Roach, Pacquiao aimed squarely at Hatton
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
As it turned out, it was Freddie Roach who really pulled the trigger.
By boldly proclaiming that former charge Oscar De La Hoya was no longer capable of effectively unloading his arsenal in the ring, the ex-ESPN staple set in motion what became the most-discussed pay-per-view boxing event of 2008.
So now, some four months after Manny Pacquiao proved him prescient by battering the "Golden Boy" into submission at the MGM Grand, it should surprise no one that the straight-shooting Roach is already locked and loaded on Pacquiao's next foe -- Ricky Hatton.
In fact, to the Massachusetts-born journeyman turned honor-laden trainer, this one's easier.
"I've studied Hatton for two months now and I'm very confident about Manny's chances," Roach said, in a FitzHitz phone interview. "Hatton is a guy who'll be right in front of you, and he gets hit a lot. A lot of guys have hurt him, but no one's ever finished him when they had him hurt.
"Manny Pacquiao is a finisher. I think he's going to bust him up and stop him within three rounds. It'll be another Thomas Hearns-Marvin Hagler fight, I believe. Very exciting for as long as it lasts."
Manny Pacquiao claimed "Fighter of the Year" honors for the second time.
Needless to say, success hasn't tempered Roach's bravado.
And because it's delivered in an even-toned, straight-forward manner reminiscent of Roach's own former in-ring style, it's easy to take the chatter more seriously than other modern-day braggarts.
His results are hard to deny, too, especially in light of a nine-month stretch that also saw Pacquiao nip Juan Manuel Marquez for the WBC's title at 130 pounds in March and dominate David Diaz for the same group's belt at 135 in June, before the holiday season bonanza with De La Hoya.
The three-fight skein earned Roach a third time nod as "Trainer of the Year" from the Boxing Writers Association of America, while Pacquiao claimed "Fighter of the Year" honors for the second time.
The pair previously earned dual awards from the BWAA in 2006, after Pacquiao defeated Erik Morales, Oscar Larios and Morales again, all at 130 pounds.
But Roach, who won BWAA recognition sans Manny in 2003, said the way last year unfolded was more of a surprise than previous times.
"I can't honestly say we saw it coming," he said. "After the first two, the Oscar fight just came up and it was icing on the cake. We're of the mindset where we just take each fight as it comes. But sure, looking back on it, it was a great year.
"And it's a great honor to be recognized three times by the boxing writers."
And through it all, he's managed to avoid the lure of forcing his own aggressive, take-a-punch-to-land-a-punch style onto his own clients, who've included Virgil Hill, Mike Tyson and De La Hoya, in addition to Pacquiao and rising U.K. lightweight phenom Amir Khan.
Hill, a member of the medal-flushed Olympic class of 1984, won his first world title in 1987 and was a two-time champion at both light heavyweight and cruiserweight before retiring in 2007 at age 43.
Khan, just 22, scored his biggest career win last month in Manchester -- Hatton's hometown -- with a bloody and controversial five-round technical decision over Marco Antonio Barrera.
"I had the right teacher in Eddie Futch," Roach said. "He told me that I could never expect people to be like me. My first world champion, Virgil Hill, was about as different from me as a guy could be.
"He was a beautiful boxer. The truth is that when a guy gets hit in the ring hes going to revert back to whatever he is, not to what you've programmed him to be. So it's best you don't try to get too cute."
And unlike the mercurial Tyson, a well-known student of the sport's history, it seems Pacquiao and some of Roach's other existing clients -- he currently trains 14 professional fighters -- don't even know their trainer was himself an established pro and early '80s cable television favorite.
In fact, he debuted in 1978 and was 26-1 after a 10-round decision over Juan Veloz at Showboat Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in April 1982, but later stumbled to 12 losses in his last 25 fights -- including scorecard verdicts to Bobby Chacon, Hector Camacho and Darryl Tyson and a TKO by Greg Haugen.
Overall, he lost four of his final five fights before retiring in October 1986 with a 39-13 mark.
Khan was born six weeks later.
Still, to those actually aware of his past, Roach sees it as an edge. Just not a gigantic one.
"I think there's a little bit of an advantage, but probably not huge," he said. "I've known plenty of guys who weren't fighters but they were great trainers. The guys I work with know that I've done it and they trust what I say. But not everyone I've worked with has seen me fight.
"Manny's one of those guys who's not really a boxing fan. His idol growing up was Oscar, so that's why he did it, but he doesn't know the history. We older guys have more stories to tell, but I'm so busy now that I can't even watch fights anymore."
Assuming all goes as planned with Hatton on May 2, life doesn't figure to get any less hectic.
Marquez, who's now planning to campaign at 140 pounds, is on the record saying he'd like a third match with Pacquiao. Also, former five-division champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- on the shelf since handing Hatton his lone career defeat in December 2007 -- has been rumbling about a comeback.
Not surprisingly, Roach relishes the opportunities.
"Business-wise, the biggest fights to be made are with Mayweather, if he's really coming back to the ring, or with Marquez," he said. "There are a lot of options and we want to wait to see the possibilities.
"As far as who else, we hear that Chavez Jr. has been making some noise about a fight, but the weight might be too big a difference. Bottom line, though, Manny will fight anyone. Hell, he'd fight (publicist) Fred Sternburg if that's who we told him was next in line. He just wants to be a champion."
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This week's title-fight schedule:
FRIDAY WBA welterweight title -- Donetsk, Ukraine Yuriy Nuzhnenko (champion) vs. Vyacheslav Senchenko (No. 3 contender) Nuzhnenko (28-0-1, 13 KO): First title defense; Won interim title in December 2007 Senchenko (28-0, 20 KO): First title fight; Won all 25 fights in Ukraine
FitzHitz says: Senchenko in 8
SATURDAY IBF mini flyweight title -- La Paz, Mexico Raul Garcia (champion) vs. Ronald Barrera (No. 1 contender) Garcia (25-0-1, 15 KO): Third title defense; Defeated Barrera in February 2008 Barrera (26-5-1, 16 KO): Winless in two title fights; Won four of five since Garcia loss
FitzHitz says: Garcia by decision
WBA super flyweight title -- Osaka, Japan Nobou Nashiro (champion) vs. Konosuke Tomiyama (No. 10 contender) Nashiro (12-1, 7 KO): First title defense of second reign; Held WBA title in 2006-07 Tomiyama (18-1, 6 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Tokyo
FitzHitz says: Nashiro by decision
Last weeks picks: 3-1
Overall picks record: 76-33
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.