Has Manny Pacquiao decided to part ways with celebrated trainer Freddie Roach?
This question arose after the eight-division champion's camp released a press statement to the Philippine media about the boxer's planned June 24 bout with World Boxing Association welterweight titlist Lucas Mathysse, and there was no mention at all about his longtime trainer.
Instead the press release, sent late Friday morning, specifically mentioned that "Restituto 'Buboy' Fernandez, Nonoy Neri and Roger 'Haplas' Fernandez will take charge once the training camp starts."
The statement also said that "Pacquiao will start his training in the middle of April in his own Wild Card Boxing Gym in General Santos City. Training will transfer to Manila from May 14 to June 1 then back to Gensan from June 2 until the second week of June."
Based on the statement, it appears Roach won't be in training camp or in Pacquiao's corner for the first time in nearly 17 years. The celebrated trainer had earlier admitted to the Los Angeles Times that he had tried several times to call Pacquiao but each time he was unable to get through.
If ever, this would mark the end of one of boxing's most successful boxer-trainer partnerships which started in June 2001 when a then-unknown Pacquiao walked into Roach's Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles looking for a trainer to help him prepare for his bout with IBF superbantamweight champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. Pacquiao was named challenger to Ledwaba on just two weeks' notice, and knew no one in L.A.
Roach took a chance on the promising southpaw, and helped guide him to a stunning sixth-round knockout of the heavily-favored Ledwaba. It was the first world title for Pacquiao under Roach; they would go on to win belts in six more weight classes.
Their last bout together in July ended with Pacquiao losing his belt in controversial fashion to Australia's Jeff Horn, who took the World Boxing Organization welterweight strap via unanimous decision in a bloody fight in front of over 51,000 fans at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium. Most boxing pundits felt Pacquiao won, and the CompuBox punch statistics had him outlanding Horn 182-92, although it wasn't one of his best performances.
Pacquiao's camp says that the boxing legend (59-7-2, 38 knockouts) and Argentina's Mathysse (39-4-1, 36 knockouts) will clash in Kuala Lumpur on June 24. Pacquiao will reportedly launch the fight in the Malaysian capital on March 22, with Mathysse and Golden Boy Promotions head Oscar Dela Hoya, who promotes the Argentinian slugger, expected to attend.
However, ESPN's Dan Rafael reported that Top Rank's Bob Arum as well as Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told him that the deal has yet to be finalized.
"If the money comes up then I've agreed to sign on," Arum told Rafael. "We would handle the logistics, we would handle the undercard and we would handle the television. All they have to do is say they got the $5 million of the $15 million. That makes it legit. [But] I'm not booking my flight [to Malaysia] yet."
"Michael Koncz (Pacquiao's manager) reached out to me and all we did was talk and that's all I can say," Gomez was quoted as saying by Rafael. "We're interested in the fight. It's very preliminary."
Interestingly, there was also no mention of Top Rank or Arum in the press release. Instead, it was mentioned that "the MP Promotions of Sen. Manny Pacquiao and the Golden Boy Promotions of boxing legend Oscar Dela Hoya will stage the Pacquiao-Matthysse World Boxing Association Welterweight title fight in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on June 24."
There will also reportedly be a media tour in "key cities in Asia like Beijing, Tokyo, Macau and Hong Kong, among others."
Earlier reports had Top Rank offering Pacquiao to fight on the undercard of Horn's title defense against Terrence Crawford on April 14 in Las Vegas, a scenario the Filipino fighter's camp quickly shot down, calling the proposal "insulting".