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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Freddie Roach talks tough; Manny Pacquiao backs it up

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By Jeff Haney
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 | 2 a.m.

Los Angeles — Freddie Roach has earned a reputation as boxing’s finest trainer. More than this, in recent years Roach has become a master of psychological gamesmanship.

Roach has developed a knack for making just the right remark to get into the heads of his opposition before a fight, for playing those mind games — “pushing the barriers, planting seeds,” as ringside color commentator John Lennon put it.

“Freddie is an expert psychologist,” promoter Bob Arum said. “He fires these shots hoping to get under the guy’s skin, and he has an advantage because he was a competitive fighter himself. He had a long series of fights and he knows all about head games.”

Before a training session this week with Manny Pacquiao at his Wild Card Boxing Club, Roach said he took up the psyche-out game in earnest last year. He enjoyed matching wits with Oscar De La Hoya — and believes he got the best of the Golden Boy — in the buildup to Pacquiao’s fight with De La Hoya last December.

Roach followed by scoring a unanimous decision in a battle of words with Ricky Hatton’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., leading up to Pacquiao’s next fight.

“For the Oscar fight, it worked so well, and I got in his head so much,” Roach said. “I’ll take any advantage I can get.”

During preparations for Pacquiao’s fight with Miguel Cotto set for Nov. 14 at the MGM Grand — first in Pacquiao’s native Philippines, later back in Southern California at the Wild Card — Roach caused a minor stir in Cotto’s camp by predicting a knockout victory for Pacquiao.

Originally Roach said the knockout would come in the first round. Later he amended the projection to a ninth-round knockout of Cotto, who has only one loss in his splendid pro career.

Cotto and his team insist they don’t care what Roach says. On a conference call Thursday, Cotto sounded as if he had had enough.

“Forget about Freddie Roach,” he said, the volume of his voice rising perhaps a fraction of a decibel — which for the even-tempered Cotto is paramount to a Lee Elia-style rant.

Roach thinks that like the Player Queen, Camp Cotto is protesting too much.

“Why would they talk about it unless it’s bothering them?” Roach said. “I’m in their heads.”

In studying video of Cotto’s previous fights, Roach said he spotted several fundamental flaws in Cotto’s style that Pacquiao will be able to exploit.

“No one is correcting them, and we’re going to take advantage of that,” Roach said. “I love this fight for Manny Pacquiao. I’m very confident in my guy.”

Pacquiao stayed on course during the Philippines portion of training camp, Roach said, even as typhoons devastated much of the archipelago.

Viewed as a national treasure in his native land, Pacquiao emerged in top-notch fighting shape despite demands on his time from various Filipino politicians.

Pacquiao went 16 rounds without a break with Roach on the mitts Monday at the Wild Card, and he sparred eight rounds Tuesday at the gym.

“One thing about the Philippines, they’re having a tough time right now because of the typhoons and so forth,” Roach said. “You know what? (Pacquiao) knows his people need motivation and something to smile about and he’s going to give that to them ...

“It’s going to be a positive for us. That’s the way we’re going to use it.”

Pacquiao weighed 148 to 149 pounds this week, with Cotto checking in at 150. The Nov. 14 fight, in which Cotto risks his WBO welterweight belt and Pacquiao will seek a title in a seventh weight class, is scheduled to take place at a “catch weight” of 145 pounds, two pounds below the welterweight limit.

“Manny’s a much bigger, stronger guy than he was last fight,” Roach said. “This is going to be an easy fight for us.”

Asked if he agreed with his trainer’s assessment, Pacquiao smiled, but then made the zipped-lips gesture by drawing his finger across his mouth.

The message was clear. He lets Roach handle the brazen predictions, the comments that make headlines — the mind games.

“My mouth is closed,” Pacquiao said.

Speaking softly in a tiny dressing room off the main floor at the Wild Card before a workout, Pacquiao, a Catholic, said he thanks God every day for his success — “the fame, the wealth, everything.”

He’s not worried about Cotto’s more muscular frame, his potent punching ability, or his vicious left hook.

“It’s not about comparing the power,” Pacquiao said. “Sometimes what’s in the mind, the knowledge, is the power.”

Pacquiao said his father, Rosalio, will be at the MGM to watch him fight for the first time in America next Saturday. His mother, Dionisia, will also attend.

He said he feels a responsibility to the sport that goes beyond himself and his family.

“You have to make people like the way you fight,” he said. “Not just Filipinos, but people all over the world who watch the fight. I want them to be satisfied.”

Source: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov/07/roach-talks-tough-pacquiao-backs-it/

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