one of our fighters in 2017 and again at the Golden Gloves. Mark Salgado made a statement beating him decisively, with a 1st round knockdown en route to a 4th round knockout.
Mark’s training camp was an entire team effort, organized by Jesse Huerta with several team members stepping in and working together. I’ll dive into how we organized our training camp and the following topics below:
- How an entire community came together to support Mark: his coach, his S&C coach, running coach, photographer, chiropractor, sponsors, Dreamland Boxing, and our extended boxing community
- Mark’s Sparring Approach: Quality Over Quantity
- How we structured Mark’s training over 6 weeks to peak at the right time
- Mark’s weight cut and how he comfortably weighed in at 133lbs, 2lbs under the 135lb weight limit
- Mark’s grueling track workouts and how his HR monitor helped pace him both for his sprints and recovery runs
- How Mark’s training, both S&C and running, were designed to mimic his fight
Mark Salgado had a well-organized six-week training camp, led by his head trainer Jesse Huerta. Truth is, he’s hasn’t left the gym and had been eyeing this date since February. He’s stayed relatively close to his fighting weight so he didn’t have to focus on a weight cut and there was no loading period when training started. When it became a possibility for him to fight on the Uppercut Promotions card in Sacramento on August 6th, Jesse brought us together and laid out all of our roles in training him to peak on fight night.
As Mark discussed on his interview with Inside the Ropes, Johann Francis led his strength and conditioning drills and I led his track work for sprints. Jesse led all of his boxing drills and organized sparring with other top prospects, such as Justin Cardona (4-0), Jerry Perez (13-1), Wesley Diana (9-0), Charlie Sheehy (Olympic alternate), Santana Draper, William Flenoy, Ruben Martinez, and Kristian Vasquez.
Boxing: Quality over Quantity
Don’t count the work, make the work count
In preparation for Mark’s pro debut, Mark Salgado sparred twice a week, only doing quality rounds with the pro fighters and top ranked amateurs. Mark spent a lot of time drilling with Jesse, going over their gameplan for C’Maje Ramseur, which they were able to execute.
A lot of fighters try to cram in sparring 5 days a week – again, thinking “more is better”. They’ll have really good days offset by really bad days. They spend less time to perfect what they’re working on in drills and more time trying to figure it out in the ring. If they go through a bad stretch, their coach may put them in with green fighters to “build their confidence”.
Instead, Mark was sparring twice a week and each sparring session was heavily focused. Don’t get me wrong – we do “count the work”. We know how many rounds Mark sparred in training camp, just like we know how many times he trained with Johann and how many miles he ran. But Jesse doesn’t have Mark blindly chasing rounds – every round with every sparring partner had a purpose.
Mark Salgado at the Track:
As his track coach, I know my role is only a small piece of the overall puzzle. I’m not turning him into a sprinter – his primary focus is on his boxing. My role is complimentary and shouldn’t take over his main objective – to fight. But what he did was nothing short of impressive. He ran with me twice a week and we did various intervals, rotating between 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m sprints. His rest periods sometimes included active recovery (jogging) or taking a minute-break, as he would in between rounds. His bread and butter was the 800m, and he could repeat those over and over in training. A final tally may be 7-8 miles of work, but this isn’t like an 8-mile steady state jog. Intervals are demanding work.
I had two main focus points: to clean up his form and provide structure to his running. Prior to camp, he was running 5 miles a day at whatever pace he felt like. Once a date was set, every training session was focused and served a purpose.
He did sprints twice a week, with only one of those times per week increasing in volume (~15%) by adding additional sprint repeats. He wore a heart-rate monitor, and the structure of his workouts were taken from this book:
He tested his mile time and ran a 6-minute lactate threshold test prior to camp and after camp to see his progress. He came in with numbers that many fighters end their camp with, and reduced his times by over 10%. Typically, when fighters come in shape, their progress is incremental (say 1-3%), as they’re happy to stay where they’re at. His VDOT score, a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen he can use during exercise, improved by 5 points over 6 weeks from an already great score – the general rule of thumb is to target 1 point every 6 weeks. It’s quite a drastic improvement, so we’ll take a period of de-loading to prevent overtraining before training for a new peak. But it does go to show that you can achieve much higher goals than anticipated if you don’t mentally limit yourself.
The Power of the Mind: Knowing what You’re Capable Of
I remember when I took a VO2 max test, my doctor gave me my numbers and told me my resting heart rate was in the 40s. I asked, “is that good?” and she replied, “Yeah, for most people that’s a great number. But Lance Armstrong’s is 32bpm.” Rather than feeling happy about my number, I immediately knew what people were capable of and worked harder.
So when Mark started running his 800m’s, he asked me what a good time for an 800m was. Feeling like the doctor who compared my resting heart rate to Lance Armstrong’s, I said, “Your times are better than most boxers I work with. But they were running a 1:45 in the Olympics”. Mark doesn’t get too animated, but he started to pick up the pace after that. He only told me later that my comment motivated him to run faster. He’s not going to be running Olympic times, but just knowing what’s possible had him giving it his all. That’s what separates him from other athletes who are satisfied with small improvements (i.e. 1 VDOT point being the norm). And it’s my job to structure his training progression so he doesn’t get injured.
