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Fight Week: Trainers

LAS VEGAS - Angelo Dundee worked the corners of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman among a litany of boxing champions in becoming the world's most renowned trainer.

After more than a half-century of offering instructions and encouragement and hopping inside and outside the ropes between bells, Dundeehas retired as an active trainer but his counsel is still very much valued.

The 87-year-old living legend is here at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino this weekend as a consultant to the sport's most popular fighter.

2008 12 06 Delahoya Pacquiao fight week trainers

Oscar De La Hoya hired Dundee as part of his team in preparation for "The Dream Match" Saturday night against Manny Pacquiao on HBO Pay-Per-View ($54.95). The Golden Boy has been installed as a huge betting favorite to win based on a distinct size advantage over his younger and faster foe.

If nothing else, Dundee's acceptance of De La Hoya's offer to join his camp shows he still likes to align himself with a popular champion and he still gets up for the big event.

"I used to call Muhammad the Pied Piper. This kid's a little Pied Piper,'' Dundee said of De La Hoya. "I love what he does. I like the way he talks with (the press). I like the way he treats people. He's always got a smile on his face. There's something about him. Superstars have got to give you that.

"The reason this fight is so big is because everybody knows the fighters. In the past, we've had guys who nobody knew who the heck they were. But the public knows both of these guys. That's why I'm happy to be here. It's a great feeling."

Admittedly, Dundee didn't know a whole lot about Pacquiao, or De La Hoya for that matter, until he became a part of the event.

"I never did homework on either guy because I never had a guy that was going to fight them,'' Dundee said. "But now that I'm involved in it, I've studied both guys and De La Hoya is the guy to beat Pacquiao style-wise. That's what I see."

Even as a master strategist, Dundee says there's nothing he or trainer Nacho Berenstain can tell De La Hoya that will determine the outcome of the fight.

"I had a fighter come down to Miami from Las Vegas and he said his trainer was Eddie Futch,'' Dundee recalled. "I said, 'Eddie Futch? He's the best trainer in the world. What are you doing here?' He said he had family in Miami, so I called Eddie on the phone and Eddie said help him if you can.

"Later, we had a fight for this guy in Las Vegas and me, Eddie and Freddie Roach were working in the kid's corner. He got the crap beat out of him. So there's goes the trainer bit. That showed it's not the trainer. The best guy is going to win. And in this fight, that's De La Hoya."

Freddie Roach, the trainer Dundee briefly mentioned, has since made his own mark as one of boxing's best trainers. He'll be the chief second in Pacquiao's corner Saturday night as he has been for the past eight years.

An exception was last year in May when Roach was hired by De La Hoya for his mega fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., who won on a decision, while Pacquiao prepared for his April victory against Jorge Solis, an eighth-round KO, with one of Roach's assistants as his trainer.

"I told Manny I had an opportunity to work with Oscar and he told me to take the job,'' Roach said. "He was the first guy I asked."

I used to call Muhammad the Pied Piper. This kid's a little Pied Piper,'' Dundee said of De La Hoya. "I love what he does. I like the way he talks with (the press). I like the way he treats people. He's always got a smile on his face. There's something about him. Superstars have got to give you that.

Roach expected a long-term relationship with De La Hoya, but it ended up being just a one-fight engagement .

"He treated me well, he trained really hard for the fight and he paid me a lot of money,'' Roach said. "I loved working with Oscar. I honestly thought when he told me he'd never fight again without me in his corner that it was true. Then I read in the paper that he hired Floyd (Mayweather Sr.)."

Roach says it's become apparent that De La Hoya, with just three wins in his last six fights, has lost the edge he once had earlier in his career. As Roach puts it, De La Hoya no longer can pull the trigger.

"His problem is definitely mental,'' Roach said. " I've had sports psychologists call me up who wanted to help Oscar and I've asked Oscar to think about doing something like that. I know his physical side is great because he trains very hard. I've witnessed that. But his mental side is weak and he could use some help. But he just laughed and chose not to go that way."

Roach says De La Hoya's weak mindset will be a factor in Pacquiao pulling off a stunning victory Saturday night.

"He lacks confidence, he loses sight of the game plan and when he gets hit, he does what he does naturally,'' he says. "I've watched him, and even in the Stevie Forbes fight (De La Hoya's most recent fight won by decision in May), he says he finally found the key. How many times have I heard that?"

If Roach sounds harshly critical of De La Hoya, it's because he feels he has a reason. It's rooted in the Golden Boy's loss to Mayweather.

"I like Oscar overall, but when he blamed me for losing the Mayweather fight, it pissed me off and I lashed back,'' Roach said. "I had nothing to do with him losing the fight.

Like Manny Pacquiao said, I get him ready for the fight and prepare him the best I can. It's up to him to win the fight. Not me. When the bell rings, I sit down. That's why I give the fighter all the credit. It's his fight to win or lose."

On that account, Dundee and Roach can agree.

I like Oscar overall, but when he blamed me for losing the Mayweather fight, it pissed me off and I lashed back,'' Roach said. "I had nothing to do with him losing the fight."

Posted 12:00 AM | Dec 4, 2008

Oscar De La Hoya vs Manny Pacquiao

HBO PPV - Dec. 6, 2008