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Roach says Manny still packs a wallop

Freddie Roach

MANILA, Philippines - Celebrated Hall of Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach said yesterday if there is speculation that Manny Pacquiao has lost his power because of age, he’s convinced the doubts are without basis.

Roach, who’s in town to supervise Pacquiao’s training for his Nov. 5 bout against WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas, got an early taste of Pacquiao’s wallop through four rounds of punch mitts at the Elorde Gym in Pasay City last Tuesday night. Roach arrived from Los Angeles that morning and didn’t waste any time finding out how much power the 37-year-old Pacquiao has left.

“I was really impressed with Manny’s power,” said Roach. “The way he hit the mitts, I thought he’d tear off my shoulder. I think that was the hardest Manny has hit the mitts in five years. Manny hasn’t knocked out anyone since (Miguel) Cotto in 2009 so it’s been a while. But against Vargas, he’s going for a knockout.”

Since halting Cotto, Pacquiao has posted an 8-3 record with losses to Timothy Bradley by split decision, Juan Manuel Marquez by knockout and Floyd Mayweather by unanimous decision. Roach said from what Pacquiao showed in the gym last Tuesday, it’s like he hasn’t missed a beat despite figuring in his last fight six months ago.

“It looks like Buboy (Fernandez) has done a good job keeping Manny in shape,” said Roach. “He deserves the Trainer of the Year award for that.” Roach said Pacquiao was sharp in sparring four rounds with unbeaten superlightweight US Olympian Jose Ramirez and two rounds with Filipino lightweight Leonardo Doronio that same night. He cited not only Pacquiao’s power but also his timing and distance. Ramirez arrived with sports performance trainer Charles Trembley on the same morning flight as Roach.

“No days off,” said Roach. “Ramirez and I landed in the morning and that night, we were in the gym with Manny. It’s why we’re here. We’re not on vacation.” Roach said he may or may not send for another sparmate from the US to work with Pacquiao. He described Ramirez as Vargas’ mirror image. They’re both 5-10 with highly technical boxing skills. Ramirez, 24, has an 18-0 record, with 13 KOs, and his next fight is on Dec. 10 in Fresno. Vargas, 27, has a 27-1 record, with 10 KOs. Roach said Ramirez could even be a better fighter than Vargas.

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Roach said he wasn’t surprised that the gym was packed with fans last Tuesday. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” he said. “At the Wild Card Gym, Manny’s workouts are behind closed doors unless we purposely invite media or fans. At the Elorde Gym, there must have been at least 50 people watching Manny train. It’s good because Manny enjoys putting on a show for the fans. It’s bad because the crowd could be a distraction. But to me, it’s like going back to the good, old days when fans were all over Manny in the gym.”

Last weekend, Roach was in Oklahoma to work 27-year-old heavyweight Trey Lippe’s fight against Ed Latimore. Lippe, who is the late heavyweight Tommy Morrison’s son, knocked out Latimore in the first round to raise his record to 12-0, with 12 KOs. “Given the talent out there in the heavyweight division, Trey’s got a chance to become a world champion,” said Roach who delayed his arrival in Manila to work Lippe’s fight.

Pacquiao chose to train at the Elorde Gym in Pasay City because of its proximity to the Senate where he holds office and attends sessions. In the morning, Pacquiao runs the roads in Forbes Park where he lives. Strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune, who flew in from Los Angeles last Sept. 19, watches over Pacquiao’s road work. Roach skips the morning workouts and attends only the night sessions at the Elorde Gym with Fortune.

Roach said he looks forward to working the mitts with all his fighters. “I’ve had pain in my back for two years now,” he said. “There’s a bone growth on my spine that’s pressing on a nerve. I’ve noticed that when I do the mitts and sweat, I don’t feel any pain. I don’t know why but it’s a good reason for me to do the mitts every day.” For nearly 30 years, Roach has battled Parkinson’s disease and doctors said his activity in the ring has retarded its progress.

Now that Pacquiao is a duly-elected Senator, Roach said he appears to be more quiet in his ways. “He’s very focused on his responsibilities,” said Roach. “I can’t comment on Philippine politics because I don’t know enough about it but from what I’ve been told, Manny is doing a good job as Senator.”

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