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By Maloney L. Samaco

Mon, 16 Feb 2009

Freddie Roach was born on March 5, 1960 in Dedham, Massachusetts and he will be turning 49 next month. There were seven kids in their family and his dad was an ex-pro fighter who wanted his children to become boxers also.

Roach?s first fight was when he was about six years old and he joined his first tournament at the age of eight and won the Junior Olympic 50-pound division. He had 50 amateur fights and lost nine. Roach turned pro in 1978.

Roach spent most of his career as a lightweight journeyman fighter, losing to former super lightweight champ Bobby Chacon and former lightweight champions Greg Haugen and Hector Camacho. He started 26-1 in his pro career but went 13-12 in the later stages. Coincidentally, his last win was against Filipino fighter Arnel Arrozal in the United States.

Roach trained Oscar De La Hoya for his May 5, 2007 multi-million dollar fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. His first world champion was Virgil Hill. His next world champion was Marlon Starling.

In addition to Starling and Hill, Roach has seconded Stevie Collins, Frankie Liles, Johnny Tapia, James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, Mike Tyson, Michael Moorer. Then he got Manny Pacquiao, Angel Vasquez and Brian Villoria. Added recently are Gerry Penalosa and Donnie Nietes.

?I think we now stand at like 17 world champions the last time I tried to count them all,? Roach said. ?I do believe that champions are born and not made. I can guide them and point them in the right direction, but they?re the ones that have to perform. They have to pull it off. So I don?t like to take too much credit.?

Roach was honored on October 11, 2008 by the World Boxing Council with a ?Lifetime Achievement Award? during a special luncheon and fund raising at the WBC Legends of Boxing Event at the New Museum at San Bernardino, California.

Roach now suffers Parkinson?s disease. But even if his left arm shivers, his speech is slurred and he easily gets exhausted, but he still steps into the boxing ring to pursue his training of fighters in the sport he loves so much.

"I think what I do really fights it," he said. "Hand-eye coordination, catching punches with the mitts and so forth, I think that's what keeps me from getting worse."

Boxing is very much a part of Roach's life. When he began to suffer the chronic illness, you won't hear any comment from him that the sport deceived him. He wants to be involved in boxing for the rest of his life.

He has much less severe symptoms than Muhammad Ali, whose Parkinson's disease became so harsh that he can barely talk. The cause of the neurological disorder is unidentified, but some experts believe boxers are at a great risk of the syndrome because their bodies take such a beating. Roach says Mayo Clinic doctors blame boxing for his illness, but he admitted there is no proof.

"When it's time for me to retire and I'm not functional, I will," he said. "I don't like to be in the way. The Parkinson's, some people tell me I'm going to get worse, it's part of the symptoms of it. But so far I haven't."

Top photo: Roach shows his body protector with a photo of Oscar de la Hoya as a target during Manny Pacquiao's camp at the Wildcard Gym for the Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight on Dec. 6, 2008 in Las Vegas.

(To be continued)

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