“On Freddie Roach” is HBO’s new documentary miniseries which offers a glimpse into the life the most famous trainer in contemporary boxing. Freddie Roach has trained over 20 world champions though out his career, from Manny Pacquiao to Oscar De La Hoya and even at one point Mike Tyson. Recently he has been inducted into the boxing hall of fame, and just this year was selected by the boxing writers association as Trainer of the Year for the 5th time. Roach has accomplished all of this despite being inflicted with Parkinson’s disease.
I have to say that the first thing that really jumped out at me about this series was how completely different it was from HBO’s 24/7. I was expecting this to follow the same basic format which in my opinion is down right awesome, but “On Freddie Roach” does not follow this format at all. It has it’s own style and it works amazingly well. The most obvious difference is that “On Freddie Roach” is almost completely absent of narration. There are only a few moments where Roach himself is providing voice over during certain scenes and even though what he says is brief, what he tells you carries a ton of weight.
Roach’s Parkinson’s can be somewhat difficult to watch at times. His tremors are practically constant, but they seem to affect him very little. The man constantly stays busy training his world champion fighters. The series starts with him training Amir Khan for his July 23rd (2011) fight against Super Zab Judah. The parkinson’s is forever present in Roach’s actions but it doesn’t stop him from being a world class boxing trainer. His work with the gloves is legendary and we see him working them with Amir constantly. The only thing that the Parkinson’s seems to keep Roach from doing is yelling at his fighters during their fights. Through the entirety of the Khan vs Judah fight we see Roach telling Khan’s strength trainer, Jeff Ariza, what advice needs to be yelled into the ring.
Of all the amazing things Roach does and has accomplished, his love life and professional life seem to be intwined in a very strange way. Roach’s exgirlfriend is also his assistant and to be honest I feel like the awkward chemistry between the two is more a product of camera angles and editing than anything real. I mostly say this because I feel that if their relationship really was that awkward, working that close with one another would be completely impossible. We also learn at the end of the episode that Roach has a girlfriend, and the status of his assistant, so far, remains a mystery. I think it will be interesting to see how this plays out over these next 5 episodes.
What I took away from this first episode more than anything else were the short segments of narration which Roach himself provides. He talks about how he broke his leg while in Carson City Nevada and shortly after his cast was removed his tremors started. The doctors told him that fighting in over 200 fights inside the ring as well as countless others outside of the ring led to his development of Parkinson’s. He also spoke of how he became a boxing trainer after fighting professionally for a number of years. He was only 27 at the time, and just happened to luck into the job. He discovered right away that he had a real knack for training fighters and from there his popularity began to grow. He also speaks of how if he hadn’t discovered this hidden talent he possessed, he has no idea what would have become of him. He was no longer able to box, because of his Parkinson’s and felt completely lost, and had been drinking a lot.
I am really looking forward to the rest of this series. I can’t wait to see how his interactions between his other fighters are as well as his other family members that have only been hinted at. So far we have only seen him training Amir Khan but we saw his assistant discussing with him that he would have to miss the first day of Manny Pacquio’s training camp for his fight that took place in last November. I would imagine the next episode will feature him working with Manny which will be an interesting change of pace.. Roach leads a truly inspiring and interesting life, I am excited to see more of it.