Freddie Roach has been around the fight game for five decades, a former boxer who has seen a parade of champions walk through the doors of his famed Wildcard Boxing Club in hopes of training with one of the brightest boxing minds of a generation. Roach is also intimately familiar with Floyd Mayweather, having helped several fighters prepare for the undefeated great, including Hall of Famers Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, both of whom lost decisions to Mayweather.
All of which is a roundabout way to say that Roach knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the sweet science — and he’s not willing to echo those in the boxing community who have labeled Mayweather’s upcoming Aug. 26 match against UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor as a farce.
“No, I think we’re going to see a fight,” Roach said Thursday on a special on-the-road edition of The MMA Hour. “McGregor is coming to fight. He has two arms, he throws his fists very well, he’s got a big left hand, and he’s not a ground guy so much. He knows the ground game, of course, but he also knows boxing because he spars at my Wildcard West (gym), he spars with a couple of my fighters all the time over there, and one of them is a South African champion and won the world title at one time (Chris Van Heerden), so he’s been in with some quality guys. And I know he beat Paulie (Malignaggi) up a little bit.
“[Mayweather] is a very good boxer, yes, but you can’t just count McGregor out completely because one punch can change everything.”
Considering Roach’s past experience working with MMA fighters like Georges St-Pierre, many observers believed the 57-year-old trainer could have been a valuable tool for McGregor to enlist in his preparation for Aug. 26. Roach said Mayweather even visited his gym in Los Angeles before the fight was official, “and [Mayweather] said, ‘Freddie, if they ask you to train him, please train him, because it’ll make him legit and you’ll make him a better fighter and we’ll all make a lot of money,’” Roach recalled, laughing.
But the call never came from McGregor. Instead, the Irishman decided to keep things familiar, preparing mainly with his longtime coaches and teammates from SBG Ireland, a group led by trainers John Kavanagh and Owen Roddy. Kavanagh said Monday on The MMA Hour that McGregor choose to do so because introducing a new boxing coach into the camp would mostly invite only confusion, with a figure unfamiliar to McGregor attempting to wholly reshape his approach on a condensed timeline. The uniqueness of McGregor, Kavanagh reasoned, would be to the Irishman’s advantage.
And Roach agreed that was the smart approach.
“They shouldn’t go try to outbox [Mayweather],” Roach said, “because he has way to much experience, and the thing is, I think for [McGregor] to win, he has to be aggressive, put him on the ropes, if a headbutt or an elbow slip in there, I think he should fight him a little bit rough. He has to try to take Mayweather out of his gameplan. If you let him box, he’ll box your ears off all night long.”
That being said, Roach also was blunt when asked what he’d think if Mayweather eclipsed the hallowed 49-0 mark set by Rocky Marciano by securing his fiftieth career win over a debuting boxer like McGregor.
“It’s kinda funny, because somebody told me, ‘someone’s 0’s got to go,’ and I said, ‘what do you mean?’ And they said, ‘well the guy is 0-0-0,’” Roach said. “[Mayweather] is expected to win the fight, and if he does win the fight, I don’t think it matches up to Rocky Marciano’s undefeated record, because he didn’t choose to fight another boxer.”
And while Roach is among the few in the boxing community who refuses to discount McGregor’s chances to win, he believes the boxing world will see more of the same thing it always does once Saturday night rolls around.
“My prediction is Mayweather will win a decision,” Roach said.