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Roach returns Down Under after 25 years


PhilBoxing.com




When trainer Freddie Roach lands in Brisbane to work WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao?s corner for his title defense against Jeff Horn on July 2, it will be his second trip to Australia. His first visit was in 1992 or 25 years ago to coach Justin Fortune against New Zealand?s August Tanuvasa in a fight for the vacant Orient and Pacific Boxing Federation heavyweight crown in Sydney. Fortune won on a second round disqualification.

Roach hasn?t been back to Australia since that fight. Fortune is now on Roach?s team as a strength and conditioning coach. When Fortune retired from boxing in 2001, he decided to stay connected to the fight game as a coach and joined Roach a year later. They worked for five years, had a falling out due to a misunderstanding then got back together in 2014.

Curiously, Roach arrived in Manila from Los Angeles last Sunday to supervise Pacquiao?s training with two Australians----his friend Michelle Doble who by the way, has logged four amateur fights, and Fortune. It?s not widely known that Fortune, who once fought heavyweight legend Lennox Lewis, is a throat cancer survivor and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to beat the disease. He lost nearly 80 pounds during his treatment and had skin grafts on his arms and legs. A 20-centimeter scar on his neck is a grim reminder of what he went through with three surgeons who conspired to perform a radical dissection.
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Another not widely known fact is Roach recently branched out into managing fighters with his lawyer and agent Nick Khan. ?We just negotiated Georges St-Pierre?s three-fight $25 Million contract with UFC,? he said. ?Georges will be fighting middleweight champion Michael Bisping in a few months.? St-Pierre, 36, is a three-time UFC welterweight titlist from Canada. Roach said St-Pierre trains at the Wild Card Gym for boxing and works out in other sweat shops to polish his martial arts skills. A few years ago, Roach and movie actor Eric Roberts were on stage to present the MMA Fighter of the Year award to light heavyweight Jon Jones so he?s no stranger to the stars of the octagon.

Besides, Roach has trained close to 20 MMA fighters, including B. J. Penn, Gegard Mousasi, Tito Ortiz, Anderson Silva, Frank Mir and Mark Munoz. His association with St.-Pierre as manager is a step up for the Hall of Fame trainer.

Roach was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, in 2012. He?ll never forget the circumstances. Roach worked Pacquiao?s corner in the first Timothy Bradley fight in Las Vegas on a Saturday night and booked a private jet to fly him and his mother Barbara to Canastota at 1 the next morning. The flight cost Roach $27,000 one-way. He made it in time for his induction on Sunday morning.
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Two female world champion boxers whom Roach trained were Lucia Rijker of the Netherlands and Fil-Am Ana Julaton. ?I remember Lucia was offered $1 Million to fight (former world lightflyweight champion) Michael Carbajal,? said Roach. ?Lucia was ready to retire and I told her it would be nice to walk away from boxing with $1 Million in the bank. If it got too hot in the ring with Carbajal, Lucia could just quit and she?d still have her money. Lucia?s a Buddhist so she went to the temple to pray and came back to me saying she wouldn't take the fight so that was that.? Rijker retired in 2004 with a perfect record of 17-0, including 14 KOs, at the age of 36.

Roach said among the fresh faces at Wild Card is 5-8 welterweight Eimantas Stanionis of Lithuania. Last April, the 22-year-old prospect made his pro debut with a knockout over Rasheed Lawal in Los Angeles. Roach said Stanionis is a future world champion.

Another Roach prot?g? is former WBA super bantamweight champion Scott Quigg of the UK. Last April, Roach was in Quigg?s corner for his fight against Viorel Simion in the undercard of the mainer featuring defending IBF heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua and Ukrainian challenger Wladimir Klitschko. Quigg beat Simion on points to raise his record to 33-1-2, with 24 KOs. His only loss was a split decision to Carl Frampton last year. Roach said Quigg is lined up to face IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby. What made Roach?s journey to the UK even more memorable was 90,000 fans packed the Wembley Stadium in London to witness the fisticuffs. Joshua got up from the canvas to stop Klitschko in the 11th round and annexed the WBA and IBO belts. Roach used to train Klistschko and his brother Vitaly. After the win, Joshua posed for a picture with Roach and Quigg then hinted something about working with Roach in the future.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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