LAS VEGAS (AP) — Armed guards patrolling the gym where Manny Pacquiao trains. Stealthy attempts to disrupt Pacquiao’s sparring. And a bit of trash talking just to spice things up two months before the big fight.
Freddie Roach may be in Macau for a title fight involving China’s Zou Shiming, but he’s making plenty of noise before his return to Los Angeles on Sunday to train Pacquiao for his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The talk is as old school as Roach, who seems to be giving early notice to the Mayweather camp that the buildup to the fight will be as intense as the bout itself.
“Floyd is so disrespectful,” Roach said by phone from China. “Manny is the perfect role model for this fight and Mayweather is not. I told Manny we’ve got to beat him for the whole world. There’s no way we can’t win this fight.”
Forgive Roach if he’s early with the talk, but he’s just warming up. He has to, because he’ll carry the dual role of trainer and chief provocateur for Pacquiao, who tends to shy away from making any inflammatory comments about fighters he’ll meet in the ring.
There’s two more months of this to come. Reality television couldn’t begin to even think of the plot twists that will take place between the Hollywood gym where Pacquiao trains and The Money Team’s digs in Las Vegas.
Leave it to Roach, widely acknowledged as the best trainer in the sport, to offer up a few tantalizing morsels to keep the hype going.
He doesn’t much care for Mayweather, and believes that at age 38 he’s slowing down. He thinks Mayweather might even be lured by the magnitude of the fight into doing things that will get him in trouble.
“Floyd’s legs don’t move like they once did,” Roach told The Associated Press. “He’s very clever but the fight is so big he may feel like he has to take a risk and exchange with us. If he does that, that’s the best thing in the world for Manny in my mind.”
And if the fight comes down to cornermen, Roach believes Mayweather will be in real trouble if he’s listening to his father, Floyd Sr., who took over as his son’s trainer from uncle Roger Mayweather last year.
“Going against Floyd Sr. is a little disappointing,” Roach said. “He just isn’t very good, especially during the fight itself. One of our advantages is having him in the other corner.”
The two fighters will get together next Wednesday for the only time before fight week to promote a bout that really doesn’t need much promoting. Expect Floyd Sr. to come up with a poem predicting his son’s success, and expect Roach to elevate the level of trash talk even more.
Big fights are nothing new to either boxer, but already this one is proving different. The buildup to the actual announcement of the fight created hysteria in boxing circles, and the buzz about the biggest fight in years shows no sign of abating.
To prepare for the frenzy, Roach hired seven guards for his Wild Card gym in Hollywood, where in the past people milled about in the parking lot hoping to get a glimpse of Pacquiao and anyone with even a remote connection to the fighter could usually manage to get inside for workouts.
“With guns,” Roach said, “so people respect them.”
That’s not the only change in the Pacquiao camp for the fight that will almost surely define his career.
Instead of doing much of his early training in the Philippines, Pacquiao will spend his entire camp in Southern California. He’ll spar less, likely 90 to 95 rounds instead of the usual 150, because Roach wants to keep his legs fresh at age 36.
First, though, he’ll make a music video to go with a new song the erstwhile singer has recorded for his walk into the ring.
“Manny asked if he could do it and I said OK,” Roach said. “I don’t see it as a distraction because his work ethic is so great.”
Roach, who played a big part in getting the fight made by bringing promoter Bob Arum and CBS chairman Les Moonves together for talks, said he and Pacquiao have a higher calling than just winning a fight.
“Manny will be performing a public service for boxing when he beats Floyd,” Roach said.