Boxing nightmare offers no escape Roach’s refuge is focus on Cotto
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.
FREDDIE ROACH listens during news conference after Manny Pacquiao’s loss on May 2.