Moorer blasts way into trainer career

LAS VEGAS – Subtlety has never been one of Michael Moorer’s strong suits. The former heavyweight champion has always been about as subtle as a hook to the chin.

Moorer, though, has largely remained in the background as trainers Freddie Roach and Floyd Mayweather Sr. have exchanged barbs in the media in the months leading up to Saturday’s super lightweight showdown at the MGM Grand Garden between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton.

Moorer is trying to build a new career for himself, but he’s doing it on the largest stage imaginable. He flew to Hollywood, Calif., in January and signed on as Roach’s assistant trainer, hoping to learn the business from the three-time Trainer of the Year.

And though Pacquiao is Roach’s prodigy, Moorer also is, in a way. Moorer, though, has already had an impact upon the pound-for-pound king.

“Michael Moorer, I trust him,” Pacquiao said. “It’s good to have him with me.”

Moorer is following much the same path as Roach, who mentored under the late Eddie Futch, the greatest trainer of them all, after his fighting days were over. Roach learned not only how to prepare a fighter while working with Futch, but also learned how to handle a fighter’s frequently roller coaster emotions.

And that’s one of the things he’s working with Moorer to improve. Moorer was a very technically adept fighter during his career, which included two stints as heavyweight champion and another as light heavyweight champ.

He earned a reputation – deserved or not – as a snarling, difficult to work with fighter. And though he’s hardly fearsome as a trainer, he remains very direct. It’s a trait that doesn’t always go over well.

“He’s well respected by all of the guys, but some of them don’t like him because they think he’s too direct,” Roach said, chuckling. “He’ll say exactly what he thinks. It’s funny, but sometimes there are guys who say they want you to tell them the truth but who don’t really like hearing it as bluntly as he’ll tell it to them.

“It’s just a matter of working on his people skills a little. Michael’s got the knowledge and he’s a more technical guy than people imagine. But the thing is, I’m running a business here. It’s not only boxers in this gym, but we have white-collar guys, too, and he can get under people’s skin sometimes. I think as he develops that, he’s going to be more and more successful.”

It shouldn’t come as a shock to those who paid attention to his career that Moorer, who fought his last fight in Feb. 2008, would be well-versed in the technical side of the game. This, after all, is a man who was trained by the likes of Emanuel Steward, Roach and Teddy Atlas.

If you can’t learn the game from those guys, you don’t have an aptitude for boxing.

And Moorer clearly understands the Xs and Os aspect of the sport. But since joining Roach, he’s been there not so much to be the hands on guy in the ring as Pacquiao prepares but to serve as an extra set of eyes for Roach.

“There are things Freddie isn’t going to be able to see in the heat of the battle and I’ll be there on the outside and I can point them out to him,” Moorer said.

Moorer was a strong and powerful fighter, but he favors an intellectual approach to the sport. He has an instinctive feel for the game and for what punches work better than others in specific situations.

He doesn’t want to be a trainer so much as, say, a professor of boxing.

“I want to write a legacy for myself in this business,” Moorer said. “I look at myself as a teacher, not a trainer. I want to pass on this knowledge that I’ve acquired. I’ve been there and done that in the ring. I know what it takes. I understand what works and what doesn’t. When I’m doing this, I’m serious about teaching them all I’ve learned.”

Aspects of the game that came easily to Moorer and that he picked up the first time he was taught them are like a Rubik’s Cube to many of those he has to teach. Part of the gig as a former world champion in becoming a Professor of Pugilism, if you will, is that you’re not going to encounter many who are as gifted or as natural as you.

And so Moorer has to learn patience and how to break complicated movements down to their simplest elements.

“How many truly great fighters have gone on to become good trainers,” Roach asks. “Not many. You’d think guys like that would become great trainers, but the truth is, they were so natural and so gifted, a lot of times, they can’t put into words what they know. They can do it, but they can’t tell you.

“Michael is learning how to do that. Eddie once told me, ‘You have to let every person be himself and allow his personal characteristics to carry over.’ And that’s where Michael is. He has a great knowledge of the sport and he has guys’ respect because of what he’s done. He’s learning now how to transfer that knowledge.”

He’s been an invaluable asset to Roach, not only keeping calm amid the chaos that Pacquiao inevitably brings, but in helping to break down tape of Hatton and making certain Pacquiao doesn’t pick up any bad habits.

Like Pacquiao, Moorer was a southpaw during his career and has been able to provide Pacquiao insights that few others could.

Moorer, 41, long respected Pacquiao’s work from a distance. Getting a chance to see him work every day has only reinforced that respect, Moorer said.

He’s watched tape of Hatton until he’s bleary-eyed. And though he’s not a trash talker, he concedes he doesn’t see a way that Pacquiao can lose.

“With all due respect to Ricky, I think he’s an overrated fighter,” Moorer said. “Look at the guys he’s fought; he didn’t fight anyone to establish himself. I think he is the type of fighter who goes and does what he does and he can get by. People who are technicians like Manny and who hit hard, he has to know he’s not in that league. Manny will go out and dominate. I see things from Manny that I could never see Ricky doing.”

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Apr 27, 2009