LAS VEGAS – Waxing nostalgic as he counts down the days before his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, trainer Freddie Roach looked back at that fateful day 11 years ago when a raw and lanky boxer named Manny Pacquiao walked into his Wild Card gym in Hollywood.
To this day, he fondly remembers that moment as the “best day of my life.”
“The first time he came in the gym, he’s already a talented guy,” said the 52-year-old trainer, remembering Pacquiao at that time as a one-dimensional fighter who mostly relies on his powerful left hand.
“He has a good right hand, but he still didn’t know it yet,” Roach recalled.
Twenty-five bouts and 14 title fights later, all with Roach in his corner, Pacquiao is considered as the best boxer of his generation. He has lost just once during his time with Roach – a 2005 decision to Erik Morales which he went on to avenge not just once but twice.
For his part, Roach, whose long battle with Parkinson’s disease is well-documented, has become a five-time Trainer of the Year. He will be enshrined into the Hall on Sunday (Monday in Manila) in the company of Thomas 'The Hitman' Hearns, Mark Johnson, ring announcer Michael Buffer, broadcaster Al Bernstein and journalist Michael Katz.
Roach said Pacquiao has come a long way since they first met 11 years ago. “He’s improved in all aspects of the game. I think he’s a finished product right now,” the trainer said in his soft, scruffy voice.
Pacquiao, for his part, has only the best things to say about Roach, whom he regards as a father figure.
“He’s a nice guy, very calm. We’re very compatible. He could get along with anybody. You can’t compare him to anybody,” said the world welterweight champion.
Pacquiao’s trainer said he won’t miss the once-in-a lifetime Hall of Fame ceremony and will definitely fly to Canastota, New York on a private plane he chartered at a cost of US$26,000 after working the Pacquiao fight.
“But first, Manny Pacquiao by KO,” he said.