At some pointManny Pacquiao is going to run out of divisions to dominate. Superfeatherweight? Conquered, courtesy of a March 2008 victory over WBC superfeatherweight champ Juan Manuel Màrquez. Lightweight? Pacquiao checked off thatclass when he stopped WBC champ David Díaz three months later. Welterweight?Pacquiao not only forced Oscar De La Hoya to quit on his stool in December—healso forced him out of the sport. And last Saturday in Las Vegas, Pacquiao(49-3-2, 37 KOs) staked his claim as the best junior welterweight in the worldwhen he knocked down Britain's Ricky Hatton (45--2) three times before knockinghim out in the second round of their IBO title bout. The defeat was Hatton'sfirst in the 140-pound division and gave Pacquiao a title in a record-tyingsixth weight class. "Manny was brilliant," says Lee Beard, Hatton'sassistant trainer. "The [knockout] punch would have knocked anyone down. Itwas that good."
This is an article from the May 11, 2009 issue
The manresponsible for much of the Filipino superstar's development is trainer FreddieRoach, who has forged a special bond with Pacquiao since taking over his cornerin 2001. The relationship is simple: Roach teaches; Pacquiao learns; both ofthem win. Before every fight Roach watches hundreds of hours of tape onPacquiao's opponent, dissecting weaknesses and devising a fight plan. "If Iget Manny to watch 30 seconds of film, I'm doing a good job," says Roach."But he trusts that I know what I'm talking about."
It was Roach whopersuaded Pacquiao that the best game plan against the bigger De La Hoya wouldbe an aggressive one—which is how Pacquiao, who gave up four inches to theGolden Boy, came to redden De La Hoya's mug with a flurry of stinging lefthands and sweeping right hooks.
In the weeksleading up to Saturday's fight against Hatton, Roach noticed that the Britcocked his punches before he threw them, a flaw in his technique that left himopen to a short right hook. Sure enough, as Hatton loaded up for a big lefthand in the first round, Pacquiao, a southpaw, slipped a surprise right hook toHatton's jaw that dropped him to the canvas. "People don't understand howsmart Manny is," says Roach. "He used to be just strong and reckless.Now he's a complete fighter."
Roach compareshis relationship with Pacquiao to one between a "father and son," sohe's not afraid to discipline the fighter. One day early in training camp,Roach noticed that Pacquiao was sluggish. He asked around and discovered thatPacquiao had been out singing karaoke until the early hours of the morning.That night Roach chewed out the fighter in front of his entire entourage. Heaccused Pacquiao of not taking his training seriously and ordered him to keep a9 p.m. curfew for the rest of the camp. The argument became so heated that thetwo men didn't speak for days. "A lot of people thought that I was going toget fired," says Roach. "No one talks to Manny like that anymore. Buthe knows that I have his best interests at heart."
As close as thetwo men have become, Roach has always made a point of keeping some distancebetween himself and his star pupil. In the mid-1980s Roach trained lightheavyweight champion Virgil Hill, and the two were inseparable: They worked inthe ring during the day and partied together at night. But as the line betweenFreddie the Boss and Freddie the Buddy became blurred, Hill started to tuneRoach out, and he finally split with his cornerman after several years. "Webecame too close," says Roach. "I'd tell him to do something, and hewould just laugh. It ruined our working relationship."
So Roach makessure he is there to serve Pacquiao's every professional need, but his socialexigencies? That's what the fighter's considerable entourage is for. SaysRoach, "There has to be someone in charge."
It's Roach'sconcern for Pacquiao's best interests that could push the fighter intoretirement. The trainer says he would like Pacquiao to fight two more times,and he has very specific terms for the growing line of would-be challengers.Pacquiao would fight WBA welterweight champion Shane Mosley—but at 143 poundsand not Mosley's preferred 147—in the fall. Or he might take on WBC lightweightchamp Edwin Valero at 140 pounds, not 135. He would agree to face WBOwelterweight champion Miguel Cotto as long as Cotto drops from 147 pounds to142.
Perhaps the onlyfighter who can dictate terms to Pacquiao and Roach is Floyd Mayweather Jr.,the former No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, who announced last week that he wascoming out of retirement. "We will fight Floyd," says Roach, withoutspecifying a date or weight limit. "Let him hang back on the ropes and notengage. Manny will beat the s--- out of him."
Roach says thatPacquiao will hang up the gloves after that. "What more does he have toprove?" he asks. "Two big fights, two big wins. Then let him go run forpresident of the Philippines."
For now theformula will stay the same. Roach will talk. And Pacquiao will listen.
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When Floyd Mayweather Jr. (below) retired last June,few expected it to last long. It didn't. Seventeen months after he knocked outRicky Hatton, Mayweather (39--0, 25 KOs) announced that he will fightlightweight champion Juan Manuel Màrquez in July at a catchweight of 143pounds. "I left on top, and I'm coming back on top," says Mayweather,32. "I'm ready to reclaim what's mine." It won't be a tune-up. Màrquez(50-4-1, 37 KOs), a slick counterpuncher who strikes with surgical precision,is ranked No. 2 on most pound-for-pound lists, behind Manny Pacquiao. The35-year-old Mexican has gone the distance with Pacquiao twice (one bout endedin a draw, the other in a narrow defeat). "I want to prove that I'm thebest fighter in the world," says Màrquez.