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Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto: Let the hype begin

Discussion in 'Other Sports' started by da1, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. da1

    da1 Member

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    By GEOFFREY GRAY
    Published: November 10, 2009
    Yuri Foreman stepped up to the top bench of the banya to embrace the soothing power of the heat. The beads of sweat bubbled and greased his skin. He shuttered his eyes and felt the problem immediately. The sauna was too hot.

    “O.K.,” he said, getting down. “Let’s start slow.”

    In the weeks before a prizefight, a boxer must exercise caution. The event has been planned for months. Trainers are owed money. Emotional balance and mental focus cannot be strained. Germs must be avoided. A flash flu can ruin everything.

    Now Foreman wore a towel on his head as if it were a prayer shawl and dripped gobs of blackberry jam into his tea at Spa 88, a Russian day spa near Wall Street. It is his sanctuary. He kissed the old pudgy men he knew on the cheek as they passed, and talked about the relationship between his pugilism and his Judaism.

    “It’s like exercise for the mind,” he said of his rabbinical studies. “In the ring, very spiritual things can happen. Judaism, it’s like the core. It gives you that sense of security. It’s always with you.”

    Over the years, there have been scores of Jewish boxers and dozens of Jewish boxing champions, but historians are hard-pressed to find a boxer training to become a rabbi and fighting for a championship title at the same time. On Saturday, on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Foreman (27-0, 8 knockouts) will get his first title shot, against Daniel Santos of Puerto Rico (32-3-1, 23 knockouts), the World Boxing Association champion at 154 pounds. The bout is being featured as part of the HBO pay-per-view telecast.

    It is extremely uncommon for a boxer from Israel to fight for a world title, and Foreman’s handlers said politicians and diplomats from Israel planned to attend.

    On paper, Foreman is the underdog. Santos, 34, has more experience, against better fighters. He has knockout power in both hands. And, most critical, he is a left-hander. Foreman, 29, has not boxed a left-hander as a professional. Nor has he shown a willingness to use his power: his last knockout came three years ago.

    “I’m not saying he’s a pacifist, but he fights like one,” said Bruce Trampler, the fight’s matchmaker. “You can’t be content to win the rounds in a title fight. It could be your only chance. It is the moment, and in the moment, you have to be willing to take guys out.”

    Foreman was never the aggressor. He was born in Gomel, Belarus, and his family was so poor that he slept in an Army cot in the hallway. His early memories are trailing his mother with a knife tucked in his waistband as she walked through Gomel for fear that she might be kidnapped. The blade of the knife was so big (“like Crocodile Dundee,” he said) that it pricked his knee as he shadowed her. When he was 5, thugs forced his mother into a car and she was missing for days.

    “Welcome to Russia,” Foreman said.

    When he was 8, he said, his mother made him take boxing lessons after he was beaten up by other boys while taking swimming lessons.

    At age 10, after the fall of the Soviet Union, his family immigrated to Israel. They lived in an Arab slum in Haifa, and young Yuri helped his father clean office buildings and work on construction sites. In Haifa, he met Michael Kozlowski, a Russian boxing trainer.

    “In Israel, there are no boxing gyms,” Kozlowski said. “I had balcony. I hang the heavy bag on balcony. We train on my balcony.”

    As an amateur, Foreman won several tournaments and moved with Kozlowski to New York to become a pro. Kozlowski worked in a linen plant, and Foreman lived with his family.

    “I have two daughters, and one day, my ex-wife says to me, ‘Either I go or Yuri goes,’ ” Kozlowski said. He chose Yuri.

    “He’s like my son,” Kozlowski said. “How can I betray my son?”

    In the gym, Foreman met and fell in love with Leyla Leidecker, a Hungarian model and documentary filmmaker. They wanted to move in together. Foreman was also looking for breathing room from Kozlowski, whose tough reputation is buttressed by the motto on his Web site: “Win or die.” Eventually, he started training with another coach.

    The split was messy. Foreman said he was visited by a masked gunman who delivered a package. Inside was a bullet. Foreman alerted his promoter, who hired a private investigator, and Kozlowksi said he was visited by F.B.I. agents. The pupil and the coach still train in the same gym, but do not speak to each other.

    “He betrayed me; there was no split,” said Kozlowski, who added that he was unsure whom he would be rooting for Saturday night.

    “Sometimes I want God to punish him because life is serious,” Kozlowski said. “But I want him to win also, you understand? He is like my son.”

    Foreman says his old coach is too intense. “He cares more about his fighters than his own family,” he said.

    After the bullet incident, Foreman and Leidecker married and moved to Brooklyn. Leidecker described herself as curious about spirituality. One afternoon, she typed the words “kabbalah” and “Brooklyn” into a search engine. The hunt led to Rabbi DovBer Pinson, who now supervises Foreman’s foray into matters of Jewish law. Foreman trains on kosher food and teaches troubled yeshiva students how to fight.

    “For him, it’s not just about the fight,” said Pinson, who said he was surprised by Foreman’s performance in the Torah study group. “He was least advanced in the group, and he’s been able to retain thousands of facts, dense material. He gets it.”

    When Foreman was struggling with his former manager, a group of Jewish investors heard about his story and bought out his contract. His marketing value as a potential boxing rabbi did not hurt.

    “What can I say? I’m a loudmouth Jew and he gives me a lot of pride,” said Murray Wilson, a New York City restaurateur and one of Foreman’s managers.

    Unlike other boxing managers who struggle to recoup the costs that go with stabling a fighter — food, training, rent, medical tests, sparring, travel expenses — Wilson said he and his partners were content to enjoy their investment. Foreman’s lack of the knockout power that television networks prize has resulted in low purses. Santos will make $123,750 for Saturday’s fight, Foreman $41,250.

    “Our original contract with him is that we’d send him a check every week for expenses until he starts making his own money,” Wilson said. “We haven’t taken a dime. He’s like a son to me.”

    Foreman’s father, who lives in Israel, will not attend the fight. Foreman has enough to worry about, he said, the most important of which is beating a fighter who can punch harder, is more experienced, and is left-handed. Foreman removed his name from Google alerts to shield himself from writers complaining about the way he fights. There are risks that come with going for knockouts, the punches that come back, the ones you do not see.

    “I want to be able to do more than eat and go to the bathroom,” Foreman said in the banya, referring to his future. “I want to be able to have, you know, a conversation.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/sports/11boxer.html
     
  2. da1

    da1 Member

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    Out of Chance Meeting, a Formidable Pairing
    By GREG BISHOP
    Published: November 7, 2009

    HOLLYWOOD — After the second typhoon hit, as the third crept closer, Freddie Roach had seen enough. Houses disappeared underwater. Boulders blocked the narrow, winding roads. Seventeen families packed into one room.

    In Baguio City, the Philippines, where Roach trained the boxer Manny Pacquiao last month in preparation for Saturday’s welterweight title fight against Miguel Cotto, they stacked coffins high in neat rows, until their supply ran out.

    Roach fought professionally and trained world champions. He stopped drinking and refused to let his Parkinson’s disease define him. But navigating Pacquiao’s world — the football-team-size entourage, the millions of fans, the interests that range from movies to music to philanthropy — requires delicacy and force.

    “I’m leaving,” Roach said.

    Crazy how they ended up there.

    The trainer studied to become a tree surgeon. He learned 50 common names of trees and 50 Latin names of trees, and he started his own company, made $350 and bought a plane ticket to Las Vegas. He never touched a tree again.

    The boxer peddled flowers and doughnuts, sold fish he caught in the ocean, grew up without shoes in the Philippines. He ran away from home at 14 because his father ate the family dog.

    They met in 2001. Pacquiao weighed 112 pounds. He came to America looking for a trainer, and on the second of three stops, he climbed the staircase to Roach’s gym here.

    It was love at first fight. One month later, Pacquiao defeated Lehlohonolo Ledwaba of South Africa, and boxing had found an odd-yet-formidable combination.

    “It’s magic,” said the promoter Bob Arum, the chairman of Top Rank Boxing. “Made in heaven. They’re so in tune with each other, it’s like watching a ballet.”

    The boxer needed taming. Each fight, all fight, he sought knockouts, and this produced erratic and entertaining results. The trainer focused on efficiency, developed a right hand now almost as powerful as the left. Something clicked. Pacquiao kept moving up in weight, kept winning, knocked out David Diaz, then Oscar De La Hoya, then Ricky Hatton, each fight shorter than the last.

    Critics said Roach had robbed Pacquiao of his style. But to Roach, they had added substance, rooted in more scientific methods, in study and preparation.

    The trainer found more synergy with Pacquiao than with his other fighters, a list that included De La Hoya and Mike Tyson. But Roach, 49, was careful not to get too close. He made that mistake with Virgil Hill, his first champion. They ate together and drank together, and their friendship interfered with boxing.

    Pacquiao, 30, viewed his trainer as a second father, even with the boundaries. Where he playfully spat water on other members of his team, or slapped them from behind, he never ventured there with Roach. Whenever Alex Ariza, his conditioning coach, tried to put new methods in place, Pacquiao always asked, “What does Freddie think?”

    A Changing Relationship

    The boxer’s popularity exploded in his home country, where he needs police escorts and bodyguards to travel, where malls are emptied and locked so he can shop.

    Pacquiao does not admit to feeling pressure — “I want to help the people,” he said — but it exists. He gives away so much money, Arum joked, Pacquiao is the welfare system in the Philippines. He signs so many autographs, he sometimes switches hands.

    If the boxer is the most recognizable person in a country of more than 90 million, the trainer ranks third behind the president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Locals have tried to set Roach up with potential brides. He causes traffic jams when buses stop so passengers can get his autograph.

    The trainer finds all this amusing, but as Pacquiao’s popularity has grown, so too has his power, and that has altered the dynamic of their relationship.

    Inside the ring, they remain inseparable, but less father and son, more peers bonded by mutual respect. Outside, they must confront endless politics, the complex web of advisers and employees required for Pacquiao to make movies, records and boxing history.

    He prepares for bouts at Wild Card Boxing Club, Roach’s unassuming gym in the back of a strip mall, above a laundry, near the Thai restaurant frequented by Team Pacquiao.

    The trainer built the ring inside himself, built the whole place for $10,000 in 1994, even lived in an adjacent apartment until he purchased a house six months ago. Since January, Roach has signed 380 new members.

    He charges everyone the same: $5 to work out or $50 a month, more for private lessons, be they ordinary people or celebrities like Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Aimee Mann.

    The trainer never expected the booming business, the packed gym, the international rise in fame, all prompted by his work with Pacquiao.

    Roach came to Los Angeles with low expectations, moving here to train Mickey Rourke, who boxed before he acted. Rourke built Roach his first gym but showed up to only one workout the first week. Roach quit. Rourke called Roach every day for 30 days until he persuaded him to return.

    Rourke cried when Roach left, the trainer said, but that taught him something about standing up to fighters. Before the Hatton fight, Roach found out that a sluggish Pacquiao had been singing karaoke until 2 a.m. Roach chewed out Pacquiao and his entourage, yelling so loud he thought he would be fired.

    The boxer and the trainer did not speak for three days. But Pacquiao never argued.

    Relentless Routines

    The boxer’s workouts are not human. Pacquiao spars, hits mitts, punches bags, jumps rope. At the end of four punishing hours, he does crunches while trainers pound his abdomen with a bamboo pole.

    Pacquiao eats six meals and drinks five protein shakes daily, consuming 7,000 calories but burning 500 more. His muscles are chiseled, each with a purpose.

    The trainer says the boxer’s power comes from his calves, which grow bigger with each fight. But that is the most that science can explain. The boxer has taken months off, recording music and running for political office, and he returned to each camp stronger, as if the training never stopped.

    Ariza, the conditioning coach, wishes he could test Pacquiao’s endurance, speed, lung capacity. But Pacquiao believes in science only as it relates to boxing.

    The trainer views the boxer as a student first. Each fight, they collaborate on a strategy. Roach said he boxed for trainers who knew only one way, “the right way,” but with Pacquiao, he retains an open mind.

    The boxer possesses an innate ability to block out the world, to box for millions of people but not feel their collective weight. Inside the Thai restaurant, with fans pressed against the glass outside, Pacquiao strummed his guitar, surrounded by his entourage yet very much alone.

    This complex world suits a complex man. Pacquiao dabbles in darts, basketball and billiards. He has a photographic memory, learned to play the piano in one week and, when he is not training, often sleeps only three to four hours a day.

