Roach’s Tyson
By Jim Cawkwell (July 29, 2004) 
Tyson and Roach
Friday night's all right for fighting, if only for this week as Mike Tyson lends his customized chaos to the heavyweight quandary inflicted upon us of late. Tyson is the star of this proposed resurrection but beyond the smoke and mirrors there is a maestro at work, a shining truth to shadow and shame potential distractions of misfits who have no business where he is conducting his. There might not be a single influence in boxing more capable of translating Tyson’s failures into success than Freddie Roach, and the real intrigue of the fight for me is to see what the latest incarnation of their relationship unveils.

My first vivid acknowledgement of Roach occurred during his tenure with Ireland’s former middleweight and super-middleweight champion Steve Collins.
Nigel Benn, the 'Dark Destroyer' was a sentimental favorite throughout England and it was to the dismay of many when Collins systematically broke him down in two consecutive fights under Roach’s calm but authoritative orchestration. This association was but one of many that would yield world championship success for Roach, belated compensation for the titles he failed to achieve as a fighter himself.

Roach transcended his own shattered dreams of ring glory by embarking on a training career, cultivated under the tutelage of the late Eddie Futch; it should be some consolation to those in love with the elder days of boxing that the student is keeping the methodology of the old master alive and intact. Exactly as Futch honed the raw abilities of an erratic Riddick Bowe, Roach has become a trainer of eccentrics extraordinaire. Based in Los Angeles but seemingly concealing more tricks than a Vegas magician, he somehow manages to juggle the fireballs that are James Toney, Manny Pacquiao and Mike Tyson.

Easily distinguishable against Tyson’s huge, muscular physique, Roach’s small frame, punctuated by his graying hair and those large black-rimmed glasses under which his eyes ponder the potency of his latest concoction has been in a battle of its own for many years against a most relentless and unsympathetic opponent. Roach’s daily struggle with Parkinson’s disease hardly hinders his talent for molding champions. It is a testament to his strength, and therefore, with such a potentially devastating ailment to contend with, it should come as no surprise that he deals with some of boxing’s most volatile characters quite effortlessly.

After the seminal Cus D’Amato and Teddy Atlas partnership constructed the monstrous force that was Mike Tyson during the Eighties, a varied lineage of successors have held famed associations with him, producing fluctuating degrees of effectiveness. Kevin Rooney is generally regarded as the finest of the post-D’Amato tutors after guiding Tyson through his notorious 'reign of terror'. Noted inheritors of the Tyson trainer mantle also include Richie Giachetti, Stacy McKinley, Jay Bright, Tommy Brooks, and Ronnie Shields. Many of the aforementioned individuals accompanied Tyson throughout his most turbulent personal episodes. When that turmoil irresistibly overflowed into his professional life, they not only implemented his training regimen but also moonlighted as damage control agents in public relations, aiming to maintain the media’s focus on Tyson the fighter despite his belligerent behavior to the contrary.

One gets the impression that Freddie Roach will not indulge in such sycophantic exercises. Indeed, congruent with one of Roach’s own theories, if Tyson is not going to do the work, the two have no business together. Perhaps Roach’s empathic sensibilities, acquired through brutal lessons as a fighter in his own right, contributes to the magnetism that has earned him Tyson’s respect. However, Roach’s charge is salvaging what he may from the wreckage that is Mike Tyson the prizefighter, and though somewhat of a mystique remains about Tyson in the public eye, Roach’s indifference to it might be paramount to Tyson regaining something of his former power.

One might think Draconian measures would be required to drag an often reluctant and sometimes stubborn Tyson through the necessary drills to sharpen him for battle and perhaps Tyson’s rebelliousness was evident when he clocked Roach with a right hand during one particular session, or perhaps it was Tyson’s attempt at tongue in cheek humor. However, Roach, as always, remained grounded and continued to provoke Tyson’s work ethic.

Of course, we would all rather pay to see an impromptu sparring session between Tyson and fellow Roach client James Toney instead of what is likely to be an emphatic win for Tyson against Danny Williams this Friday. Nevertheless, it cannot be disputed that a Mike Tyson with stamina, focus and increased subtlety of offense and defense is a truly dangerous fighter, even at thirty-eight years of age, such a version of the man has not been witnessed for far too long. Tyson’s permanent adherence to training hinges greatly on his regard for Roach and if their mutual respect and admiration can endure and draw Tyson’s blueprint back to the championship, theirs will be a partnership for the ages.
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