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Friday, April 14, 2017

Paul Kent: Manny Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach just keeps on fighting

BY about lunchtime each day the body warms up and the Parkinson’s Disease that attacks his body grows sleepy.
The gym is already humming by then and Freddie Roach has already done the best part of his day’s work, although he will still save his most important work for after lunch when his hands are sharpest.
Roach knows his body is abandoning him. He knows the fight is daily and that the best way he can meet this fight is to rise early to be at his Los Angeles gym by 5am where he will work 12-hour days, sometimes more.
Yesterday he broke for lunch to take a call from Australia.
The big fight is coming up.

A week ago Jeff Horn signed to fight Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane on July 2 and Roach will head to the Philippines in a month to train Pacqiuao before they fly to Brisbane with a fortnight to go.
Roach is not training Pacquiao at the moment because Pacquiao likes only six weeks of padwork and sparring before he gets into the ring. Pacquiao is in the Philippines doing whatever it is he does between fights, which currently ranges from being an elected Senator, chairman of Public Works Committee where he shows considerable promise, to an enthusiastic karaoke singer with no promise at all.
They hope somewhere around 65,000 get along to the fight.
Until then, Roach is in Los Angeles watching film of Horn.
He is one of the last of a generation who like to break down their opponent’s style and give his fighter a gameplan to exploit his opponent’s weakness and in Horn’s past two fights he sees a tough kid he has no doubt Pacquiao will knock out at some point in the fight.
It comes much easier when the instructions are being passed to a fighter like Pacquiao.
Roach says all the right things about Horn. He has five Australians fighting in his gym right now and what he knows of them and what he has seen in Horn’s past two fights changes nothing.
“Horn looks like he’s a tough guy, as are all Australian fighters,” he says.
“That’s what they all have in common, they’re in shape. Jeff Fenech was the role model for that, they work hard and come in shape and were tough.”
Pacquiao, though, is something else. He is like Winx, only with a better left.
He has won 10 titles in eight different divisions and has not fought anyone who could not call himself a world champion for more than a decade.
As far as class goes he is four levels above Horn, who broke into the top 10 several fights back.
Still, Roach is concerned.
And in Horn he sees opportunity.
“Manny hasn’t knocked anyone out in a while and I’m getting a little anxious about that,” he says.
Pacquiao’s knockout came when he put Miguel Cotto down in the 12th in 2009. With each new fight going to the judges his shine has dulled, slightly.
“I’m not sure how long it will last but I can assure you I am looking for a knockout somewhere along the way,” he says.
Pacquiao needs to knock out Horn to continue fighting. Any less and his credentials fall.
“I’m hoping for a knockout,” Roach says.
“I talked to Manny about that. He has about five more years before he can become President and he will probably fight until that happens.”
Unless Horn takes him down.
A lot of flag waving will happen before the fight and by the first bell most Australians will have themselves convinced Horn will win.
But he stays the underdog and that will not change.
Horn’s best chance is that Pacquiao’s decline is greater than we realise and he catches him.
Roach’s job is to deny that. He says Pacquiao stays fit and by the time he comes into camp much of the hard work is already done and his job from there is simply to put the polish on.
Roach is quite possibly the most knowledgeable trainer alive today.
He learned from Eddie Futch, who worked Joe Frazier’s corner and a stack of others. Futch, who would spar with Joe Louis as a young man, has training bloodlines that go back to the old Philadelphia and New York trainers who were the best of their day.
Roach is 57 now and his words increasingly come as a mumble.
How much longer his own fight continues only his body knows.
“It’s the training that keeps me going,” he says.
“It’s lots of hand-eye co-ordination.
“If you lay down and give up on it and don’t stay active it will take over.”
Roach has heard too often the irony of his situation; the cruelty of the sport that has likely caused his Parkinson’s has now become his saviour.
He is too practical to give it any more thought than necessary. There simply isn’t enough time in his life.
What he prefers is to be in the ring, mitts in hand, early in the afternoon when his body feels most free.
His body loosens when the hands go up and Pacquiao thumps into them with the sound of a sharp crack, like when branches break.
In some ways this fight in July is for all these men.
For Pacquiao, who fights for legacy.
For Horn, who fights for future.
And who Roach, who fights, and fights, because that is all he can do.

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