Boxing night­mare of­fers no es­cape Roach’s refuge is fo­cus on Cotto

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL DWYRE

For Fred­die Roach, Amer­ica’s most-fa­mous boxing trainer, the cloud that be­gan hov­er­ing over­head on May 2 re­fuses to go away.

That was the night his fighter, Manny Pac­quiao, lost to Floyd May­weather Jr.

“In my quiet time, it’s still right there, the de­pres­sion,” Roach said, “But it’s bet­ter when I’m work­ing, when I’m at the gym.”

Fri­day morn­ing, he wasn’t at his fa­mous Wild Card Gym in Hol­ly­wood.

“This is the first day in 20 years or so since I bought it,” he said, “that I haven’t gone to the gym when I’m in town.”

He couldn’t. He had to wait for con­struc­tion work­ers to com­plete re­pairs on a door that had been smashed open in a rob­bery at­tempt at his home.

This is how it has gone re­cently for Roach, sev­en­time Boxing Writ­ers Assn. of Amer­ica trainer of the year and ar­chi­tect of Pac­quiao’s star­dom.

A few weeks ago, he was served with a sub­poena at the Wild Card in a class-

ac­tion suit by fans want­ing their money back af­ter the May­weather-Pac­quiao let­down.

“The guy wanted to serve Manny, too,” Roach said, “but Manny wasn’t there, so he handed it to some­body and we just left it on the f loor.”

Re­cently, he was sum­moned to court in a defama­tion law­suit against him filed by for­mer Pac­quiao con­di­tion­ing coach Alex Ariza. Roach had fired Ariza, and their dis­like for one an­other came to a head on na­tional TV, dur­ing one of those pro­mo­tional se­ries called “24/7,” when Ariza kicked Roach.

Even­tu­ally, Ariza went to work for May­weather, and af­ter May­weather won May 2, the boxer praised Ariza’s role in the victory.

More salt in Roach’s wounds.

Then there are his own health prob­lems, those be­yond the Parkin­son’s he bat­tles daily in the wake of an eight-year boxing ca­reer that, as Roach is fond of say­ing, “went five fights too long.”

Re­cently, Roach, 55, has been fight­ing both a bad back and a nerve prob­lem in his neck that turned his left arm numb. Ex­er­cise and shots have less­ened the prob­lem. He even found a sort of sil­ver lining.

“Some guy came into the gym a few weeks ago,” Roach said. “He was de­mand­ing to fight every­body. I didn’t know his abil­i­ties and he was push­ing his weight around. I look up and he’s in the ring, throw­ing punches. I tell him to stop and get out. He won’t. So I put him down. He is out with his eyes open. I hadn’t thrown a punch like that in 10 years. “And it was a left.” Still, the ache over Pac­quiao’s loss, in what was billed as the fight of the cen­tury and hyped un­til every­body’s throat was hoarse, does not go away eas­ily. It wasn’t only the loss on the judges’ cards, but the dis­taste­ful af­ter­math.

In quick re­view, Pac­quiao rein­jured his right ro­ta­tor cuff dur­ing his best round of the fight, the fourth.

“When he came back to the cor­ner,” Roach said, “he said he was in a lot of pain. So at that point, there wasn’t a lot I could say, other than to just go out there and do your best.”

Ac­cord­ing to the judges, that wasn’t nearly enough. May­weather was given a lop­sided victory.

So, to the public, it was a bor­ing fight, much less than the hype promised. But, im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward, it got more bizarre, as only boxing seems able to do.

No­body knew about Pac­quiao’s pre-fight in­jury, but in re­veal­ing it to the gath­ered me­dia af­ter­ward, Team Pac­quiao did its best Cool Hand Luke imi­ta­tion. It had been a fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate — with each other.

Roach said he was sur­prised when one of the first ques­tions in the post-match news con­fer­ence was about the in­jury. He had been told on the way out, by Top Rank’s head man, Bob Arum, to say noth­ing. But ap­par­ently it was Arum, an­gry that the Ne­vada Ath­letic Com­mis­sion had not al­lowed Pac­quiao to be given a doc­tor-ap­proved and legal painkiller in­jec­tion just be­fore the fight, who clued in a cou­ple of re­porters just be­fore the con­fer­ence.

Pac­quiao ap­par­ently had no march­ing or­ders, so as soon as the ques­tion came up, he told the truth about the in­jury and the tech­ni­cal­ity that dis­al­lowed his painkilling shot.

Pac­quiao’s ad­vi­sor, Michael Koncz, who had filled out the form for the com­mis­sion that would have al­lowed the in­jec­tion had Koncz checked “Yes” in a box that asked about any in­juries, was also, ac­cord­ing to Roach, rec­om­mend­ing that mum be the word on the in­jury.

But once Arum told the two re­porters, and once Pac­quiao pub­licly told all, there was no turn­ing back. Now, May­weather could — and did — spout off about Pac­quiao be­ing a guy look­ing for ex­cuses.

Soon, a mem­ber of the Ne­vada com­mis­sion was tak­ing the mi­cro­phone to re­fute any wrong­do­ing or un­fair­ness on their part, Arum was spout­ing back, and the public saw a sport, dis­in­te­grat­ing be­fore its eyes. It prob­a­bly had ex­pected this all along. But the mag­ni­tude of this fight seemed to al­low some de­nial. Boxing wouldn’t let its usual mess hap­pen at May­weather-Pac­quiao, would it?

Yes it would. The usual odor be­came a stench.

“This whole thing will hurt us for a while,” said Roach, who ad­mit­ted that, when Pac­quiao suf­fered the ro­ta­tor cuff in­jury in train­ing about three weeks be­fore the fight, he had pushed for a post­pone­ment. But oth­ers, in­clud­ing Pac­quiao, hoped it would heal and wanted to push on. And they thought it had.

While he awaits Pac­quiao’s pos­si­ble, but not cer­tain, re­turn to boxing af­ter shoul­der surgery, Roach is get­ting his mojo back by train­ing mid­dleweight cham­pion Miguel Cotto. Cotto won last Satur­day night in Brook­lyn, N.Y. It was de­signed as a warmup for the pro­jected next big thing in the sport — Cotto-Canelo Al­varez, pos­si­bly in Novem­ber.

That would be a cloud-parter for Roach. For fans of his sport, it may take longer.

John Locher As­so­ci­ated Press

FRED­DIE ROACH lis­tens dur­ing news con­fer­ence af­ter Manny Pac­quiao’s loss on May 2.

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