HOLLYWOOD, CA.-On a warm Friday in Hollywood, we spent the late afternoon at the Wild Card Gym to see a number of fighters, including England’s Amir Khan and of course elite trainer Freddie Roach.
The drive to Hollywood from Riverside is a 70-mile trek, but it's worth it when you know that you can see first hand what a boxer like Khan is looking like in terms of sharpness and technique.
Other reasons exist too, like chatting with Roach about the travails of boxing and the opportunities that await his many fighters.
The amiable Roach spoke about Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley on this Friday afternoon before he made the trip to Primm, Nevada to assist junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan.
Inside the gym where temperatures drifted in the upper 80s, only a few prizefighters were working the boxing equipment. Two large fighters stood near the windows and were undistinguishable because of the sunlight behind them. Once they got out of the shadows it was plain to see one was former heavyweight world champion Michael Moorer and the other former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.
“He’ll be having his first pro boxing fight at the Staples Center,” said Roach of Arlovski, who began training the MMA star, coming off the loss to MMA super star Fedor Emelianenko of Russia, last year. “He has a lot of fans.”
Arlovski had planned to make his boxing debut last September but circumstances didn’t allow him time to prepare. Now the large MMA fighter looks fit and ready for a dip into the heavyweight boxing world.
“We don’t have an opponent yet but we’re looking around for someone,” said Roach.
Speaking of fighters from the eastern part of Europe, two featherweight sized prizefighters began exiting the gym when Roach pointed them out to me. One was Slava Gusev, a featherweight, and Alisher Rahimov, a junior lightweight.
“They’re both very good boxers,” Roach said of the pair. “I’m training and managing both.”
As the Russian fighters departed almost simultaneously Amir Khan and his brother and father walked into the boxing gym. All had smiles and were dressed appropriately for the 80-degree temperatures.
The Hall of Fame trainer asked me if I wanted to interview Khan before he began his workout so I agreed and we chatted outside the stairwell.
Khan will be fighting in several weeks as a junior welterweight challenging for the WBA title against champion Andriy Kotelnik of Ukraine on June 27 at the O2 Arena in London.
“I feel great at this weight. I’m not so weak,” said Khan who did look much bigger than in his previous fight against Marco Antonio Barrera. He’s more than a month away from the title match. “My punches are quicker.”
Inside Khan shows off the speedy combinations that Barrera just couldn’t time in the five rounds it lasted. Though Barrera landed a few punches he couldn’t stop the blitzkrieg that forced the referee to stop the fight.
“He landed a few hard punches but I was so focused in that fight,” said Khan of Barrera. “He couldn’t deal with my speed.”
During the workout Khan’s smooth footwork and lightning combinations were accented by the more pronounced defensive shields now implemented by the former lightweight. Defense is paramount for Khan.
It reminded me of watching Manny Pacquiao a few months earlier. The speedy combinations are similar but the unorthodox foot movement by the pound for pound champion are not.
Roach said that Khan’s promoter Frank Warren seeks a match with Pacquiao if the young British speedster wins.
Hmmm. That’s asking quite a lot at this juncture especially when there are elite fighters like Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather staring at Pacman. That’s where the big money lies.
Roach said that though a “Mosley fight is probably the most exciting because they both like to fight,” it's all about making the fight on even terms.
“I have to protect my fighter,” said Roach, who administered the terms for Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya last year. “I spoke to Shane and told him that we would fight him at 142. He said he can’t make that weight.”
Mosley asked why not 147, as Manny/Oscar was set at 147? Roach said that Mosley is not De La Hoya in terms of setting a weight handicap.
In looking at the upcoming fight between Marquez and Mayweather, the savvy trainer says he expects Marquez to jump ahead at first because of his more aggressive attitude. But later, he expects Mayweather to grind him down with his size and strength.
“He’s much bigger,” said Roach, adding that the weight requirement may hurt Marquez and Mayweather. “Marquez seems to be hitting a lot harder as he moves up in weight. He was probably fighting at featherweight too long. He’s knocking guys out. Good guys.”
If Mayweather beats Marquez as the odds and Roach suggest, the expected match with Pacquiao is not a done deal warns Roach.
“Both fighters have egos,” said Roach, who said that the Hatton-Pacquiao fight had problems too because of the financial dealings. “Mayweather wants a 60-40 split. He’s not going to get that with Manny. I know for sure Manny won’t accept anything like that.”
Roach said that Pacquiao would probably want the bulk of the purse and not settle for a 50-50 split.
“Fans like the way Manny fights,” said Roach. When he mentioned Mayweather’s name he kind of let it drift in the air.
The fight Roach likes is Many/Mosley, if the Pomona fighter can make the weight. The world can only wait to see what transpires. Another match that could have consequences also takes place in June when Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey fight. If the Puerto Rican slugger wins, he would be asked to drop to 140 to fight Pacquiao.
Of course Cotto may not beat Clottey.
“You have a good point,” said Roach. “We’ll have to see.”