Mayweather v Pacquiao: Trainers trade blows ahead of big fight

Boxing Gloves

Floyd Mayweather Sr and Freddie Roach agreed on one thing on Thursday: Floyd’s son will try to knock out Manny Pacquiao in the early rounds of their fight here on Saturday night.

Apart from that sliver of consensus, it was insult as usual – most of them coming from Mayweather in a ritual that descended into tedium after a promising start by Roach.

“He’s picked his fights but I don’t think he picked this one,” Roach said of the opponent with the unbeaten record, the clout at the negotiating table and the substantially bigger slice of a pie that might grow as big as $400m for all concerned to squabble over.

“I think Showtime forced him to take this fight,” he added, referring to Mayweather’s television backers who have him signed to a six-fight deal with two innings left to play and who must have been seriously disappointed he chose to fight Marcos Maidana twice last year instead of going Pacquiao-hunting.

But it is sealed now and they are ready to go. Fight week has been more subdued that usual, especially for an event billed as The Fight Of The Century, with aspirations to drag in four million pay-per-view customers.

The eyes of the sporting world will, briefly, be on boxing on Saturday night, a rarity in an era of sometimes tough-to-sell quality and viewed from the couches of the world through the squeezed portal of subscription and PPV television.

“It’d be great to win,” Roach said. “I’m not sure it’s a must-win. I don’t think our careers would be over. Big for both guys.”

Nowhere is the sense of anticipation greater than in the mind of Roach. It is a mind blighted by Parkinson’s disease but his dignity and tenacity in coping with it is heart-lifting:

“I work out every day, hand-eye exercises work well for me. I’ve got new medication and haven’t had the shakes in over six months.”

Just as moving is Roach’s devotion to Pacquiao, who walked into his Wild Card gym in Hollywood 15 years ago and went on to win world titles at eight different weights, a phenomenal achievement for a dirt-poor Filipino who earned $2 for his first fight.

This extravaganza should do much to wipe out Pacquiao’s considerable tax debts and leave him with a healthy balance – but Roach remembers the fighter’s astute appreciation of his tough craft more than anything else about his friend.

“When we started, he showed me two tapes of his fights and he was knocked out in both fights,” Roach said. “When I asked him why he chose those tapes to show me he said: ‘I know this is the life of a fighter.’”

And now they have arrived at that point of their journey where they are able to reach for the biggest prize: victory over a rival who has claimed, with plenty of justification, to be the best boxer of his generation. Beating the best, Roach knows, automatically will make the winner the best.

“I’ve been training for this for five years,” he said. “I’ve studied this guy for five years. I know a lot about him. I think we’ve got him covered. [Pacquiao] was down to 144lb yesterday. I told him the workout today is not going to be heavy.”

There are, of course, hiccups. There are always hiccups, late rows, childish spats and arguments that are incomprehensible to anyone but the alleged grown-ups involved. The latest one – an old favourite – has to do with the Mayweathers’ reluctance so far to have their selected gloves examined and weighed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It will happen but the row will be used as a psychological stick for a little bit yet.

“We selected our gloves a couple of days ago,” Roach said. “I don’t know if his are in yet but it’s long past their due date. I want to know are they half horsehair half foam, just foam or just horsehair.”

Mayweather Sr’s response was to laugh about Roach’s concerns and dismiss the complaint as needless worrying, betraying fear as much as anything else.

Roach, though, has no worries about the officials. “I think we’ve got a great referee and some good judges. The [use of] elbows and the shoulders, though, [the referee] should be warning Mayweather about that. If he doesn’t we’re well prepared to deal with that.”

As for Mayweather Sr’s contribution to the discussion in a separate press conference in the same room, there really is not much of substance to report, apart from his startling admission that he does not know how many times his son has been drug-tested. It was Mayweather Jr who insisted over a protracted period that Pacquiao should submit himself to blood-testing. “Don’t know,” was Mayweather Sr’s curt reply. Roach meanwhile, was happy to reveal that Pacquiao, once so fearful of needles, has been tested 12 times already and might be tested again before the fight.

The relationship between the trainers has been fractious but the suspicion has always been there was an element of theatre about it. Roach was happy to give the impression that this view had substance.

“I don’t really hate Floyd Mayweather Sr,” he said. “I hate his poems. He doesn’t get under my skin at all. There’s no hard feelings.”

Floyd chose not to agree, repeating his old “Freddie Roach, dope coach” line.

“I am the best trainer of all time,” he concluded. It echoed the ego and the confidence of his son. And he is a fine trainer but he is annoyingly impossible to nail down with a question – just as Floyd Jr is elusive in the ring.

And then came their agreement on how the fight might begin. “Yeah we’re gonna go at him,” Mayweather said. “But we gonna knock him out. This fight over already.”

On the day of more words, though, the points verdict was with Roach.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Kevin Mitchell in Las Vegas, for The Guardian on Thursday 30th April 2015 22.12 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010