Pacquiao backpedals on Freddie Roach talk

On Friday, Manny Pacquiao announced in a news release related to his upcoming fight with secondary welterweight world titlist Lucas Matthysse that he would go into training camp for the first time since 2001 without legendary trainer Freddie Roach as part of his team.

Since then, Pacquiao has been heavily criticized for apparently ending a fruitful 16-year, 34-fight bond with Roach in a media announcement rather than he or anyone else on his team informing Roach of the decision.

On Sunday, Pacquiao backpedaled, although he did not commit to having Roach return for fight No. 35.

“Contrary to statements which I personally did not make that are circulating in the media, I have not made my final decision who will be my head trainer for my July 14 fight with Matthysse,” Pacquiao said in the statement. “My advisor Mike Koncz has been in contact with Freddie’s people to keep them informed. I will make a final decision within the week. When that decision is made, Freddie will be the first one to be informed and then I will advise the media.”

In his first fight in a year since losing his welterweight belt by a controversial decision to Jeff Horn in July, the Philippines’ Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), 39, is scheduled to challenge Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs), 35, of Argentina, for his belt on July 15 (July 14 in the United States) at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on an ESPN platform to be determined.

The Friday news release served an update on the fight promotion and included information about an upcoming two-city media tour to Manila and Kuala Lumpur as well as comments from Matthysse about the fight.

The final line of the release, issued by Pacquiao’s MP Promotions, read: “Pacquiao will be joined by his new promotions team along with trainers Restituto ‘Buboy’ Fernandez and Raides ‘Nonoy’ Neri.”

Fernandez and Neri are longtime friends of Pacquiao’s. Fernandez is like a brother to Pacquiao and has been in his corner for every fight of his career as an assistant and Neri has been a part of his camp for years, mainly as a cook.

But the release made no mention of Roach, who had trained Pacquiao since his first fight in the United States in 2001. With Roach, Pacquiao won seven of his record eight world titles in as many divisions, claimed three fighter of the year awards from the Boxing Writers Association of America and also won the organization’s fighter of the decade award for the 2000s. Roach, with Pacquiao as his main client, won a record seven BWAA trainer of the year awards between 2003 and 2014 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.

Pacquiao’s Friday release served to back up comments that Koncz made to ESPN two weeks ago when he said that Pacquiao told him, “Buboy will be handling the training on this fight. What’s important to Manny is that he has one voice to listen to in the corner that he trusts and I guess that’s Buboy for this fight.

“There was some concerns Manny had in the last fight and some statements Freddie made to the media that Manny wasn’t very pleased about.”

When Roach was informed about Friday’s announcement, he issued his own statement and took the high road.

“Manny and I had a great run for [16] years — longer than most marriages and certainly a rarity for boxing,” Roach said. “I wouldn’t trade any of it. Inside the boxing ring and the political ring, I wish Manny nothing but the best. I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t hurt that he didn’t contact me personally about his decision, but the great times we enjoyed together far outweigh that.”

Now it appears that maybe their time together is not quite up. But Roach, through a spokesperson, declined to comment Sunday on the latest comments from Pacquiao.

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