Those who subscribe to the popular adage that "Boxing is Dead" might have a little fuel to their fire after watching Episode 3 of HBO's "On Freddie Roach". While Episode 2 dealt mostly with Freddie's brother Pepper having a stroke and ending up in the hospital, the third episode centers largely on Freddie's new gig as coach of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team. With just a short while until the London 2012 games, Roach attends the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to get a closer glimpse of the guys he'll be tasked with coaching up in the months leading up to the games. What he sees isn't exactly pretty.As the trials scene opens, Roach says via voiceover that the Olympics "aren't as important as they used to be." He then remarks that in the past, the Olympics have seen greats like Sugar Ray Leonard, and it makes you wonder whether or not he means that the Olympics aren't as important as they used to be, or simply aren't as good as they used to be Roach watches the semifinal bouts with former girlfriend and current Manager of his Wild Card Gym Marie Spivey next to him. There's an air of "What did I get myself into?" by Roach, as during a semifinal bout he seems almost shocked by the quality of the fighters. He says to Spivey how little experience the fighters seem to have and is surprised that this is a semifinal bout. Later, as he speaks to a pool of reporters at the trials, he says the fighters represent "Possibly our future of boxing right here."
However, as Roach begins training the final squad, he seems to warm up a bit. It's unclear whether he's come around on the overall talent level, or if it just seems less of a doomsday scenario than it had at the trials. The team, including Roach, undergoes a session from the USOC's sports psychologist, without the intended results. The kids are laughing at the psychologist's exercise of imagining an orange, and the camera shows us that Roach is, as well. Finally we see Roach working with the guys in the ring, and we see again that inside the ring is where Roach most enjoys being. After a session on the mitts with one of the young fighters, Roach pulls the novice aside and tells him that he can always come to Roach with any questions. He tries to teach the fighter about Manny Pacquiao's counter right over a jab, constantly being interrupted by the fighter who seemingly wants to impress Roach with knowledge he doesn't have. Still, Roach continues on with his teaching.
The final moments of the episode shows Freddie visiting Pepper in the hospital (earlier we saw Pepper in the hospital, but Freddie wasn't there). Before going, Freddie asks his girlfriend if she wants to come with him, and she gives the customary "I have to see what my schedule looks like" response that everybody uses when they don't want to go somewhere. Interestingly, Freddie responds by saying he might not go, since he's not a doctor and he can't exactly fix anything. But he does go, and what we see is a sort of awkward embrace between the two brothers. It's not often you see anybody give a fist pound to the person they're visiting in the hospital, especially if the two people are related.
We're halfway through Peter Berg's six-part series, and each episode has shown a totally different side of Roach. We've seen the trainer during the build up and climax of a big-time fight, him dealing with a personal family crisis, and him as the hopeful savior of amateur American boxing. It's been a wide range, and it will be interesting to see how the final three episodes shake out in terms of topic and content. Surely Pepper's condition will be a focal point, but perhaps it will mirror the mindset of Freddie Roach, who just wants to be in the ring training fighters.