Boxing


Freddie Roach: "If Mayweather doesn’t want to fight, if keeping that zero on his record is more important than making $60 million, then that’s his choice and we can live with that."

by Geoffrey Ciani - This week’s 99th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with boxing trainer Freddie Roach who is best known for training pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs). Roach is currently training Pacquiao for a November 13 bout against Antonio Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) for the vacant WBC junior middleweight championship. In addition, Roach is also preparing Amir Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) to defend his WBA junior welterweight title against Marcos Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs) on December 11. Roach spoke about these fights and also shared his opinions on other matters pertaining to the current boxing landscape. Here is a complete transcript of that interview.

JENNA J: Anyway guys, it's time for our third guest of this week’s show. He is the trainer of boxing's biggest star, Manny Pacquiao, and he is making his third appearance on our air. We are joined by the one and only Freddie Roach. How are you doing today, Freddie?

FREDDIE ROACH: Everything is good. How about yourself?

JENNA: It’s going great. We’re definitely happy to be talking to you. Freddie, I’d like to first ask you—there has been a lot made of the 24/7 series that Pacquiao is distracted and he’s not at his best in this camp. Being in there with him, how do you assess what he’s been doing in training camp?

ROACH: Well since we’ve been back in L.A. everything is back on course. His focus is great. His sparring has been terrific. He’s ready to fight right now and I feel a knockout in the air. He’s looking great and we just have too much speed for this guy I feel.

JENNA: Now Pacquiao is fighting Antonio Margarito, a fighter that at one point you were approached to train. What were you thinking when this all came about and did you ever seriously consider becoming his trainer?

ROACH: Well he never really approached me. Bob Arum’s company approached me and asked me if I would train Margarito and he asked me to. I’ve met him once or twice in my life, but he doesn’t speak English so we’ve never really spoken—through a translator a little bit, but just ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’. But Top Rank wanted me to take him over because they wanted to clean up his reputation, of course, but that never happened. He’s a good fighter, and I definitely did consider that job at one time, but I don’t know him really, really well closely. I just know him from ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, but I don’t know his personality really. Anyone that wants to cheat though, I really don’t care for it too much. I think it’s pretty evident if you study his last eight fights like I’ve been doing over the past two months, you can tell the fights that he cheats in and the ones that he doesn’t. In my opinion he’s a cheater, and I don’t really like that kind of person.

JENNA: Do you think he would have been better served if he just came out and admitted that he knew about the hand-wraps instead of continuing to deny it, even to this day.

ROACH: Well you know, they blamed the trainer and so forth. He says he doesn’t know what’s going on, but the thing is you can see in his tapes if you were studying his tapes, he pays attention to when the guy is wrapping his hands. He knows what’s going on. The thing is, in the Cintron II fight, you notice a little difference. You can see after the fight he doesn’t take his gloves off, because he’s hiding something I feel. The same with the Cotto fight. I have sparring partners that worked with him before from my gym. Some say he can punch really, really hard. Some tell me he hits like a girl. It just depends on what days he’s cheating and what days he’s not. I think it’s evident again, and I’ll make sure everything is on the up and up in this fight, and I have no fears with Margarito. Pacquiao’s going to destroy him I feel.

JENNA: Alright you say Pacquiao’s going to destroy him, but do you see anything at all that Antonio Margarito can do that could bother Pacquiao?

ROACH: Well you know, he’s got a reach advantage, and he’s tall, and he’s going to be a lot bigger, of course, but size doesn’t win fights—skill does. We out-skill him in every aspect—speed, timing, and I have no fears whatsoever. I think it’s going to be an easy fight if Manny fights the right fight. The only problem I have is that some people say that Manny can’t bang with the big guys and that he’s not strong enough and Manny wants to prove that he is big enough. So somewhere in the fight he will go on the ropes and he will bang with him. We’re prepared for that, but the thing is I would rather see him outbox him. Knowing Manny Pacquiao, he’s going to try to bang with him and he’ll be successful because again, we’re ready for it. The thing is, I think the best way to fight Margarito is to outbox him, but again, we’ll do whatever it takes.

JENNA: Now a lot has been made of the weight in this fight. Pacquiao will be fighting at a career high 150 pounds. Do you have any worries at all about him fighting and losing some of his speed at this weight?

ROACH: No, you know what, Pacquiao weighed 147 pounds yesterday after a workout. He’s going to go into the ring at 149 pounds, his prime fighting weight. If he Pacquiao comes in a little heavier, like at 152-153, he’s a little slow and a little more sluggish. I know my fighter’s prime fighting weight, and again, we’ll be about 149 pounds and Margarito will be by fight time 160 to 165. Again, I’m not worried about the size of this guy. Speed and skills are going to win this fight, and Pacquiao outweighs him in those departments easily.

