It was just another day at the gym when Freddie Roach celebrated his 49th birthday on March 5th. Sure, there were cakes, candles and cards, but it took former Heavyweight Champion, Michael Moorer to stop Freddie from catching mitts long enough to allow us to ceremoniously sing Happy Birthday and bestow our best wishes and gifts.
Fittingly, Freddie remained in the ring.
Though generally a shy guy, Freddie lit up when he opened his first gift, a group effort resulting in a display case showcasing Manny Pacquiao's gloves from his bout with Oscar de la Hoya, a program and two photos that captured the magic that was that fight. (Zoom in to see the caption under right photo)
The crowd was also pleased and took photos with the Trainer of the Year and his 'trophy' of perhaps was one of his favorite and most memorable achievements. I started to remember the weeks leading up to that fight and how the media and Boxing fans seemed to bash Freddie and Manny for taking the fight, much less supposing they could actually win it. Interview after interview, Freddie was on the defensive about Manny's talents and abilities and lambasted for predicting a 9th round KO. Teddy Atlas also received a raised eyebrow or two from co-host, Brian Kenny on Friday Night Fights for predicting a Pacquiao win (search YouTube for "Teddy Atlas on Manny vs DLH"). Everyone at the Wildcard Boxing Club never lost hope and never doubted victory (or at least never admitted to it). We became a closer-knit family, feeling like it was "us" against "them". "Them", being pretty much everyone else. It ended up being a one-sided fight as many predicted. However, the man left holding up his hands was not the Golden Boy, but Manny Pacquiao. It was more than a victory for all of us at the Wildcard - I don't know quite how to describe it. It was almost a tangible joy that became the sanctification of our little Boxing family.
Perhaps that's why we all took turns taking pictures with the display case - it captured the spirit of that fight and of the weeks leading up to it. It reminded us of the exhilaration and bliss we all felt for weeks afterward. And to see "the man with the plan", Freddie Roach with a big smile on his face, remembering the same things we were, but more intimately, made it even more amazing.
Happy Birthday, Freddie