Freddie Roach: The True and Irreplaceable Power Behind Manny Pacquiao

Martin SaltCorrespondent IJune 6, 2011

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 20:  Manny Pacquiao (R) of the Philippines spars with his coach Freddie Roach (L) during a media workout at the Wild Card Boxing Club on April 20, 2011 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Freddie Roach has been the unmistakable presence in the corner of Manny Pacquiao for the last 10 years.

During this time, Pacquiao has developed into one of the finest boxers of his generation and is currently ranked the number one pound for pound fighter by The Ring magazine.

However, during the build up for the Pacquiao vs. Mosley fight, Roach revealed in pre-fight interviews with Showtime that there have been attempts by nameless individuals to dispense with his services as Pacquiao's trainer.

Now why would Pacquiao even consider doing this without good reason?

It's fair to say that Pacquaio was a decent fighter before Roach became his trainer. Pacquiao became the WBC Flyweight champion in 1999, before losing his title a year later due to weight issues. Pacquiao would then lose the subsequent non-title fight to Medgoen Singsurat via a third round knockout.

Videos of Pacquiao's early fights show his decent hand speed and quick reflexes. What they also show is a lack of discipline and zero defence.

Roach became Pacquiao's trainer in June 2001 to help him prepare for an IBF Super Bantamweight title shot against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. This was at short notice for Roach, but Pacquiao won the fight by a sixth round technical knockout.

An evolutionary process occurred over the next decade as Roach developed the boxing skills of Pacquiao without having to lose any of the natural skills which he had from the beginning of his career.

If you compare Pacquiao's fight with Agapito Sanchez for the WBO and IBF Super-Bantamweight Titles in November 2001, to a fight with Wethya Sakmuangklang in April 2001, the difference is staggering.

In the months between the two fights, starting with the Ledwaba bout, Roach clearly taught Pacquiao the basics of defence and proper footwork. The hand speed is still there in the Sanchez fight, but there is an orthodox defence which made Pacquiao much harder to hit.

The development of Pacquiao through the wars with Barerra, Marquez and Moralez proved the coaching brilliance of Roach in molding Pacquiao into the complete fighter that he is today.

In recent fights against Cotto, Clottey, Margarito and Mosley, Roach has been able to provide a fairly accurate prediction in what round Pacquiao will win. Roach's many predictions arise from his clearly detailed homework on the opponent.

The question though is this, what would happen if Manny Pacquiao were to dispense with the services of Freddy Roach? Is there anyone better to replace him? Or would Manny Pacquiao consider himself better off handling his own training with a minor coach for his corner?

It's unlikely Pacquiao's skills would simply vanish. But the lack of detailed preparation and knowledge of the opponent from Roach could be a major problem.

Pacquiao is a very busy man outside of the ring with his commitments as a Senator in the Philippines and his other media obligations. When it comes to fight time, the appearance of Roach seems to enforce a sense of discipline which Pacquiao needs.

There are few distractions when the fight camp is in progress and Roach seems happy when Pacquiao is based at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.

With Pacquiao handling his own training, could he be afforded the same level of discipline and lack of interference that Roach provides?

As a minor example, Mike Tyson's career began to decline with the loss of Kevin Rooney as his trainer. The idea that Tyson did not need an experienced corner man did not help him at all and he was soon defeated in a shock upset to Buster Douglas. Tyson obviously had other issues as well, but this is certainly a point to think about.

There's no mistake that Manny Pacquiao is the man that does the business in the ring and no one else can do it for him. But without Freddie Roach in the corner from the beginning of his career, it's likely his career would not have been the stellar one that it has been.