This weeks episode of HBO’s On Freddie Roach we finally get a chance to see Freddie working with his bread and butter, Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao is single handedly the reason Freddie Roach is the most famous trainer in this current era of boxing. The two of them went from being somewhat well known in the boxing community to super stars of the sport and they did so with the help of one another. This gave both men a great deal of respect for each other, and I love the way Freddie Roach puts it in one of his voice overs. He says that Manny do this day still calls him master, but the reality of it is that without Manny, Freddie would not be the same person he is today. Before Freddie heads to the Philippines he attends what appears to be a party for Pepper’s release from the hospital. Pepper is still in rough shape from his stroke and it appears that he is barely able to get around even with the aid of his stick. His left arm is also in a cast of some kind, and it’s movement is still limited.
There were two things that really stood out to me during Peppers party. The first was that James Toney was in attendance. James Toney was a dominant force at middle weight during the early 90′s and was one of the few men to win titles at both middle weight and heavy weight. He also played Joe Frazier in the movie Ali, and had a brief and very unsuccessful attempt at UFC, although by this point he was well past his prime. He is more or less retired now, but he still claims celebrity status in the boxing community. It was never really explained why he was there. I’m assuming it has to do with Freddie, but I don’t think Freddie ever trained Toney, and it’s not like any other of Roach’s fighters made an appearance. The second thing was the shot of the man pulling Freddie aside and telling him what a beautiful house Pepper has, that Freddie was able to purchase for him. Freddie takes care of those close to him to say the least.
The first voiceover we hear from Freddie this week came shortly after he said goodbye to his girlfriend. In his voiceover he talks about how much he fears loneliness yet has accepted it as part of his life because of his profession. He travels alone, it makes it sound as though he has to but I don’t understand why. He seems to work at his Wildcard Gym in Hollywood just fine with his girlfriend Wendy around, but either way he departs for the Philippines without her.
It’s hard to comprehend just how much of a superstar Manny Pacquiao is in the Philippines. Here in the U.S. we don’t have anyone who even comes close to his level of popularity. He is “The Pride of the Philippines” and it shows. Once Freddie arrives he is immediately confronted by the media who want to know what his plans are for training Manny for his next fight. Whenever Freddie leaves Manny’s training facility he is greeted by screaming girls who want pictures and autographs. Freddie is a huge celebrity in the boxing community but he is on a superstar level, not quite the same as Pacquiao, but not too far from it either.
To me the most interesting part of this episode was when Freddie was at dinner and a Philippine man who spoke perfect english was there telling negotiating a contract for Freddie to sign to become another fighter’s trainer. The man seems to be a very normal agent, very well spoken and well mannered and then when he leaves he cracks a joke about killing the guy who cut his fighters hair. Everyone laughs but then, after they leave, Freddie looks at the camera and informs us that the man is actually the Governor of the area they are dining in. He also goes on to mention that if anyone was caught selling drugs in his providence that he would march them out into the town square and shot the convicted dealer in the head, public execution style. Then 3 or 4 years ago they did away with the death penalty so he can’t do that anymore. The man sitting next to Freddie who seems to be his translator, or perhaps guide then says that in order to be the Governor in that area you have no choice but to be somewhat of a gangster. Growing up in the U.S. this was a complete culture shock to me, and you even see this Governor later in the episode and there is no way I will be able to look at him the same after hearing that.