OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Dedication, love of country, key to Eumir Marcial’s bid for PH’s first Olympic gold medal – Roach
By Eddie Alinea of The Manila Times
Sun, 29 Nov 2020
Marcial (L) and Roach.
It took nine years for boxing trainer Freddie Roach to find answer to his prayer to someday see another Muhammad Ali walking through the door of his Wild Card Gym along Vine St. in downtown Hollywood asking to be trained.
That was in 2001, the Wild Card Boxing Gym had just been completed when a young but frail-looking, skinny Filipino fighter named Manny Pacquiao entered the door and told his would be maestro he needed a trainer.
“I defied the advised of my guru (Eddie Futch) not to put up this gym and just concentrate in traing boxers,” Roach told this writer. “Eddie told me owning a gym was a money-losing proposition.“
“Maybe true, maybe not. Maybe it’s pure guts on my part, but the truth was Manny came from nowhere, walked through that door and I embraced him as my own son,” Roach to this writer in an interview a few years back.
Soon, the now Philippine Senator became the only human on earth to win no less than a dozen world championships in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.
More than a month ago another Filipino pug, Olympian Eumir Marcial, came through that same Wild Card door and like his celebrated compatriot, begged the Hall of Fame trainer to chart a preparedness program in the hope of fulfilling his and his countrymen’s dream of gifting the country’s its first Olympic gold medal.
Roach, the only seven-time recipient of the “Trainer of the Year” honor from the Boxing Writers Association of America, wouldn’t tell what drove him to readily accede to Marcial’s plea except that, in another interview lately, he confessed seeing in the Filipino amateur his dedication and determination to succeed in his chosen career.
Just how dedicated and determined his new pupil is, Roach has this to say: “Only a few days after he started working in the camp, his brother passed away. But instead of going home for the funeral, he chose to stay to continue his training.”
“Deep inside, I know he was hurting, but his action not to at least have a glimpse of his brother’s remains was proof of his dedication and determination to becoming the best just like Manny, who, he told me is his idol,” Roach , who was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, attested.
Before that, On October 29, the Zamboangueno No. 2 ranked 75-pound amateur dispensed with celebrating his 25th birthday so as not to waste time losing the gains he has achieved in only a week inside the Wild Card training camp.
“He’s really serious in wanting to give the Philippines an Olympic gold medal and perhaps another world boxing belt,” he assured.
“Like Manny, Eumir loves the Philippines so much,” he exclaimed, adding Marcial is “very intelligent and bright. He’s a wily, skillful left-hander, hits hard, moves fast for his weight (middleweight) and I see him to be succeeding in what he wants sooner or later. That’s for sure.”
Roach has records to show where he speaks of.
One of seven children of former fighter Paul, the 1947 New England featherweight titlist, and Barbara Roach, Freddie and four of his siblings turned to boxing through the behest of their father.
“I was the best fighter in the house,” Fredide kiddingly but proudly said chuckling. As an amateur, he revealed, he fought a total 150 bouts, winning 141 of them, good enough to earn for him slot in the United States Olympic boxing team trials.
Pacquiao and Roach at the Wildcard Gym in Hollywood.
Freddie actually made it as alternate of the U.S. squad to the 1976 Montreal Games, considered as one of the best if not the best American Olympic teams ever that included would-be professional greats Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinks brothers – Leon and Michael.
Nicknamed “La Cucaracha” as swell as “Choir Boy,” Roach, who was born on March 5, 1960, turned pro in 1978 at age 18 and went into retirement 10 years later, compiling a 39-13 win-loss record with 15 knockouts. Notable names who crossed his path were Hector Camacho, Greg Haugen and Bobby Chacon, among others.
The only job he knew was boxing, he confessed. So upon retirement he found himself as able lieutenant to world-renowned trainer Eddie Futch, who became legend as cornerman to former heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe “Frazier and ring greats Larry Holmes and Ken Norton.
La Cucarachq eventually built his own Wild Card Boxing Club Gym in Los Angeles that nurtured the career of now eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, Olympic silver medalist Amir Khan and a dozen other sweet science legends as Oscar De La Hoya, soon-to-be Pacquiao arch rivals Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins and another Filipino Brian Viloria, to mention a few.
But while his boxing career led him, to his current success, it is, too, this background which led him to his greatest suffering. He has Parkinson’s disease. As a result, he has difficulty walking, slightly slurred speech and other physical awkwardness.
Despite all this, life obviously. Loves him as well judging by the successes he’s attained.
Roll in, Freddie, help Eumir give the Philippines its first ever Olympic gold medal. We’ll love you more for that!
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