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Punchlines fly as Canelo Alvarez trains at Garry Shandling's gym

August 29, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, left, and Josesito Lopez pose during a news conference to announce their WBC super-welterweight championship bout.
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, left, and Josesito Lopez pose during… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

Comedy and boxing don’t seem to be an obvious couple.

For instance, there’s nothing too funny about what Mexico’s star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez plans to do to Josesito Lopez on Sept. 15 in their world super-welterweight title fight in Las Vegas.

Yet, as Alvarez sweated his way through a workout Wednesday in Santa Monica, he could glance over to the gym’s co-owner, comedian Garry Shandling.

Shandling has owned the cozy facility, TSB 44, for more than two years with director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “On Freddie Roach”) and boxing trainer David Paul.

Shandling said boxing television analyst Al Bernstein "sent me his book, and there was an entire chapter devoted to comedians and boxing -- an entire chapter.”

The comic and onetime star of "The Larry Sanders Show" said he originally struggled to find the connection between the two crafts.

“I think it has to do with us both being out of our comfort zone up on stage,” Shandling said. “It’s about just letting it happen up there, and keeping a clear mind. Some comedians fight their audience.

“I think it’s best to keep things friendly with your audience. I haven’t been knocked down up there yet.”

Berg said the gym has about 40 members, including NHL, NBA and NFL players, along with celebrities.

Paul said he trained singer Bob Dylan for 17 years at another gym in the city – “Six rounds a day,” Paul said.

“It’s meant to be tucked away as it is, semi-private, so people can just sneak in and out,” Shandling said.

That changed for Alvarez, said Berg, who was told by his friend and film subject Roach that Alvarez was residing in Santa Monica and in need of a gym.

“We’re such fans of Canelo,” Berg said. “He’s just a real gentleman, and a great fighter. It made perfect sense for us. We don’t want this to be a pro gym, except for the right guys.”

Shandling said he’s enjoyed rubbing elbows with pro boxers, including former world lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who recently stopped by and sparred with Shandling.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Shandling said. “I’d say, ‘Ray, if it’s going to make you feel better to hit me, then hit me.’ He spit out his mouthpiece.”

Shandling said in researching boxing, he found some highly comedic moments, like when Muhammad Ali told George Foreman late in Ali’s famous rope-a-dope victory in Africa that, “This would be a bad place to get tired, … ,” ending the sentence with an expletive.

Shandling said, “I’m sure I’ve said a version of that during my act: ‘This might be a good place to laugh, … .’ When I think of my greatest influences as a comedian, I have to point to Woody Allen, George Carlin and Muhammad Ali.”

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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