Toe-to-toe with Freddie Roach

On March 18 last year, at about three in the afternoon [that is to say, in the middle of a traditional Inquirer anniversary], I was asked by our go-to guy in advertising if I could write something for a special section on the first Pacquiao-Morales fight; he knew I had interviewed Manny in Los Angeles a month before, and had seen the InqTV special aired that week. The only difficulty was the deadline; I forget now what it was, exactly, but it was something like 12 midnight. That same night. I said yes in large part because the spiral notebook I used in LA was still with me. I ended up writing three pieces by 4 am, plus an edited transcript of a longish interview I had with Manny’s trainer, Freddie Roach. The third piece was a simple round-up of analysts’ predictions; I won’t run it here. But, just in case you were interested in the quality of Roach’s mind, as we near the epic third Pacquiao-Morales fight, I’m publishing the interview.

Toe-to-toe with Freddie Roach

In the middle of Manny Pacquiao’s longest-ever training camp, his boxing Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach sat down with the Inquirer and InqTV to talk about their preparations for the Morales fight.

We needed two months to get ready

[Manny’s] in great shape right now and this is a little bit unusual, because this is the longest training camp we’ve ever had together. We will have eight weeks total by fight time … because the thing is we came in ready to fight [Juan Manuel] Marquez then Marquez pulled out. This fight came up a little bit earlier but we needed two months to get ready for this guy …

He’s making the right moves

The thing is, when I watched him spar today he’s making the moves that I want him to make. He’s being very alert, very sharp. I need to get a couple of new sparring partners up because he’s starting to wear those two out now.

Language is an advantage

I talk to [assistant trainer] Buboy [Fernandez] so he tells Manny in Filipino because he understands that language much better than English, even though he understands me, of course. But the thing is, Buboy can translate it and the sparring partners [and his opponents], they don’t really know what we’re up to.

He likes the crowd

There’s plusses and negatives [to opening the training sessions to the public] of course but … that’s why it’s just one day a week. The other days are private so we could work on the things we need to work on. And today’s like performance day. So I let him box today, he likes the crowd, he enjoys it, he loves the people, he feeds off it … He likes to perform for people and actually I think I can get a little more out of him, when there’s people here, because he gets excited about it and he’s pumped up.

They’re not just sparring partners

The thing is, all the fighters he’s working with though are getting ready for fights of their own credit. They are not just sparring partners. You know they are good fighters, like Ray Beltran in the first set, he is a very young prospect, he’s coming up … and the thing is, I don’t believe in getting just sparring partners out there, they just go through the motions. I want guys that make Manny work because I tell every one of them: If you knock Manny down you get a thousand-dollar bonus … because I want them all trying their hardest.

We vary his days

Justin Fortune, my strength and conditioning coach, takes Manny running every day. That consists of track days, sprint days, hill days, distance days. We kind of vary it. The variation won’t get him bored also, because you are doing the same thing every day. And my philosophy on boxing is we box three days a week, and the other three days we work on technique with the [punch] mitts. So we box on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we work on technique.

He has good power in his right hook

Mostly I’m just making Manny a more complete fighter. The things we are working on, we were working on for Marquez, we ended with Morales. In Manny’s last fight he got kinda happy with the left hand. He kinda just got stuck in the mode. [But he] has power in his right hook, just as much as [in] his left hand, but the thing is he doesn’t have the confidence in that shot yet so we’re working on that every day. And if you noticed he threw a lot of right hooks today in sparring so it’s starting to become natural to him.

The hands have eyes

If you have to think about it, it’s already gone. The thing is boxing’s all reactions. You know what they say. Your hands have eyes and they’ll find the opening. It’s very true because if you see it it’s already gone. It’s gotta be the instinctive thing to do.

They are all individuals

I train every fighter different because they are all individuals … my first two champions, I wrote down what they did every day [to] try to come up with the formula, what was a perfect formula for getting a guy [ready] for a title fight. But they were such different individuals … You need to treat everyone as an individual in this work because you take their plusses and you work on their weaknesses. You know everyone has different types of weaknesses and strengths. Of course some are punchers, some are boxers, so it’s really very hard to come up with a perfect formula. But I know Manny pretty well now because we’ve been together for three years and I know what he needs so we push the right buttons, when we need to push him. The thing is, I don’t want to over-train him for this fight because we are going through a couple weeks more than usual, so I’m watching him a little bit closely just because there is a possibility to over-train a fighter …

You gotta suck it up

Manny is a role model. I mean, the thing is for you young guys out there [to] remember it’s possible. I mean you know just because you grew up poor as Manny did and I did, and so forth, [you don’t have to stay poor.] You work hard, good things will happen, and the thing is, You gotta suck it up and push hard. And he is a great example. You know what I mean, you dedicate [yourself] enough, you work hard enough, it’s definitely a possibility to break through and become maybe rich and famous.

Excerpts from the interview, edited for publication

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