2012 was a big year for boxing.
Without doing a comprehensive recap of the year behind us, it comes as no surprise that amidst the many landscape changing events, some would see less light than others. The past year for hall of fame inductee, Freddie Roach has been the perfect storm of adversity, ranging from major to catastrophic. Although each incident viewed singulary could be written off under the pretense of bad luck, the fact that it all happened in such rapid succession calls attention to a different culprit, and begs the question:
Were Freddie Roach and his fighters the victims of misfortune, or complacency?
26-year old British professional boxer Amir Khan decided to sever ties with Roach after being knocked out by Danny Garcia in the 4th round. Arguably, Khan was beginning to take command of the fight from the first two rounds, but was caught by a counter left hook in the 3rd that Khan was never able to recover from. Undefeated 26-year old Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., was the victim of an 11-round boxing clinic put on by WBC Middleweight Champion "Maravilla" Martinez. Chavez scored a hard knockdown in the 12th round that transformed the dying moments of a very one-sided fight into an exciting, not-easily-forgotten war, but it was too little too late. Martinez took the unanimous decision win, and Chavez Jr., and Freddie Roach went home with the loss, and the sour taste of being so thoroughly outclassed for more than nine-tenths of the fight. This loss prompted Chavez Jr. to reflect on his boxing career, and is a little more difficult to pin on any sort of luck. Chavez Jr. is expected to return to the ring in May, without Freddie Roach. Both of these losses are considered by most as a significant blemish to the just-blossoming careers of Khan, and Chavez Jr., as their skills were already suspect among boxing enthusiasts, due to lack of wins over legitimate competition.
When it rains it pours - An old, venerable adage.
As if losing fighters such as Khan and Chavez Jr. wasn’t enough, Freddie’s best talent, close friend, and future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao was stopped cold by a right hand heard around the world in the closing second of round number 6 of fight number 4 against long-time nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez, in what was widely considered by casual viewers, and boxing pundits alike as the fight of the year. However, in defense of the Filipino icon, he looked good – and had Dynamita on his heels. Pacquiao came into the fourth fight with Marquez fresh off his first, albeit highly disputed loss in seven years at the hands of Timothy Bradley. Prior to that, in November of 2011 - Pacquiao dodged a bullet against rival Juan Manuel Marquez in their third close contest by taking the hotly contested majority decision win. It was this performance of Pacquiao’s that prompted critics both casual and hardcore alike to suspect that Pacquiao was in decline. Either he was physically not able to fight at the level expected from him, or Manny had spread himself too thin across his many obligations, and had started taking boxing too lightly. A more reasonable explanation for the performance is that Juan Manuel Marquez is a highly talented fighter, who wanted the win more, and had the style to neutralize Manny’s to boot.
So in-a-nutshell, Freddie Roach lost Amir Khan, and Chavez Jr. to lackluster performances, and the general consensus is that Manny Pacquiao, even before being knocked out had begun to decline.
Viewed singularly, each of these incidents probably wouldn’t call into question if Freddie Roach has been the one whose talents are diminishing. If only Chavez Jr. lost, it was at least to pound-for-pound ranked Sergio Martinez, with a close call thrown in as a variable. If only Amir Khan was knocked out by Danny Garcia, it was at least from a well-timed counter left to the neck that would have equaled trouble for anyone, in a fight Khan was arguably winning. Manny Pacquiao’s fall from grace had to come sometime, and the transition was as smooth as one could hope for until Juan Manuel Marquez cast him back into the realm of mortals with the perfect punch.
Some of Manny’s detractors will tell you that Bob Arum’s hand in arranging "safe" competition may have stifled Pacquiao’s competitive spirit, or caused him to grow careless; which is an opinion not without merit, but if this were the case then the same must be said for his trainer. No matter how you slice it, the fighter and the trainer share both the glory of victory, and the shame of defeat. Credit and blame must be placed in equal amounts; but the fact that this all happened within the span of 365 days, across three different fighters has us focused on the lowest common denominator: Freddie Roach. Or bad timing.