Earlier this year the Jason Bourne franchise returned to the silver screen, and Matt Damon returned to the title role, looking as badass as ever. In addition to the 46-year-old being in impeccable shape, the new movie’s fight sequences were grittier and more brutal. Those advancements were thanks to Damon’s longtime fight coach Matt Baiamonte, who the actor first worked with in 2008 to bulk up for Clint Eastwood’s rugby drama Invictus. “I remember the first time we trained together I told Matt that he was going to have to give me 150 percent,” says Baiamonte. “He told me he would give me 200 percent and he did.” Together the two brought the iconic Bourne character into the world of MMA and bareknuckle brawling, working with the fight coordinators and director Paul Greengrass. Baiamonte, who works as both a boxing expert and conditioning coach, has also worked with professional sports players like LeBron James, Charles Clay and Rishard Matthews. Despite those credentials Baiamonte is far from your typical Hollywood specialist, having cut his teeth under the tutelage of legendary boxing coach Angelo Dundee (who stood in the corners of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman to name a few). Now he shares the secret to his success with the Playbook community.
How He Got Here:
I had a pretty bad attitude when I was younger, and a family friend, who was also a police officer, saw that. He saw that I was on my way to getting into trouble, so he decided to bring me into the gym to help me turn that around. He was working with Razor Ruddock at the time, the champion who fought Tyson twice. Then I learned that Angelo was training just a few exits away from me. He didn’t let me train with him just then, but after I had worked with a few amateur fighters we got hooked back up. I ended up working first with him, but I was the lowest man on the team. One day we were at a match and Angelo asked me my opinion, then gave that straight to the fighter David Estrada. That is when I knew I could trust my gut.
How He Trains:
I think that if someone walks into a boxing gym it is impossible not to become addicted to the feeling of it. It is infectious. I am working with 80-year-old guys and 60-year-old ladies sometimes, all the way down to little kids. I remember Angelo never liked to scream at his fighters, so I come from that same school. I am very patient with people. I keep a subtle voice. But if I see them do something great, I’ll amp up my voice and that just helps juice them up to the next level. It is surprising how much of an affect that a little volume can have when the person respects their coach, you can see them get lighter on their feet. There is an intimidation factor of course, but once you understand how technical it is and how much thought goes into how a boxer moves people want to experience that. There is nothing like that first hit of the bag or that first great jab.
His Driving Force:
The trait that keeps me in the game is kindness. If you ever become a regular at a boxing gym you will see there is a camaraderie that is developed between people. There is a lot of respect in the room. There is a lot of bravado that gets thrown around but boxing is a humbling sport. That is one of the main words of wisdom that Angelo passed down to me. You have to be nice to people. No matter what happens in the ring, the mark of a good fighter is to be able to shake the other guy’s afterwards.