Roach to star in own TV series

By Joaquin Henson, The Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 30 2010 08:37 AM | Updated as of Dec 30 2010 04:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach will star in his own TV character-driven unscripted, or reality, series and the New York-based AMC network is preparing a pilot plus 12 episodes to air sometime next year.

Roach, 50, told The Star recently about 55 hours of footage have been compiled for the pilot alone with executive producer Peter Berg, known as the mastermind of “Friday Night Lights,” at the helm.

“Once, I woke up at 5 a.m. and the crew was at home ready to shoot,” said Roach. “They follow me around to film what I do every day.” Roach will reportedly be paid a five-figure talent fee for each episode. Roach’s agent, lawyer Nick Khan, is involved in the contract negotiations for the show.

AMC, originally known as American Movie Classics, will air the docu-series featuring “Roach’s work with boxers as he struggles to ward off the creeping symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.” AMC senior vice president for programming Jim Stillerman explained the basis of the show in the Hollywood Reporter website: “We want to find great character-based stories in a verite fashion that have a similar narrative framework to a drama series ... the shows are not about what they’re doing, they’re about who they are and there’s a narrative framework around the concept as opposed to anecdotal story-telling.”

Roach was a former prizefighter who turned to training fighters initially under the guidance of Eddie Futch. He has now worked the corners of over 25 world champions, including Manny Pacquiao, Oscar de la Hoya, Marlon Starling, Virgil Hill, Amir Khan, Israel Vazquez, James Toney and Gerry Peñalosa.

Now recognized as the world’s No. 1 trainer, Roach has captivated a global audience by plying his trade despite the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s syndrome, a similar disease afflicting Muhammad Ali.

It was once reported that as a fighter, Roach’s biggest paycheck was anywhere between $7,500 and $13,000. He posted a 40-13 record, with 15 KOs, from 1978 to 1986. His last fight was a loss by majority decision to David Rivello in Lowell, Massachusetts, in October 1986. Two months earlier, he notched his last win, a fifth round stoppage of Filipino Arnel Arrozal in Lynwood, Washington. How ironic that Roach’s last victim was a Filipino and he would later become a hero as Pacquiao’s trainer among Filipinos.

One of seven children, Roach said modestly he isn’t the most successful of his four brothers and two sisters. His brother Joey, who died last year, owned a highly profitable Las Vegas telemarketing company with about 130 employees. The company’s basic income came from telecommunications. Roach’s oldest brother Al now runs the company.

But Roach has done very well for himself. He now owns six homes, including one in Prince Edward Island, Canada, listed as the 104th largest island in the world with an area of 5,683 square kilometers and 141,000 residents. Roach has relatives who live in Canada.

“Actually, I’m French-Canadian, not Irish, although I grew up in Massachusetts,” said Roach. “I bought my mother (Barbara) a house in Las Vegas but since my brother’s death, moved her to live near me in a duplex I own in Los Angeles. I also bought my brother Pepper a three-bedroom home in the Valley.”

Roach owns the widely-popular Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. Contenders and celebrities from all over the world queue up for the chance to train in the facility. He said there are plans to franchise the Wild Card Gym in the future.

Roach and a business partner also own a 20,000 square-foot building in San Francisco which is rented out for big social gatherings, like celebrity weddings. The rental package includes a catering service.

Roach said he now works exclusively with 12 fighters. He disclosed turning down Vladimir Sidorenko who asked to train at Wild Card for his recent fight against Nonito Donaire Jr. As for Donaire, Roach said the Filipino Flash’s Feb. 19 appointment with WBC and WBO bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas will be an acid test.

“Montiel is an experienced, smart and clever fighter,” said Roach. “I watched Donaire’s fight against Sidorenko at Anaheim where my heavyweight Andy Ruiz fought in the undercard. I think Donaire’s big for his weight. He’s got a powerful left hook. He has speed and footwork. I expect him to beat Montiel but it’ll be a hard fight.”

As for Pacquiao, Roach said the initial agreement was the ring icon would train eight weeks for the May 7 fight against Sugar Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The split would be four weeks in Baguio and four weeks in Los Angeles.

Roach said Pacquiao gave up too many pounds to Antonio Margarito in his last fight. “Manny weighed 144.6 pounds at the weigh-in and 148 when the fight started, compared to Margarito’s 165,” he said. “It would’ve been better if Manny weighed 147 or 148 at the weigh-in and kept the same weight when the fight started. That’s where Manny should be in terms of weight.”

Pacquiao and Mosley will fight under the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. At stake will be Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight crown.