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Roach goes from 'coach' to 'master'

Story by Andreas Hale
Photos by Chris Cozzone

There would have never been a Karate Kid if Mr. Miyagi didn’t show Daniel Son how to “wax on, wax off.” It took the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, to understand and accelerate the undeniable talents of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and mold the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant en route to claiming nine NBA championships in 18 seasons as a coach.

And then there’s “Master” Freddie Roach.

There’s a reason why Manny Pacquiao calls Roach his “master.” With Roach calling the shots in Manny’s corner, the Pac Man has amassed a record of 17-1-2 while wreaking havoc and earning titles from featherweight to light welterweight. It’s difficult to not crown the Pac Man as the current king of boxing. It makes it even more difficult to not call Freddie Roach the best trainer on the planet.

Roach has transformed Pacquiao from a one punch wrecking machine into a multi-faceted monster that no fighter seems to have an answer for. Ask Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a Pacquiao blitzkrieg.

On Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden, “Master” Roach prepares Pacquiao for what looks to be an all out firefight with true welterweight Miguel Cotto. If Pacquiao comes out on top – as Roach predicts – the Pac Man will add yet another championship in a record seventh weight class.

Roach sat down to discuss what makes his relationship with Pacquiao unique and why his fighter will make Miguel Cotto quit.

Roach provides the guidance figure that Pacquiao needs. There’s a special relationship between the two that only Roach and Pacquiao truly understand. Roach keeps his fighter grounded and focused at the task at hand – no matter what else is going on around Pacquiao.

Prime example would be Pacquiao’s love for his Filipino countrymen. What Pacquiao represents to his homeland is a glimmer of hope. He is the biggest star by far in the Phillipines and the weight of his country lands squarely on Pac Man’s shoulders. When the devastating typhoons hit his native Phillipines, Pacquiao was stretched thin between his country and preparing for what could be the biggest fight of his career. Roach understands the balance but does his job to keep things in perspective for Pacquiao.

“I’m honest with him,” Roach explains when having to pull his fighter away from being a public figure and turning him back into the boxer that means the world to his country. “His focus in Manilla sucked. We had a long talk about it and he apologized to me. The second day in LA during workouts he said ‘I’m back!’ and I know Manny he’ll get back on track. Manilla wasn’t the greatest. It was rough to be around death. He knows his countrymen need something to lift them up and a win will do that. He likes that pressure and he will perform for them.”

Roach says that Pacquiao understands him and knows that Roach has his Pacquiao’s best interests at heart. Once away from the distractions of the Philippines, Roach states that Pacquiao has focused totally on the upcoming fight and is easily in the best shape of his career. That is the way he is going to have to come in when fighting Cotto if he wants to bring another victory home to his countrymen.

Interestingly enough, Roach doesn’t see this fight panning out much different than the destruction of Ricky Hatton. If you recall, Pacquiao obliterated Hatton with a left hook that separated his body from his spirit. To make things even more interesting, Roach explains that, at this point in his career, Cotto is not much better than Ricky Hatton.

“I think he was (better than Hatton) but what I saw in the (Joshua) Clottey fight, no,” Roach explains. FightNews asked Roach if he was at all impressed with Cotto’s gutsy win against Clottey.

“No,” Roach flatly stated. “He got hit too much. He holds his hands up high and drops them when he’s ready to throw. He got hit with a lot of punches down the middle and uppercuts. He makes a lot of mistakes and he hasn’t corrected them.”

Roach has paid very close attention to Cotto before and after the Margarito beating. Regardless of what Cotto says, Roach believes that the Puerto Rican still has yet to recover mentally from the brutal stoppage.

“It takes a lot to get over a loss like that. But he just hasn’t gotten over it yet. He’s going in the right direction though,” Roach explains. “The first fight back he didn’t look that good. The second fight he looked a little better and that’s why in the first round of this fight we’re going to have Manny make a statement. We’re not going to allow him to gain momentum. If you let him get momentum, he’ll get stronger. We’re going to start quick. That’s our game anyway, we always start quick.”

While it’s Pac Man’s job to step into the ring and put his physical abilities on display, Roach’s job is to prepare his fighter for what his opponent may throw at Pacquiao. Roach doesn’t believe that Cotto has the skill set and the mentality to put together a game plan that will give Pacquiao problems.

“Either he’s going to use his strength and come forward to show us he’s the bigger and stronger guy or he’s going to try and become Juan Manuel Marquez like a lot of people try to do because he gave us trouble being a counterpuncher,” Roach explains as if he’s seen this strategy before when other fighters attempt to dethrone Pac Man as the king of boxing. “You can’t become somebody else in an eight week period. I’m ready for whatever he brings. We have the perfect game plan.”

As for Cotto’s game plan, Roach made a statement during HBO’s 24/7 show that he doesn’t believe Cotto’s corner has the experience to help his fighter adjust after he gets smacked with the brutal reality that Manny is stronger and faster than he. When FightNews asked Roach if he feels Cotto and his corner will be able to make any adjustments during the fight, Roach quipped back with a resounding “No.”

“Once he gets hit, he’ll go back to what he knows. Our job is to keep the fight in the middle of the ring,” Roach says confidently. He truly believes that Cotto’s trainer Joe Santiago won’t be of any help as the fight progresses. With that being said, the combination of an inexperienced corner and a shell shocked fighter makes for the perfect opponent for Pacquiao to impose his will upon.

“I think at one time Cotto made adjustments but since the Margarito fight he hasn’t been the same. I’ve been studying tapes before and after the Margarito fight and he’s a different fighter now. When he fought Mosley and others he made adjustments but his last two fights he hasn’t shown that,” Roach said.

And then Roach peers through his spectacles and makes a statement that lingers in the air as surrounding media stare in amazement at the supreme confidence that Roach has in his fighter.

“I honestly don’t think we’re going to knock him out,” Roach says. “We’re going to make him quit.”

To make a fighter quit is far more than a devastating punch that knocks a fighter out cold. It is far worse than beating a fighter until a referee steps in to save a courageous fighter from harm. Making a fighter quit is the ultimate statement. It simply means that the fighter’s will has been broken and, with no other way out, simply reverts to the Roberto Duran’s statement against Sugar Ray Leonard with 15 seconds left in the eighth round of their 1980 bout.

“No Mas.”

To say that Pacquiao will do that to Cotto is the ultimate statement. And if Pacquiao is able to demolish Cotto as he has his past few opponents, it should put him in line for a monster clash with Floyd Mayweather Jr. If that fight were to happen, Roach says that he would like it to be his last fight.

“I’d personally like to see him fight Mayweather and be done,” Roach says when talking about the future. But the problem with making the fight lies in the money. Ultimately, if the fight were to never happen, Pacquiao wouldn’t be hung up by any means.

“He doesn’t care about (the Mayweather fight). Whoever comes next, he’ll fight. He doesn’t care.”

The only thing he does care about is his homeland. As long as he is giving back, Pacquiao will remain pleased.

“He loves the big stage and he loves to make them happy. That’s his drive,” Roach says.

And truthfully, that’s the only thing that matters.

 


2009 by Fightnews.com.