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Bad Left Hook Boxing Awards: 2009 Trainer of the Year

Let me get this out of the way: I think coaches/managers/trainers in basically all sports are given far, far too much credit by sportswriters and some of the general public. At the end of the day, these men and women can only do so much, and without talent at their disposal, the smartest coach will look like a dolt and be perceived as not being good at his job. Take baseball, where Tony LaRussa is highly respected, one of the most respected managers of his time. But what has he done without talent? He loses.

That said, they deserve their due, too, and I don't mean to downplay anyone's impact, I just don't think it's quite what it's often made out to be.

So with that said, let's get to the point of this. Without question, the 2009 Trainer of the Year in boxing is Freddie Roach, the mad scientist behind the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, where global dominator Manny Pacquiao has gone from a powerful, good and exciting fighter and transformed into arguably the best in the world today, and the best of the entire decade.

But we've all heard plenty about Freddie and Manny. The thing that sold me on Freddie above anyone else was the way he's taken Amir Khan and molded him into a better, smarter fighter, taking him from 135 to 140 pounds and making a world titleholder out of him in a very short time working together.

Roach took Khan's greatest weakness (his chin) and has thus far succeeded in making it a non-issue. No one's saying that Andriy Kotelnik and (especially) Dmitriy Salita are world-beaters, but Khan took the Kotelnik fight with relative ease and was barely ever hit, which is exactly the sort of thing he should always try to do. He's got the offensive skills, the reach, power and speed to be almost like a mini-Wladimir Klitschko. Against Kotelnik, he used that to perfection. Against Salita, he simply beat the crap out of an unqualified challenger, exactly as he should have and then some, considering that fight was effectively finished in about 10 seconds.

There are other great trainers in the sport, and I feel that two clearly stand about the rest. Roach and Naazim Richardson will probably battle for this award in my mind every year as long as they're both coaching top fighters. They are simply a class above everyone else. Part of that is due to the talent they train, but part of it really is due to the fact that they just both have a grasp on the strategic side of boxing that I don't think anyone else matches these days.

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