I wrote three pieces for a special section on Manny Pacquiao in the March 20, 2005 issue of the Inquirer, on the occasion of the first Pacquiao-Morales fight. Here’s the second.
‘Buboy Roach’: Pacquiao’s secret weapon is his closest friend
By John Nery
Once, the Inquirer caught a slam-bang sparring session in Wild Card Gym between Gerry Balagbagan, Manny Pacquiao’s running partner, and a young Armenian boxer, Vanes Martirosyan.
Freddie Roach, the gym owner and Pacquiao’s trainer, stood outside Martirosyan’s corner. Standing opposite, in Balagbagan’s corner, was Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez, Pacquiao’s assistant trainer.
As Balagbagan and Martirosyan mixed it up, Fernandez shouted advice non-stop. “Pag-jab niya, pumasok ka na! (When he jabs, come in right away).” “Pasok! Pasok!” He was talking a mile a minute. Across the ring, Roach stood absolutely silent.
Unlikely as it seems, the low-key Roach and the expansive Fernandez make for a good team. When Pacquiao spars, they are both in his corner. And when Roach gives instructions, he gives them to Fernandez, who then relays it, in Filipino, to the man the American boxing press has taken to calling Pac-Man.
“I talk to Buboy so he tells Manny in Filipino because he understands that language much better than English, even though [Manny] understands me, of course,” Roach told the Inquirer and InqTV last month. “But the thing is, Buboy can translate it and the sparring partners, they don’t really know what we’re up to.”
Fernandez laughed when he was asked about the language advantage. That’s true, he said. The handlers of Erik Morales won’t understand Tagalog.
From dawn, when he wakes up Pacquiao for his morning run, to early evening, when he gives his close friend his glass of milk, Fernandez supervises Pacquiao’s life during training. It’s no big deal, he told the Inquirer and InqTV. Manny disciplines himself.
But his nickname among the knowing is an index of his work; they call him Buboy Roach. If Pacquiao considers himself like a son of the Boxing Hall of Fame trainer, Fernandez, let us say, is like a favorite nephew.
During the one week that InqTV spent with Team Pacquiao in Los Angeles in February, it was Fernandez who kept the closest watch on Pacquiao. At the double-end bag, he studied his friend intently, reminding him about a technical detail in his right hook. When Pacquiao shadow-boxed, he leaned on the ropes and followed his friend’s every move. After a session with the speed bag, he took out a towel from Pacquiao’s gym bag and rubbed him down.
One Fan’s Day, when the champion was being pressed on all sides by admirers and autograph-seekers, Pacquiao called on the one guy who can bring order to the familiar chaos and give him the necessary breathing room. “Buboy!” Pacquiao called out, and the crowd around him took up the call. “Buboy!” everyone shouted. “Buboy!”
Buboy Roach made his way through and created room for his friend.