By Frank Lotierzo
We've been hearing the back and forth banter and cat-fighting between Manny Pacquiao's head trainer, Freddie Roach and Timothy Bradley's head trainer, Teddy Atlas, since the bout between the two welterweights was first announced. Obviously Roach and Atlas loathe each other, and the guess here is, the problem they have with the other is they're so much alike. If there have ever been two more insecure high-profile boxing trainers in the fight game, I've never known of them. The fact is Freddie and Teddy are the two biggest “See me out there” guys in professional boxing. Going by the interaction and words between them…one could easily begin to think they are fighting each other on April 9th instead of Pacquiao and Bradley facing each other.
Maybe Roach has gone after Bradley and Atlas because no one really cares about Pacquiao and Bradley fighting for a third time. If the decision rendered in the first fight was legitimate, there would be no need for a rubber match. Perhaps Roach knows the fight hasn’t really taken off with the public and he’s taking one for the team by going after Atlas. But remember, this is the same trainer who thought his fighter Miguel Cotto was robbed when he fought Canelo Alvarez last year. And he also had the nerve to tell everyone prior to the Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown that Manny had a strong training camp and he wouldn't have been surprised if Manny stopped Mayweather inside the distance. Then he shamelessly admitted after the fight that Pacquiao sustained a shoulder injury during training and how he inadvertently checked the wrong box on the medical examination form the day before the bout.
Now Roach is dismissing Bradley's performance, his first with Atlas, against Brandon Rios in his last fight. “I don’t think there’s a new and improved Tim Bradley,” Roach said. “I thought his last opponent [stunk]. The guy was out of shape. I don’t think [Bradley] looked any better than he ever has.” And when Atlas was mentioned as being an asset to Bradley, Roach responded: “So, who’s he? An announcer? I won’t give him credit until he beats a legit fighter. Let’s face it, you look at the guy he beat — fat and out of shape and looked like he wanted to retire before the fight.”
That's pretty harsh coming from a guy who has never taken a fighter that wasn't already a contender and brought him to the top. And for the record, Bradley stopped Rios and hurt him; Pacquiao never even had him shook or in trouble when they fought two years earlier. Granted, Pacquiao fought a better version of Rios, but Bradley is the only fighter to hurt Rios and push him to the point to where he obviously wanted out.
For five years we listened to Roach opine how Mayweather was made for Pacquiao stylistically and that Floyd wouldn't be Manny's toughest fight – yet it turned out to be the complete reverse. When they finally fought, Mayweather was under duress for all of two minutes of a 36 minute fight. Shortly after that we saw how Jean Pascal did worse in his rematch with Sergey Kovalev with Roach working his corner than he did the first time they fought without Roach.
“We had a strong camp in the Philippines and Manny, as usual, is way ahead of schedule in his conditioning, and very motivated. The real business begins for us on Monday at Wild Card. We have great sparring waiting for Manny. I know that ESPN announcer [Teddy Atlas] who is coaching Bradley is a good story teller and likes acting. Let’s see how well they do when we go off script and hit them with a dose of reality TV. Playing ‘fireman’ isn’t going to protect them from the nuclear assault Manny will be launching.”
Boy, that sounds familiar; talk about a script! Notice how Roach says “we” instead of “he.” It's almost as if Freddie is fighting and not Manny. And in case it's been forgotten, the last time anyone saw a nuclear assault authored by Pacquiao was back in 2009 against what many believe was a weight drained Miguel Cotto fighting at the 145 pound catch-weight stipulated by Team Pacquiao. It seems nobody gets a free pass by the media the way the team of Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach does. We've been hearing the “Manny had a great camp” story for years, yet he hasn't scored a knockout in over six years.
Roach recently said “if Atlas is plotting a fight plan intended to repeat Floyd Mayweather’s boxing, speed and defensive performance that won him the fight in May over Pacquiao, he’s pursuing a flawed scheme.”
There's a revelation! No, Bradley is certainly no Mayweather, but that doesn't mean he can't out box Pacquiao. And the reason for that is Manny has been out-boxed by Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez, as he was by Bradley during stretches of their first bout. Manny has always been susceptible to fighters who use their feet and move and don't stand in front of him and trade one-for-one. Bradley, under the guidance of Atlas, will use his feet and lateral movement more in their upcoming fight than he did in either of their first two encounters. And that's smart because Manny is not a bell-to-bell non-stop attacker. Actually, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Bradley and Atlas try and replicate Mayweather's battle plan against Pacquiao. The only difference will be Bradley will have to use his legs more than Floyd did, simply because Mayweather bettered Pacquiao and won a lot of the exchanges without having to move or break them off, something I doubt Bradley has the offense to do.
Also, I believe Roach is overlooking something very important in regards to what Atlas gives Bradley psychologically. For some reason only known to Bradley, I get the feeling that he believes he can't be beat as long as he listens to what Atlas tells him. Of course we know that's not the case in actuality, but the point is Bradley believes it, and that is monumental and will carry Timothy when the heat is turned up during the fight.
I'm no fan of Teddy Atlas, but in this case it seems as though Roach is reading from a script. And it's a tired one that hasn't been close to being accurate in a long time. It's too early to make a pick as to who will win, but I can say with impunity, Bradley is a live underdog!
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com