Freddie Roach – One Of Boxing’s Good Guys

freddie roach03.10.07 - By Matthew Hurley: One of the great trainers in boxing, and also one of the most underrated, is Freddie Roach. Roach is now finishing his preparations with his fighter Manny Pacquiao for his rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. There are many reasons to like a person but the main one lies in the foundation of that person’s character. And Freddie’s character is unimpeachable.

Roach runs Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California and has trained some great fighters but he is from my neck of the woods, Massachusetts, so I have an even greater affinity for him. He came from the same town, Brockton, that Rocky Marciano called home and Marvin Hagler later adopted as home after he left New Jersey to train with Goody and Pat Petronelli. His family later moved to Dedham, Massachusetts. On top of all that, the reserved and unceasingly polite trainer is a former fighter. He turned professional in 1978 but he remained one of those lesser talented pros who couldn’t quite win a title but always fought with heart. It was his character that allowed him to continue to compete.

His boxing afterlife wasn’t so rosy. According to Roach the biggest payday in the ring he ever received was a paltry seven thousand dollars. When he quit the game he was broke and took a job as a telemarketer. Things began to spiral as they often do for any man faced with an uncertain future and unfortunately, for this writer included, self-destructive behavior became something of a home. But Roach shook it off and then he discovered former light heavyweight champion Virgil Hill. The two found themselves hitting heavy bags in the same gym under the tutelage of legendary trainer (arguably the best of all time) Eddie Futch. Roach joined Hill’s camp and hasn’t left the gym since.

One of the questions often asked to me by marginal fans is why Roach speaks as he does – in a sometimes halting manner. I simply reply, without regret or hesitation, that he has Parkinson’s Syndrome because that’s what Roach simply says. He deals with the disease like a man and doesn’t let it slow him down. He is willing to admit, however, that boxing may have contributed to his disease. Still, he refuses to blame the sport he loves for his condition. He simply loves it and maintains that it was his choice to step inside the ring and take all the risks that come with such a decision. Basically, he conducts himself as he’s always done, like a man and a gentleman.

Which made a certain press conference between Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya a little hard to stomach. Floyd’s father (Floyd senior), the former trainer of De La Hoya and his rival brother Roger, the trainer of the junior both grabbed the microphone and spouted the most hateful vitriol against Freddie Roach, then Oscar’s trainer. Once again Roach sat and quietly accepted this nonsense for what it was – nonsense. But he was a bit hurt. However, in the spirit of Eddie Futch, his mentor, he took that verbal garbage and tossed it aside. He chose to focus on his fighter which is what makes him one of the most sought after trainers in the sport. He also has, perhaps, the most popular and certainly most exciting fighter in his stable, Manny Pacquiao and he has helped turn the “Pac Man” into a monster. Not bad for a kid from Massachusetts.

Article posted on 04.10.2007

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