By Kieran Mulvaney
Freddie Roach will be featuring heavily in this Saturday’s pay-per-view card, as he’ll be working the corner in three of the four featured bouts. His fighter Antonio DeMarco takes on Jessie Vargas in junior welterweight action, Chinese sensation Zou Shiming takes on Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym in his first 12-round flyweight bout, and, of course, Manny Pacquiao defends his welterweight title against Chris Algieri, who earned his shot with a controversial decision win over another Roach charge, Ruslan Provodnikov, in June. On Wednesday in Macau, Roach sat down with InsideHBOBoxing to talk about the main event, the progress of Zou Shiming, and how he’ll be juggling his many roles on fight night.
Kieran Mulvaney: I think most folks feel there are two ways the main event can go. Either Algieri gives Pacquiao fits with an awkward style, using his long jab to keep Manny off, or the step-up in class is just too great.
Freddie Roach: What’s he going to keep Manny off with? That fucking silly-ass jab he has? He’s in way over his head this time. He thinks he’s fighting someone at the level of Ruslan. Ruslan’s a young guy who’s lost a couple of fights because of inexperience, and I thought he beat Algieri anyway. Manny’s really on top of his game right now and he’s looking really good. We had a great workout on Tuesday, but we’ve had great workouts like that every day in this camp. His motivation has been good, his distractions have been very small – just 7 minutes of basketball.
They’re trying to make out like Algieri is the next Rocky. This isn’t a movie. I think he’s in over his head.
Mulvaney: Manny does seem to have an intensity about him.
Roach: He’s very intense this fight. Usually we start off with mitts for four rounds and we build up to 12. This time we started with 12 and we’ve been doing 12 since. And we’ve been working a lot more with the heavybags, doing a lot more strength work. We’ve been going back to what got us to this point. He can’t wait to get in the ring with this guy and show the world that he’s the better fighter.
Mulvaney: Let’s talk a little about Zou. Big step up for him, with his first 12-round fight.
Roach: Yeah, it’s a step up. He looked really good in his last fight; very active. He got his offense working really well, but now he’s been forgetting about his defense a little too much for me. He went from a guy in the amateurs who never got hit to someone who sits in the pocket a little too much. I hope there’s a middle ground somewhere, where I can be satisfied with the offense and defense. But he’s becoming a better puncher, and he’s starting to believe in himself. I didn’t bring him to the Philippines this time [for training camp] because he doesn’t really like it there, so I thought I’d just leave him at home and let him work where he’s happy. He’s in a tough fight, obviously, but this is the kind of fight he needs to take him to the next level.
Mulvaney: He seems like he’s probably a very eager student.
Roach: He is eager. He wants to grow. He’s not afraid of that step up. He feels like he’s ready to take on anyone in the world. He’s very confident, he’s a fun guy to work with, and he’s very dedicated. He has a lot of good mannerisms, like Manny Pacquiao, and a good work ethic. They make my job so much easier.
Mulvaney: His first couple of fights, he was pretty underwhelming. But his last few, he’s looked much better.
Roach: When I first started working with him in the gym, I thought, ‘This guy’s going to be champion in a month.’ And then he fought and he looked like shit. All the amateur stuff came back. So we’ve been trying to get those old habits back out and some new ones in. Once we put his offense and defense together, I think we’ll have a champion on our hands, because he’s very explosive and he can punch when he wants to – even though he hasn’t shown that yet because he’s a little bit afraid to sit down [on his punches]. But he’s getting better.
Mulvaney: And the plan is, if he gets past this fight, for him to fight for a title in February?
Roach: Yes, correct. That’ll be the dream come true: Olympic champion, world champion, and from there – well, there’s a lot of good little guys in Asia, you know. There’s a lot of talent, we have a big pool of talent in this area. Some good fights, some dangerous fights, a couple of fighters who right now we might want to stay away from, but hopefully soon he’ll be ready for anyone else in the world.
Mulvaney: That’s going to be some event, Zou Shiming fighting for a world title here in Macau, isn’t it?
Roach: It’ll be huge. Huge.
Mulvaney: This weekend’s going to be a busy day for you. Four fights on the pay-per-view, and you’ve got guys in three of them.
Roach: Yes, I’m just going to have to go back and forth a lot and change jackets. I’ve had five in a night before. So yeah, it’s a busy night, but busy is good. Justin Fortune will be warming Manny up, and they’re good together; and Miguel Diaz will wrap hands for the others, so we’ve got our bases covered. We’ll have a little bit of time between Shiming and Manny’s fight, so when Shiming’s is over and before the decision is announced, I’ll run back and get my mitts out, and we’ll warm up a little bit.
Mulvaney: I assume when you have someone on the level of Manny, that by the time you’re in the dressing room there really isn’t much to be done.
Roach: He wraps his own hands, so we leave him to it and he knows what he likes. I’ll just warm him up with a couple of rounds with the mitts. No problem.