Freddie Roach realizes he’s accepting one of the toughest tasks in boxing by volunteering to work with the fractious U.S. national team.
Manny Pacquiao’s celebrated trainer is still determined to restore a little luster to a tarnished American program.
|Freddie Roach, trainer for Manny Pacquiao
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
USA Boxing announced Saturday that Roach will work with the top American amateur fighters in preparation for the London Olympics in 2012.
“I think we can make it work together,” Roach said, a few hours before Pacquiao’s bout against Sugar Shane Mosley. “You have a good team behind you, and that usually means success. I’m very proud of this and I hope I can make a difference.”
Roach isn’t replacing national team coach Joe Zanders, but he’s hoping to hone the top amateur fighters’ skills during training sessions at his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. He’ll also help USA Boxing navigate the treacherous relationships between the Olympic governing body and the top amateur fighters’ parents and personal coaches.
Those conflicts derailed the U.S. team at the Beijing Games, where Americans won just one bronze medal in their worst showing in Olympic history, leading to yet another upheaval in an organization that’s had far more CEOs than medals in recent years.
Super middleweight champion Andre Ward’s gold medal at the Athens Games is the only U.S. title in the past three Olympics.
“Without winning any gold medals, it’s a little embarrassing for America,” Roach said. “We need to change that. … I haven’t followed the amateur game for a while, but the future of boxing is here. It’s going to help boxing in many ways.”
Roach is widely considered the top trainer in professional boxing for his 10-year relationship with Pacquiao, the eight-division world titlist and pound-for-pound champion heading into his meeting with Mosley. Roach also trains British champion Amir Khan and Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and he has worked with Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins.
Roach got a taste of Olympic boxing when he fought in a tournament in Montreal several months before the 1976 Olympics, living in the Olympic Village and fighting in the same ring where Sugar Ray Leonard won a gold medal while leading arguably the greatest boxing team in Olympic history for the United States.
Roach wasn’t good enough to make the team, but the image of Olympic glory stuck with him.
“I really want to help the Olympic team get back in form and get some gold medals back in America,” he said. “With the training and experience that I have, I think I can help the team, and hopefully we will get some gold medals. I know with the team, there’s a lot of politics involved, but I’m pretty good at handling egos and fathers and coaches.”
Roach was spurred to work out a partnership with USA Boxing when the Filipino national team approached him about training their fighters. Roach is among the most recognizable men in the Philippines for his work with Pacquiao, the Filipino congressman and national idol.
Roach will work and travel with the team for certain events, but won’t be in fighters’ corners during bouts, due to an AIBA prohibition against pro trainers working amateur corners.
When the U.S. team is selected this summer, the fighters will travel to the Wild Card for personal workouts with Roach, who hopes to fine-tune their games.
Dan Campbell, the Beijing team’s coach, attempted to change his fighters’ styles to match the amateur game, but his clashes with their personal coaches seriously hurt the team.
“That’s my strongest feature, is that I can get along with those people,” Roach said. “I can deal with egos. I’m not going to alienate those people. I’m going to make them part of the team. Fathers are fathers, and it’s tough, but I’m very good at getting along with people and making them part of the team.”
Roach eventually will work intensely with perhaps six top Olympic prospects. He also will work with the first U.S. women’s team in some capacity, although he bluntly states he isn’t a fan of women’s boxing.
“I think I can make a difference and bring out the best in these fighters,” Roach said. “Give me talent, and I know what to do with it.”
Source: ABC News