Breaking the 4-minute mile: In the 1940’s, many people considered running a 4 minute mile impossible. Once Roger Bannister of England broke that record, several others followed. Australian John Landy broke Bannister’s record the next month with a 3 minute and 57.9 second time, and 15 runners would go on to break the 4-minute mark in the next 3 years. Now, the 4-minute mile is a standard for many runners, having been broken by over 1,400 runners and the world record time stands at 3:43. Roger Bannister’s story of breaking the 4-minute mile was detailed in the book The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than 4 Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb.
Mark runs on other days as well, but at a much slower pace. After 10 hard rounds of sparring, there’s no need to be running distance at over 160bpm – that’s a recipe for injury and burnout. Fighters tend to think that “more is better” but forget that rest and recovery is where the growth happens. Having Mark aware of his heart-rate via his heart rate monitor allowed him to understand what his recovery pace should be (150bpm, or preferably lower) so he could still be effective in his next workout.
Often times, athletes train in the “black hole” of heart rate zones (160bpm) for an extended period of time, a little above their aerobic threshold, wreaking havoc and stress upon the body. They’re in a state of constant overtraining. They finish up sparring, then go for a hard run, then wonder why their sparring suffers the next day. We had Mark doing intervals at 180bpm or recovery runs below 150bpm, but little training in between those ranges.
In the final weeks leading to the fight, Mark Salgado swapped out some of his recovery runs for pool workouts. The final week of camp was all about recovery. Mark stopped doing 800m repeats, and re-tested his 6 minute test, where he was able to see how drastic of an improvement he was able to make. He also spent time with a masseuse and with Dr. Andrew, using his Normatec for recovery.
Strength and Conditioning: Training with Johann
Coach Johann had Mark work on the 3 energy systems – this meant for him to have a power week, global strength week, and an endurance week, followed by an “unloading” week before doing it all again. Johann would have Mark do tabata sets during Mark’s taper week, which he schedules to be in close proximity to competition. During the taper week, it’s important to reduce the volume of training while maintaining intensity. Tabata sets are structured with 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest and are ideal for this purpose.
Within each session, Johann would have daily goals for Mark and would overload either the upper body or lower body based on the objective need that week. Johann spent a lot of time working both Mark’s power system and in developing strength moving backwards. All movements performed were designed to mimic fight movement patterns.
You can find more info on Coach Johann’s training philosophy and courses here.
Mark Salgado’s Surrounding Team:
Beyond Mark’s coaches, Mark also had the support of an entire community backing him. Brett Ostrowski (Sharp Exposures) is Mark’s photographer and helped create the posters for his promotion. Title Boxing sponsored equipment for Mark. Dr. Andrew Ngo monitored Mark’s health and set him up to get massages and let him use his Normatec for recovery.
The outside boxing community was so willing to help Mark – with Justin Cardona being gracious enough to host Mark Salgado (and Charlie Sheehy) at their training camp in Las Vegas. Coach Josh (MXN Boxing) played a big role as Mark’s cut-man and helped study film and give Mark advice. The Dreamland community and Mark’s family came together gave Mark emotional support and came out in force for Mark’s fight in Sacramento. While Mark steps alone in the ring, he had a lot of support during his entire camp leading up to his fight.
Mark Salgado, at 5’10, came in weighing 133lbs, 2 lbs under the 135lb limit. While we were surprised that he came in at 133lbs, it just goes to show that he made the weight comfortably without any crazy last minute weight cut that would weaken him during the fight.
Mark was extremely confident on the day of the fight – thanks to his grueling training camp. He was able to see his family in the morning for breakfast, before dialing in to the fight. Jesse, Johann, Josh (his cutman) and I got together in Mark’s room prior to the fight to re-watch film and run through Mark’s fight strategy one last time.
Jesse spent a lot of time walking Mark through everything he had to do, from his boxing strategy to the details such as everyone’s role in his corner. Some trainers just try to wing it, but it’s helpful to confirm when your fighter will be up (Mark’s bout was moved to #4), which cornerman will be responsible for warming them up, and who brings in the stool/bucket/ice/equipment/etc.
You should also always expect the unexpected – so Jesse even walked Mark through unlikely situations, like getting cut or if his opponent were to fight dirty. Rehearsing all of these scenarios will help a fighter not to get rattled under duress.
When the fight came, Mark acted as a pro who had been there before. Jesse and Mark had rehearsed this moment so many times that it was just a matter of letting it all come to fruition. After Mark scored an early first-round knockdown, he didn’t get too reckless and stuck to his game plan, slowly breaking his opponent down until scoring a knockout in the final round. When the ref stopped the fight, Mark blew kisses to his family ringside before thanking his opponent.
Just how he planned it.
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About the Author:
Coach Ian is an ultra-marathon runner and a volunteer coach at the non-profit boxing organization, Dreamland Boxing, in San Jose, CA. He competed in boxing for both Dreamland and collegiately at UCLA. His goal is to empower all to be the best that they can be, in boxing and in life. You can find Coach Ian on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.