20 Minutes With: Freddie Roach
To say Freddie Roachís 2008 was successful would be an understatement.
A veteran of 53 pro fights in a career that ended two decades ago, the Massachusetts native turned to training after retirement and has reaped even more rewards as a lead corner man Ė including three nods as ďTrainer of the YearĒ from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
His 2008 highlights included a three-fight stretch by lead client Manny Pacquiao that yielded wins over Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya, world title belts at 130 and 135 pounds and widespread recognition as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Test No. 1 of 2009 comes May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where Roach and Pacquiao take on fellow pound-for-pound elitist Ricky Hatton in a 12-round bout for a single sanctioned world championship belt Ė the International Boxing Organizationís junior welterweight title.
Roach, 49, chatted recently with IBOBoxing.com about working with Pacquiao, preparing for the big fight and where he and his man might wind up if things go well in Vegas.
IBOBoxing.com: Five or so weeks out from fight night, how are things going? Is everything where it needs to be?
Freddie Roach: Everythingís 100 percent ready to go. Weíd be ready to go have the fight today if need be. Mannyís already at 146Ĺ pounds and weightís not a concern at all. He normally makes weight in the last couple of days, so everythingís gone exactly according to plan.
IBOBoxing.com: What is the ideal length of a training camp? Does it differ from fighter to fighter?
Freddie Roach: Heís already been training for four weeks and weíve got plenty of time to go. For some guys six weeks is enough. What Iíve learned is that you canít change who these guys are, so you canít apply the same rules to everybody.
IBOBoxing.com: Is there any advantage for you as a trainer because you were a fighter?
Freddie Roach: I think thereís a little bit of an advantage, but probably not huge. Iíve known plenty of guys who werenít fighters but they were great trainers. The guys I work with know that Iíve done it and they trust what I say. But not everyone Iíve worked with has seen me fight. Mannyís one of those guys whoís not really a boxing fan. His idol growing up was Oscar, so thatís why he did it, but he doesnít know the history. We older guys have more stories to tell, but Iím so busy now that I canít even watch fights anymore.
IBOBoxing.com: Do you find it challenging to not implement your fighting style onto a particular guy, rather than devising strategies that play to his strengths?
Freddie Roach: I had the right teacher in Eddie Futch. He told me that I could never expect people to be like me. My first world champion, Virgil Hill, was about as different from me as a guy could be. He was a beautiful boxer. The truth is that when a guy gets hit in the ring heís going to revert back to whatever he is, not to what youíve programmed him to be, so itís best you donít try to get too cute.
IBOBoxing.com: Remembering back to last March, before the Marquez fight, could you have anticipated the year that you and Manny would have? As confident a guy as you are, was it at all surprising?
Freddie Roach: No, I canít honestly say we saw it coming. After the first two, the Oscar fight just came up and it was icing on the cake. Weíre of the mindset where we just take each fight as it comes, but, sure, looking back on it, it was a great year. And itís a great honor to be recognized three times by the boxing writers.
IBOBoxing.com: You were right on target with your pre-fight prediction on the De La Hoya fight, and youíve made no secret of the fact that you think Manny will knock Hatton out in three rounds. Do you really believe itíll be that dominant?
Freddie Roach: Yes. Iíve studied Hatton for two months now and Iím very confident about Mannyís chances. Hatton is a guy whoíll be right in front of you and he gets hit a lot. A lot of guys have hurt him, but no oneís ever finished him when they had him hurt. Manny Pacquiao is a finisher. I think heís going to bust him up and stop him within three rounds. Itíll be another Thomas Hearns-Marvin Hagler fight, I believe. Very exciting for as long as it lasts.
IBOBoxing.com: Assuming it all goes according to plan on May 2, whatís next for you and Pacquiao?
Freddie Roach: Business-wise, the biggest fights to be made are with Floyd Mayweather, if heís really coming back to the ring, or with Juan Manuel Marquez. There are a lot of options and we want to wait to see the possibilities. As far as who else, we hear that Chavez Jr. has been making some noise about a fight, but the weight might be too big a difference. Bottom line, though, Manny will fight anyone. Hell, heíd fight (publicist) Fred Sternburg if thatís who we told him was next in line. He just wants to be a champion.