Manny Pacquiao could have done better. In the end, that’s the bottom line for Freddie Roach.
That’s the way the veteran trainer looked at his fighter’s razor-thin margin of victory over Juan Manuel Marquez two weeks ago. His fighter won a perilously close decision but he could have fought better, which has led Roach to think of only one thing since.
“We want to fight him again,’’ Roach said flatly this week.
Having seen your fighter twice barely escape defeat at the hands of Marquez, most trainers would be moving as far away from the man as possible and staying there for as long as possible. That is the business side of the sport. It’s also exactly why Roach says he wants Pacquiao to meet Marquez again soon.
“Pacquiao and Marquez will meet again and it won’t take four years this time,’’ boxing’s finest young trainer said from his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood during a long conversation about that fight, Pacquiao’s future and the way Roach looks at the sport that has been his life since he was a young boy trying to master a sometimes brutal art form in gyms around New England.
“People criticized us for giving him a rematch because his style makes life difficult for Manny. A lot of people asked me why I wasn’t satisfied with a draw (which is how their first fight ended). I don’t like controversy. I like to win. We looked at that draw like a loss.
“Now they’re asking me why we’re not satisfied with a win. It was too close. A lot of people think Marquez won and rightfully so. It was very close (one point on one card making the difference). It could have gone either way. There’s controversy. I still don’t like controversy.
“If those guys fought 10 times in a row there would be one point between them either way. They’re both such good fighters and they come in such great shape because they know what the other guy’s capable of.
“But Manny is my baby. I want to see him improve. I want to see him fight the best he can and I know he didn’t do that. We made some tactical errors in that fight. Manny moved into his right hand all night. That was something we worked on not doing all camp and we ended up doing it all night. I don’t know if Marquez made that possible or Manny couldn’t see it but I know it’s correctable.
“I thought Manny won by a little bit but a lot of the rounds were hard to score. Marquez deserves the rematch. He’s a great fighter. He had something to do with our problems, which is why we want the rematch. It will be good for boxing.’’
Roach quickly followed that thought up by making clear that Pacquiao had fought his last at 130 pounds however. He will, as expected, move up to 135 to challenge lightweight champion David Diaz later this year, probably in June if the cuts he suffered heal properly, and Roach has his own dream fight in mind for Pacquiao after that doesn’t involve Juan Manuel Marquez. It’s a fight he knows isn’t likely to happen but he can hope, can’t he?
“My dream fight for Manny is with Ricky Hatton at 140,’’ Roach said. “That would be a great fight for Manny. Hatton’s not that big a guy and with their styles it would be all action but Golden Boy (Oscar De La Hoya’s promotional company, which has signed Hatton) already told me they’re going in a different direction with Hatton.
“They told me not to even think about it but if Manny wins the title at 135 it would make a fight with Hatton at 140 legitimate. Boxing purists love Juan Manuel Marquez because he’s so technically sound. Hatton-Pacquiao would be more of a brawl but fans would love it. It would just be for that one fight. We certainly wouldn’t stay at 140, that’s for sure.’’
Instead they would return to the lightweight division and possibly even down to a catch weight of 133, where they know Juan Manuel Marquez will be waiting. More than likely, he won’t have to wait for long.
Although Marquez’s advisors have already begun to lobby for a rubber match, Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, has said a third fight needs to “bake’’ for a while and has told journalists in the Phillipines Pacquiao would have to get between $8-to-$10 million to make the fight.
Considering that he got $5 million for the second fight (to $1.5 million for Marquez) it is a number that seems a bit steep but Roach isn’t concerning himself with such matters. That’s up to Arum and Golden Boy, who represent the two sides, but one thing is for sure. That third fight will happen.
“They’ll negotiate it out,’’ Roach said. “Arum’s got to be realistic. It’s a fight me and Manny want. Nobody likes controversy. We want to settle this. I know Manny can fight a better fight. I don’t think Marquez can.
“The two of them are so competitive I can really put my foot down with Manny and show him why it was so close. It’s so simple to make adjustments but maybe it’s not now that I think about it because Marquez had a lot to do with Manny’s problems.
“People kept asking me why we didn’t land the right hand more when we worked on it for so long but Marquez kept throwing lead right hands. By not using his jab so much he took our right hand away. He really does know how to fight. He’s a dream come true for a boxing purist.
“He’s intense. He’s tactical. He’s sound. He never gets rattled. You have to admire him. When Manny put him down I didn’t think he was going to get up but he did. Manny hurt him two more times in the fight but we couldn’t get him out and the cuts he had didn’t bother him at all even though they had a lot of trouble closing them. When Manny gets cut he doesn’t handle it so well. Luckily (cut man) Joe Chavez got it under control and we had a plastic surgeon stitch it up real nice so it shouldn’t bother him in the future.’’
What will bother both him and Roach is living with the questions fans and boxing insiders have over the outcome of both fights. The draw came despite Pacquiao dropping Marquez three times and more than a few people felt Marquez had actually fought his way back to victory despite a disastrous first round.
Pacquiao’s win in the rematch came by the smallest margin possible, one point on one judge’s card, or it too would have been a draw on a night where, again, many left the arena feeling Marquez had come out on the wrong end of the decision.
There is only one way to settle this of course and Roach is hoping it will happen soon, although nothing can happen until Pacquiao faces Diaz, a hard-nosed southpaw Roach feels will present them some difficulties. Not like the ones Marquez poses but problems all the same, problems that will have to be solved.
“Manny doesn’t like to fight southpaws,’’ Roach said, “but when we fight a guy who’s hittable Manny does well. People tell me David Diaz is an easy fight. I say he’s a world champion. The last time I looked they didn’t give those belts away.
“It will be a tough fight. He’s aggressive. He’s tough. He comes to win. And we don’t know yet how moving up in weight will affect Manny. It was a little bit difficult for him making 130. He struggled but not tremendously so we have to look good at 135 and then see what’s next.’’
One possibility has been talk emanating from De La Hoya’s camp that boxing’s Golden Boy would dearly love to finish his career against Pacquiao. Roach laughs at the suggestion because of the obvious size difference, although he knows he can’t totally dismiss it.
“That’s a pretty big jump (from 130 to 147),’’ Roach said. “I guess De La Hoya and Manny don’t like each other but I don’t know. I think it’s more likely we go to 140 if we can get Hatton and then back to 135. What we want is to win the lightweight title and then fight Marquez again but he’ll have to come up to 135, or at least a catch weight of 133. One thing we know about that fight, it will be competitive.’’
Which, frankly, is how Freddie Roach likes it.
“I get jacked up for fights like the one with Marquez,’’ Roach said. “We all like the competition. When the bell rings we trainers go sit down but the strategy of it is important to us.
“I’m a competitive person. Nacho Beristain (Marquez’s trainer) is one of the great trainers in boxing. If we can make adjustments to negate their guy’s strategy that makes us get excited. I enjoy that.
“The only thing that bothered me about the last fight really was what they said after they lost. If we’d have lost that fight I wouldn’t have cried about the decision. I know that’s easy to say because we won but when the fight’s that close you can’t cry about losing by a point. It takes away from it. That fight was great for Manny and for Marquez and it was great for boxing. We were all winners.’’
Close winners in the case of Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao. So close they want to do it again. Soon. Unless, of course, Ricky Hatton calls first.