Implementing the principles of cutting off the ring is something Freddie Roach believes can help each of his three pay-per-view fighters win their bouts this weekend.
This is particularly true in the main event, when Manny Pacquiao will confront a younger opponent in Chris Algieri, who has made it clear he’s not in this for a toe-to-toe exchange.
But, what is cutting off the ring?
In between times he was working with his junior-welterweight title contender Antonio DeMarco, two-time Olympic champion Zou Shiming and Pacquiao, Roach on Wednesday showed The Times the basics of his teachings.
“Get up here,” Roach instructed me.
“You too,” he said, pointing to HBO boxing executive Peter Nelson and summoning him inside the ring for the demonstration.
One thing you learn quickly: If you are around a boxing ring, and the multi-winning trainer of the year is barking an order at you, do it.
Roach said he was surprised by training veterans Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto later in their careers how neither understood the best method of cutting off the ring.
“I was amazed.… These guys had high-quality trainers, and I asked, ‘What the … did they tell you?’ ” Roach said.
“De La Hoya lost the [Floyd] Mayweather fight [by split-decision in 2007] because, first six rounds he cut the ring off, and then he got into old habits. That’s what lost us the fight. It was just too new.”
Cotto, in his second fight with Roach, used the principles to help him dominate veteran middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in June, and he’ll continue the instruction as a likely May showdown against Saul ”Canelo” Alvarez looms.
What Roach preaches is for his fighter to shuffle his feet while keeping himself a step ahead of the stride of the opponent whose back is to the ropes.
“As [the opponent] moves that way, you move that way and stay within reach of hitting him,” Roach said. “If my fighter does that, he’s in control.
“Think about it, if you’re scoring the fight, are you giving the round to the guy along the ropes or the guy doing it my way? The pursuer controls the fight, even if no punches are thrown.
“The guy on the ropes can’t get in front of my guy. The guy on the ropes often has one foot off the ground, so my guy can get him off-balance by touching him in the chest, with a good jab, like Cotto did to Martinez. And my guy can more easily get him to the ropes and throw combinations.
“It’s impossible to get away from a fighter who’s great at cutting off the ring.”
Obviously, an entire round is not spent cutting off the ring, but Roach learned from his former trainer, Eddie Futch, the legendary former trainer of Joe Frazier, that the “ring generalship” of the skill is a strong path to victory.
“I knew about cutting off a ring, but not the way Freddie makes me do it -- the pressuring, the attack,” DeMarco said. “It takes conditioning, believing in yourself. That’s how you get a good result.”
There are dangers to avoid in cutting off the ring.
Roach says his fighter should back away slightly as he and his opponent approach a given corner due to the possibility of being reversed and getting backed to the ropes himself. And it’s important to not get bored and start merely following the opponent.
“There are answers to it. You find out the smarter fighters quick,” Roach said. “But then we talk about it” at the bell.
The lessons have been hammered on Pacquiao this training camp, with a one-word command in play to remind him during the bout.
“Because I feel this guy [Algieri] is going to run, and we have to control the ring … it’s critical to make the ring smaller,” Roach said. “When Manny’s thinking, he knows how to control the ring. If he gets bored, he’ll start following the guy and can walk into a jab. If he cuts the ring off, it keeps [Algieri] backed to the ropes, he’ll have a much easier fight.”
Pacquiao peeked in to watch Roach’s lesson, smiled and poked his head through the ropes.
“Cut it off!” Pacquiao yelled.