By Jake Donovan
Heavyweight contender Manuel Charr has fallen short in his lone bid at heavyweight title glory. Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has never successfully guided a heavyweight to a world title.
Perhaps all the two are missing are each other - or so they hope, as the 30-year old heavyweight announced his intention to work with the renowned trainer for the foreseeable future.
Charr officially set up camp Friday morning at Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California. The
session included mitt work
, with Roach instructing the Lebanese heavyweight on positioning and leverage when throwing in combination.
“It is a dream come true for me to work with Freddie,” insists Charr (27-2, 16KOs). “I truly believe that he will turn me into a better fighter.”
The session with Roach marked a journey that has extended more than a week since Charr's arrival in Las Vegas for the annual WBC convention earlier this month. Other stops prior to the Wild Card Gym included a Christmas Day session at Mayweather Boxing Club
Roach – who gained enshrinement into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012 – has guided more than two dozen fighters to championships. Most notable among his resume is his long-running relationship with eight-division champ Manny Pacquiao, whom he has trained since 2001.
While Roach has worked at some point with several former heavyweight champions – including Klitschko, Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer – he has yet to guide a fighter to a heavyweight title winning effort. The closest he came was in 2005, when James Toney outboxed John Ruiz at Madison Square Garden. The result was overturned when Toney tested positive for steroids, the first of two times the former three-division champ (middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight) produced a failed drug test.
A follow-up attempt at a title came one year later in Atlantic City, but Toney showed up grotesquely out of shape (sadly, the norm in his wild career) and could fare no better than a 12-round draw with Hasim Rahman in their first fight in April ’06.
Conditioning is never an issue for Charr; just winning the big one remains his lone obstacle. The past 12 months provided a mixed bag of results for the heavyweight hopeful, with wins over American retreads Kevin Johnson and Michael Grant bookended by a humbling knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin in May.
Each of Charr’s two career losses have taken place in Moscow. His previous – and first – defeat serves the answer to a trivia question, marking the final fight in the career of former three-time heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko. Charr suffered a 4th round medical stoppage in their HBO-televised bout from Moscow, with a cut over his right eye deemed too gruesome to allow action to continue.
Despite the run of bad luck in Russia’s capital city, Charr doesn’t plan to give up on the historic location, as evidenced in his return in October when he stopped Grant in five rounds. Tentative plans call for a possible spot on the undercard of a March 21 show in Moscow featuring cruiserweight titlists Grigory Drozd and Denis Lebedev in separate bouts.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox