Modest Roach plays down role in Pacquaio transformation

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  • Freddie Roach
    Freddie Roach
    American boxer and trainer

By Mark Lamport-Stokes LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Freddie Roach is the quintessential trainer, an Irish-American who lives and breathes boxing and is happiest when he has the mitts on while putting his fighters through their paces in his Wild Card Boxing Club. Voted trainer of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America on seven occasions, Roach is best known for the success he has achieved in partnership with Manny Pacquiao, a Filipino southpaw he has transformed into a complete fighter. When Pacquiao first worked with Roach in 2001, he was a one-handed fighter with lightning-fast hand and foot speed who had very little defensive technique to balance his naturally aggressive style in the ring. Under Roach's shrewd guidance and after thousands of hours in the gym, the ever-smiling Filipino has developed a lethal right-hand while vastly improving his defense and has gone on to win 10 world titles in an unprecedented eight weight classes. "I recognized he needed to add a right hand, but anybody who has walked into a gym more than once would have been able to tell him that," said Roach, while playing down his own part in Pacquiao's transformation. "It was up to Manny. He's such a great athlete and he's so dedicated, he just listened to what I said and went out and made the change on his own. That's a Manny Pacquiao thing, not a 'me' thing." Roach has guided Pacquiao to a 57-5-2 record with 38 knockouts and on Saturday they will get the chance to cement that legacy when the Filipino takes on undefeated American Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a heavily anticipated welterweight showdown. "This is big, the biggest fight of my life," said Roach, a former featherweight and lightweight boxer who ended his own career in the ring at the age of 26 with a decent 41-13 record. "I know Floyd is a good fighter but I just think I have the better fighter," Roach told Reuters. "Hand speed is going to be a big, big difference, and Manny is much quicker than he is. "We have to attack really quick and get out really quick. We can't stay in the pocket too long. We know the game plan, we know how to beat this guy." Victory by Pacquiao on Saturday would certainly add gloss to an already extraordinary career for Roach, who has long battled Parkinson's disease but is able to control his symptoms through medication and by training with his boxers. "It is part of my life now and I just have to live with it," said Roach. "Some people just want to lay down and die, but not me. I'm a fighter. I'm in the gym every day. I love what I do." (Editing by Frank Pingue)