By Keith Idec
Freddie Roach has agreed to train junior middleweight contender Glen Tapia after they worked together the past few days at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood, Calif.
Roach and Tapia first bonded when Tapia served in the Philippines as Manny Pacquiao’s primary sparring partner prior to the Filipino superstar’s win over Antonio Margarito in November 2010.
The 23-year-old Tapia will start camp for his next fight, against an undetermined opponent June 14 in Atlantic City, on April 14 at Wild Card. Miguel Cotto will begin working with Roach the same day at Wild Card for his June 7 showdown with Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden.
Tapia is excited about working with Roach, especially since Roach has assured the Passaic, N.J., native that he’ll be able to devote the proper amount of time to training him.
“We had a bond from when I was in camp with Manny,” Tapia said Saturday. “When I was there, I was with Freddie all the time. He wanted to train me then. I thought about it, but I said no because I didn’t want to leave my coach [Mike Skowronski]. But now that I’m older, I see that this is my career and I’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity I get. Freddie is one of the best coaches in boxing. I only can get better from here.”
Tapia (20-1, 12 KOs) decided recently to change trainers.
Alex Devia, of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., trained Tapia for his past eight bouts, including an impressive performance in an ESPN2 fight against previously unbeaten Abie Han (21-1, 13 KOs), whom Tapia stopped after eight entertaining, rough rounds July 12 in North Las Vegas, Nev. Tapia took responsibility for fighting the wrong fight during a sixth-round technical knockout loss to heavy-handed to James Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) in his HBO debut Dec. 7 in Atlantic City, but Devia drew criticism for the instructions he gave Tapia between rounds in that brutal bout, which was widely viewed as one the best action fights of 2013.
Tapia wants Devia to continue working his corner on fight nights, alongside Roach, and said Saturday that he and Devia have spoken at length about the training change.
“I don’t want people to think I’m doing this is because of what happened in my last fight,” Tapia said. “Because I lost, they blame Alex. But it was my fault. If I would’ve won that fight, they would’ve said he’s a great coach. It was a learning process for both of us and we’ll both grow from it. This is just a great opportunity for me that I couldn’t pass up.”
Devia also trains his son, highly touted junior welterweight prospect Julian Rodriguez (3-0, 2 KOs), who is one of Pacquiao’s sparring partners at Wild Card for his April 12 rematch against Timothy Bradley. Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. promotes Rodriguez and Tapia, who both are managed by Pat Lynch, late legend Arturo Gatti’s career-long manager.
“I think this gets Glen to work harder than he has ever worked before,” Lynch said. “He’s really, really excited to have Freddie as his trainer. He feels bad about Alex, but he always wanted Freddie as his trainer. This goes back to when he was in camp with Pacquiao for the Margarito fight. He got what he wanted. He flew out there this week, just to talk to Freddie and see if he would train him, and they came to an agreement.”
Tapia thinks leaving home for training camps will help him focus solely on boxing, which wasn’t always possible after he trained hard at Devia’s boxing gyms in Paterson, N.J., and Passaic. He has a young daughter and often didn’t get the requisite rest while training at home for fights.
“Glen was 20-0 and he was doing great,” Lynch said, “but I don’t think he realized what it takes to get to that next level and stay on that level. He found that out that night [against Kirkland], and I think that was a huge wake-up call for him. He needs to be away from all the distractions that he has close to home and just concentrate on boxing.”
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.