It’s a different type of obsession. Different from the one that moved him as a 5-year-old to help his mother each time she walked into a room with newly shined black eyes, different from avoiding as many daily beatings from the old man as he could, different from trying to survive 150 amateur fights and 53 more as a professional, different from battling Parkinson’s disease, different from running like crazy from any of the bad traits that came with being Paul Roach’s son.
It’s miles and miles beyond determination.
It’s all that matters to him.
Freddie Roach is a Hall of Fame trainer who for years has gone over in his mind every detail, every form of strategy, every potential surprise and counteraction, every movement that could decide a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The torture can stop eating at Roach’s soul.
“Freddie has wanted this fight to his very marrow,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum of the man who leads Pacquiao’s corner. “He goes to sleep at night dreaming about it. For six years now, he has gone over and over and over how best to fight (Mayweather). It has become part of Freddie’s DNA.
“Anyone involved in boxing who doesn’t have respect for Floyd as a great fighter doesn’t understand boxing. That’s why Freddie is so focused. I’ve never seen him like this. Never seen him so driven.
“He’s insane about it, but in a good way.”
I suppose this means Roach doesn’t pull a Michelangelo and wear his shoes to bed or needs to arrange everything in pairs like David Beckham. But his fixation about the fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden has reached addictive levels.
He has watched tape of every Mayweather fight over the past 19 years. He knows every elbow and shoulder roll Pacquiao might encounter. He realizes there is as good a chance Mayweather runs all night as he does stand and fight.
He also understands this: There is a difference between concerned and scared, between worry and fear.
“I don’t think fighters are scared,” Roach said. “We chose this business. If you’re scared, you should do something else. But (Mayweather) has picked and chosen who he wants to fight. I don’t think he picked this one. I really don’t think he wants to fight Manny. He’s knows it’s a big step up for him. I think he was forced to take the fight by Showtime because that deal was losing money.”
You will get arguments from both sides on the financials, but it’s true the first four of Mayweather’s six-fight contract with the cable channel have hardly generated the most compelling evenings. The most drama has been taking bets on whether C.J. Ross will ever again judge a fight above the pee-wee level.
The fight against Pacquiao will make up for any losses and then some.
And then some even more.
There was a ring out back of the house in Dedham, Mass., where the sons of Paul Roach began sparring by age 6, where they awoke before 6 a.m. five days a week and had their road work done before breakfast, where they took the train from the projects into south Boston four nights a week for training, where unruly boys often got into trouble and Dad, a New England featherweight champion in 1947, did all his talking with his fists.
But one trait Paul demanded from his family, after whaling on his seven children, was loyalty. If you fought one Roach, you fought them all. If a fight broke out involving one of the kids outside, Paul sent all the children to take part, girls included.
It is this sort of unabashed allegiance Roach now feels for Pacquiao, who when asking the trainer to work with him 15 years ago first showed Roach tapes of others knocking him out.
Pacquiao’s point: Defeat is as much part of one’s life as victory. It’s important to learn from both.
Roach is his father’s son in some ways, all tough and determined and able to battle Parkinson’s with the idea that the last thing you do is lay down and die. You fight with every ounce of sweat and desire. He learned that most from his mother, Barbara, who served as a boxing judge for more than 30 years.
The tough part for all of them was going home to Paul.
But while his upbringing hardened Freddie, the mere idea of this fight has caused a sort of rebirth in the 55-year-old. For years now, he has waited, sometimes patiently, most times not, all the while planning and scheming and obsessing over how Pacquiao would be the one to stain Mayweather’s perfect record.
“You train to win, and that’s something we have done very hard,” Roach said. “I’m not sure this is a must-win fight that would (define) our careers. I’ve been training Manny for this opponent for years. I know a lot about (Mayweather). I think we have covered every base and have a winning formula. Would it be disappointing to lose? Yes. But losing to a great fighter like this, there is no shame. But it’s true I have wanted this fight very badly. I have thought about it for a long time.
“I know my guy is going to deliver.”
Finally, he no longer must be obsessed with the unknown.
Come late Saturday, his soul will be free from such torture.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. His new show, “Seat and Ed,” debuts May 4 on KRLV 1340 and will be heard from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.