The Fundamentals With … Freddie Roach

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The Hall of Fame trainer breaks down the Sweet Science as he prepares his fighter, Manny Pacquiao, to face Yordenis Ugas for Ugas' WBA World Welterweight title Saturday night on pay-per-view.

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Pacquiao vs Ugas PREVIEW: August 21, 2021 on Pay-Per-View

This Saturday, August 21, Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) challenges WBA World Welterweight Champion Yordenis Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs) live on YouTube pay-per-view and FOX Sports pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). The event goes down at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

It’s been two decades since legendary trainer Freddie Roach first began working with record-breaking, eight-division world champion Pacquiao. In that time, Roach and Pacquiao have forged a rare bond that hearkens back to such fabled pairings as Cus D’Amato/Mike Tyson, Angelo Dundee/Muhammad Ali, and Emanuel Steward/Thomas Hearns.

In his own words, here is how Roach breaks down Manny Pacquiao’s use of the fundamentals of boxing.

It All Starts with the Jab

“Manny’s very good at combinations,” said Roach. “We work a lot of mitts together, and we work on every combination in the book. If I want something, I’ll call a number out and he knows exactly what the number is. If I ask for a ‘105’ that means I want a 105. That’s a three-punch combination that I can’t tell you what it is.” [laughs] 

When Roach began working with Pacquiao more than 20 years ago, he was impressed by what he saw in Pacquiao. But he also knew there was room for improvement.

“Manny had power and speed and he used them both very well together,” remembered Roach. “They’re both killers, but if you have a fighter that has power and speed it’s really devastating, and that’s what Manny uses a lot of. 

“He was knocking everyone out with his left hand. Being a southpaw, that’s his power shot. But he never knocked anyone out with the right hand. I said, ‘You know what, I’m not doing my job. I want a complete fighter that can knock people out with either hand.’ So, we started working on the mitts: jab-uppercut-hook. Over and over again for three rounds, three times a day. It developed that (right) side really well and made it much stronger. 

“Then we fought David Diaz. It was the first time we fought another southpaw together. The jab-uppercut-hook combination worked so well in that fight, and he finally knocked Diaz out with his right hook. I was so friggin’ happy because our little strategy of overworking the right side, it worked very well for us. 

“Now he can punch with both hands. He’s much more dangerous with both hands than with one.”

Footwork and Positioning

One of Pacquiao’s biggest strengths is his ability to deceive his opponents in the ring.

“We usually use a feint instead of a punch to set things up,” explained Roach. “Manny goes out there and feints, they think something is coming and they reach for it a little bit like to block it…then he turns the punch over into a hook, and they give us enough room to get the hook in there. 

“Manny’s footwork is tremendous from both sides, and he can switch anytime he wants to. He’s a little shy with his switching but he does change once in a while.

“I think he has the best footwork in boxing.”

I think [Pacquiao] has the best footwork in boxing. Trainer - Freddie Roach

Protect Yourself At All Times

“Manny’s footwork helps his defense. He also moves his head really well.”

When Pacquiao and Roach first met, Roach wasn’t the only one of the pair who knew there was room for improvement.

“When I first met Manny, he brought me some tapes of his fights. He showed me two fights on that tape, at 112 pounds, where he was knocked out by a body shot once and by a head shot once. 

“I said, ‘Manny, why are you showing me this?’

“He said, ‘I want you to know everything. Freddie, getting knocked out is just part of the sport. Here are the two times I got knocked out before I met you, and I wanted you to know so we can improve in those areas.’”

Control Distance

“The biggest thing for Manny is that his footwork is so fast,” said Roach, “he’s kind of feinting with his feet where it looks like he’s coming forward for a second, then he backs out and he comes right back in again. And on one of those occasions, we’ll stay in the pocket and land combinations. But which one, we change every time. 

“Juan Manuel Marquez found a little hole. We went on attack on the third feint. It takes an intelligent fighter to figure things like that out, and he did it.

“Then we had to make another change and not be so readable. Now you don’t know when Manny’s going to come or go—he’s very hard to read.”

Champion Mindset

Throughout his legendary 26-year professional career, Pacquiao has lost by stoppage three times. The way he’s dealt with those losses revealed the man’s character and mental fortitude.

“He doesn’t dwell on it,” said Roach. “He handles it really well. If he lost by knockout to a southpaw, for example, I don’t have to go out there and find a righty opponent. I can go find the toughest guy out there because that’s what Manny prefers.”

Roach and Pacquiao parted ways professionally for a time, after Pacquiao fought Jeff Horn in 2017 until he faced Adrien Broner in 2019. 

“People say, ‘You didn’t see him for like two years,’” said Roach. “And I say, ‘Yeah, I didn’t see him for two years, but every time he worked out in a boxing gym at home, he’d send me the tape so I could study it and tell him where I think he needs work and where he doesn’t.’ That’s why we get along so well. We’re always with each other mentally, for sure. 

“I told him one time, ‘Manny, when you start slowing down, and you’re not the same anymore, I’m going to tell you to retire.’ 

“‘When that happens,’ he said, ‘we’ll both retire.’

“I said, ‘That’s a deal.’

“I watch him and he’s a little bit older now but he’s not an old man by any means. I wouldn’t let that happen. 

“We’ve been together for over 20 years, and we still have a lot of respect for each other. It’s worked out really well for him and me.”

For a closer look at Pacquiao vs Ugas, check out our fight night page. 

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