Whether Manny Pacquiao fights again or not, his trainer of 16 years, Freddie Roach, believes that being a fighter and a senator simply doesn’t work if you want to be at the top of your game in both.
That was never been more obvious than last weekend in Brisbane, Australia, when Pacquiao, the first term Senator and only eight-division champion in boxing history, lost his WBO welterweight title to unheralded Jeff Horn by unanimous decision, an outcome few thought was even possible.
Roach, a seven-time trainer of the year, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday that Pacquiao’s loss, though highly controversial, might be traced back to their training camp, which was held in the Philippines. The senate was in session during the first half of camp.
“Being a congressman, it seemed like Manny really wasn’t pressed or challenged by it,” Roach said. “But being a senator, he’s like a whole different person. It takes a lot of his time, and the thing is, the first half of training camp wasn’t the best because he was being a senator, and sometimes they’d let him out at three o’clock and sometimes they let him out at nine o’clock. Sometimes 10 o’clock. And then we have to train after he gets off work. Being a great fighter and being a great person in politics, it’s just very, very difficult to do both, I feel.”
Roach said after the stunning loss to Horn, “I told Manny, give it a week, we’ll sit down and talk and see what’s next.” He said he did not urge Pacquiao, who will be 39 in December, to retire.
“I said either we retire or fight a rematch at this point,” he said. “Which decision? We should take some time and watch the fight on tape, and then I’ll have a long talk with Manny about what’s the best place to go: To fight (Horn) in a rematch, or possibly retire, or go on to bigger and better guys. Those are his options.”
Roach, who knows Pacquiao probably better than anyone except for Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee and lifelong friend Buboy Fernandez, was asked if he knows what the future Hall of Famer is thinking right now. “I think what’s on his mind is what we talked about, having two jobs and you can’t really do both. I hope that sunk in to him so he thinks about it. But right now, more realistically, is either a rematch with (Horn) or nothing. That’s it. That’s pretty much my thoughts, and I don’t think we ought to go after any other world champions right now. I would like a rematch and then if he wins that, it’s over. But is that possible? Can you retire off a win?”
Roach, a former fighter, said it’s much tougher to retire off a win than a loss.
Which brings us back to Horn, who was much bigger than Pacquiao during the fight, and was very dirty, said Roach. “He had a very dirty style. Headlocks, pushing a guy down, using his elbows, head butts, and the referee didn’t say nothing about nothing. The only thing (referee Mark Nelson) said to me was ‘Freddie, when a southpaw fights a righty it’s going to happen.’ I said, ‘not when he leads with his head. Those are intentional head butts.’
The head butts caused two gashes on Pacquiao’s hairline that took 17 stitches to close, and they affected Pacquiao during the fight.
“He doesn’t get a lot of cuts, and when he does cut he panics a little bit,” Roach said. “In between rounds when the referee was talking to him, Manny wanted to have the ring doctor look at them. “For a fighter to say that, he knows where he’s at and he wants to know how bad the cut is. The doctor OK’d it, so Manny fought on pretty well. He’s never done well when he’s had those issues, you know, blood in the face. It affects everyone differently.”
Roach said Pacquiao also might have over-trained.
“His work ethic is still very, very good, and he trains very hard, but he probably trains too hard. He tries to do what he did when he was younger, and you can’t do that. It’s part of life getting old. . . . He’s got to realize he’s 38 years old now and not 28,” the trainer said.
“Basically, he’s a senator, a fighter and father. He has a wife and kids. So the last thing I want to see is for Manny to get hurt. That’s why I lean toward retirement or one more fight with Horn. I think Manny got robbed. He definitely won the fight.”
Roach also addressed Top Rank promoter Bob Arum’s complaints that Pacquiao’s handlers were too overconfident coming into the fight and his corner was out of control during the fight.
“It’s hard when Buboy (Fernandez) is yelling, and (cutman) Miguel (Diaz) is telling me he has to get in the middle to work on the cuts,” said Roach. “And to get my message across to Manny what he should be doing is very difficult. Miguel is getting older and he has trouble getting in and out of the ring, and Buboy gets excited. Control in that corner has always been a little difficult.”
Roach wonders if Horn will give Pacquiao a rematch, and if so, “does he give us a rematch in America? Does he give us a rematch in The Philippines? Does he give us a rematch (in Australia) again?”
If Pacquiao has any notions about moving on and fighting undefeated 140-pound champion Terence Crawford or someone like that, “Manny would have to make a decision,” said Roach. “Either be a senator or boxer. Pick one or the other and that’s it. You can’t do both officially. It’s almost impossible.
“I’ve had a great run with Manny. It’s been a great ride. If he retires or fights one more time, we’ll see. But I want to watch the (Horn) fight very closely and break it down and see where that brings me. And I’ll give Manny a call and we’ll talk. We’re really good friends.”