By Keith Idec
Freddie Roach responded to Joel Diaz’s disrespectful comments, but he would prefer that Ruslan Provodnikov gives the most important retort of all Saturday night against Timothy Bradley.
“This is a big fight for Ruslan, the biggest fight of his life,” Roach said on a conference call to promote their 12-round fight for Bradley’s WBO welterweight title. “It is a great opportunity and I’m glad he has the opportunity. I always thought he was stronger [than Manny Pacquiao] and the bigger puncher of the two. I love his chances to win by knockout.”
The Russian-born Provodnikov (21-1, 15 KOs) is one of Pacquiao’s former sparring partners. If he upsets Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs, 1 NC) in their HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., it’ll serve as a measure of revenge for Roach nine months after Bradley’s highly controversial, split-decision defeat of Pacquiao in Las Vegas.
A Provodnikov victory would be particularly satisfying for Roach after what Diaz said about him on the same conference call. They’ve traded barbs before, but Diaz made it especially personal this time around.
“Freddie Roach is not my concern,” Diaz said. “My concern is the fighter. Freddie Roach was just a name that was created. I think Freddie Roach lost the love of the sport. He created a name and it’s out there, but he doesn’t have the passion for the sport he had a few years ago.
“I’ve seen it in the last Marquez fight [against Pacquiao]. I’ve seen it in the fight before, the third Marquez fight. Freddie Roach is the least of my concern for any fight. I just focus on the fighter. Freddie Roach is always trying to play mind games. Freddie says Tim is going to run [from Provodnikov]. That is just Freddie playing mind games. They don’t know how we are going to fight. He is trying to get under Tim’s skin. At the end of the day, Tim is going to be a winner, and that’s what matters.”
Roach refrained from taking any personal jabs at the 40-year-old Diaz, who fought for the IBF lightweight title during a six-year pro career shortened by an eye injury.
“I could tell [Diaz] where to go, but he doesn’t know me,” Roach said. “He doesn’t know what I do every day. He doesn’t see me in the gym, working with these fighters. I know he’s just saying it to get under my skin. I have a game plan and the right fighter to carry that game plan through, and on [Saturday night] we’ll see who’s the better coach and the better man.”
The 53-year-old Roach, the most famous active trainer in boxing, seemed surprised by Diaz’s diatribe when asked about it by a reporter.
“I met the person maybe twice in my life,” Roach said. “I see him around the boxing game. I know that he had a good record. He seems like he did a great job with his fighter. My fighter and I get along well. It’s not about the trainers. My fighter is the one who’s going to win the fight, not me. Whatever [Diaz] says, I don’t care. I don’t have time to be mad at someone. I don’t read anything he says. I don’t have time for that. I’m sure he is a nice person outside of the ring.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.