(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Renowned boxing trainer Freddie Roach said the other day he flew from Los Angeles to the Philippines not only to celebrate Manny Pacquiao’s 29th birthday but also to recharge his batteries for the big face-off with Ignacio (El Maestro) Beristain who’ll be in Juan Manuel Marquez’ corner for the rematch against the Filipino icon in Las Vegas on March 15.

Roach arrived in Manila early morning last Dec. 16 then took the first flight out to General Santos City. Also planing in were promoter Bob Arum, Roach’s friend Billy Keane, Pacquiao’s sparmate David Rodela and security officer Rob Peters.

Arum returned to Las Vegas last Wednesday night. Roach is staying until Tuesday. He left for Boracay with friends for a three-day vacation last Saturday.

“I’m burned out,” said Roach. “I need a break from the gym.”

Marquez, 34, has compiled a 6-1 record, with 2 KOs, and Pacquiao 7-1, with 5 KOs, since their meeting. Marquez’ only KO victims were Filipino Jimrex Jaca and Thai Tersak Jandaeng. His loss was to Indonesian Chris John by a unanimous decision. Surviving the distance with Marquez were Rocky Juarez, Barrera, Victor Polo and Orlando Salido.

Aside from Jaca, other Filipinos victimized by Marquez were Baby Lorona, Jr. and Reynante Jamili who were both knocked out.

Pacquiao’s only setback was a decision to Morales since the draw with Marquez. He stopped Fahsang 3-K Battery, Hector Velazquez, Jorge Solis and Morales twice and outpointed Oscar Larios and Barrera.

In their 2004 bout, Marquez would’ve lost to Pacquiao by split decision if only judge Burt Clemens scored the first round 10-7, instead of 10-8, as he should have. Clemens later admitted he made a mistake, not realizing three knockdowns in a round automatically merit a 10-7 count.

A side attraction in the rematch is the duel between Roach and Beristain, two of the most brilliant tacticians in the fight game today. Both have worked the corners of over 20 world champions with Roach getting the edge in terms of marquee names like Mike Tyson and Oscar de la Hoya. Roach learned the ropes from the legendary Eddie Futch, the man behind Smokin’ Joe Fraizer’s rise to fame, and is now known all over the world as Pacquiao’s father figure.

Roach, 47, is a bachelor. He was once engaged to former Olympic track star and writer Sheila Hudson a few years ago but the relationship fizzled out. Although Roach is completely devoted to boxing, he sometimes goes out on dates. His eyes lit up when asked if he has a “special” friend in Manila.

“I don’t know if I’m the marrying kind,” said Roach. “You know, I’m already 47. And I know too many couples wishing they never got married. But if it comes, it comes.”

In an interview with Brad Cooney, Roach said, “I just can’t find a girl that will take second seat to boxing. I was dating Sheila. We got along great and I thought she was going to be in my life but I chose to go to boxing matches instead of going to her track events. I like to go to a movie or go out to eat. I also sponsor a few softball teams but boxing is my life. I would like to get married one day and settle down but the thing is, I just have trouble saying no to people. My stable is pretty full right now so I have to be careful.”

Being careful also pertains to Roach’s coming battle with Beristain who has trained Julio Cesar Chavez, Gilberto Roman, Ricardo Lopez, Eric Ortiz, Humberto Gonzalez and a slew of other Mexican world champions. He was the Mexican national team trainer in four Olympics. Beristain started his boxing career as an amateur over 50 years ago.

Beristain said what makes Marquez special is his discipline. “He and his brother Rafael are good people outside of the ring,” he said, quoted by Damien Picarielle in Boxing Digest Magazine. “A lot of that comes from their upbringing because their father was a professional fighter. I’ve known them since they were young boys. Their father used to bring them around the gym. Their father introduced them to me when they were very young and I’ve been with them ever since.”

Beristain said he has a lot of goals for Marquez despite his age. “He’s already a two-time world champion but I think he can go much further,” said El Maestro. “As a technical fighter, he just keeps getting better. I’ve had a tape made of Willie Pep, Vicente Saldivar and Juan Manuel so we can sit and watch and compare.”

Beristain’s philosophy in training a fighter centers on defense. “The most important thing is to teach defense,” he said. “To avoid getting hit but everything depends on the material that you’re working with. What I teach isn’t meant to be robotic or to copy other fighters that I work with. The trainer adapts to the strengths of the fighter, not the other way around. No fighter is perfect but it’s my job to make him as perfect as possible.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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