JENNA:Freddie, we’re also joined by my co-host Geoff.

GEOFFREY CIANI: Hi Freddie, it’s a pleasure to have you back on the show.

ROACH: Thank you.

CIANI: Freddie, I wanted to ask you—Amir Khan, he has a big fight coming up December 11 against Marcos Maidana. I’m wondering how your assessment of him is so far in his training?

ROACH: He’s doing very well. You know Maidana’s a terrific puncher, of course. He’s very dangerous from round one to round twelve. We got to box and pay attention the whole time and fight a very, very tactical fight. Maidana again, his boxing skills aren’t that great but his punching skills are terrific and I think we can outbox him easily. I’ve been studying his tapes. He has to set before he throws so he kind of tips you off and lets you know. He kind of telegraphs his punch a little bit, but again it’s a fight where we have to fight a very, very smart fight and very tactical. I think the jab will win the fight for Amir, but he just can’t get caught up in a slugfest with this guy because the guy does have one-punch knockout power.

CIANI: Now speaking of one-punch knockout power, this is the first guy in most observers views that Khan is facing that was a real puncher like Prescott. Does that give you any reason for concern?

ROACH: No, not really. You know he got knocked out by Prescott. He got knocked out once in his lifetime and all of a sudden he has no chin. Since I’ve taken him over we haven’t lost a round. He’s fought against quality guys like Kotelnik, Barrera, they can fight. Paulie, of course, is a good fighter but Paulie isn’t a big puncher. We all know that. The thing is this guy is a puncher and the thing is we have to stick to a good game plan. The thing about Amir, he’s very capable of doing that. He’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever had and he follows the game plan. I won’t let him go until he breaks this guy down and this guy’s ready to be taken out, and he’ll follow the game plan until that point.

CIANI: Now when we had Amir on our show a couple of weeks ago Freddie, he had mentioned that if all goes well in this Maidana fight, he wants the winner of Bradley-Alexander and I’m curious what your views are on that fight and how you think it might play out?

ROACH: I think that’s a great fight for us because I think this is the toughest fight. I think Maidana’s better than both of those guys. I think we’re in the big fight in the 140 pound division, and with the winner of the Alexander-Bradley fight, I’ll fight both guys on the same night. Maidana is much more dangerous and much more skillful than both of those guys I feel. I have no worries about that. I’d like to clean out the 140 pound division and move Amir up to 147 and maybe go after Mayweather.

CIANI: So you don’t have a preference on Bradley or Alexander? You don’t have a particular style match-up that you think is more favorable?

ROACH: I think Alexander is a little bit easier to be honest with you, but again he is a southpaw and he gives you a little bit of a different look but Manny really has no problems with southpaws so much. Again, he’s a little more effective with the angles on that side it’s a little bit more difficult, but either one would be no problem at all. Both guys can’t throw straight punches. They loop punches. We’ll beat them down the middle every time with Amir’s speed. The thing about Amir, he has a great amateur background. Those two guys were good amateurs, too, but they never went to the Olympics and so forth. Why? Because they got beat and they weren’t the best out there and Amir did go to the Olympics and he has a great amateur background and just he has a lot more experience than these guys and I think he outboxes them easily.

JENNA: You mentioned that Khan could possibly go after Mayweather if he fights the winner of Alexander-Bradley and wins that. How well do you think he could do against someone of Mayweather’s class?

ROACH: Well you know the thing is, since Mayweather won’t fight Pacquiao maybe he’ll fight a guy like Amir. I think Amir could do well with him. We’re talking about a year down the road and maybe another year older in Mayweather. I think Amir could do very well with him. He’s got great speed and great hands. Of course I think Mayweather’s a great fighter, but again, he’s just afraid to fight some people. Hopefully if he doesn’t want to fight Pacquiao, maybe he’ll fight Amir.

JENNA: You mentioned, actually it’s been a specific thing on 24/7, too, that Amir Khan has been sparring with Manny Pacquiao. In your honest opinion, if those two ever got into a real fight in a boxing ring, how well do you think Amir can do?

ROACH: Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan, they work very well together. They’re competitive with each other. They run together. They’re very friendly. That fight, you know right now Manny has too much experience for him. Amir does well in the early rounds but as the rounds go on Manny will take over because he’s a little more experienced, and a little smarter, and again has more craft. That would be a good fight, but it’s something that I don’t see would ever happen.

JENNA: Now with the distractions that Manny has had in this camp here, with his political career and all the other things that are going along—do you at all wish as a trainer that he pursued his political career after his boxing career was done?

