Freddie Roach: Landing the First Low Blow!

Freddie Roachcommentary by P.H. Burbridge - We’re 4 weeks out from the fight and Freddie Roach is back to his normal pre-fight theatrics. Over the past few years and with the emergence of Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach has become increasingly more vocal on a range of subjects. In the Philippines, the domestic Press refers to Roach as the “Legendary American Trainer” and there’s solid logic on their behalf in doing so but in my opinion it just seems a little bit premature. Angelo Dundee, Ray Arcel, Eddie Futch, Cus D'Amato and Gil Clancy are “legendary” trainers. When all is said and done Freddie may indeed end up in that company but let’s not put him on a pedestal just yet. Right now Roach is on a one fighter win streak. True, one great fighter but if you were to string together his past as a hired gun you’d realize that Manny Pacquiao is truly the best thing that ever happened to him from a credibility stand point. I’m not trying to down grade his accomplishments because they are impressive but I do want to humanize him so we can have a rational dialogue..

We’re too quick as a fan base to recognize people and describe them in these superlative terms only to tear them down after one false step. We do it all the time to fighters who suffer their first career loss. There was a time when Freddie kept his statements to a bare minimum but those days are long gone. For the most part we know what Roach is up to and much of this can be chalked up to a bigger more complex psychological game that fighters and trainers sometimes play through the Press. There’s also a commercial value in making abrasive comments in the Press because the more controversy or “buzz” you can create around a fight the greater the interest which almost always translates to increased revenue.

But, Freddie’s most recent comments have gone in a bit of questionable direction and it’s not lost on the hard core fight fans who email me on a regular basis.

One such comment is that Roach wants special attention paid to Miguel Cotto’s “intentional low blows” which he’ll be lobbying for an “automatic” disqualification should Cotto stray low. Here’s what he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, "Cotto tends to get dirty when the going gets tough in most of his fights and I don’t want that to happen. I will make sure the referee will be very strict about it. Cotto stops his opponents’ momentum with that kind of blow. In that Judah fight he had five low blows." I can understand Freddie’s logic here but does he really mean “anytime Cotto goes to the body I want the referee to pay special attention to it and possibly give US special consideration when deeming a punch legal or low!” My point is the referee knows and understands these rules better than Roach and in many cases is aware of each fighter’s tendencies prior to the bout. It’s quite common for a referee to study a fighter’s past so he or she can be better prepared come fight night. For Freddie to throw that out there is like a Police Chief telling his officers “if people speed then write them a speeding ticket!” Is Roach making that statement because he’s worried that the referee will some how forget to enforce the rules or is he establishing an alibi just in case matters don’t play out in their favor on November 14th? Aside from publicly insulting Miguel Cotto by calling him a dirty fighter I seriously doubt making such a statement will have any real impact or raise the awareness of the appointed referee. It’s also not going to dissuade Cotto from doing what he does best. Could it be just one of the many pre-fight alibis that camps sometimes establish through the Press to explain why matters didn’t go their way? It’s a form of plausible deniability that can be used later to justify a rematch or minimize an opponents victory.

Now, has Cotto delivered low blows in the past? Yes, we all know that but he’s also a body puncher who’s not the tallest guy in the world who generally has fought taller guys so you have to at least be open to the possibility that some of those low blows weren’t necessarily intentional. I don’t think anyone would classify Miguel Cotto as a dirty fighter or at least not any dirtier than the next guy. I’ve studied Manny’s entire career set and I’ve seen him use his head and his shoulder in clinches in various fights so if we want to start playing that game we could build an equally damning case against Pacquiao but there’s no point to it because no one here truly believes Manny is a dirty fighter either. I’m positive in Freddie’s mind that he does this type of thing as a form of psychological warfare so I don’t believe there’s any underlying malice or disrespect towards Miguel Cotto behind it.

But it does come off as petty and beneath him.

The next comment hasn’t gotten a lot of attention but has angered some Latino fight fans and has also generated the most email to my email box. Freddie is also quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying "Joe Cortez is Puerto Rican and he’s in the running as one of the referees. I don’t want him letting Cotto get away with stuff like that. We’re going to make an issue out of it first.". I’m not going to go on a long self righteous rant because I think most of us here understand what a dumb and insensitive comment that is. I think the only interpretation you can make is that Cortez because he’s Puerto Rican like Miguel Cotto will somehow let a “homeboy” get away with a few things! I can tell you I’m not a big fan of Cortez either because of his tendency to break fighters early and to stifle infighting but I certainly recognize that he’s as respected as they come not to mention the man has been one of the premier ref’s over the last 30 years. You CANNOT question his integrity because it goes to his credibility which is how he makes his living. The credibility question is wrong and the racial implication is just out of line!! It shows a lack of class and I hate to say that about Roach because I do respect his accomplishments. It’s like someone questioning Carlos Padilla’s role in a Manny Pacquiao fight as if Carlos would somehow show preferential treatment to a fellow countryman. Padilla is a respected ref and so is Cortez. They’re professionals and are not in the ring to skew events in a particular direction they’re in there to enforce the rules.

Nothing and I do mean nothing in Cortez’s past would lead you to believe that “the fix is in”

Roach’s comments are totally unacceptable. If he doesn’t want Cortez to be the ref then that’s understandable but there’s a protocol to follow and it doesn’t include making outlandish statements in the Press.

Freddie, you flat out owe Joe Cortez a public apology because so far the only guy guilty of any low blows is you!

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 16.10.2009

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