The 1-2 Punch: Freddie Roach Interview
The best trainer in all of boxing, Freddie Roach discusses Manny Pacquiao's upcoming bout against Ricky Hatton and the possibility of a bout against Floyd Mayweather.
It was an honor and privilege to interview one of boxing’s all time greats, trainer Freddie Roach. Roach has trained 17 boxing champions, been named trainer of the year multiple times and is a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Roach is always up for a good verbal spar and is very honest, sometimes to a fault. I didn’t ask Freddie any questions about his battle with Parkinson’s disease as he is not the type to dwell on it or make excuses although he certainly would have a right to. Instead, Freddie works 12 hour days with little time away from the gym. He has lived and breathed boxing since a very early age; a true student and historian of the sweet science. I hope you enjoy it.
SD- Explain how life was for you growing up in terms of boxing.
FR- My dad was an ex-fighter, New England Featherweight champion in 1947. Living with him he wanted all of us to become fighters. All five of us fought as amateurs, three professionally. I started when I was about six years old.
SD- You had a pretty good career yourself which goes somewhat unnoticed (Roach compiled a career professional record of 39-13: source www.boxrec.com)
FR- I had a pretty good amateur career, it was OK.
SD- What did you take away from your boxing career that has made you one of the best trainers in the sport?
FR- I had some great mentors like my dad. A lot of them rubbed off on me. It taught me the science and the truth of the game. The dedication and desire to succeed.
SD- At what point in your career did you realize you wanted to be a trainer?
FR- I had 150 amateur fights and 54 pro fights then I retired. I was a little bitter, didn’t get much out of it. I drank for about a year then finally came to my senses. Virgil Hill asked me if I would help train him. Virgil was training with heavyweights Michael Spinks and Larry Holmes at the time. He hired me as an assistant and from that day on I thought I was a better trainer than a fighter.
SD- You have trained the best of the best in your career. Is there one moment that stands out for you?
FR- I was 27 years old when Virgil Hill won his first world title. I was young and that was exciting. That was a great moment. Pacquiao’s wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Erik Morales in the rematch when we lost the first one was a great moment. You know working with champions alone is just so much fun. They are a special breed of people. I believe champions are born not made and its just great to be around that.
SD- There has been a lot of big things happening of late in boxing. Along the way people have stated boxing is dead. What is your opinion regarding the state of the game and the big upsets pulled off by Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Shane Mosley?
FR- Well, I think regarding the state of the game it is bigger than ever. With guys like Manny Pacquiao making the kind of money they are making, it used to be heavyweights were the only ones making money. I always believed the better fighters were the smaller guys. Guys like Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Shane Mosley pulling these upsets off in the later stages of their careers just shows you they have taken care of their bodies and are healthy. On the big end with Ricky Hatton fighting Manny Pacquiao, there is talk of Sugar Shane fighting Mayweather, there are big things happening in boxing. As you know, I train MMA fighters also, of course I’m not into that like I am boxing but I do watch the fights and I think there is room on both ends.
SD- Manny Pacquiao is one of the best fighters I’ve ever seen and I’m sure you agree, describe his work ethic and training regimen.
FR- Pacquiao is a machine. From day one his work ethic was unbelievable. He is the hardest working fighter I’ve ever seen. We were training for the De La Hoya fight, Mike Tyson came into the gym. Mike told me to slow him down we had a fight in a couple of days. I said, Mike this is slow. (laughs) Manny is just a machine. He averaged 44 rounds per day. He runs a lot basically trains like he fights; no caution. He really works hard.
SD- What was it like having the HBO crew in your gym filming the show 24/7?
FR- It was pretty good. They are not bad, nice guys. I’ve been through it twice, previously with Oscar/Mayweather. When we are finished they go home, they are not too intrusive. They get people interested in something outside of just the fight itself. It shows the fighters are human beings just like everybody else. It has changed my life. Fight fans would know me walking down the street now people know me from watching 24/7. They say “hey you are that guy”. It is fun; I like being a little bit famous. I have fun with it.
SD- As we approach the big matchup between Hatton and Manny, I want to know if you are going to wear ear plugs so you don’t have to hear Hatton’s songs?
FR- (laughs) Floyd had poems (Mayweather’s dad Floyd Sr. took some stabs at Freddie in the form of poems). The last time I heard poems like that was when I was in 6th grade. I’m sure I will strike back because that’s the kind of person I am if you piss me off but I’m going to try and control myself as best I can. One thing about Manny and Hatton they are both good guys who come to fight. Those are the kind of guys I like. I have nothing against Ricky Hatton; he is a hard working guy. He is kind of clever so I’m going to watch what I say.
SD- What are your thoughts about this fight from a stylistic perspective? How do you think that will pan out?
FR- Its going to be an interesting fight. Hatton truly believed he was in the Mayweather fight right until the end. The title is on the line for this one its going to be a very competitive fight early and I think Pacquaio will take over. We have a great game plan and look to fight the perfect fight again. If we do he will get knocked out in the later rounds. Its going to be a good fight up until that point. With the English fans coming over; they like to sing and dance and drink, they can celebrate Pacquaio after the fight.
SD- It will be a great fight. The crowd Hatton brings with him is amazing.
FR- It is. They are an enthusiastic crowd; they like to have their beer. They are not great singers but they are pretty funny with their songs. It’s great for the matchup.
SD- You mentioned Mayweather might fight Mosely. I believe most of the boxing world would like to see Manny vs. Mayweather. What are your thoughts on that potential matchup?
FR- They have shown interest in fighting the winner of Manny/Hatton. We would definitely like to fight him. We want to get that first L on his record and I know we can do that. Obviously he has a tough style to fight; he’s a mover and a runner sometimes. He can make a stinker out of it. With Pacquaio’s pressure I think we could get to him. He’s been idle for some time now which will not help him.
SD- You have worked with MMA stars Andrei Arlovski and Anderson Silva. Do you see yourself getting more into the MMA arena?
FR- The thing is I’ll teach anybody how to box and strike but that is as far as I can go. I won’t jump fully into that arena of course. The thing about guys like Arlovski is they are very disciplined and like to work. I enjoy guys like him. Andrei’s next fight will be a pure boxing match in April so we will see how he does there.
SD- We wish you the best of luck Freddie. Like the rest of the boxing world I’m looking forward to the Manny-Hitman match.
FR- Thanks for your time and keep in touch.