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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inside the Mind of Freddie Roach

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I like Freddie Roach. He seems like a good guy. I think his feud with Floyd Mayweather Sr. is hilarious. In particular, I find it great comedy that he takes genuine offense to Mayweather Sr.’s playground name-calling (whatever you do, don’t call Freddie “Cockroach” – he will not like you if you do) and holds sincere distaste for him because of it. Roach is a high-profile trainer and he is not boring, capable of carrying an episode of “24/7” for segments at a time (his load in that regard will be heavier than ever in the upcoming installment, which will feature two dull personalities and non-native speakers). I like listening to him talk. He is always engaging to me.

That holds true once again in a new HBO hype piece for Pac-Cotto, titled “Legendary Voices,” that premiered on Time Warner On Demand at midnight Sunday night. For ten minutes Roach sits down and just talks – about his relationship with Manny Pacquiao, about Miguel Cotto, about Antonio Margarito, about Eddie Futch, about himself and his medical condition. About halfway through it goes beyond the typical entertainment I get from hearing Freddie speak and becomes an absorbing and moving piece of short television. And of course, the outstanding quality of production by HBO, with their bells and music playing at a low volume in the background and making everything surrounding the piece feel epic, doesn’t hurt.

“I heard people say I’m the greatest trainer in the world and stuff like that,” Roach says, kicking things off. “It’s a very nice compliment. But I just think I hang out with the best fighter in the world.”

Roach is very complimentary of Pacquiao, his prized pupil, noting his intensity in the gym. “Pacquiao doesn’t hate anything about his work,” Roach says. Roach is not married and has no children and says Pacquiao is probably part of the reason why. “They are my kids,” he explains, speaking of his fighters, “and he’s like my favorite son.”

Roach says that Manny has fought perfect bouts in his last three trips to the ring, and doesn’t think anyone can beat him the way he’s fighting right now.

“Manny Pacquiaos come once in a lifetime,” he says later. “He’s like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson. These guys don’t come along too often.”

Pacquiao is a superstar, the most popular fighter in the world at the moment, and a cash cow.

“I’m really happy to see the small guys get their due and get the heavyweight-type money and so forth, ‘cause the heavyweights aren’t that good right now” Roach states. “The small guys have always been better fighters, anyway. The welterweights, they’re not too small, they’re perfect weight, because they can punch, and they have knockouts, and they make beautiful moves and they set things up.”

Welterweight is where Manny will take on Cotto, in only his second fight in that division. Acknowledging that Oscar de la Hoya was past his best in Manny’s first trip to welterweight in December, Roach calls the match with Cotto “definitely our toughest fight to date,” a dance with a “bigger, stronger, opponent” in the prime of his career.

And that’s when it starts getting really good.

Conceding the inherent roughness of boxing as “part of the game,” Roach goes on to condemn the terrible acts of Antonio Margarito, who planned to cheat in the worst way possible against Shane Mosley and may have succeeded in doing so against Cotto.

“Putting Plaster of Paris inside of your handwraps is criminal,” Roach argues. In a moment of insight, Roach says that Margarito came to him, almost in tears, asking for his help and claiming that his trainer applied the substance without his knowledge. Roach says he wants to believe him, that Tony’s a nice guy and that he feels for him, but that he simply finds it hard to believe that Margs didn’t know what was going on.

“He’ll never be charged with Cotto because no one caught it, of course,” Roach says. “But we can assume it because we’ve never seen Cotto take a beating like that.”

“Somebody in Cotto’s camp didn’t do their job,” he says, adding that that could never happen to one of his fighters.

Roach points to the fact that Cotto was performing brilliantly on that night (indeed, the ring generalship he displayed during his strong start had Large writing later that he looked like “the reincarnation of Ray Leonard for about five rounds”) before beginning to break down.

“And it just was a very unusual thing,” Roach said. “And I think that could have changed his life. It could have ruined his career. It could’ve killed him, also. It’s attempted murder. I mean, he got a one-year suspension. He should be banned for life.”

Boxing changed Roach’s life, too. As has been well-documented, Roach suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a condition which in his case was likely caused by head-trauma during an active fighting career that lasted a little too long.

He talks about the time Ali, also afflicted with the disease, strolled right off the street and into his “Wild Card” gym, put on his gear, and began hitting the heavy bag. When he started hitting it, Roach says, he stopped shaking. When he stopped hitting it, Roach explained, he started shaking again. Roach expresses a similar sensation that occurs when he works the mitts.

“Once I get in the ring, I’m okay,” he says.

How much does Roach love his job?

“I hope I die doing this,” he says.

Roach credits his own trainer, the legendary Eddie Futch, with the success he's had in the field.

“A lot of Eddie Futch rubbed off on me. I learned a lot from that guy,” Roach says. “He worked ‘til he was like 92. I hope I have that long a life and I hope that happens to me.”

Source: http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/The_Rumble/entry/view/39609/inside_the_mind_of_freddie_roach

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