Stacey McKinley didn't care what anyone said or thought. The moment junior welterweight prospect Juan Urango walked into the gym, the trainer thought just one thing.
"I noticed that when I first got with him, he was a very powerful kid, and I looked at him and said, 'I'm gonna teach you to fight a certain style that only one person knows. With this style and your power, you're gonna be a force at 140 pounds,'" McKinley recalled. "You're trying to box now, but I don't want you to box. I'm going to teach you a whole new style."
It was like the mysteries of the world suddenly were going to be opened to the Colombian power puncher. He was going to be taught the way of Iron Mike.
"Basically what I'm doing is teaching him the style of Mike Tyson," said McKinley, a longtime assistant trainer for the former heavyweight champion.
"Number one is because of his power. Number two is because there are very few fighters that have an offense or defense against a fighter that fights that style. They don't know what's coming at them because they haven't seen it in the gym. They haven't been in the ring with anybody that does the movements, the slips, the rolls, and comes back with all that power. I was with Tyson almost 11 years, and it's paid off for him. And on top of that, it makes him a more exciting fighter because he has the look, the feel and the power."
There's no denying that Urango has the tools to make a mark in the 140-pound weight class in the coming years, but there was only one Tyson. Even the one McKinley worked with couldn't compare to the wrecking machine of 1986-89. So there has been some criticism.
"At first, he had a lot of criticism because people were saying 'Well, he's teaching you to fight like Mike Tyson,' and a lot of times when a trainer has worked with a great fighter like that, he wants to teach everybody how to fight like Tyson or fight like Ali," McKinley said.
"But I taught [Urango] to fight the way God made his body. I think his body shows that hey, this is what you're supposed to do. And I sat down with him and explained to him why I was doing this, and now he understands. He understands why the crowd is going crazy now, and he's a very, very exciting fighter to watch with that particular style."
That's for certain. If there were any doubts about the 24-year-old's ability to excite a crowd, they were erased after his 12-round battle with fellow unbeaten Mike Arnaoutis on ShoBox in August. It was one of those rare bouts in which two prospects meet head-on, and in an even rarer occurrence, both southpaws delivered on their promise when the bell rang. When it was over, the draw verdict was just, and both fighters gained fans -- but Urango is matter-of-fact when it comes to describing what that fight meant to his drawing power.
"From the time when I was an amateur to my professional career, my style of boxing has always been to put on a lot of pressure and be very aggressive," said Urango through translator Walter Lopez. "Being that that's the way I fight, it's something that's going to attract the public."
On Friday, Urango (15-0-1, 12 KOs) will attract more than his share of interest as he opens the "Heavyweight Heat" pay-per-view card (Showtime PPV, 9 p.m. ET/ 6 PT) in Hollywood, Fla. He faces slick New Yorker Andre Eason (15-3, 6 KOs) in a 10-rounder that could go a long way toward establishing him not only as a future title threat but as a fighter people will pay to watch.
Although Urango was given some trouble by a mover like Arnaoutis, he is not worried about dealing with the same problems from Eason.
"I really don't put too much thought into my opponent," Urango said.
"It doesn't really matter. What I put an emphasis on is me and my trainer having the same vision, and working out until my trainer is satisfied with me and me with myself, so we can perform well on the night of the fight. For the fighters that like to dance and move around the ring, my trainer's been working with me, especially for this fight, on angles and cutting the ring off."
And once Urango gets to you, he can hurt you. Just ask his last two foes, Ubaldo Hernandez (TKO2) and Francisco Campos (KO5). For the soft-spoken Colombian, though, there are no great secrets to his punching power.
"I walk around about 15 pounds over my fighting weight, but I can make the weight easily because it's something natural in my body," he said. "It's the same thing with my power; it's just something that's natural."
Nothing comes easy in this sport, though, and Urango, like any quality fighter, has spent hours, days, months and years honing his craft. He also has been a member of the Colombian armed forces, a footnote that says a lot about his discipline in and out of the ring.
"It relates a lot to what boxing is to me," said Urango of his time in the military.
