In 1992, when Freddie Roach was planning to put up his own gym, his training guru, Eddie Futch, the man considered as the greatest trainer of all time, told him to forget his plan and concentrate on just training boxers as owning a gym was a money-losing proposition.
Had the then struggling Roach followed his maestro’s advice, the now world famous Wild Card Boxing Club along Vine Street in the heart of Hollywood would not have been the cradle of world champions as it is today.
Futch’s long-time understudy, himself a former fighter nicknamed “La Cucaracha” and “The Choir Boy,” persisted though and soon the gym was up.
“I went ahead and did the gym because I said to myself, you never know when the next Muhammad Ali is going to walk through that door,” Roach told this writer pointing at the gym in one of the many interviews with the Hall of fame trainer a few years ago.
Roach waited a long nine years before a man came into the door in 2001 when the gym had just been completed. The man told his would-be maestro he needed a trainer badly.
The frail-looking, skinny guy whom many could not be mistaken as a fighter was Filipino Manny Pacquiao. And, as they say, the rest was history.
The years that followed saw Roach inducted into the International Boxing Hall of fame and accorded the “Trainer of the Year” seven times by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
The soon-to-be Filipino ring legend would, too, become the first and only man on this planet to crown himself world champion by the International Boxing Federation in the super-bantamweight, Ring featherweight/World Boxing Council super-featherweight, WBC lightweight, International Boxing Organization/Ring junior welterweight, World Boxing Organization welterweight and WBC super-welterweight.
Add The WBC flyweight plum the Pacman won three years before coming under Roach’s care for a total eight
The now 39-year-old senator became the toast of the prizefighting world by earning no less than 22 international awards and recognitions, including the BWAA Fighter of the Decade, and Fighter of the Year (three times), Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People (Heroes and Icons Category), Forbes Magazine Celebrity 100 (The World’s Most Powerful Celebrity, Guinness Book of World Records most world boxing titles and Asia Society’s Asia Game Changer.
After Pacquiao beat Timothy Bradley black and blue in the final chapter their trilogy two years ago, and Pacquiao officially announced his retirement, which turned out to be only temporary, rumors flew that Roach would follow suit prompting this reporter to seek the man for an interview to verify the report.
“No!” was his emphatic answer to the question. “Why should I do that? I would be doing nothing for the rest of my life? Boxing is my life and I will live and die in boxing.”
“Besides, I told you once before, you never know when the next Manny Pacquiao is going to walk through that door,” Roach said with his patented wide grin.
One question I forgot to ask though was how long will his long years partnership with the Filipino superhero last?
That, however, looked to have been answered only a few days ago not by Roach but Pacquiao, who, through his Canadian business consultant, Michael Koncz, announced that everything as far as the longest and most successful boxer-trainer partnership is over.
Such announcement though sounded like it’s only for the multi-titled coming duel with Argentine’s World Boxing Association welterweight belt-holder Lucas “La Maquina” Matthysse set July 14 in Kuala Lumpur.
Nonoy Neri, who along with Buboy Fernandez and younger brother Roger “Haplas” Fernandez, were reported to have bee tasked with handling the training, confirmed the appointment as well as Buboy’s elevation as chief trainer.
Neri even told The Manila Times in an interview that preparation for the 12-round fight where Matthysse will be staking his 147-pound crown will start first week. Confusing, no? But, confusing as it may appear, it is hoped that this merry-mix-up of a situation will soon settle down.
Is Roach now telling everybody who cares to listen he’s already waiting for next Manny Pacquiao to walk through the door of his haven of champions Wild Card Gym? Maybe yes. Abangan!
Coach Freddy Roach (left) has a word with Manny Pacquiao during a training session at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California on April 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO