Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was pummeled by Sergio Martinez for 11 rounds in Las Vegas on Saturday night before putting together a thrilling 12th round where he nearly came back to beat the champion. The events of the evening left many questioning the judgment, and training, of Freddie Roach.
After guiding a previously raw Manny Pacquiao to boxing greatness, Roach became known as the best boxing trainer in the world and considered somewhat of a training whisperer. But as Robert Littal points out, Roach’s big fighters are 0-3 in their last title fights (if you include Pacquiao getting robbed in the Timothy Bradley decision). Then the unthinkable happened; Roach was fired by a fighter — Amir Khan, who was dissatisfied after losing his last two fights.
On top of being canned by Khan, some thought Roach gave up on Chavez Jr. during his fight on Saturday night when he shouldn’t have.
Chavez Jr. was getting outclassed by Martinez much of the fight, and Roach told his fighter after the 10th that he needed a knockout to win the fight.
“Julio, let your hands go,” Roach advised Chavez in the corner after the 10th round. “When he’s punching, you have to catch him in between. You have to punch with him!”
Chavez Jr. had lost the first 10 rounds on two of the judges’ cards, so Roach’s analysis was spot-on at that point.
Then, during an interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman during the 11th round, Roach said his fighter was overmatched and admitted he was thinking of stopping the fight.
“Freddie, you told Julio that he needed a knockout to win. How does he get it?” asked Kellerman.
“He’s gotta punch with him, he’s gotta exchange with him, he’s gotta let his hands go. He’s walking in with his head down. He’s gotta let his hands go to knock this guy out,” said Roach.
“Can he [knock him out]?” Kellerman asked.
“I’m not sure. His speed is just so much. His speed is a factor in this fight — the kid is very fast. We can’t keep up with him — at least so far.”
“Have you had any thoughts of stopping the fight?” Kellerman followed.
“I did. I said to Julio ‘Julio, show me that you want to win this fight.’ I’d like to see a little bit more,” said Roach.
“He’s trying really hard, but the speed factor is just too much.”
At that point it seemed like Roach was just giving an honest assessment of the situation and looking to protect his fighter. But you figure that Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., who was also in the corner, would never have allowed Roach to stop his son’s fight. Not only is Chavez Sr. into the macho boxing mentality, but maybe he also believed his son could win.
And guess what? Chavez Jr. showed all those who continued to believe in him that he still had a chance that they were right.
He got in some nice shots on Martinez in the 12th and even put the Argentine on the canvas twice — once thanks to a punch, and another time after the wobbly Martinez slipped.
So if Chavez Jr. was so overmatched as Roach described it during the 11th, how did he come back in the 12th? Well it seemed like Martinez went away from what made him successful earlier in the fight. He started the first minute just dancing around with his hands down, hardly throwing any punches. That allowed Chavez Jr. to step in and catch him with a good shot.
We later learned that Martinez was taken to the hospital after the fight and that he had a broken left hand. We don’t know when that happened, but it could explain why he was so quiet in the 12th.
Now that his fighters have lost and looked badly in their fights, the luster is starting to fall off Roach. Why aren’t his guys producing? Is he not properly preparing his guys? And how could he so thoroughly miscalculate things with Chavez Jr. by putting him against someone who was so much better?
Personally, I’ve thought Chavez Jr. was overrated for a long, long time and that his record was built by fighting mostly nobodies, so I figured he would lose to Martinez easily (Martinez was a 1:2 favorite). I also think Roach’s mid-fight analysis and consideration of stopping the fight was probably the right thing for a protective trainer to do. But there is one thing we have learned: it’s that just because a fighter trains with Freddie Roach doesn’t make him invincible. Roach clearly is not a miracle worker, but his training (or decision about whom to train), does seem to have some holes lately.
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