It’s only fitting the future first ballot Hall of Fame fighters, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, are trained by two Hall of Fame trainers.
The trainer of Pacquiao, Freddie Roach, was voted “Trainer of the Year” five times by the Boxing Writer’s Association of America.
The trainer of Marquez, Ignacio Beristain, is a member of the boxing Hall of Fame and considered by many as one of the greatest trainers of all time.
Roach’s claim to world-wide fame is his most prized pupil, Pacquiao.
Roach has worked with other prominent fighters spanning across various sports, including the likes of James Toney, Mike Tyson, Georges St. Pierre, Amir Khan, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Andrei Arlovski, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and many others.
Berstain’s claim to international recognition may have stemmed from his work with Hall of Fame fighter Ricardo Lopez. Beristain led Mexico’s Olympic Boxing Team to medals in 1968, 1976 and 1980.
Beristain has also worked with the likes of Humberto Gonzalez, Daniel Zaragoza, Abner Mares, Jorge Arce, Oscar De La Hoya, Jorge Paez and Rafael Marquez, the brother of Juan.
Aside from being a trainer to their fighters, Roach and Beristain also serve as family-like figures and match-makers to Pacquiao and Marquez, respectively.
Beristain has certainly had a hand in fighting arrangements in the past for Marquez, including in 2006, when he helped secure a fight against WBA Featherweight Champion Chris John in his home country of Indonesia.
The fight didn’t pan out too well for Marquez, as he suffered a controversial unanimous decision defeat and missed out on a more financially rewarding rematch with Pacquiao.
Roach and Pacquiao have had better success in that regard.
Roach helped Pacquiao pick out opponents such as De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, all while they were on the downslides of their physical peaks.
Roach is also a catch-weight enthusiast and did whatever it took to give his fighter any advantage heading into a fight. It may seem wrong in the eyes of some, but he is looking out for the best interest of his fighter.
The mark of a great trainer or coach, is finding ways to motivate your player/fighter and making adjustments round by round and in this case, fight by fight as well.
Over the period of time Roach has been training Pacquiao, there have been some signs of improvement.
Pacquiao’s right hand has developed into a more potent weapon in general, although not always consistent against his rival Marquez, and Pacquiao as he has gotten older, seems more methodical in his attack.
Some may argue Pacquiao’s tamed aggression goes against his strengths as a fighter, while some say he is at his best when he is unpredictable, in which his unpredictable-ness overwhelmed Marquez initially in the first encounter .
As the series has progressed, it seems Marquez has made the more significant adjustments.
For example, his head movement and upper body movement has improved. Marquez ducks his head more to evade punches, lessened his wild-flurry exchanges with Pacquiao as the series has progressed, and he has boxed more effectively down the stretch in their fights.
Marquez went from getting knocked down three times in the first fight, to one knock down in the second fight and not being knocked down or even staggered in the third fight.
That is a credit to his trainer Beristain—a man he has known since his teenage years, and their personal bond and mentor/student chemistry in evident.
Prior to the third fight in 2011 between Marquez and Pacquiao, Roach mentioned Pacquiao's improvement with his right hand to “The Ring”.
“That right hand of Manny’s has improved since their first two fights,” said Roach. “I told Manny I won’t be satisfied until his right hand is as good as his left hand. Now it is at this point.”
I haven’t seen this “improved right hand” Roach talked about. Aside from his right jab that he uses to measure his opponent, not much comes from the right hand of Pacquiao.
There were also talks of Pacquiao’s improved foot work and balance from Roach.
“He does throw a wild shot here and there, but he’s improved immensely with the footwork,” said Roach. “His balance has gotten a lot better.”
As great as he is, Pacquiao still attacks off balance and gets countered just as badly as he did in all of his previous fights against Marquez.
If anything, Marquez is the one who has made the adjustments, which is even more impressive if you consider his advanced age and athletic disadvantage against Pacquiao.
Roach as held the edge over Beristain in recent years in the win/loss column between their respective fighters, with Roach scoring victories over Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya under Beristain’s tutelage.
This has been a bad year so far for Roach, with his big-name fighters taking losses. Chavez suffered a defeat to the reigning middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez, Khan suffered a knock-out loss to rising star Danny Garcia, and Pacquiao lost a controversial split decision victory to Timothy Bradley.
I’m sure Roach and Pacquiao want to get a win to finish the year out. I’m also certain they want to score a knock out against Marquez to solidify their dominance in this historic rivalry.
The problem for them is, Beristain and Marquez want to do the same. Marquez feels he won all three fights and wants to put a stamp on his legacy by winning their fourth fight in dominant fashion.
Many questions entering this fourth fight still remain.
After studying the three previous fights, can Roach and Pacquiao come out with a strategy that will ensure a dominant victory over Marquez? Can they find away to make Pacquiao’s right hand the difference maker in the fight?
Will the distraction outside the ring—politics, endorsement deals, new-found religion—get the best of Pacquiao? Does he still have the focus and motivation to want to prove he’s the best fighter in the world without a doubt?