By Vitali Shaposhnikov: It is not a secret that talent is always present in one’s genetics, but bringing it to light takes a special person, and more importantly the right kind of attitude and preparation.
Many times I have heard people talk about Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach, stating that Roach does very little for Manny at this point in time, and that pretty much any trainer out there would do well with a talented fighter like Pacquiao, as there is very little that needs to be improved. Some believe that only in the beginning stages of his career a coach would actually polish a fighter like Pacquiao, but now, Pacquiao is confident and knowledgeable enough to be self sufficient.
A lot of boxing fans feel similarly about Mayweather Jr. and his uncle and trainer Roger. Floyd’s ring I.Q., if not the highest of all time, is undoubtedly in the top five in boxing history. His genetics seem to have been made for boxing, and since the early age Floyd has been one of the most dominant and technically sound champions. Every time we see Floyd preparing for his fight, he is either doing self-carrying exercises such as weights or bags, or is hitting some pads with Roger. Unlike Pacquiao, we have never seen Floyd go all out with Roger for the cameras. Of course we know very little of what happens behind the curtain, and have heard from Miguel Cotto, that Mayweather Jr. actually hits harder than Pacquiao.
So what do these two trainers actually do for their already peaked fighters? Are they as necessary as we think? Would both Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao instantly suffer in their boxing careers if they had left their respective trainers?
I don’t know. This is just as much of a mystery for you as it is for me. The reason I use the word mystery, is simply because we have not seen either fighter in such a position yet, and probably never will. They have both peaked, and are now more than likely past their prime, thus while a loss would shock the world, it would not necessarily be a fluke based on an in-fight mistake, but rather the fact that someone younger and hungrier has knocked on their door.
So what do Rodger and Freddie do for their legendary champions?
We know how close both fighters are with their trainers. They are used to them no less than a child would be to their loving father. Everything they have they earned with the constant help and attention of their trainers. Pacquiao treats Roach like family, and knows that there isn’t a topic that cannot be discussed with Freddie. From boxing to family, they figure things out together. Pacquiao has always, up to this day, followed Roach’s requests, and has thus far been more than successful. If Freddie all of the sudden disappears, who can Pacquiao ask then? Who should he trust?
Similarly, Mayweather Jr. and Roger are actually blood related family, and go way back when Floyd was but a kid trying to see if he can achieve at least something in the sport of boxing. Sure his father Floyd Sr. got Floyd into the gym, and did all of his early career preparation, but his uncle Roger has been there from the early end of the incline of the bell curve so to say, and has taken Mayweahter Jr. to the pinnacle of his career. So far a champion is yet to defeat Floyd, and claiming that Roger had nothing to do with Floyd’s success is ignorant at best. Floyd understands, respects and trusts his uncle, and without Rodger, I believe Floyd would act out and call it quits in boxing. He is very defensive of his uncle as we have seen on the HBO’s 24/7 series, and would not want to lose the man that made Floyd who he is today.
Most fighters, no matter how clever and no matter how educated about the sport of boxing, don’t want to, and don’t know how to property strategize for their future fights. Watching tapes is not like watching a movie, it’s not about watching, but about seeing, noticing, and predicting. We have heard Freddie Roach say that when he watches tapes, he does it for hours at a time, trying to find a flaw in their opposition, so that when fight-night comes, his fighter could take full advantage of the mistakes that his rivals tends to repeat in the ring. I don’t know, but I assume that neither Pacquiao nor Mayweather Jr. sit in front of a screen watching endless fights and looking for clues. They want to arrive at the gym, glove up, and let their trainers take over. Both have done that so far, and obviously it has worked without a flaw. Mayweather Jr. is considered to be an untouched and dominant champion in the ring, while Pacquiao is thought of as a freight train with unbelievable reflexes and the ability to catch his opponent off guard. Without Roach and Freddie, they are only great fighters with amazing attributes, but no idea of what they are better off doing when they cross those ropes.
This is one of the most important things that fighters hope to have in their boxing coach’s personality. When famous, people tend to ignore the signs that it is time to call it quits. In boxing, just like in any other sport, this is also true, but in a way it is far more crucial then any other. We all know boxing as the hurt business, and what long careless fights and careers can do to a person if they keep at it. Brain damage, nervous system damage, musculoskeletal disorders, and even death are not uncommon in an activity where hitting someone in the head for a long duration is the essence of the sport. Hanging up the gloves is never easy, and we have seen dozens of fighter retire only to come back, as they will never be able to ignore the calling and the crowd effect. So who can potentially influence them to stop? I believe that only their family and boxing coach would have luck, and coach comes first on the list. I am hoping that Roach and Roger will not let their fighters sink, and will request that they hang them up before they turn into a huge disappointment for their fans as well as boxing history. A good example of that would be Joy Jones Jr., going from one of the most respected fighters in the history of the sport, to a journeyman taking any fight he is being handed. Both Floyd and Manny are not immune to a possibility of a similar future, thus both need a voice of reason when that time arrives.
Who else could boost a fighter’s confidence if not their trainer? Family? Friends? Fans? None of those, as they would simply have no knowledge and no right to claim that a fighter is truly that good and is ready to face their opposition. Of course family and the fans are a huge part of it all, and all undeniably play a tremendous role in what drives a fighter to fight, but between the fights, only the coach can provide a fighter with boxing related goals, and push their fighters to achieve them. Boxers need to be challenged every day in their training camps, and need to told, even proved to, that they are passing those barriers and are performing beyond expectation. When a trainer, the only person that truly knows, looks their fighter in the eyes and says that they are ready, the confidence boost for that fighter is unparalleled by anything else. This goes hand in hand with truth, and both Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao certainly get that positive feedback from their coaches, and know that it is not a padded lie. I have heard both Roger and Freddie get upset and tell their fighters off if they are either distracted or are not performing as well as expected. This gets fixed, and the fighters enter the ring ready to put on an exemplary performance. The confidence also come from what their trainers say outside of the training camp or the ring. Trainers do as much trash talking as the fighters, and what they say, is likely heard or read by their fighter and the entire team. Anything that confirms their mutual belief outside, will make their fighter that much more confident.
What do you think? Does Pacquiao really need Roach? Does Mayweather Jr. require Rodger? Would either fighter do just as well if they hire someone else?