Hall of Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach turned 56 years old Saturday in General Santos City in Mindanao, 10,000 miles away from the city he now calls home—Los Angeles in California.
Born March 5, 1960 in Massachusetts, Roach is actually celebrating several milestones in his colorfully decorated life, one of which is the 15th year anniversary of his partnership with Filipino fighter Manny Pacquiao whom he transformed from an obscure one-dimensional left-handed fighter into a global ring icon.
This year also marks Roach’s 27th year as a trainer, a profession he had adopted following a so-so fighting career and 13th year since earning the first of the seven Trainer of the Year honors bestowed upon him by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Year 2016 is, likewise, the fourth year that Roach, an alternate in the United States’ 1976 Melbourne Olymic team, was enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in Canasota, New York in 2012, a week before manning Pacquiao’s corner in the Philippine pride’s first meeting with then unbeaten American Timothy Bradley.
Roach, known also as “La Cucaracha” or “Choir Boy” in boxing circle, is presently in General Santos City supervising Pacquiao’s preparation s the third chapter of his and Bradley’s trilogy scheduled April 9 in the U.S.’ vice city of Las Vegas.
This year, the world famous maestro is also observing the 24th anniversary of the Wild Card Gym, a boxing sweat shop located at the heart of Hollywood which he built in 1992 against the advice of friends and relatives, including his teacher, the equally great fighting maestro Eddie Futch.
Roach fondly remembers these milestones last week, following one of the fighting Sarangani Congressman’s workou—defying Futch advice to construct his own gym and taking Pacquiao under his wing—which he said had created a great impact on his life and drastically changed his fortunes.
The biggest change in his life, Roach recalled, came in early 2001 when the Filipino knocked on his Wild Card Gym’s door looking for a place to train.
In an earlier interviewm Roach said that he wanted to build the Wild Card Gym was because of his hope that someday, somebody, “who can be the next Muhammad Ali, will walk through that door.”
True enough, Manny walked in 10 years after construction of the gym was completed. The rest as they say, was history.
Pacquiao owns a record of 32-2 win-loss when his partnership with Roach began. Their tandem immediatey produced the first of 10 title conquests in eight weight divisions the Filipino was to rack up in the years to come.
Already the World Boxing Council flyweight champion when he came under Roach’s tutelage, Pacquiao added the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight diadem in his first title fight under his new trainer.
Before losing three of his previous six bouts, Pacquiao had already won titles in the 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds, the only man on earth to have accomplished the feat.