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Roach dissects top Philippine boxers

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By Manny Piñol

HALL of Famer Freddie Roach, a former lightweight contender who is now considered as the world’s best boxing trainer, is one of the nicest people to talk with about boxing because his insights are deep and cerebral.
In fact, he could be fatherly to boxers he is fond of, like Manny Pacquiao, who calls him Tatay.
But Freddie Roach could be brutally frank, at times cruel, when his honest thoughts on select fighters are solicited.

Two days before tiny Donnie Nietes won the World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior flyweight championship in Bacolod City, Roach called him as the Philippines’ “best after Manny Pacquiao.”

“He does not have much power but he is an excellent technical fighter,” Roach said of the 28-year-old former gymnasium janitor who joined the elite group of Filipino boxers who have annexed two or more world titles in different weight categories.

Nietes proved Roach right by winning over Mexican Ramon Garcia Hirales, never mind the protestation of the Mexican team members that they were cheated. (And who said that Filipinos are crybabies and poor losers?)

And what his assessment of the other top Filipino fighters?

Nonito Donaire, Jr.?

For a boxer ranked among the best Pound for Pound and peddled by his handlers as “technically better than Manny Pacquiao,” the world bantamweight champion did not get a rave review from the world’s best trainer.

“He is either damn lucky or the cornermen of his last four opponents are just plain dumb. He used that same left hook to knockout [Vic] Darchinyan, Sidorenko, [Hector] Marquez and [Fernando] Montiel,” Roach said.

Roach said Donaire needs to develop a variety of punches because if he is matched against a thinking boxer who has a good trainer and cornerman, the vaunted left hook could be easily neutralized.

Asked about Donaire’s chances if moves up to the featherweight division and fights the big names, Roach said “He does not stand a chance against [Yuriorkis] Gamboa. That Cuban will kill him.”

Mercita Gesta?
“There’s just too much hype about the boy. He does not have the power and there’s a lot of improvement to be done on his fighting style,” Roach said.

Roach said Gesta floats when he throws his punches thus greatly reducing whatever power he has, an observation which was seconded by physical conditioner Alex Ariza, who overheard our discussion about the US-based Filipino lightwelterweight prospect.

“I don’t know how they could come up with a story about Gesta “holding his own” in a sparring against Amir Khan at the [Wild Card] Gym. He was badly punished in that sparring,” Roach said.

“But he is young and maybe if finds a good trainer, he could still improve his punching power,” Roach added.

Bernabe Concepcion?

“I really thought this boy would be the next Manny Pacquiao. The problem is he thought he was Manny Pacquiao. He would come to the gym late and he lacked discipline,” Roach said adding that Concepcion has an attitude problem.

He added that in the early stages of Concepcion’s US campaign, he showed a lot of promise of becoming a great boxer. “But when he was pitted against the best, he just was not there,” Roach added.

Concepcion, who lost to an unknown Mexican fighter by decision in eight rounds after he was knocked out by Juan Manuel Lopez in a world title fight, is appearing in a small card in California this month.

Roach said it would take sometime before Concepcion could get over the knockout loss he suffered against Lopez. “A knockout destroys whatever feeling of invincibility a boxer has,” he added.

Rodel Mayol?

“The boy has no power and no chin,” was his brutal reply.
Lorenzo Villanueva, his new protégé?

“He has the power, he is disciplined and respectful but the boy is too raw and inexperienced. It’s too early to say how far he will go,” Roach said.

Roach offered no analysis and views on the other fighters including world flyweight champion Brian Viloria, ALA mainstays Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, AJ Banal and Milan Melindo, Drian Francisco, Edrin Dapudong and Marlon Tapasles, not because he considered them unimportant but perhaps because they are just out of the range of his boxing radar.

Roach agreed with the observation that the Philippines is teeming with boxing prospects but the level of training and physical conditioning must upgraded to provide young boys with sound basics in the sport.

Who’s best after Manny Pacquiao?
Roach: “Donnie Nietes.”

Who has the potential of becoming a boxing star?

Roach: “Nonito Donaire, Jr.”

That is, of course, on the assumption that he will not venture into the fiefdom of the great featherweights like Yuriorkis Gamboa.

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