"The military is something where you need discipline. If you lack discipline, it's going to go bad for you, and that's something I learned. If you put the right amount of work in and stay disciplined, things come out right most of the time, and that applies to my boxing career now."
"Most of the fighters that have been to the military have the discipline and they also understand war," he said. "He has that killer instinct in him. My job is to bring it out, and it's been great working with him."
As an amateur, Urango was a five-time national champion and even held a victory over current WBO junior welterweight king Miguel Cotto. Urango doesn't gloat about the victory, though, admitting it will hold little water if the two meet in the pro ranks.
"I don't consider the amateurs to be anything compared to the pros," Urango said.
"When we fought, Miguel Cotto was more recognized than I was, but that didn't affect my confidence in knowing that I was a lot stronger and had a lot of brawling ability to just stand there and throw hands with anybody."
Turning pro in Colombia in 2002 at the age of 21, Urango walked through his first eight opponents via KO or TKO, with only one (Dagoberto Morales) sturdy enough to make it as far as the fifth round.
It was the perfect apprenticeship for a young fighter, and most would have been content to put up another 15-20 hometown victories against local competition before stepping to the next level. It's human nature. But Urango wanted more, and in addition to fighting better competition, he wanted to have an opportunity to make a mark worldwide, not just in Colombia, so he moved to Spain in 2003.
"In Colombia, professional boxing is somewhat abandoned," he said.
"There aren't a lot of open doors and opportunities over there. My manager got me the deal to go to Spain, and it was something I had to take advantage of. Once I got over there, I noticed that I didn't just fight people from Spain; I fought people from throughout Europe and from Africa. So it was a very good move for me and a good experience."
After two easy KO wins in Spain, Urango was matched tougher, with 9-1-1 Frank Oppong and 12-2 Leva Kirakosyan. Although he won both fights, he was forced to go six and eight rounds, respectively, and he probably learned more in those two bouts than he had in the previous 10 combined.
But America beckoned, and in 2004, Urango inked a deal with Florida's Warriors Boxing Promotions, then made his U.S. debut with a six-round decision over 15-0-1 Sergey Sorokin in June of that year.
Next came the Arnaoutis bout, and Urango was on his way. He moved to Florida in December, and although he misses his family and the comforts of home, he hopes that, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, he can bring them to the States to be with him.
"My focus and goals are on the boxing aspect of my career now," Urango said. "In the future, once I have a little money to make choices, I would like to bring my family here and have a life in the United States."
And unlike some young foreign fighters who get to the United States and run wild in cities where anything and everything can be had for a price, Urango is more mature than most, which is refreshing for McKinley.
"He found his religion, which was real good; he and Walter [Lopez] and all those kids are good friends, they all go to church together," McKinley said.
"He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't do all those type of things, so it makes the job a lot easier. But there's something deep inside of him that shows me that he really wants to be champion. He's a hard, hard worker, and I take all these things into consideration. He's mentally strong."
And if you ask most trainers, that's more than half the battle right there. Next comes experience. Urango is working on that right now.
"Experience is something that's priceless in professional boxing because it's something that can take you out of a lot of tight spots," Urango said.
"But I take care of myself outside of the boxing ring, and since I do that, with three or four months more training with my trainer, and with both of us on the same page, I can fight anybody."
McKinley figures that after a few more fights, his charge -- who is already the leading available contender to fight Ricky Hatton for the IBF title, and the fifth-ranked challenger to WBC champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- will be ready for the best in the division.
"It's true that he could fight basically anybody right now, but they don't understand that there are certain parts and certain moves in his techniques that I want him to master first," McKinley said.
"When he's mastered it, then I know he's ready for those guys. Physically he's ready, mentally he's ready, his skills are getting better, but when he masters this style -- and it takes time -- three more fights and we'll challenge any one of those guys."
That's just fine with the young man who is being called "Iron Twins."
"In this sport, everyone's goal is to claim the world championship," Urango said. "That's my goal, and once the doors and opportunities open up, whoever it is, I'm gonna walk in and take advantage of whatever shows up."