LOS ANGELES (AP) — Freddie Roach’s hip is killing him, and his sternum feels like somebody dropped an anvil on his chest. He took a shot to the chin the other day, and it knocked him across the ring onto the far ropes.
Roach knows he doesn’t have to take this anymore. He is the most prominent trainer in boxing. His assistants could be in the Wild Card gym’s ring with Manny Pacquiao, absorbing the punishment that’s inevitable when you work the mitts with an eight-division champion preparing for the biggest fight of his life.
“Everyone says I should take a break, let someone else do it,” Roach said. “He wants me to do it. Manny don’t want some other guy. When he hits me, he says he’s sorry sometimes.”
Roach has guided Pacquiao to the pinnacle of their sport over the past decade, fighting off the effects of Parkinson’s disease and a lifetime in this brutal business.
Yet he still hasn’t done everything in boxing, and that knowledge still gets him up before dawn each day. Roach has spent the spring working on the ultimate puzzle for any modern trainer: A master plan to take down the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2 in Las Vegas.
“That would be about the greatest thing you could accomplish in this job, right?” he asks. “The way Manny is training right now, he can do anything I can put in front of him. He knows exactly what we want to do and how to do it. He wants this more than anything in the world, but you know what? So do I.”
Roach thinks he has the plan, and he thinks Pacquiao will be able to implement it at the MGM Grand Garden. Until then, they spend almost every day in Hollywood going over the details — even watching Mayweather on film, something Pacquiao is notoriously uninterested in doing.
“They ask me why I’m not letting anyone into the gym to film sparring or mitts, and I say it’s because our game plan is vital,” Roach said. “I used to be more lenient, but this fight is so big, the adjustments we made need to be a little bit more of a surprise. We’ve got stuff he hasn’t seen before.”
Roach knows a victory would be a valediction for himself and Pacquiao — a culmination of a 14-year partnership that stands out in sports for its consistency and loyalty. Roach wants it more than he can say, but he can tell Pacquiao wants it even more.
“I know he doesn’t like Mayweather a little bit, because sometimes when we’re doing mitts and I’m catching, he turns into Mayweather and does his shoulder roll a little bit,” Roach said, pantomiming Mayweather’s signature defensive move. “He says, ‘I’ll kill that.’ He makes fun of him a little bit, and he doesn’t make fun of too many people.
“He’s not like that. I am, but not him.”
Roach knows the Mayweather family makes fun of him. Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle, has spent years denigrating Roach and his mentor, Eddie Futch, while Floyd’s father has trashed Roach repeatedly in the media leading up to this bout.
Yet personal insults don’t bother Roach when he’s immersed in the daily grind of training his fighters. He doesn’t use social media, so he said he doesn’t hear most of the static.
He also has bigger concerns: Roach’s girlfriend, a doctor, left him last month. He says it was because he didn’t consult her first about one of his injuries, although he also says he “can’t blame her” given his lifestyle.
He is still winning his fight with Parkinson’s disease, although his medications occasionally create dark moments that he discusses only peripherally. That’s when he is grateful for the constant hum of the Wild Card, where life never slows for quiet contemplation.
Roach hasn’t slowed down, either. He still has his breakfast at 5 a.m. and arrives at the Wild Card in time to prepare for a 7 a.m. training session with Miguel Cotto, whose career was revitalized by his decision to join Roach two years ago. When Pacquiao goes off on vacation in May, Roach will go right back to work with Cotto.
That’s because beating Mayweather won’t really change life for Roach, who is already rich and famous and respected by everyone outside Mayweather’s gym.
He couldn’t even go to The Grove mall on a recent weekday morning in Hollywood without dozens of fans inexplicably finding him for photos and autographs, which he duly obliges — although he prefers getting his picture taken rather than attempting to sign his name on a T-shirt with a shaky hand.
“Cellphones are the best invention ever,” he said. “All I do is smile.”
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