GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – For the final six weeks of Manny Pacquiao’s training camp, Freddie Roach is the law.
After having a variety of assistants supervise the early parts of Pacquiao’s preparations, the man who orchestrated seven of Pacquiao’s title wins in a record-setting eight weight divisions will take over the camp for the Nov. 24 bout with former WBA lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios.
Roach, who arrived at the Pacman Wild Card Gym in General Santos City, Philippines on Thursday. had been working in camp with former Pacquiao foe Miguel Cotto for his dominant three-round destruction of Delvin Rodriguez last weekend, but had been kept abreast of all of Pacquiao’s training through daily videos sent to him through private file transfers.
On day one, Roach already had some adjustments he wanted to implement, including cutting down Pacquiao’s running schedule from six days a week to five to reduce the wear and tear on his 34-year-old body, plus eliminating basketball from Pacquiao’s schedule at the four-week mark.
“I’m not a fan of Pacquiao playing basketball,” Roach, a five-time BWAA Trainer of the Year, told RingTV.com. “There are so many injuries that can happen in basketball. Just last month he twisted his ankle.”
Accompanying Roach on the trip to the “Tuna Capital” of the Philippines were a pair of sparring partners brought in to assist in Pacquiao’s training, including British junior middleweight Liam Vaughan (8-1, 2 knockouts) and Chinese junior welterweight Ik Yang (13-0, 9 KOs), who will be joining Dan Nazareno Jr. and Ghana’s Fredrick Lawson as sparring partners.
Roach says Vaughan and he had been watching tape of Rios, strategizing on how to emulate the come-forward, aggressive style of the Mexican-American brawler. He and Ik Yang are expected to begin sparring with Pacquiao on Saturday afternoon.
Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming (2-0) is also in GenSan with Roach, training for a fight on the Nov. 24 undercard. Strength and conditioning coach Gavin MacMillan is with Shiming, working with him primarily but will be helping out Pacquiao as well, said Roach, “but not in any official position.”
“This is like a normal training camp,” said Roach. “Manny’s had six week training camps before. Six weeks is good because he gets in shape so fast. He’s a little ahead by the work he’s done already and now that I’m here, the hard work will start.”
Media was barred from Thursday’s sparring session, a policy that is expected to stand until the end of training camp. Both Nazareno Jr. and Lawson worked three rounds each with Pacquiao, with Nazareno earning a 5,000-peso bonus for his efforts.
Roach says that the nearly year-long layoff that Pacquiao will take into the Venetian Resort in Macau, China will be beneficial for him following the knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last year.
“He’s hungry and back in the gym,” said Roach. “Losses are a part of life, this is a part of boxing and it’s how you rebound from them. I expect him to rebound from them very well.”
When asked what hurdles he feels Pacquiao must overcome to recover from the effects of the knockout, Roach was optimistic that Pacquiao had the right mindset to move on with few ill effects.
“Everyone is different,” said Freddie Roach. “After I got knocked out, it ruined my career. It was never the same. Some people go that way, some people it affects less, some people it affects more.
“With Manny Pacquiao, we’ve seen that he’s been knocked out twice earlier in his career and he bounced back really well. Manny is a realist, he understands that it’s part of the sport, so he knows that anyone can get knocked out and he doesn’t really dwells on it. We have to go back to what we were doing in that fight.
“I don’t think we really have to turn the clock back. I think he has to go out and make a statement. I think he was fighting one of the best fights he ever did in his last fight and he just got caught. This is part of boxing. If you don’t think you can get knocked out then you picked the wrong fucking sport.”
Roach says he isn’t willing to look past the younger, hungry upstart Rios from Oxnard, Calif., but says that he still hopes to see Pacquiao avenge the recent loss to Marquez and face Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“Mayweather has a contract that calls for high pay-per-view fighters to make a lot of money that Showtime signed to pay him. So that’s a possibility, but will it happen? I don’t know because of all the politics in-between. It’s definitely a fight we want.
“Marquez refused to give us a rematch and I think he took a $10 million cut in pay to fight Timothy Bradley instead of us. (It) shocked me. I thought he’d give us a rematch right away since we gave him a rematches many times. That’s a fight we still want back.
“I’ve seen Mayweather’s last two fights; they both put me to sleep. He says he gives boxing people what they want, I disagree. He’s boring as hell. He’s very good at what he does, but he’s boring. I think he has trouble with southpaws and he’ll have trouble with active fighters and I think that’s why Manny Pacquiao is someone he avoids.
“There’s a lot of good young guys coming up but those two guys are the ones that I would like to see happen.”
Asked to make a pick for this weekend’s fights between the two most recent Pacquiao conquerors – Marquez and Timothy Bradley – Roach wasn’t as dismissive of Bradley’s chances as some have been.
“Don’t count Bradley out,” said Roach. “I favor Marquez of course, but I’m not counting Bradley out because Marquez is generally a counter puncher but he’s being a lot more offensive with all his new muscles but Bradley boxes very well. He learned how to box Manny late in the first fight and he boxed better in the second half than he did the first. With Ruslan, after the second round, he won five of six rounds by boxing. He’s a very good boxer; I’m giving him a shot. I think it’s a very even fight.”
Photos / Ryan Songalia
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.