Despite being different sports with different skill sets, the hot button topic of mixed martial arts vs. boxing continues to grow within combat sports fans across the globe. Everyone from fighters to promoters to fans and critics alike have weighed in on the topic, but now the sports have started to bleed together as top boxing trainers have added MMA fighters to their list of clients.
Most MMA fans have seen the familiar hat that follows former Oscar De La Hoya trainer Juanito Ibarra, as he works with prize pupil Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Now MMA fans will meet one of the most sought after boxing trainers in the world on July 19 as revered trainer Freddie Roach will step in to corner former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski for his fight in Affliction against Ben Rothwell.
Roach has trained numerous champions in the sport of boxing including current pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao, as well as his notable appearance as lead trainer for De La Hoya for his showdown with boxing bad boy FloydMayweather in 2007.
Now as Arlovski gets ready to make his debut with Affliction, he has prepared himself by working in Los Angeles with Roach and his camp of fighters and the former UFC champ says that Roach trained him well.
"When I step in the ring with Freddie, he makes me work all the time, every single minute in the round, he makes me work," said Arlovski. "It's great because I'm really hungry for boxing technique for knowledge."
While acknowledging his lack of MMA training skill, Roach has stepped up Arlovski's boxing to get him ready for this upcoming fight and a possible crossover into professional boxing if the Belarusian decides to make that transition.
"I just teach him boxing like I would any heavyweight that I have," Roach said. "He's a very capable person and the thing is, one thing about Andrei is if I do give him homework he does work on it because the next day I tell him, 'You must have been practicing in the mirror in your hotel room.' Because he's a very dedicated guy, he comes back better the next day already and he's a good guy to work with."
Roach says Arlovski's footwork is most impressive, but he understands that he can't expect Andrei to be a boxer in the world of MMA.
"The thing is I have to make adjustments a little bit sometimes because obviously you know the stance is different and the distance is different and then that's the most difficult thing," Roach said. "Because sometimes a boxer will get a little bit closer than an MMA fighter will because of the striking with the legs of course. It's small adjustments, but I'm learning how to make those adjustments."
His knowledge of boxing is almost unparalleled and Roach has now become a new student watching and studying mixed martial arts. As time goes on, Roach believes the two sports will coincide more often as fans crave the true combat sports.
He also believes we may one day see a prominent boxer make their transition to MMA.
"I could see that happening in the future and I could see the shows being mixed up too," said Roach. "I think fight fans are fight fans and everyone likes a good fight."