Roach will train De La Hoya for fight

Originally Published: January 30, 2007
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Oscar De La Hoya made it official Tuesday afternoon: Freddie Roach will be his trainer for the megafight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Freddie Roach
Roach

"It was a thoughtful decision," De La Hoya said on a conference call with more than 140 media members from eight different countries. "My choice is Freddie Roach, who I strongly believe in and who will be in my corner 100 percent and be passionate the way I am about this fight."

De La Hoya, who will defend his junior middleweight crown in a fight expected to be one of the richest in history, selected Roach after splitting with Floyd Mayweather Sr., the estranged father of Mayweather Jr. (37-0, 24 KOs), the welterweight world champion and pound-for-pound king.

"Ultimately, my thinking was, 'Is Mayweather Sr. going to be passionate about going for that knockout and how is he going to feel in the middle of training camp when his family calls him and tells him not to do it?' I don't want no distractions," De La Hoya said. "This is the fight of my life and I need someone like Freddie, who will be on the same page with me."

Roach, a former fighter and the 2003 trainer of the year, is excited about his new role.

"It's a huge opportunity for me to do this on the biggest show ever," said Roach, a disciple of the late Eddie Futch, one of the most revered trainers of all-time. "I am really happy to be part of it. Winning is what counts. I have had success in the past. I feel that our game plan and what we will do in training camp will be great for Oscar. You will see the best Oscar De La Hoya of your life fighting Mayweather. We're going to do everything it takes to win the fight, and that's the bottom line."

Roach has trained more than a dozen world champions, including Manny Pacquiao, James Toney, Mike Tyson, Virgil Hill and Wayne McCullough.

Roach will head to training camp in Puerto Rico in late February or early March, leaving his stable of fighters at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., to work with top assistant Justin Fortune.

That includes junior lightweight star Pacquiao, who is supposed to fight Injin Chi on April 28 in Macau, China.

"I talked to Manny and he said, 'Congratulations, take the job,'" Roach said. "If Manny does have a fight in that time period, he is comfortable with my assistant Justin Fortune taking care of him for that fight. He has no problem with it whatsoever. I will be with Manny until I leave for Puerto Rico, and then Justin will be in charge."

Roach said he has also worked things out with the rest of his deep stable of fighters. He said they were happy to see him land one of the most coveted assignments a trainer can get.

"I explained the situation to all of them," he said. "My fighters know it's a big opportunity for me. It's not a one-man show at my gym. They will take care of the boys while I am away."

Once he hits Puerto Rico, Roach said he would give De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs) his undivided attention.

"Once we go to Puerto Rico, no breaks," he said. "My fighters understand that. They know Justin and they are in good hands. Of course, we will communicate through the phones."

Roach has numerous fighters with important bouts coming up. They won't have Roach in the gym on a daily basis, nor will they have him in the corner on fight night. They include:

• Robert Guerrero, who faces Spend Abazi for a vacant featherweight belt on Feb. 23 in Copenhagen.

• Israel Vazquez, who defends the junior featherweight world title against bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez on March 3 at a site to be determined.

• Peter Manfredo Jr., who challenges super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe on April 7 in Wales.

"I talked with all of them," Roach said. "They understand the situation."

De La Hoya said he had Roach in mind for the job since realizing months ago that it he would probably not be comfortable working with Mayweather Sr. against his son.

"I just didn't feel comfortable training against his son," De La Hoya said. "I didn't feel it, and ultimately what matters is me winning the fight. Freddie Roach, in my eyes, was from the beginning the guy who would lead me to that victory. We mentioned other trainers, but in my heart, I knew it would be Freddie."

De La Hoya did offer Mayweather Sr. $500,000 to train him plus a $500,000 bonus for a victory. Mayweather Sr. asked for $2 million. Terms of Roach's agreement were not released.

However, De La Hoya said Mayweather Sr.'s financial demand was not a factor in his decision.

"It no had impact whatsoever," he said. "Obviously, I want to feel as comfortable as possible in training camp. With comments Floyd Sr. has made in the past, I didn't feel he would be as passionate as me about May 5. When I train for the fight and go up in that ring, I am there to win. I didn't sign this fight just to go in there to be up against the best pound-for-pound fighter. I signed it to win and ultimately get that knockout."

Richard Schaefer, CEO of De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, added: "Oscar didn't want to add fuel to the fire of a father-son dispute. I personally think Floyd Sr.'s unheard-of demand was a signal that he would rather not be involved. We understand. We believe it would have created an unwanted circus atmosphere for this fight. We don't need any distractions or negativity to pull down the sport, and we don't need to divide father and son any more. I know Floyd Sr. He's a great trainer and, even more so, he's a good man. I hope Floyd Jr. will reach out to him and realize what a good man he is."

De La Hoya said he had no hard feelings toward Mayweather Sr., who had trained him for the past eight fights dating to 2001.

"My take is obviously he is a great trainer," De La Hoya said. "He does have the tools necessary to show me on how to beat his son, but obviously when you have a trainer like Freddie Roach, who is a master at dissecting the opponent and figuring out the styles, then I have no worries. I do have to admit Floyd Sr. is a great trainer."

De La Hoya added, "I have a call in to Floyd Sr. to explain to him the whole situation and why I took this position."

De La Hoya said there were two other trainers on his short list, even though he heard from numerous cornermen. They were Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain and Teddy Atlas.

"The only serious contender was Ignacio Beristain, who I respect," De La Hoya said of the Mexican trainer who works with Marquez and his older brother, featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Marquez.

Regarding Atlas, De La Hoya said, "I did think about him, but it wasn't a serious consideration because of his obligations to television. It would make it very difficult."

Atlas has commitments to ESPN2's boxing series "Wednesday Night Fights" and "Friday Night Fights," on which he serves as the ringside analyst.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.