Has the 17-year Pacquiao-Roach partnership ended?

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It’s final, Filipino ring icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao will return to fight Lucas Matthysse on July 15 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It’s official, too, that Hall of Famer Freddie Roach won’t be handling he eight-division champ’s training and, likewise, won’t be in his corner during the 12-round title showdown.

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya wrote on social media a last Monday, announcing: “Signed, sealed, and delivered: Proud to officially announce that WBA welterweight world champion Lucas Matthysse will put his title on the line against Manny Pacquiao in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday night July 14 (US time).”

Pacquiao’s business adviser Michael Koncz, on the other hand, last Tuesday, announced his boss will be fighting Matthysse without Roach, his long-time trainer of 17 years, in his build up and the actual fight.


Manny Pacquiao (left) and Freddie Roach PHOTO BY WENDELL ALINEA

Koncz told ESPN senior writer Dan Rafael that Pacquiao’s training and corner has been transferred to the Filipino champ’s boyhood pal and Roach’s assistant for many years, Buboy Fernandez.

“That’s Manny’s decision. Manny has told me Buboy will be handling the training on this fight,” Koncz said. “What’s important to Manny is that he has one voice to listen to in the corner that he trusts, and I guess that’s Buboy for this fight.”

The Pacquiao-Roach boxer-trainer team up started when the then unknown Filipino TKOed African Lehlo Ledwaba in the sixth round on June 23, 2001 in his first fight in the US where he annexed the second of his eight-division jewel—the International Boxing Federation bantamweight crown.

From then followed 34 more fights, including classic matchups that gifted the Sarangani lawmaker the Ring Magazine featherweight, World Boxing Council super-featherweight, WBC lightweight, International Boxing Organization/Ring junior-welterweight, World Boxing Organization welterweight and WBC super-welterweight championships.

Add the WBC flyweight diadem he wrested from Thai Chatchai Sasakul on December 8, 1998, years before invading the U.S. soil for a total eight weight-division harvest.

Asked why Pacquiao decided to terminate his relation with Roach without notifying the latter—Koncz retorted: “There was some concerns Manny had in the last fight and some statements Freddie made to the media that Manny wasn’t very pleased.”

Koncz was referring to Pacquiao’s last fight against Australian Jeff Horn July last year where the latter won by a questionable unanimous decision to dethrone the Filipino of his 147-pound plum.

Koncz also told ESPN that a kick-off news conference to announce the fight is scheduled for April 18 in Manila, with another scheduled two days later on April 20 in Kuala Lumpur.

Like Roach, Pacquiao’s long-time promoter, Top Rank, is out of the picture in the Malaysia affair that will be handled by Pacquiao’s MP Promotions, Bob Arum’s firm will handle though the television distribution of the fight.

That will include an ESPN platform to be determined in the United States, be it ESPN, the new ESPN+ streaming service or pay-per-view. Because of the 12-hour time difference between Malaysia and the US East Coast, the fight will take place on Sunday morning, July 15, Kuala Lumpur time for a prime time broadcast in the U.S.

Rafael reported that Koncz declined to discuss Pacquiao’s promotional status with Top Rank, with whom there has been an apparent breakdown, adding though they would work together on this fight and, hopefully, on another fight in the fall.

“We’re working together on this fight,” Koncz said. “They’ve done good for us for a long time, and we’ve done good for them for a long time. So we’re working with them on this fight. We don’t have any disputes with Top Rank. Hopefully, [if]this fight with Matthysse is a big success and Manny is victorious, and then we can see if we can do a fight with (Vasyl) Lomachenko with Top Rank in the fall.”

Pound-for-pound king Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs), the junior lightweight world champion, is moving up to lightweight to challenge Jorge Linares for his title on May 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York on ESPN. Wins by Lomachenko and Pacquiao could lead to a fight this fall at a catchweight.

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