Does a boxing trainer have to have fought himself in order to gain the full respect of the fighter or fighters he is coaching and, of more importance, to fully understand and appreciate what his warrior is going through when he’s battling away in the ring? This is an argument for another day, but Freddie Roach, known and admired today as one of the greatest boxing trainers the modern era of the sport has seen, could certainly wear the T-shirt that reads, ‘been there, done it, learned a whole lot from it.’ Roach was of course a rough, tough and exciting super-featherweight and lightweight contender in the 1980s. Known for his ability to take punishment and come roaring back, Roach was a fan-favorite who compiled a 40-13(15) record.
But Roach paid a price. Stopped just three times, two of these TKO defeats coming towards the end of Freddie’s career, Roach’s ability to take a shot led to him being diagnosed with Parkinson’s years into his retirement. By this time, Roach had worked with a number of great fighters, his ability as a trainer and a corner-man serving fighters like Virgil Hill well. Along with the knowledge Roach picked up during his tenure in the ring, the time Freddie spent with Eddie Futch – for many THE greatest boxing trainer of them all – saw to it that a good deal of information was both consciously and subconsciously stored away inside his memory. Roach had one fine teacher from whom to learn and to pick up all the tricks of the trade from.
Roach has at times been criticized for have his fighters fight overly aggressively, even when this was not to their best advantage – Amir Khan, for example, who some critics said would have been better served by a more defensively orientated trainer. Not every fighter is a human threshing machine with a great chin the way an unstoppable Manny Pacquiao was (maybe still is); Pacquiao being Roach’s star pupil. But there is no denying the huge amount of success Roach has enjoyed, and his fighters have enjoyed since he became a trainer. Roach never challenged for a world title during his own ring career, yet he is rightly known as being a true trainer of champions; having worked with the likes of Pacquiao, Hill, James Toney, Israel Vazquez, Wayne McCullough, Steve Collins, and Marlon Starling.
Even the onset of Parkinson’s failed to stop Roach, his sheer passion for the sport (along with a rough but essential daily routine of exercise and medication) seeing to it that he carried on working his magic at the famous and celebrated Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. Today, Freddie turns 61 and he is currently working with a number of fighters. Freddie won’t stop until he is simply forced to stop. Fighting is in his blood and Roach will continue passing on all he has learned as well as experienced for as long as he is physically and mentally able. Let’s hope this is for many, many more years to come.
Roach always gave his all when he was in the ring, he demands his fighters give their all when they are in the ring, and fans everywhere love this multiple award-winning trainer’s quiet, even humble approach and demeanor. Is there a greater active boxing trainer in America today?