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The Mind Behind Manny Pacquiao: Freddie Roach

September 3, 2010

In the coach-athlete relationship, it’s always touching to see the athlete undergo a transformation into an even better athlete under the coach’s guidance. As I have watched Pacquiao’s boxing career in the last 5 years skyrocket into boxing fame and prestige, there has been one notable man right in his corner – Freddie Roach. As the skilled and savvy boxing trainer that has gone up against such trainers as Nacho Beristain, Roger Mayweather, and Floyd Mayweather, SR, Roach stands above everyone else because his fighter Pacquiao wisely listens to the man in his corner with a clear objective – to box and win.

As far as I can see, there is something genuine and kind about the Pacquiao – Roach boxing relationship. The partnership has met with its challenges, especially since Pacquiao’s focus has increasingly ventured outside of the ring. Pacquiao is a true multi-tasker and with his current political success back in the Philippines, Roach remains busy. As the Mayweather – Pacquiao mega-bout buckled in contract negotiations and hearsay, it’s been considered what will happen to the Hall of Fame Roach and what are his prospects? Can he or will he find another Pacquiao like fighter in the current boxing pool of talent?

Even as Roach suffers from Parkinson’s, he shows no signs of resting or settling down from boxing. Physically, his body may resist, but mentally, Roach is there for his fighters. More importantly, boxers and MMA fighters seek Roach to help improve their boxing. He will continue to train as long as he can. It’s a true testament to his physical and mental will to battle a disease that can only get worse. He is a living and breathing example that if mentally and physically motivated, you can defeat anything. Roach is a true fighter even outside the ring.

If and when he should decide to retire, Roach has always made it clear that his fighter Pacquiao calls all the shots. But it’s not as if he doesn’t have a say either. I’ve never been quite clear just how much influence Roach has on Pacquiao, but he’s always been adamant about training and protecting Pacquiao by choosing fighters that he knows he can beat. There is no doubt that Roach has made Pacquiao into a better fighter by showing diligence with analyzing Pacquiao’s opponents so perfectly that he has been able to predict that his boxer will come away as the winner.

In his last two bouts, Pacquiao had a tendency to test his opponent and not necessarily as a form of strategy. Against Cotto, Pacquiao wanted to test his body by physically taking shots and biting the jab. And, against Clottey, Pacquiao did the same thing in the opening rounds. Roach brushed this aside and set Pacquiao back into boxing. Pacquiao listened and won both bouts. But it does reveal a moment that a fighter is breaking free from his trainer to a degree – knowing his own ability, but for a brief moment stepping independently and showing everyone else what he can really do. Roach does not tolerate such independence, but instills his fighting will and pulls his fighter back to settle to the immediate task – to box and win.

As Pacquiao is a living and boxing result of Roach’s training, I’d also like to mention that there is something about Roach that makes him a trainer that a fighter that can trust. I believe that Roach genuinely cares and cultivates his fighter to be not only the best fighter possible, but the best person as well. Roach is an obvious man of integrity. Even as the Pacquiao steroid accusations were being thrown around by the Mayweathers, Roach did not hurl back any insults except to maybe challenge Floyd Mayweather (JR or SR) himself and put the fight to the ring where it belongs. Roach has a level of grace and kindness that works with his fighters and the success rate is obvious. Roach works his fighters hard and I always thought it was motivating for Pacquiao sparring partners to accept his $1,000 challenge to knock his fighter out. I don’t think he’s had to make good on that bet just yet.

Since Roach’s boxer Pacquiao has met with such great success over a period of time, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya should really look to the Hall of Fame trainer to work with their young prospects. As Roach helped train De La Hoya in his bout against Mayweather, JR., he knows firsthand how motivating Roach can be. Although the partnership ended with a loss for De La Hoya, Roach does know how to take a boxer’s assets and turn them into powerful boxing weapons. But enough about his past, Roach’s future imprint remains steady as he has now worked with some established and talented boxers.

Roach currently offers training assistance to world class champion and female Filipina fighter, Ana “Hurricane” Julaton, 7-2, 1 KO. Julaton became the current WBO Women’s Super Bantamweight titleholder when she defeated Maria Elena Villalobos,
7-4, 3 KO’s back in June. Even as Julaton suffered a loss and a bad cut against Lisa Brown, 17-4, 5 KO’s in March, she came back stronger to earn the WBO belt. I’m sure she’ll continue her winning ways

Golden Boy fighter and talented champ Amir Khan, 23-1, 17 KO’s, shows definite championship potential to dominate at light welterweight. But it’s a division that is filled with potential challengers. It won’t be easy for De La Hoya to match up Khan because I’m sure it’s also a matter of who will be the challenging fighter for Khan, but at the same time be financially rewarding. With Roach, Khan showed a good jab and power cross combination with a cultivated lead hand. In his last fight against Paul Malignaggi, 27-4, 5 KO’s, I observed that Khan didn’t necessarily beat the animated Magic Man from Brooklyn. Khan defeated Malignaggi with an 11th round TKO and defended the WBA Light Welterweight title.

As Roach helped Pacquiao through the various weight divisions, he does have training experience with heavyweight and cruiserweight fighters. He is the former trainer of James “Lights Out” Toney, now MMA fighter (I guess – insert wink emoticon here). He has also trained Michael Moorer. In August, Roach was in the corner of Nigerian Cruiserweight Lateef “Power” Kayode, 13-0, 12 KO’s. Kayode, 27 years old, stands at 6’3, and defeated Puerto Rican fighter Alfredo Escalera, JR, 18-3, 12 KO’s with an 8th round TKO. MMA fighters such as Dan Hardy, Arlovski, and Anderson Silva have all sought boxing (or stand up) assistance from the Hall of Famer Trainer

There is also one possibility that wouldn’t be a bad decision for Roach. It would be okay that once Pacquiao hangs up his gloves, Roach may consider retirement (in the Philippines) as well. And this is one fortunate option that isn’t necessarily a bad one. But as I can tell, Roach has no such intention and will always be in the ring with his fighter supporting and cheering his fighter to be only the best and come away as the winner. It’s the only option Trainer Freddie Roach truly knows.

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