Manny Pacquiao made Freddie Roach rich and famous, and Roach in turn helped Pacquiao become one of the greatest boxers of his generation.
Their partnership ended, though, after 16 years and countless major victories not with a telephone call or a face-to-face meeting but in a Friday press release.
And that is the only thing that disappoints the Hall of Fame trainer about hitting the end of the line with his most famous client.
“We had a great long run together and I can’t be too mad,” Roach told Yahoo Sports by telephone. “I heard it like everyone else, and that’s the thing that is a little disappointing, but my thoughts mostly are about all the good times we had and the work we did together. When Manny Pacquiao walked through my door, it changed my life.
“He made me a better trainer and a better person and of course, I’m a lot more famous now and I’m a lot richer than I was.”
Pacquiao has the right to have whomever he wants train him, and he chose his childhood friend, Buboy Fernandez, to prepare him for his July 14 bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, against Lucas Matthysse.
He showed little class in doing it in a press release, though in an obvious bit of damage control on Sunday, Pacquiao put out a statement saying he hadn’t made up his mind.
Pacquiao was apparently bothered by comments Roach made after his controversial loss last summer in Australia to Jeff Horn, when he said it was difficult to be a boxer and a politician.
Roach told Yahoo Sports after the fight, “I told him that the way his career is going, being a leader in his country and being a senator and dealing with all the responsibilities that come with that, he might have to give up boxing. Boxing is a very physical sport and a very rough sport and having two jobs like he has is so tough. He’s just always going like crazy.”
Roach said Monday that he hasn’t changed his opinion and said it is just about impossible to succeed at the highest levels in boxing while also being a senator, as Pacquiao is in the Philippines.
Most experts thought Pacquiao defeated Horn, but he did not look like the superstar who was Fighter of the Decade for the 2000s.
“Being a prize fighter is difficult but being a world champion prize fighter is so incredibly difficult,” Roach said. “It takes just about all of your time and focus and energy, and I just can’t imagine being able to do it and having another job. That’s how hard it is.
“I didn’t know Manny was mad about that when I said it. I wish he had said something to me about it so we could have spoken. My opinion hasn’t changed, but I wish we could have spoken to each other. But I have no complaints because my life is so much better in so many ways because of Manny Pacquiao.”
Roach refuted speculation that Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz forced him out. He noted the two had a rocky relationship, but that when Roach threatened to leave a short time back, Koncz came to his defense. Roach said Koncz realized that he was good for Pacquiao and so he didn’t interfere.
He said he thinks Fernandez will do a good job for Pacquiao. Fernandez has never worked at a high level, other than as an assistant to Roach, but he’s worked with young fighters in the Philippines.
Pacquiao trusts him and that will be important, Roach said.
“He’s had some success locally and he’s good on the mitts,” Roach said. “I’d like to see him lose some weight and get into better shape so he can work harder, but I think he’ll be fine.”
And Roach, who is going to be one of the coaches on a revival of the boxing reality series, “The Contender,” said he’ll be fine too.
He was an understudy to Eddie Futch, arguably the greatest trainer in boxing history, and became a star trainer in his own right when he moved on. The partnership with Pacquiao was extremely fruitful for both.
They began to work together in 2001, when Pacquiao defeated Leila Ledwaba to win a super bantamweight title. He went on to become, along with Floyd Mayweather, the dominant fighter of the 21st century and a surefire Hall of Famer.
Roach won Trainer of the Year seven times between 2003 and 2014, all during his tenure with Pacquiao, and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Roach said the Matthysse fight will be difficult but said he’ll be rooting for Pacquiao to win. He said this is the second time he learned he was fired by reading about it in the paper.
The same happened when he was working with Virgil Hill.
“If Manny would have called me and told me what he wanted to do, it would have been a perfect ending, but I learned a long time ago life is not perfect,” Roach said. “If there is anything I’m disappointed in about this, obviously, it’s that I had to read it in the newspaper and I didn’t hear it from Manny first. That stings a little, and it’s disappointing, but there are no hard feelings.
“All I can say is that I am thankful for the time I had with him. Not a lot of guys get to stay 15, 16 years with the same fighter. That is very unusual. We had a great run and all I can say now is good luck and wish him the best.”
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