MACAU, Macau: China’s exciting prospect “IK” Yang Lian Hui declared on Thursday that he will win the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior welterweight world title on Saturday in honor of his absent Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.
On doctor’s orders, Roach, legendary trainer of 34 world champions including Manny Pacquiao, was unable to make the trip from Los Angeles to the southern Chinese city of Macau for Saturday’s showdown against Cesar Cuenca.
Roach, 55, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has a long-standing back problem that will require surgery and has been told he is not up to the rigors of long haul flying.
Unbeaten Yang (18-0, 13 KOs) said on Thursday that it was Roach who had turned him into a world-class fighter and that he would dedicate victory against the tough Argentine Cuenca (47-0, 2 KOs) to the man who mentored Pacquiao to world titles in eight weight divisions.
“I have been working very hard with Freddie for the past three months so I am sad he cannot be with me now,” Yang told Agence France-Presse on the sidelines of the pre-fight press conference at the Venetian Macau on Thursday.
“All the way he has been making me a better fighter. I want to honor him with this fight.”
Yang trains at Roach’s Wildcard gym in Los Angeles and said that nothing would give him more pleasure than returning with a world title.
“I can’t wait to see the look on Freddie’s face when I walk into his gym with the belt around my waist,” added Yang.
Filling in for Roach in Yang’s corner will be straight-talking Australian Justin Fortune, a former heavyweight who once lasted five rounds against the great Lennox Lewis.
Fortune dismissed the threat of Cuenca, who on paper is just a win on Saturday away from matching Floyd Mayweather’s 48-0 mark, and two victories shy of Rocky Marciano’s all-time record.
“Only two KOs in 47 fights? Let’s face it this guy couldn’t break an egg,” said Fortune, confident that Yang’s all-action unorthodox approach would prevail.
“If he can’t hurt him, Yang will eventually chase him down and beat the shit out of him,” said the straight-talking Fortune.
“When you know that someone can’t hurt you, you have the fight.”
Yang, from the northeastern city of Dalian, is looking to become just the second Chinese fighter in history to win a professional world title and the first in a major weight category.
China’s Xiong Zhaozhong currently holds the little-recognized WBC minimum weight (105lb, 48kg) belt, also known as straw weight.