By Jake Donovan
Seeing eye to eye on the big picture is the key to any successful relationship, though it doesn’t always require walking in cadence every step of the way. Even the most successful pairings are going to have their differences.
Pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and veteran trainer Freddie Roach couldn’t be any more different, from their cultural backgrounds to their personalities to the way they view and live their lives in general. What matters most, though, is that they are always on the same wavelength on fight night.
The dynamic duo hooked up more than a decade ago and have wreaked havoc on the boxing world ever since. Pacquiao has just one defeat in the 10 years he’s been with the Hollywood-based trainer, a March ’05 points loss to Erik Morales which was twice avenged.
Under the watchful eye of Roach, Pacquiao – who came into his camp as a former lineal flyweight champ – winning belts and/or lineal championships in seven more weight classes and earning Fighter of the Year honors three times over a four-year stretch from 2006-2009.
For his efforts in turning Pacquiao into the best fighter in the world among his many other achievements as a trainer, Roach has been honored as a five-time recipient of the Trainer of the Year award.
Some will point to the quality product that each had the benefit of working with, but it’s not always as simple as a great fighter hooking up with a great trainer. It takes an understanding on each side that they don’t need to eat, sleep and live in the other’s presence 24/7/365. They just need to trust each other once it’s time to get to work and also remember that they work for each other.
The last part is – according to Hall-of-Fame promoter Bob Arum – the true secret to the success they have enjoyed through the years, that each respects what the other brings to the table as opposed to one side dictating to the other.
“The relationship between Manny and Freddie is very unique,” Arum explains, having exclusively promoted Pacquiao since 2006 (give or take a court ruling). “There have been other famous pairings – like Muhammad Ali and Angelo Dundee – but with Manny and Freddie, it’s more like equals.
“With Ali and Dundee, Ali grew so much bigger in stature, that he controlled things and told Dundee when he was going to train. It’s not like that with Manny and Freddie, they are equal.”
Most trainers would have a difficult time keeping an enigmatic personality like Pacquiao reined in. The wildly popular Filipino rolls with an enormously large entourage (even by superstar standards), currently juggles careers between serving as the best in boxing and as Congressman in his native Philippines, and has become a cult favorite on the hit late night show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live”.
Thursday marked Pacquiao’s two-year anniversary since his first appearance and has been a recurring guest over that stretch. Just a week out from his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Pacquiao appeared on his favorite talk show.
Most trainers would go nuts over a fighter breaking camp just for the sake of blowing off some steam. Roach has learned to take it all in stride.
“The distractions like going on Jimmy Kimmel is fun for Manny,” Roach states in forgiving Pacquiao for indulging himself at a time when he should be focused on nothing but next weekend’s fight. “If he wants to go on there and sing, I have no problem with that.”
For Manny, balancing his time between sports, politics and comic relief has become second nature.
“I come back on Jimmy Kimmel because I have fun on there,” Pacquiao says of the appearances, many of which have included the superstar boxer busting out a ballad or two. “I can still focus and train hard with everything else going on. I just have to set aside all of the distractions, and just train for the fight when I go into the gym.”
Just another day in the office – no matter which office Pacquiao chooses to occupy. A reality that Roach has come to accept, which in turn has led to perhaps the most successful pairing of their generation.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].