Roach’s dream: The mas­ter plan for Pac­quiao to take down May­weather

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY GREG BEACHAM

Fred­die Roach’s hip is killing him, and his ster­num feels like some­body dropped an anvil on his chest. He took a shot to the chin the other day, and it knocked him across the ring onto the far ropes.

Roach knows he doesn’t have to take this any­more. He is the most prom­i­nent trainer in boxing. His as­sis­tants could be in the Wild Card gym’s ring with Manny Pac­quiao, ab­sorb­ing the pun­ish­ment that’s in­evitable when you work the mitts with an eight-di­vi­sion cham­pion pre­par­ing for the big­gest fight of his life.

“Ev­ery­one says I should take a break, let some­one else do it,” Roach said. “He wants me to do it. Manny don’t want some other guy. When he hits me, he says he’s sorry some­times.”

Roach has guided Pac­quiao to the pin­na­cle of their sport over the past decade, fight­ing off the ef­fects of Parkin­son’s dis­ease and a life­time in this bru­tal busi­ness.

Yet he still hasn’t done ev­ery­thing in boxing, and that knowl­edge still gets him up be­fore dawn each day. Roach has spent the spring work­ing on the ul­ti­mate puz­zle for any mod­ern trainer: A mas­ter plan to take down the un­beaten Floyd May­weather Jr. on May 2 in Las Ve­gas.

“That would be about the great­est thing you could ac­com­plish in this job, right?” he asks. “The way Manny is train­ing right now, he can do any­thing I can put in front of him. He knows ex­actly what we want to do and how to do it. He wants this more than any­thing in the world, but you know what? So do I.”

Roach thinks he has the plan, and he thinks Pac­quiao will be able to im­ple­ment it at the MGM Grand Gar­den. Un­til then, they spend al­most ev­ery day in Hol­ly­wood go­ing over the de­tails — even watch­ing May­weather on film, some­thing Pac­quiao is no­to­ri­ously un­in­ter­ested in do­ing.

“They ask me why I’m not let­ting any­one into the gym to film spar­ring or mitts, and I say it’s be­cause our game plan is vi­tal,” Roach said. “I used to be more le­nient, but this fight is so big, the ad­just­ments we made need to be a lit­tle bit more of a sur­prise. We’ve got stuff he hasn’t seen be­fore.”

Roach knows a victory would be a vale­dic­tion for him­self and Pac­quiao — a cul­mi­na­tion of a 14-year part­ner­ship that stands out in sports for its con­sis­tency and loy­alty. Roach wants it more than he can say, but he can tell Pac­quiao wants it even more.

“I know he doesn’t like May­weather a lit­tle bit, be­cause some­times when we’re do­ing mitts and I’m catch­ing, he turns into May­weather and does his shoul­der roll a lit­tle bit,” Roach said, pan­tomim­ing May­weather’s sig­na­ture de­fen­sive move. “He says, ‘I’ll kill that.’ He makes fun of him a lit­tle bit, and he doesn’t make fun of too many peo­ple.

“He’s not like that. I am, but not him.”

Roach knows the May­weather fam­ily makes fun of him. Roger May­weather, Floyd’s un­cle, has spent years den­i­grat­ing Roach and his men­tor, Ed­die Futch, while Floyd’s fa­ther has trashed Roach re­peat­edly in the me­dia lead­ing up to this bout.

Yet per­sonal in­sults don’t bother Roach when he’s im­mersed in the daily grind of train­ing his fighters. He doesn’t use so­cial me­dia, so he said he doesn’t hear most of the static.

He also has big­ger con­cerns: Roach’s girl­friend, a doc­tor, left him last month. He says it was be­cause he didn’t con­sult her first about one of his in­juries, although he also says he “can’t blame her” given his life­style.

He is still win­ning his fight with Parkin­son’s dis­ease, although his med­i­ca­tions oc­ca­sion­ally cre­ate dark mo­ments that he dis­cusses only pe­riph­er­ally. That’s when he is grate­ful for the con­stant hum of the Wild Card, where life never slows for quiet con­tem­pla­tion.

Roach hasn’t slowed down, ei­ther. He still has his break­fast at 5 a.m. and ar­rives at the Wild Card in time to pre­pare for a 7 a.m. train­ing ses­sion with Miguel Cotto, whose ca­reer was re­vi­tal­ized by his de­ci­sion to join Roach two years ago. When Pac­quiao goes off on va­ca­tion in May, Roach will go right back to work with Cotto.

That’s be­cause beat­ing May­weather won’t re­ally change life for Roach, who is al­ready rich and fa­mous and re­spected by ev­ery­one out­side May­weather’s gym.

He couldn’t even go to The Grove mall on a re­cent week­day morn­ing in Hol­ly­wood with­out dozens of fans in­ex­pli­ca­bly find­ing him for pho­tos and au­to­graphs, which he duly obliges — although he prefers get­ting his pic­ture taken rather than at­tempt­ing to sign his name on a T-shirt with a shaky hand.

“Cell­phones are the best in­ven­tion ever,” he said. “All I do is smile.”

AP

In this April 15 file photo, boxer Manny Pac­quiao, left, of the Philip­pines, trains with Fred­die Roach dur­ing a me­dia work­out at Wild Card Boxing Club in Los An­ge­les.

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