    “He’s not an ordinary fighter coming out of poverty,” said Winchell Campos, who is writing Pacquiao’s biography. “His story is not that simple.”

    The trainer’s story is equally complicated. Roach works 80 hours over six days each week, despite Parkinson’s disease that causes a stiff neck, twitching and trouble walking. He takes medication three times daily and receives Botox injections, which leave his neck, he joked, wrinkle free.

    Those close to the trainer say that boxing, the sport that might have contributed to the disease, now helps him to endure. They compare his workouts with Pacquiao to medicine, his time inside the gym to therapy.

    The trainer laughed, saying he did not need an illness to appreciate the boxer. “Training a fighter like Pacquiao is what you live for,” he said.

    Legacy Reaches Beyond Ring

    The trainer was standing behind the gym counter when a man asked if he should bet on Pacquiao against Cotto.

    “Your whole house,” Roach said, predicting a ninth-round knockout.

    They make an interesting pairing, the boxer and the trainer he met by chance. Pacquiao remains the practical joker. Roach plays his affable straight man. Pacquiao labeled Roach his “all-time best friend.” Roach says Pacquiao is the best fighter he has ever worked with.

    If Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 knockouts) defeats the champion Cotto, he will win a title in his seventh weight division, a record. He is guaranteed a $13 million purse. But his legacy will extend beyond his sport, to the Philippines and his philanthropic foundation and outside interests. Those close to Pacquiao say he will eventually be elected president.

    The trainer said that politics could wait, that Pacquiao had not peaked. Their best work, the crux of their connection, still comes each afternoon, when Pacquiao pushes aside all other endeavors and Roach clears his crowded gym.

    Inside the ring, they speak their own language, share inside jokes, dancing, adjusting, resuming their boxing dance again. Roach shouts combinations — “2, 2, 1, 2 jab double hook again” — and Pacquiao delivers sharp strikes punctuated by grunts.

    Here, two complex worlds fade and one relationship comes into focus, until it is just the boxer and the trainer, preparing for the fight.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/sports/08pacquiao.html
     
  3. TeamUSA

    TeamUSA Member

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    Manny by tko.
     
  4. R0ckets03

    R0ckets03 Contributing Member

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    Any bars showing the fight?
     
  5. Mummywrap

    Mummywrap Member

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    Cotto wins in rnd 5 by KO.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. VanityHalfBlack

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    FIGHT NIGHT FIGHT NIGHT, can't wait for this one folks!!!!
     
  7. TeamUSA

    TeamUSA Member

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    I dont think there's a filipino bar here in Houston. Try to look for a latino bar, i'm should they would be showing it there. But don't forget to wear your vest. :)
     
  8. Harrisment

    Harrisment Member

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    So far I know that The Social, Cadillac Bar (on shepherd), and BW3's in the Village are all showing it. I'm probably going to Bdub's as of now, but that may change.
     
  9. stonegate_archer

    stonegate_archer Contributing Member

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    Any online streams?
     
  10. VanityHalfBlack

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    Is there a Puerto Rican bar anywhere in Houston?
     
  11. LAFIRMA22

    LAFIRMA22 Member

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    please any online streams thank you very much ahead of time.
     
  12. MiddleMan

    MiddleMan Contributing Member

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    I want to see KO!!!!!! :D :D
     
  13. Obito

    Obito Contributing Member

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    Pacman in the 7th.

    KO.
     
  14. Harrisment

    Harrisment Member

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    My girl isn't feeling well so I just ordered the fight at home rather than going out. I have a feeling this is going to a be a lot closer fight than most people think. My prediction is Pacquiao in a split decision.
     
  15. v3.0

    v3.0 Contributing Member

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  16. Cokebabies

    Cokebabies Contributing Member

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  17. Evil Empire

    Evil Empire Member

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  18. Kam

    Kam Contributing Member

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    they should be in the ring fighting at 11, right?
     
  19. VanityHalfBlack

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    Damn it's like 55 bucks or something right?
     
  20. Harrisment

    Harrisment Member

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    $65. I got it in HD. Ouch, but at least I'll save a few bucks on drinking at home rather than out.
     

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