Boxing Legend Freddie Roach Deals on Pacquiao, Mayweather and Responsibility

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2013

During his over 30 years of involvement in professional boxing, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has seen and done it all.

He was a solid professional fighter, who trained under the legendary Eddie Futch, and later became his assistant before himself becoming one of the greatest trainers in boxing history.

As the owner and operator of the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA, he has seen and trained dozens of world champions.

But Roach is perhaps best known for his outspokenness and willingness to always shoot straight with his fighters even when it's not what they want to hear. And it's something he had to recently do with perhaps his biggest star Manny Pacquiao.

"Manny wanted to fight in April and was really pushing hard to get back in there and I told him he needs more rest after getting a knockout like that and the concussion," Roach told me.

"We see it with football players all the time. We do have that in boxing but we don't pay as much attention to it. I told Manny to give it some more time. I think September is a better date for us."

Much of the speculation on Pacquiao's return has centered on the possibility of a fifth fight with Marquez. But others have publicly argued that another rematch is not only unnecessary but could potentially compromise the health of both fighters.

But Roach feels that at this stage in his career there are few options for Pacquiao outside of a rematch with Marquez or potentially trying to seek out bouts with young, up and coming champions who provide novelty but greater risk with less reward.

"At the level we're at either we fight the young stud coming up Brandon Rios type of guys or we fight a rematch with Marquez. I think the rematch is the fight to take."

But what if the Pac-Man is clearly not the same fighter he was before the knockout? It's one of those things that just happens in boxing.

A fighter spends an entire career rarely, if ever, even hurt and eats a clean shot like that and is never the same. 

That fact is something that Roach is clearly aware of and he pulls absolutely no punches when he explains what will happen should Manny show up in camp at anything but a top-level.

"I will really really watch him closely in the ring, in the gym and make sure that everything is in place. If something is not in place I will cancel that [a fifth Marquez] fight and he will retire," Roach said.

Humble in defeat, as in victory, Pacquiao has taken a very positive attitude towards the knockout and refused to let it affect him mentally. And for a fighter coming back from that type of setback, the mental is often just as important, if not more so, than the physical.

"The thing is with Manny he does accept defeat. He knows there's a winner and loser. He told me afterwards that if you don't think you can get knocked out in this sport you picked the wrong sport."

Shifting gears away from his own fighter towards the man who's name has been linked to him for the past several years, Freddie Roach has some interesting thoughts on Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his upcoming bout with Robert Guerrero.

Mayweather and Guerrero will square off on May 4 in Las Vegas with the WBC welterweight championship on the line.

And while many people are dismissing Guerrero or counting him out as just the latest of no-hopers to get in there with the sport's best fighter, Roach feels they, and Mayweather, could be grossly underestimating "The Ghost."

"I think Floyd picked the wrong guy. Guerrero has a great shot of winning that fight. He's very physical, very rough in there and he'll take people out of their game-plan," Roach said.

"He trained in my gym for about three years, he and Manny Pacquiao sparred thousands of rounds. He's definitely a high-level opponent and I give him a chance to pull the upset."

Now if both Pacquiao and Mayweather look impressive in their next fights, and that's a big if, would the boxing public once again become interested in a fight between the two men who spent years as the number one and two fighters in the world?

It seems that talk of the fight will never go away, even as interest has waned, and if both win later this year, to borrow a baseball term the hot stove will once again warm-up.

But first things first and Pacquiao must beat Marquez or whoever he faces in September and he must do it convincingly. 

"He has to look really impressive in the rematch. I feel that will still be a big fight out there. Not as big as it was two years ago. I think they let it go a little too far and it doesn't have the luster it once had."

If the fight were to come off it would no doubt be a box office success and give both fighters a chance to cement their already formidable legacies. 

But for most Mayweather at this stage would enter as the prohibitive favorite. A fight that was once considered a pick-em type of bout now would seem to favor "Money" as he has aged better and hasn't seen his skills drop-off as much as his Filipino counterpart.

But despite their seemingly drifting paths, Freddie Roach still believes his guy could win.

"We can set some traps for Mayweather that'll give him a lot of difficulty and I think he knows that. I welcome that fight and would love the challenge and I'm sure Manny would also."

Roach, who trained Oscar De La Hoya for his 2007 bout against Mayweather, also believes Pacquiao is better equipped to stick with what works and to close out the show in a way "The Golden Boy" could not.

De La Hoya of course was ahead on most scorecards at the midpoint of the bout and seemed to be giving Mayweather problems not seen since his first bout with Jose Luis Castillo. 

But after the sixth round De La Hoya inexplicably got away from his jab, which was winning him the fight, and dropped a narrow split decision.

"Manny is more consistent. I think he'll hold the game-plan a little longer. Oscar got away from the game-plan in the middle of the fight. After the sixth round he started fighting Mayweather's fight and if that happens he's gonna win the fight," Roach said.

Outside of the boxing ring Roach is currently partnered with Jagermeister for a promotional campaign called "A Brother in Your Corner" which seeks to promote social responsibility in drinking by having someone in your corner watching your back as you would as a fighter.

"It's looking out for your partner the same way you take care of your fighter. They know I'm looking out for their best interests at all time."

It's a life-lesson that Roach says he learned in his many years in the fight game, and primarily from his legendary trainer the late great Eddie Futch, who instilled in him the importance of having someone watch your back.

"It's the way I think everyone in life should be. When I had Eddie Futch in my corner I knew I had a great person, a great guy and I know he was always looking out for my best interests and I try to follow that path."

And follow it he has throughout his three decade boxing career and while facing all the trials and tribulations that has brought him.

It's more than sport for Freddie Roach. It's a way of life. 

Kevin McRae is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained first hand from an interview conducted with Freddie Roach on March 8, 2013.


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