It was 1978, Freddie Roach a promising lightweight pugilist traveled to Las Vegas with his father in search of a personal coach who could help him in elevating his game and prepare him for next level of fierce competition in professional boxing.
Eddie Futch, one of the most legendary boxing coach in the field at that time agreed to train Roach. Eddie was widely respected and appreciated for his precise set of instructions. In fact he was regarded as an exceptional master who could work tirelessly to bring improvements in a fighter’s technique.
Under the tutelage of an exceptional and experienced coach, Roach managed to thrive quickly and win his first ten bouts. Eddie’s training seemed to have worked its magic.
However, Roach noticed that while he was keen in listening to all the instructions of his coach, the actual bout inside the ring was telling a completely different story.
Despite having worked so hard in developing his techniques, during most of his bouts he would end up fighting purely on emotions. Sometimes it worked, but in the process he became quite notorious for taking lots of body blows, which was hurting him both physically and professionally.
Since Roach was just one of Futch’s many fighters, he couldn’t give him any personalised attention that was urgently needed by Roach. Finally, in 1986, Roach decided to retire.
Meanwhile living in Vegas and hopping from one bad job to another, Roach started frequenting the gym where he was trained once. Soon he started to enjoy the entire process of helping fighters with their routines. Since he was well versed with the training methodologies used by Futch, he proved himself to be a worthy assistant to his erstwhile coach.
Subsequently Roach took on the responsibility of the mitt work: the use of large padded gloves by coach to practice various combinations of punches for more fluid practice session.
It also gave Roach a much needed opportunity to get back inside the ring. Roach finally realised that he was naturally drawn to strategic part of the fight.
In fact, The mental manoeuvring involved in outwitting the opponent excited him immensely.
And soon he realised that he was good enough to seriously take Training as a career, so he left Flutch to begin his own career as Coach. The sport was changing rapidly because fighters had become faster and technically more sound. Therefore Roach was interested in exploiting these changes and accordingly came up with more dynamic training.
Roach restructured and expanded the entire training program into an intensive real simulation. This allowed him to get closer to his fighters, and be in better position to study their techniques and strategies. He would often study tapes of their opponents and accordingly devise a strategy around their weakness and go over it with his boxers in the mitt work.
This kind of training resulted into a completely different kind of bonding between him and his protégés. The rapport they ended up developing was way deeper than normal. The mutual respect and faith between the them often got reinforced during long relationship.
In 2001, an entirely different kind of fighter came through the doors of Roach’s gym in Hollywood, California.
Manny Pacquiao, a 122-pound left-handed featherweight fighter from Philippines. The pugilistic was looking for someone who could elevate his game to another level. Since there was hardly any money in featherweight competitions, nobody showed real interest in Pacquiao.
As usual Roach tested the real worth of this pugilist in the ring with his mitt work. From the very first punch he knew something was different. This fighter had an explosive, intense quality, an edge unlike any another fighter’s.
After one round Roach was certain that he had found the fighter he was always looking to train, one who could help him in introducing the new style of boxing to this world.
To Roach, Pacquiao had the material to be an unbeatable fighter, but he was somewhat one-dimensional: he had a great left hand and not much else. He was constantly looking for the knockout blow, to the exclusion of everything else.
Roach’s goal was to transform Pacquiao into a multi-dimensional beast in the ring.
He began with heavy mitt practice, trying to develop a powerful right hand and more fluid footwork. What immediately struck him was the intensity with which Pacquiao focused on his instructions and how quickly he caught on.
He was eminently teachable, and so the progress was more rapid than it had ever been with any other fighter.
Pacquiao seemed to never tire of training or to worry about overdoing it. Roach kept waiting for the inevitable dynamic in which the fighter would begin to tune him out, but this never came. This was a boxer he could work harder and harder. Soon, Pacquiao had developed a devastating right hand, and his footwork could match the speed of his hands. He began to win fight after fight, in impressive fashion.
As the years went by, the relationship began to evolve. In their mitt work, Pacquiao would adjust or improve upon the maneuvers Roach had been developing for the next bout. He used to give inputs on Roach’s strategy, altering it on occasion. Pacquiao had gained a sixth sense for what Roach was getting at and could take his thinking further.
On one occasion Roach watched Pacquiao improvise a maneuver on the ropes in which he ducked out and attacked afighter from an angle instead of head-on. To Roach, this was a move that made instant sense. He wanted to develop this further into a whole new possible style of fighting. He was now learning almost as much from Pacquiao. The previous trainer-fighter relationship had now morphed into something interactive and alive.
To Roach, this meant that they could move past the seemingly inevitable plateau for fighters in which it all became stale and opponents would catch on to their weaknesses. Working together in this way, Roach was able to transform this one-dimensional, relatively unknown fighter into perhaps the greatest boxer of his generation.
The value in a fighter-trainer relationship isn’t in the actual training; a few years into a pro career, most fighters can train themselves. They can run the mountains, work the bags and get themselves to weight without much help. The value is in the strategy, an area in which Roach excelled.
Roach ended up possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of Pacquiao’s strengths, a wizard-like ability to discern an opponent’s weaknesses and an understanding of how to devise a game plan to take advantage of both.
For example, Against Cotto, Roach prodded Pacquiao to use his handspeed to bury Cotto under an avalanche of punches; Cotto went down twice before the fight was stopped in the 12th round.
And Against Hatton, Roach noted that Hatton was open for a right hook; Pacquiao pummeled Hatton right hooks in the first round before ending the fight with a skull crushing left in the second.
This is when the magic starts to happen. When the protégé don’t find any difficulty in processing every word coming from the mouth of his “Master”.
To be the best, whether in sports or any other aspect of life, it’s never enough to just get to the top; you have to stay there, and then you have to climb higher, because there’s always someone right behind you trying to catch up. Most people are willing to settle for “good enough”. I am sure you are not one of them.
You can subscribe to clever motivational quotes on your mobile devices and still have no idea how to get where you want to be.
Wanting something won’t get you anywhere. Aspiring to be someone you’re not won’t get you anywhere. Waiting for someone or something to light your fire won’t get you anywhere.
So how are you going to get there?
Everything you need to be great is already inside you.
So what’s stopping you?
Most people give up because everyone has told them what they can’t do, and it’s easier to believe others rather than challenging them by pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone.
So if you keep sitting on the fence, unable to decide, unable to act then don’t be surprised if the choice is made for you.
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