By Sean Crose
I know there are some who will disagree with the title of this article. I know there are others who may actually take offense to it. No matter. My job is to write what I believe is the truth. And the truth, as far as I see it, is that Freddie Roach is the greatest trainer in boxing at the moment.
Chris Farina/Top Rank
While there are undoubtedly other terrific trainers out there like Ronnie Shields, Virgil Hunter, Robert Garcia and Shane McGuigan, none of those men have delivered on the scale that Roach has. People will argue, of course, that Roach’s reputation pretty much rests solely on two fights, Pacquiao-De La Hoya and now Cotto-Martinez. And those who make that argument are right.
But those two fights are more than enough to have established the fact that Roach truly is the best in the business. Let’s start with Pacquiao–De La Hoya. Pacquiao was known as a small fighter who pretty much no one outside boxing’s hard core fan base had ever heard of. Sure he was exciting and brave, but he just wasn’t a spotlight kind of athlete. Roach turned Manny Pacquiao into the Terminator for the De La Hoya fight.
For what Pacquiao did to the great De La Hoya that evening years ago was an act of savagery. The Golden Boy was literally helpless in front of the entire world. If a fighter as great as De La Hoya had ever been made to look so bad in the ring before, people had long forgotten about it.
Naturally some pointed to De La Hoya’s age and to a rumor that Pacquiao had used PEDs for the bout. It’s true that Oscar was over the hill at the time…but to act like he had been taken by shuttle from the nursing home into the boxing ring is ridiculous.
As for the PED accusation, unless there’s solid evidence of illegal drug use, I always find it best to leave such charges where they belong – in the rumor mill. Investigations are fine and even necessary. Rumors, however, are just that. Rumors.
So yeah, by having Roach as his trainer, Pacquiao was able to deliver a beating on the scale of Foreman-Frazier and Dempsey-Willard. And, with a few notable exceptions, PacMan’s been speeding along ever since – with the strategist Roach by his side the entire time.
Now let’s turn to last Saturday’s blowout in the Garden. I had stated beforehand, both publicly and privately, that Martinez was going to win. Sure, I thought it would be a good fight, but I just couldn’t see Cotto getting the better of a man as big, as athletic and as smooth as Sergio Martinez.
Well, I was wrong, Man, was I wrong. Maybe I should have re-watched the Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight before I made my prediction. Cotto was considered over the hill when he stepped into the ring on Saturday. When he stepped out, it was worth wondering if he had just entered his prime.
For Cotto absolutely demolished Martinez. Demolished him. His strength, skill level, footwork and will were all several levels above his those of his opponent’s. After being hit squarely early in round one, the honorable and likable Martinez never stood a chance. The fight was literally settled with that one shot.
Who was this new Miguel Cotto? He was a student of Freddie Roach, a man who had now taken him above and beyond what most thought he was capable of. Before this weekend, I personally believed that Gennady Golovkin was unquestionably the best middleweight in the world. Now I’m not so sure. And Freddie Roach is the reason for that uncertainty.
Again, people can argue that a Roach fighter beat a man past his prime on Saturday. And again, there’s truth to that argument. What can’t be argued, however, is that Miguel Cotto fought better than he ever had in his life on Saturday. Just like Pacquiao fought better than he ever had in his life when he railroaded over Oscar De La Hoya.
Freddie Roach has a knack for making things like that happen. That’s why, in a world of great trainers, Roach sits atop of the heap right now.