ROACH: Well you know, I think it would be better for him to wait for his boxing career to be over, but he’s a multi-tasker. He always likes having his plate full. It’s something he’s always done. I mean if it wasn’t acting or singing, it’s politics and that’s what he loves to do. So I can’t deny him of that. He’s a multi-tasker and the thing is that was a little bit of a concern about the politics getting in the way in the Philipines because they were all tearing him every which way, but he guaranteed me on the plane ride home that he will not disappoint me and he hasn’t. Again, I was a little worried being in the Philipines, but since we’ve been at the Wild Card everything’s been great. He has no distractions right now. I mean he sang the other night on Jimmy Kimmel, but he enjoys that stuff and it keeps him busy. When he’s here he’s focused, and when he’s out of here he gets his mind off of it with the singing and the politics and stuff like that. So that’s Manny Pacquiao. That’s something that we can’t take away from him because that’s him.

JENNA: I have a little bit of a two-part question for you. I wanted to ask you how many times do you see Manny coming back into the ring and also does Manny ever talk about retirement with you?

ROACH: He’s talked about retirement before. I told him if we fight Mayweather that would be the icing on the cake and I think there are no other challenges out there. To be honest with you, after this fight the challenges are getting less and less for us. If Manny retires after this fight I’d be the happiest person in the world. He’s changed my life. He’s been the greatest champion. He’s going to win eight world titles. What more could I ask for? I mean with Manny Pacquiao, I think if he wanted to he could have another year and have two or three more fights with no problems, but who is the opponent, who has moved to 160, is that getting maybe a little bit too big. You know I would have told you 147 and 154 were too big at one time, but again he’s proven me wrong and he’ll probably go to 160 after this if Mayweather doesn’t come, but again we’ll see. If he wants to do it he has another good year left in him.

CIANI: I wanted to change things up a tiny bit here, Freddie. Mike Tyson is on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2011 and I’m just curious, what were your opinions of Mike as a fighter and do you think he’s worthy to be in the Hall of Fame?

ROACH: I do feel he’s worthy. I think he’s the best heavyweight of his time. He was great for what seemed like a short moment, but again I trained Mike for two fights. He’s a great guy. I really enjoyed working with Mike. He’s a very enjoyable person and very caring person. I like Mike Tyson. When I tell people Mike Tyson is a ‘great guy’ they think I’m a little crazy but they don’t know him like I do. He’s very respectful. I think he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, yes, and I like Mike Tyson.

CIANI: Now what do you think about comparisons between Mike Tyson and Manny Pacquiao in terms of the impact each man had on the sport and the types of excitement they both brought to boxing?

ROACH: Well they’re very comparable of course, because they’re the most exciting fighters of their eras and they kind of saved the sport. At the time Tyson was exciting everyone wanted to see him and Pacquiao’s got that now. It’s funny because Mike came to Manny’s last workout before his last fight. He was watching Pacquiao workout and he said, “Freddie, you should slow him down—he’s got a fight coming in a couple of days”. I said, “Mike, this is slow”. Mike likes Pacquiao a lot and he sees the talent that he has. They’re both the best fighters of their era and the most popular fighters of their era and they’re good for the sport.

CIANI: Now Freddie, going back to something you said before you mentioned how Pacquiao is a multi-tasker whether it’s politics or singing. Speaking of singing, what did you think of him and Will Ferrell doing their own rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine”?

ROACH: I thought it was great. I enjoyed watching it. It was funny. Manny really has just a passion that he loves singing as most Filipinos do, but again with Will Ferrell in the suit and so forth, it seemed like a fun time and Manny had fun doing it, and it took his mind off the fight for a little while and I think it was great.

CIANI: Now Freddie, if you had to name a single performance, a single performance where you trained a fighter that you were most proud of for the whole camp—the whole training camp, the fight itself, the work you did in the corner—just a particular fight you prepared and trained for where everything came together, which training session would it be by you that you would say was your single proudest accomplishment?

ROACH: Well I would say it would be Morales II, because we lost to him the first time and the second time we came in with a game plan. We worked on the right hand and that was the beginning of Manny having two hands instead of one. I told Manny I’m not going to be satisfied until the right hand is as good as the left. I think that was our best fight to date. At least in my memories, it was the best night of my life.

JENNA: Freddie, you mentioned before that Manny could possibly, if he wanted to, go up to 160 pounds. There is a very interesting fight taking place November 20 between Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams, and I wanted to ask you, (1) who do you have winning that fight, and (2) seeing as both guys are natural 154 pounders would you like to see Manny take on the winner?

