If there’s one person who wants to refute the suggestion that famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach has inattentive lapses, it’s world super-featherweight champion Alberto Machado.
“I feel so happy to be around Freddie. Every time I walk in the door, Freddie is there waiting for me,” Machado said. “I’m so proud of Freddie, of what he is teaching me and the way he’s molding me. I’m so happy I came to L.A. to train with him.”
Roach has been stung in the last year by the departures from Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club of his star fighter Manny Pacquiao, of 140-pound world champion Jose Ramirez and a top prospect from Lithuania.
Each has made claims the seven-time trainer of the year has deprived them of his full attention, either in a fight or through the daily grind of training.
But Machado (19-0, 16 knockouts) has remained loyal, and now standing as Roach’s only active world champion, he takes to defending his World Boxing Assn. belt Saturday night at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas against Ghana’s Rafael Mensah (31-0, 23 KOs).
HBO will televise the card, headlined by the first 154-pound title defense by Tijuana’s Jaime Munguia versus former champion Liam Smith of England, at 7 p.m. Pacific time.
Machado, 27, was steered to Roach by the trainer’s now-retired former four-division champion, Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico.
In Puerto Rico, Machado recalled winning his first major bout and taking a picture with Cotto, who now promotes several of his countrymen.
“I only came here to train as a champion and work hard for [Roach] and win the fight and take the belt back to Puerto Rico,” Machado said.
Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, which is staging Saturday’s card, said Machado’s height (5 feet 10) gives him the potential to become a champion with staying power.
“The kid’s big and strong and can box,” Gomez said. “He has good footwork and the sky’s the limit. I see Machado as the top 130-pound champion.”
Machado won the belt in October by knocking out Jezreel Corrales, who lost his belt by weighing in heavy and then was stopped in the eighth round by one of Machado’s whipping power blows.
“Freddie’s so high on [Machado],” Gomez said. “Being a southpaw, and being so tall, he has a lot of power. … I want to see him establish his jab and use his height. ... Anytime you can spend months with Freddie, that’s good, because there’s a wealth of knowledge there.”
Roach said Machado has played an important part in helping the veteran trainer overcome the defections, giving him a reason to show his work is not done yet.
“Machado’s a hard worker, a good kid and his sparring has been unbelievable,” Roach said. “I like his speed and power a lot, and although we’re going against an unbeaten African, the guy’s beatable and I can see bigger and better things down the line.”