LASS  FROM  DAVAO:  LOVE INTEREST FOR MANNY'S  TRAINER  FREDDIE  ROACH

MANILA, December 11, 2004 
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Renowned boxing trainer Freddie Roach is single and has never been married. He broke up with his girlfriend Sheila Hudson, a 1996 Olympic triple jumper, last month after a three-year relationship.

"We came back from a vacation in Costa Rica then it was over," said Roach.

It was more like a knockdown than a knockout because Roach is back on his feet and just met a charming Filipina during his stay in Davao to train consensus world featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao.

Roach, 44, wouldn’t admit being smitten but he talks about Weng Tibus with stars in his eyes. He’s flying her in from Davao to watch Pacquiao’s fight against Fahsan 3-K Battery in Taguig tonight.

The couple met by accident. Roach was in a Davao department store trying on shoes. Weng, 22, happens to work in the store. They talked a bit and hit it off. They’ve dated twice–once Roach took her to a restaurant which she said she’d been to before but never sat for a meal because she couldn’t afford it.

Weng, a college graduate, is taking her first plane ride today.

"Nothing serious," said Roach. "We’re just friends. But who knows what will come next?"

Roach, one of seven children, is of Irish and French-Canadian descent. He grew up in the housing projects of Dedham, Massachusetts. His father Paul used to spar with world champion Willie Pep and once held the New England featherweight title. His mother Barbara is in the record books as the first American female boxing judge and was assigned in the Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Juan Domingo Roldan world middleweight championship bout in 1984.

Roach was a fighter himself. He turned pro in 1978 and posted a record of 39-13, with 15 KOs. Roach retired in 1986 after losing to David Rivello on points. His last victory came at Filipino Arnel Arrozal’s expense.

* * *

Former Makati Councilor Ferdie Estrella will be the third man in the ring when Pacquiao and Fahsan slug it out.

Estrella, 53, began his career as a referee in 1989 and has worked eight world title fights abroad.

"It’s an honor for a Filipino to do this fight," said Estrella. "My being a Filipino, however, will not be a hindrance. As a professional, I’m trained to be impartial. The world will be watching this fight. When the bell rings, I’ll be there to enforce the rules, regardless of what country a fighter comes from."

Estrella said he owes his development as a referee to mentor Bruce McTavish, a candidate for the job. McTavish will instead be one of three judges in the bout. The other two are Ricardo Canlas and Epi Almeda.

"My two choices to referee the fight are myself and Ferdie," joked McTavish who has worked over 130 world title matches. "So since I didn’t get the assignment, I’m happy Ferdie did."

Games and Amusements Board chairman Eduardo Villanueva designated the referee and judges as authorized by International Boxing Federation (IBF) president Marian Muhammad. The IBF is sanctioning the 12-round fight as a featherweight title eliminator.

* * *

It was Australian matchmaker and trainer Marco Furia who suggested Fahsan as Pacquiao’s opponent to New Jersey promoter Murad Muhammad.

Furia, 23, asked IBF vice president Ray Wheatley whom he could recommend and Fahsan was on top of the list.

"Ray told me Fahsan shows up for a fight to win not just to collect a paycheck," said Furia who recently moved to the US and manages fighters with partner Al Certo. "Fahsan is no patsy. He knows what’s in line for him if he beats Manny."

Furia said he used to train fighters like world-rated Lovemore Nduo in Australia before transplanting to the US.

Furia will be at ringside tonight with cutman Lenny de Jesus and M&M Promotions executive vice president Ronald Salahuddin who all flew in from the US a few days ago.

De Jesus, 59, fought as an amateur and appeared in six fights as a pro before becoming a trainer at 19. Among the world champions whose corners he worked were Wilfredo Gomez, Alexis Arguello, Hector Camacho and Carlos Santos.

"I’ve been involved in boxing for 41 years," said de Jesus, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York. "I live, love, sleep and eat boxing."

De Jesus owns the Juan LaPorte Boxing Gym in the Bronx and has been associated with Murad the last 35 years. He joined Pacquiao’s team for the Emmanuel Lucero fight last year and has since been a fixture in his corner.

De Jesus said treating cuts is his specialty. He worked six years as an orderly and technician in a New York hospital so the experience has come in handy. "I’m good at what I do and that’s to save fighters from cuts," he said. "Manny’s not a bleeder. He was cut in the Barrera and Marquez fights but nothing serious. He’s got good bone structure with no jutting edges."

* * *

Z Gorres, who takes on Thai knockout artist Chaiyong Distar in the undercard tonight, was described by Murad as the next Filipino world champion.

Gorres, 22, worked out in Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles to prepare for his US debut against Marcos Badillo of Mexico last October but the fight was cancelled. He returned home itching to show what he learned from Roach.

Distar boasts a record of 12-2, with 11 KOs. Among his victims were Filipino Rocky Manatad and Indonesia’s Micky Batan.

Gorres has a record of 18-1-1, with 10 KOs. Roach said the Cebu stylist, who is managed by lawyer Rudy Salud and businessman Tony Aldeguer, is very thorough, works hard and has a bright future.

Also in the undercard is Pacquiao’s chief sparmate Fernando Montilla who stakes his Philippine lightweight crown against Rey Almonicar.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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