October 6, 2012
Freddie Roach, star trainer for boxing's stars, has done the introspection. In his last four major fights, he is 0-4.
There have been a few sleepless nights, some quiet time in dark rooms, a few longer-than-normal gazes into the mirror. He decided he had to know if, at age 52, with enough success in his chosen field to be named trainer of the year five times, he had suddenly lost it.
So he went to the master of his universe, his own Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"My mom laughed," Roach says. "She said it's OK; I still have it."
And so, starting Oct. 15, he will focus on moving forward, not looking back. Manny Pacquiao, his prize pupil, will arrive from the Philippines to begin training for a Dec. 8 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez. Fittingly, to get rid of Roach's recent 0-4, Pacquiao will need to make his record against Marquez 3-0-1.
The decline of Freddie Roach began Dec. 10, 2010, when star British fighter Amir Khan was stopped by Lamont Peterson. Next came June 9, 2012, with Pacquiao losing to Tim Bradley, followed quickly July 14 by Khan being beaten by Danny Garcia, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. losing to Sergio Martinez on Sept. 15.
Freddie Roach going 0 for 4 is like Matt Kemp going 0 for July. But stuff happens.
A closer look makes the argument that the real record should be 2-2. After Khan lost to Peterson, Peterson was suspended for steroid use. Instead of a rematch with Peterson, Khan got Garcia, who knocked him out in the fourth round.
Then Roach took Pacquiao into the ring in Las Vegas for what was supposed to be a night of exposure and a predictable defeat for Bradley at the hands of Pacquiao. To most at ringside, with the exception of the three judges, that's what it was.
Roach was now 0-3 in the record books and 2-1 in the minds of some fight fans.
Then, three weeks ago, Chavez having surprised enough of the people around him with a work ethic and some actual boxing skills, stepped into the ring against Martinez, whose work ethic and skills were never doubted. Until Chavez awoke from a slumber and knocked Martinez down in the 12th round, Chavez had been about as competitive as Savannah State against the big boys in college football.
Roach was now 0-4, even though it might have felt like 2-2.
"I'll take the record book," says Roach, one of the three completely honest people in the history of boxing, and the other two don't come quickly to mind. "It's 0-4."
Strangely squeezed into the middle of all this was Roach's induction into boxing's Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. It was a day event June 10. To get there after the night Pacquiao-Bradley fight in Las Vegas, Roach had to rent a plane and fly all night.
"Can you imagine me renting a plane," he says.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer, also to be inducted, went along on Roach's plane and helped defray the cost. Then, at induction time, Roach's acceptance speech time was limited, much to his delight, when Buffer took the microphone and was ready to rumble. And rumble, and rumble.
It now is with delight that Roach looks ahead to Pacquiao training camp — "He'll be here in L.A. the entire camp, not back and forth to the Philippines," Roach says — and also with some trepidation. Pacquiao is 2-0-1 against Marquez including a draw in their first fight, but Marquez, and lots of boxing fans, think Marquez won all three.
"Manny's focused this time," Roach says. "He's cleared a lot of the bad stuff out of his life [marital issues, ownership of a nightclub and a cock farm, etc., both of which he sold]. He even wrote me a note about this fight. It said, 'I've got to knock him out.'"
Every great athlete, and Pacquiao is that, has his nemesis. Roger Federer has Tomas Berdych. The Lakers had the Celtics. Pacquiao has Marquez.
"For three training camps, we worked on Manny staying away from Marquez's tough straight right hand," Roach says. "He never failed to do it right in training, and then, in three fights, he kept walking right into it. For some reason, Marquez dictates the direction Manny moves."
So the new strategy?
Roach brings up the "knock him out" note and says no more.
Roach has lost Khan to Andre Ward's trainer, Virgil Hunter. Khan wanted to be No. 1 in Roach's camp, ahead of Pacquiao. Roach is asked if he considered that demand. He giggles.
Chavez was on a fight-to-fight contract with Roach, and they share no legal bind, although Chavez was quoted Friday as saying he wants to stay with Roach.
It has been well-documented that Chavez, a reputed lazy and undisciplined kid who became just the opposite for five straight winning fights with Roach, reverted to that reputation for the Martinez fight. On the pre-fight HBO commercial titled "24/7" that they laughingly call a documentary, Roach was shown waiting for a training session with Chavez, who had postponed and wanted Roach to come to his home and do the workout in the living room.
"If he wins the fight," Roach says, "we'd all be training in the living room."
Now, for Roach, it is all Manny, all the time. Besides, how much does a guy who can rent his own airplane really need Amir Khan and Chavez anyway?
"Manny takes losses well," Roach says. "After the Bradley fight, he gave me a hug and said, 'It's OK, coach. We'll make more money next time.'"
Pacquiao needs to know there is more at stake here than money. He needs to win for Roach to validate the family doctrine: Mother knows best.
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