Trainer Freddie Roach knows how to press mental buttons.
When asked recently what his fighter Manny Pacquiao’s major advantage over the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. is in their coming May 2 super-fight, Roach heated up a simmering rivalry by saying it was the presence of Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr., as lead trainer.
“I love that matchup,” Roach, a recently named trainer of the year by the Boxing Writers Assn. of America for the seventh time, said of his battle with the elder Mayweather over a winning fight strategy.
“I’ve watched [Mayweather Sr.] in the corner. He stutters, has trouble staying calm and can’t get words out.”
Then, inflaming the always volatile Mayweather family rivalry, Roach tossed in a Molotov cocktail, saying Mayweather Jr. was better trained by his uncle, Roger Mayweather, Floyd Sr.’s brother.
“Roger was the better fighter and he’s the better trainer,” Roach said. “I’m happy Floyd Sr. is the trainer, not Roger. I’d be more worried with Roger than Floyd Sr.
“When I had Oscar [De La Hoya fight Mayweather Jr.], Roger made some good adjustments during the fight and he had a good game plan, too. Roger is someone to compete with. Not Floyd Sr.”
Roach, with only one fight to prepare De La Hoya in 2007, sought to have the aging fighter rely on a jab De La Hoya abandoned midway through the fight and ended up losing by split decision.
Now, Roach has another shot at Mayweather Jr. (47-0) with a more powerful and equally conditioned fighter.
“Floyd is a self-made fighter, there’s no question he knows how to fight, but, yes, I think I have the fighter to beat him,” Roach said. “Floyd Jr., in watching him, often makes the same moves over and over.
“Don’t get me wrong, they’re good moves – Mayweather knows how to survive -- but I think he’s predictable. And once we really start working on the fight, I believe we can hit him.
“Manny doesn’t have the same jab as Oscar, but Manny can jab in this fight and I believe he’ll be able to get to Floyd.”
Roach said in reviewing video it’s understandable why Mayweather Jr. has evaded further damage after receiving the heaviest blows from foes such as Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Marcos Maidana.
“Anything more than a two-punch combination is hard to get through, because Floyd will hit you back. You don’t want to stay in the pocket too long,” Roach said.
What will happen May 2?
Roach predicts victory by Pacquiao, of course, anything ranging from convincing to a decision.
“If Floyd loses that fight and Manny fights the perfect fight, I don’t think Floyd will want the rematch,” Roach said. “It’s the end of his career.
“He’s so crazy about that zero. For Manny, that’s not the end of the world.”
Pacquiao has already heard such confident talk from Roach, so thankful for the detailed lessons to come that he pushed Roach to keep his commitment to train China’s Zou Shiming in his Saturday flyweight world title shot in Macao on HBO2.
Pacquiao came to Hollywood earlier than planned this last week, spending time with conditioning coach Justin Fortune in Roach’s absence and then phoning Roach on Wednesday to sing him “Happy Birthday,” for the trainer’s 55th.
“My day is complete,” Roach said.