By: Hans Themistode
Although Freddie Roach has learned to live with the results, the Hall of Fame trainer is still contrite with the way things ended for his former starfighter, Manny Pacquiao.
The former eight-division world champion was determined to prove that even at the age of 42, he was still the top dog at 147 pounds. While initially, many were taken aback by Pacquiao’s decision to test his skills against a younger, fresher, and bigger Errol Spence Jr., the Filipino native was eager for the challenge.
With the two scheduled to face off on August 21st, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2021, Roach salivated as he constructed what he believed was a bulletproof game plan. Yet, despite Roach’s bravado, his Hall of Fame pupil was given unfortunate news.
With roughly a week and a half remaining before the two pugilistic stars shared the ring against one another, Spence Jr. was forced to withdraw, citing a torn/detached retina in his right eye. As the Dallas product reluctantly underwent surgery, Yordenis Ugas, who was set to appear in the co-main event, stepped in to replace him.
In spite of the change in opponent, oddsmakers believed that Pacquiao’s experience and overall explosive power would prove to be too much. Nevertheless, Ugas rose to the occasion, scoring a fairly wide unanimous decision victory, which would subsequently, usher Pacquiao into retirement.
Although hindsight is 20/20, Roach admits that it wasn’t auspicious to take on the former Olympic bronze medalist on such short notice.
“I wish we had fought Spence instead of Ugas,” said Roach to FightHype.com. “We ended up taking that fight on two days’ notice. There’s no way you can get ready for a big fight on two days’ notice. He has a long reach and a little bit awkward. I wish we would’ve waited for Spence to get healthy.”
Ugas’s reward for usurping Pacquiao, was an immediate date with the man he just replaced. Both Spence Jr. and Ugas engaged in a back and forth war in front of nearly 40,000 fans at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 16th.
Though Ugas believed that his victory over Pacquiao would serve as his guide to defeating Spence Jr., the powerful southpaw presented Ugas with an unsolvable puzzle. While the Cuban product had his moments, Spence Jr. would eventually break his man down, forcing a ringside physician to call a halt to their bout.
Regardless of Spence Jr.’s dominant showing, Roach is sticking to his guns. Nevertheless, the longtime trainer has been thoroughly impressed by Spence Jr.’s ability to look catastrophe squarely in the face and never blink.
In October of 2019, one month following his split decision win over Shawn Porter, Spence Jr. was involved in a horrific car wreck. The Dallas native was thrown violently from his sports vehicle, resulting in several facial lacerations.
Needing well over one year to recover from his injuries, Roach initially believed that the once-dominant fighter and pound-for-pound star would never be the same. Yet, undeterred by the words of Roach, Spence Jr. continues to steamroll his competition.
Admittedly, due to Spence Jr.’s ability in the ring and unwillingness to fold when faced with adversity outside of it, Roach has become a big-time fan.
“I like Spence a lot. What he’s been through, the car accident, I didn’t think he would come back that well. In his last two fights, he’s looked very good. He’s back to where he was.”