By Chris Robinson
Shortly after the Las Vegas grand arrival of one of his star fighters, Amir Khan, I had a few words with four-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach inside of the main lobby of the Mandalay Bay.
On Saturday night, Khan will be meeting upstart WBC champion Danny Garcia in an HBO-televised attraction, yet it is a fight that wasn’t expected.
Having lost to Lamont Peterson by split-decision last December, Khan was eyeing a May 19th rematch with the Washington, D.C. native. The second encounter wasn’t meant to be, however, as Peterson was found to have been tested positive for synthetic testosterone in early May, with the fight being scrapped days later.
I asked Roach just how upset he was to see such a crucial fight in Khan’s career go by the wayside.
“It was more disappointment because Lamont Peterson had a compelling story, won the championship, and that ruined the whole story,” stated Roach. “I said after that fight that I’ve never saw him fight that aggressive before and now I know why.”
Roach showed no concern about Khan physical preparation either, noting that he instructed him to have a brief period of down time.
“We had to switch gears and get ready for a different opponent,” Roach said. “I gave Amir three weeks off to go home and rest and chill out a little bit. We got a new opponent, he came back to camp, and the game plan changed somewhat but not extremely different.”
Touching back to Peterson’s failed drug test, which has been one instance in a recent wave of storylines focusing on performance-enhancing drugs, Roach seems slightly in disbelief.
“These guys signed up to do these drug tests and so forth; it’s crazy to me that they are getting caught,” Roach said candidly. “What I really think is that athletes need to be more aware of what people are giving them and what they are putting in their body. There’s got to be more communication between the strength coach to the trainers and fighters.”
The Khan-Garcia bout is about as acceptable as a replacement fight as you will find, and there has been no shortage of bravado coming from Garcia’s side, especially his father Angel, who has hurled all kinds of insults Amir’s way.
No stranger to trash talk, Roach already has a feel for what the competition is up to at this point.
“I think he’s pretty funny, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Roach said of the elder Garcia. “I know exactly what he’s up to. I had a long talk with Amir and I told him ‘Hey, he just wants us to fight the wrong fight’. I said ‘Don’t let happen. We’ll be fine’.”
Garcia is a fundamentally sound and rugged kid, with decision victories over the likes of former champions Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt, and most recently Erik Morales, who he bested this past March to net the WBC title he now proudly holds.
But this is a different level for Garcia and Roach doesn’t see him being able to hang, even hinting that the action may be done within the opening rounds.
“He says he has speed but we’ve got way more speed than that,” Roach added. “Take that advantage away completely. Danny Garcia’s a tough guy, a slow starter; he better watch out, he might get knocked out early.”