Today I was able to catch up with world class trainer Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, CA. As this was my first interview with Mr. Roach I was a little nervous talking with him at first, but after a few minutes, he made me feel at ease and I got comfortable asking him some interesting questions regarding his views on former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and his future. Freddie also let us in on James Toney’s progress in camp as he prepares for his fight with Rydell Booker. Read on to hear what one of the best trainers in the game had to say.
Gary Pino: How does it feel to be back home at Wild Card?
Freddie Roach: It feels good cause I have a lot of people I’m working with at the gym right now and there is a lot of upcoming fights so I am very busy at this time. It also feels good just to be home.
GP: The outcome of Mike’s fight with Williams fell short of everyone’s expectations, but aside from Mike’s knee injury did you see any strong signs that Mike could fight at a top level again?
FR: Yeah, he actually really did well the first two rounds. MT showed signs of the old Mike. He countered well and threw the upper cuts and his combinations well, but my favorite part was he made the guy miss a lot. He was bobbing and weaving real well and I think if it wasn’t for the knee I think he would have knocked Williams out. But we can’t make any excuses so maybe we’ll have to do that one again. Mike was punching hard and after he hurt his knee he told me he couldn’t turn the hook over and get a lot of power on it, but he never complained though. I told him, “Mike why didn’t you tell me?” and he said “I didn’t want to be a pussy!”
GP: I’ve been a Tyson fan for 20 years and I was surprised at how attentive and pleasant Mike worked with you. What was it about the way you two hit it off?
FR: Mike respects me as a fighter and he watched tapes of me when he was growing up and I think that gives me a big plus with him. He respects boxers ya know, and he knows I’ve been there and he trusts what I say. We have a real good relationship and I’ve never had a problem with him.
GP: How is Mike’s rehab going?
FR: I talked to the doctor and they told me he is doing all the work he’s supposed to be doing so that is good.
GP: Will Mike fight again?
FR: Oh, yes he will.
GP: Will it be Danny Williams again or are you going to avoid the super heavyweights at this time?
FR: That’s what the heavyweight division is right now, all giants and so forth. Maybe he needs a tune up fight before the rematch with Willaims, but I do feel he could knock this guy out. He made Williams look a little bit better than he really is.
GP: You have worked with a lot of world class fighters. Is Tyson the hardest puncher you have ever seen or should I say felt?
FR: Punch for punch actually Mike is more explosive than Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko is so big and he doesn’t have the speed of Mike, but he’s got that dense power though so Mike’s asset is the speed that comes with the power. Klitschko doesn’t have that speed so if you see a punch coming and you can prepare for it, it won’t knock you out. Punch for punch I think Klitschko probably hits a little bit harder but Mike’s much more explosive.
GP: You said you were not happy with Mike’s weight. If you work with him again what’s the magic number?
FR: I liked him at 222lbs as he was for the Etienne fight. He put on a little too much muscle this time. It may look good, but it doesn’t do much for his performance because speed again is his biggest asset. I would like to see him get a little bit looser and lighter and I think he’ll be much better off. Again, all that weight lifting and stuff really looks good, but it doesn’t do much for him.
GP- If there ever was a Tyson vs. Toney fight, how would you work both camps and fight night?
FR: I’d stay home! (Laughing) I’m close with both guys and they are both my friends. I think deep down they really respect each other. The thing is I’d be more interested in the press conference than the actual fight as James will talk and Mike would be more physical and there probably would be a lot of fireworks at the press conference no doubt.
GP: I have read that James Toney is on the heavy side, how is he looking in camp?
FR: James is getting better, but he still too heavy. I got him off the weight program. I have another guy in James who is worried about what he looks like and I said “James, as long as you can fight the way you can fight I don’t care what you look like.” People say he’s a little pudgy and a little soft. He’s James Toney and he’s never been one of those ripped guys as he doesn’t have that body frame. He can’t carry that heavy weight. He’s at 250lbs and it is too much for him. We are shooting for 215-220lbs max for this fight. He is getting better every day, it’s his fourth day of boxing today since his injury and he seems to be getting better and better every day.
GP: Do you see any concerns with Booker?
FR: There’s always going to be concerns. A win over James Toney puts him right into the mix.
GP Sort of like Williams?
GP: Were you surprised at the outcome of the Freitas vs. Corrales fight?
FR: Yeah I was. I picked Diego to win, but I didn’t think it would go in that manner where you know with Popo, boxed really well! He had a good strategy, but he didn’t train for it meaning Popo he couldn’t keep it going. Freitas landed a lot of big shots in that fight but Diego must have one hell of a chin. I don’t think he was hurt once in the fight and he was hit solid too and Diego never buckled.
GP: "No mas" revisited.
FR: (Laughing) Yes. Freitas being the world champ that he is with all those KO’s and he was headed back into the fight after the knock down and you could almost see it happening, he thought better of it. I don’t like guys that quit. It’s a championship of the world and you are getting paid a lot of money and there’s a lot on the line like your pride. I’d rather die than quit.
GP: OK Freddie, on behalf of Doghouse Boxing we want to thank you for your time this morning. You are a class act and I am honored to have been able to talk with you.
FR: Thank you.
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