A Conversation With Freddie Roach

By Barbara Pinnella

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with boxing trainer extraordinaire, Freddie Roach. I had met him a couple of other times, but had not been able to really talk with him. One thing is for certain; I had always thought of him as a class act, and that opinion has not changed.

Freddie Roach taken at his Wild Card Boxing Club. Linda Peterson photo.

The accolades that have been poured upon him of late with regard to Manny Pacquiao are many, as are the awards he himself has won. Roach has been voted Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2003, 2006, and 2008. He has been inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame for managers and trainers, was the 2006 California Boxing Hall of Fame inductee as a non-boxer, and won the 2008 World Boxing Council Lifetime Achievement Award. On June 12th he will accept another Trainer of the Year award.

But there is so much more to this man than his decorations, and I wanted to get some of his opinions, first of all about who might be Manny’s next opponent. With all of the talk about a Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather fight, I was curious as to whether Juan Manuel Marquez, Mayweather’s challenger in July, was being completely dismissed. After all, Marquez could win, right?

“Marquez is a great fighter, but the only thing that worries me about that fight is the weight,” he told me. Marquez moved up to 135 his last two fights, when he fought Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor.

“He struggled the beginning of the Diaz fight,” Roach continued. “He lost the first six rounds. He came back well, but now he’s moving up two more divisions at 147. I just feel the size is going to be too much for him. I thought they would settle at a catch weight, but it didn’t happen that way. I wish him the best; I hope he wins because I’d rather fight him. He’s much more down to earth and knows how to negotiate, so I hope he wins, but we’ll see.”

Freddie had made it clear that they would not wait for Mayweather. If another fight came along, they would take it. Several weeks ago Roach had thrown out a few names, one of which was another fighter he trains, Amir Khan. But Freddie set the record straight on that one.

“That fight won’t happen,” Roach said. “Manny and Amir are good friends; they spar together. (Promoter) Frank Warren wanted that fight to happen because of the U.K. influence, but that fight will never happen.”

I wondered how unusual it would be to train both of the fighters that are in the same fight. “It’s very rare, but it’s happened before.” Freddie told me. “ Eddie Futch trained both Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks when they fought each other. It’s a decision that’s hard to make, but Manny has been with me for eight years. Everyone knows I would take Manny. But Amir’s too young to fight Manny. He’s not ready for that yet.”

Another fighter whose name has been tossed around is young gun Victor Ortiz. At 22 years of age, could he be good enough to take on Pacquiao?

“Well, he thinks so,” Freddie answered, smiling. “He’s sparred with Manny before, and he thought he hurt Manny, which never happened. But he’s up and coming, he’s a marketable kid, he and Manny sparring together was unbelievable, and it would be a great fight. But Manny would knock him out at the end.”

Of course, there are other names are on the table for consideration. “Marquez is always on the map because of the great experiences he’s had with Manny in other fights,” Roach explained. “(Miguel) Cotto’s an option, Shane Mosley’s an option, the undefeated boy from Venezuela, Edwin Valero, is an option.

“As of now Manny’s making a movie and taking it easy, he doesn’t care about boxing right now. We’ll see who wins the fights with Cotto and with Mayweather, but if the right fight comes along before then we’ll take it, and if not we’ll probably fight the winner of one of those fights.”

Besides making the movie, Pacquiao is playing basketball to stay fit. But that doesn’t worry Freddie. “It doesn’t take him long to get back in shape – like, a week,” Roach laughed.

Freddie with one of his assistants, former Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion, Michael Moorer. Barbara Pinnella photo

With the crazy schedule that Roach has it is no wonder he needs more bodies to help with all the travel involved with his fighters. “Michael (Moorer) has been with me about two months now. He’s actually been asking me for a job for a couple of years. I hired him as my assistant, as well as Jesse Reid. He’s a new assistant here also. We’re so busy I needed more qualified people in the corners.” 

Busy indeed. On the 12th of June Freddie goes back East to accept that aforementioned Trainer of the Year award, and on the 13th Rodel Mayol has a WBO Junior Flyweight Title fight at Madison Square Garden against Ivan Calderon.

But Wild Card and Freddie Roach are not finished. “On the 27th I’ll be in London with Amir Khan, who has a WBA World Lightweight Title fight with Andriy Kotelnik. I have three fights at the Staples Center, and Michael’s going to take care of those three guys. On that same night Vanes Martirosyan is fighting for a title in New Jersey, and Jesse’s going with him. So, we have a busy schedule.”

Roach’s fighters seem to try so hard, and I wondered what he did to motivate them. “For some reason I can bring out the best in them, but I don’t really believe in motivating a fighter, because if the fight itself doesn’t motivate you, than you should probably try another sport.

“The thing is,” he continued, “the motivation for me comes in the training. At the fight you’ve got one minute in between rounds, and I can just make small suggestions and adjustments. My job is done here. If I don’t get them ready here, they’ll never be ready in the fight. But in general we have a good rapport, all my guys work hard, they know that I don’t like lazy people. If I have a lazy fighter I try to get rid of him,” he laughed.

“Really, it works out well; the confidence we have in each other – there’s a trust. Like before the last fight, Manny told me ‘Freddie, don’t bite at (Floyd) Mayweather’s BS. Just be a gentleman and I will take care of this.” Of course he did just that, demolishing Ricky Hatton in the second round.

And is that hard for him to do? “Sometimes,” he smiled. “Sometimes I’ll blow back at them.”

At the end of the interview, when I asked Freddie if there was anything else he would like to tell me, he jumped at the chance. “I had a great weekend,” he said. “Michael J. Fox invited me to his fund raiser (for Parkinson’s disease). It was held at this huge house, and out in the backyard, Stevie Wonder played for an hour. We raised more than one million dollars for Parkinson’s, so, it was a good weekend!”

Fox has established the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research, with the goal being to develop a cure for this debilitating disease within this decade. And, for anyone who still might not know, Roach also suffers from this disorder. Hopefully, Fox’s goal will be realized.

A big thank you to Freddie for spending a little time with me, and to Pepper and Michael as well. Good luck in all those upcoming fights!


Be safe and God Bless,

Viva La Raza,