ROACH: Well you know what, I’m really just thinking about Margarito at this point. I’ll worry about that fight afterwards. You know Paul Williams is a good fighter, a big guy, and Sergio Martinez is obviously good also. It’s a 50-50 fight. I think Paul Williams does better in rematches, though. He usually does better the second time around it seems like, but you know we’ll see how we do with Margarito. After we take care of him then we’ll think about who is next. Again, Mayweather is the number one choice but if he doesn’t come to the table then one of those guys, who knows what the weight will be because I think they have a catch weight at 157 for this fight. We’ll gladly take the winner on there if that’s the best deal for us.

JENNA: Now Freddie, one of the few criticisms that fans seem to give Pacquiao is that he faces fighters at catch weights or lower weights than their previous fights. What do you think of this perception?

ROACH: No, that’s not true. This is the second catch weight fight of his life. He’s only fought two catch weights fights in his life, so he doesn’t always do that. You know the catch weight is something that Sugar Ray Leonard and fighters did all the time and so forth, and they criticized Manny for doing that. Again, this is only the second time we fought at a catch weight in our life, and the thing is I wanted this fight at 147. We’re welterweights. We’re not junior middleweights, but since Margarito couldn’t make that weight we’re fighting him at 150. That’s something they decided on and that’s what it is. The thing is, if we fight Paul Williams or one of those bigger guys, again we’re not middleweights. If it ends up at a catch weight we’ll negotiate and make the best deal we can.

JENNA: Freddie I have just a couple of more questions before I let you off the line. You mentioned Mayweather a couple of times on this show, and I know you have Margarito as the main priority on your radar, but when you look at Manny do you think he at all needs a win over Floyd Mayweather before he retires?

ROACH: No, you know with Floyd, the first time negotiations went sour because the blood testing and so forth. The second time around we agreed to everything. We gave him every opportunity to fight us. We agreed to everything he asked. You know what, Manny Pacquiao’s not going to miss Floyd Mayweather. If Mayweather doesn’t want to fight, if keeping that zero on his record is more important than making $60 million, then that’s his choice and we can live with that.

JENNA: Freddie, having worked with Manny for the last ten years, when you look at everything he’s accomplished where do you rank Manny Pacquiao among the all time greats?

ROACH: He’s the greatest fighter I’ve ever trained without a doubt. From day one until today, he’s achieved more, he’s learned more, he’s been a great student and the thing about Manny Pacquiao, he makes me look good but he’s very capable. Whatever I ask him to do he’s one of those talented guys and he can do it. Again, he’s changed my life. He’s made me a better trainer. He’s made me a better person, and I thank him for that. It’s been a great ride. For the past ten years it’s been a lot of fun.

JENNA: Alright, back to the fight with Margarito, do you think Manny is at all underestimating Margarito due to the way Mosley beat Margarito so easily?

ROACH: No, I might be the one guilty of underestimating Margarito because I don’t think he’s that good a fighter. I think his footwork sucks. I think he throws wide punches. He can’t throw a straight punch. I think he’s got a good chin and he’s tough, yes, but his boxing skills aren’t that good I don’t think. Manny Pacquiao though, he doesn’t underestimate anybody. He will tell you that God will decide who is going to win the fight, but the thing is he works hard. He doesn’t underestimate anybody in the world. If he was going to fight you, he wouldn’t underestimate you either. He trains the same for everybody. He gets in shape. Again, we had a little problem getting focused with this one earlier with the politics, because politics is something he cares about, but we’ve gotten over that now and he’s ready to go. He has not underestimated Margarito of anyone ever. That’s not in his nature.

JENNA: Now what is your official prediction? How do you see this fight playing out from the opening bell to the end?

ROACH: Well Margarito is a little bit of a slow starter. We’re going to start quickly on him and we’re going to overwhelm him with combinations and speed. I think we’ll break him down and I think we’ll knock him out in about eight or nine rounds and I think he just won’t handle Manny’s speed. The speed is going to be way too much for him.

JENNA: Finally, is there anything you want to say to all the fans out there, all the boxing fans?

ROACH: Just thank you for your support. I’m sorry if you’re Margarito fans right now. I know you’re not happy with me, but the thing is I just feel I have a lot of confidence in my fighter and I believe in my fighter and I think we’re going to do the job. Again, thanks for the support and we’ll see you in Dallas.

JENNA: Alright, well it’s been an absolute pleasure having you once again stepping ‘On the Ropes’, Freddie. We wish you the best of luck on November 13.

ROACH: Thank you very much. Take care.

CIANI: Thanks Freddie! Good luck.

ROACH: Alright man. Take care. Bye bye.

***




For those interested in listening to the Freddie interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and forty minutes into the program.

***

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Article posted on 09.11.2010



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