Story by Andreas Hale
Photos by Chris Cozzone
A trainer never doubts his fighter’s ability no matter how difficult the challenge they are facing. Some trainers may appear delusional under the microscope of criticism. Others are deemed brilliant when their fighter performs exactly how they explained it. Either way, someone’s confidence ends up becoming nothing more than false bravado.
For Freddie Roach and Joel Diaz, their proverbial cup is overflowing with confidence. Unfortunately, one of them will be wrong come Saturday night when their respective fighters, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, square off. The trainers have two different forms of confidence. One is confident that his fighter will overcome what has been considered insurmountable odds to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the past decade. The other is confident that his fighter’s last performance was an aberration and he will redeem himself in spectacular fashion.
Joel Diaz never thought that he and Bradley would be in this position when he was paying to watch Pacquiao on pay-per-view 36 months ago. To say it is a dream come true is probably selling it short. But the years of being a fan of Pacquiao has turned itself into a lengthy case study on the Filipino’s evolution and has helped a great deal when it comes to preparing his fighter for Saturday’s clash.
The one thing that has stuck out to Diaz is that Pacquiao is he believes the public is being fooled into believing Pacquiao’s hype. According to Diaz, the rise of Pacquiao has been due to some very careful matchmaking. “Back when he fought Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, those were the fights that were evenly matched,” Diaz explained during a roundtable on Thursday. “As he moved up he got those big named opponents that were either past their prime or coming from a beating. Timothy has fought fighters in their prime and he still gets no credit.”
According to Diaz, Pacquiao has finally ran out of opponents that he can beat up on at a catch weight and the Filipino train is finally running out of gas and primed for derailment. “The last few fights he hasn’t looked too great,” he says believing that Juan Manuel Marquez won last November’s fight with effective counterpunching — something he believes his fighter will execute with greater success. “Every fight takes a lot out of him. Pacquiao has more wear and tear on his engine and Bradley is younger, faster and ready for it to be his time.”
Across the media center, Freddie Roach settles in around a group of reporters to make a case for his fighter. While Diaz sees a Pacquiao that is slowing down, Roach informs the circle of journalists that Pacquiao is more determined than ever to silence his detractors. “Manny’s motivation is his last fight,” Roach says while stating that Pacquiao is incensed to destroy Bradley on June 9th. “He had his first bad fight in 11 years. He wants to prove to the world that he’s not washed up. He wants redemption and prove that he’s #1 pound for pound.”
But Roach says that bad night has absolutely nothing to do with what Diaz cited as “wear and tear” and instead points to personal issues that affected his fighter against Marquez. Reports surfaced about Pacquiao’s marital woes that took place moments before the fight and may have played a major role in how Pacquiao fought that night. The distractions left Pacquiao’s mind wandering elsewhere as he struggled to get past Marquez. “When you’re fighting with your wife and your family, it can get into your head. He had a great training camp but he’s human too. He’s not a machine.”
Roach applauds Pacquiao’s lifestyle changes and says that it has already had a positive effect on his training camp. But, more than anything else, he doesn’t believe that Bradley has anything for boxing’s first eight-division champion. All the talk of youth, speed and power makes Roach chuckle. “I don’t see any speed at all,” Roach says to FightNews.
“Especially if you look at his fight at 147 (against Joel Casamayor). At 140 he was fast and I’ll give him that. At 147 he’s not so fast and he can’t punch. I don’t think we’re going to have too much difficult with this guy. It’s going to be easy because we are ready.”
And by “easy” Roach means a knockout victory.
“I think we’ll knock him out,” Roach says with unwavering confidence. He mentions that Bradley took a tremendous shot from Kendall Holt and still got up but the gap between Pacquiao and Holt in the punching power department is massive. “We’ll see how good his chin really is.”
The latest inductee to the Boxing Hall of Fame (he has rented a private jet to fly out of Vegas to New York for Sunday’s ceremony) isn’t saying this with blind faith. Roach has been studying Bradley dating back to his amateur days and sees no improvements by the 28-year-old.
“Vanes Martirosyan knocked him down three times in an amateur fight. I’ve gone back that far looking at his tapes,” Roach says. Coincidentally, Martirosyan is trained today by Roach and surely has given Team Pacquiao a few pointers. “He still makes the same exact mistakes today. I don’t see the great progression that he and his trainers say he has.”
Diaz scoffs when it is suggested that Bradley has made no improvements since turning pro in 2004. He blames Roach’s overconfidence on arrogance and ignorance. But rather than talk much about it, Diaz says his fighter will just show them on June 9th in Las Vegas.
“They think he has no power. But don’t you think maybe his opponent’s are tough guys to knock out?” Diaz says to FightNews. “Victor Ortiz couldn’t knock out Lamont Peterson. That tells you something. the opposition has a chin. If a fighter doesn’t have power, they should walk right through him. But they will be in for a big surprise Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if you see Manny going down.”
It’s a tale of two trainers and only one can be right.
Who will it be come Saturday night?