At some point Manny Pacquiao is going to run out of divisions to dominate. Super featherweight? Conquered, courtesy of a March 2008 victory over WBC super featherweight champ Juan Manuel Márquez. Lightweight? Pacquiao checked off that class when he stopped WBC champ David Díaz three months later. Welterweight? Pacquiao not only forced Oscar De La Hoya to quit on his stool in December—he also forced him out of the sport. And last Saturday in Las Vegas, Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) staked his claim as the best junior welterweight in the world when he knocked down Britain's Ricky Hatton (45--2) three times before knocking him out in the second round of their IBO title bout. The defeat was Hatton's first in the 140-pound division and gave Pacquiao a title in a record-tying sixth weight class. "Manny was brilliant," says Lee Beard, Hatton's assistant trainer. "The [knockout] punch would have knocked anyone down. It was that good."
The man responsible for much of the Filipino superstar's development is trainer Freddie Roach, who has forged a special bond with Pacquiao since taking over his corner in 2001. The relationship is simple: Roach teaches; Pacquiao learns; both of them win. Before every fight Roach watches hundreds of hours of tape on Pacquiao's opponent, dissecting weaknesses and devising a fight plan. "If I get Manny to watch 30 seconds of film, I'm doing a good job," says Roach. "But he trusts that I know what I'm talking about."
It was Roach who persuaded Pacquiao that the best game plan against the bigger De La Hoya would be an aggressive one—which is how Pacquiao, who gave up four inches to the Golden Boy, came to redden De La Hoya's mug with a flurry of stinging left hands and sweeping right hooks.
In the weeks leading up to Saturday's fight against Hatton, Roach noticed that the Brit cocked his punches before he threw them, a flaw in his technique that left him open to a short right hook. Sure enough, as Hatton loaded up for a big left hand in the first round, Pacquiao, a southpaw, slipped a surprise right hook to Hatton's jaw that dropped him to the canvas. "People don't understand how smart Manny is," says Roach. "He used to be just strong and reckless. Now he's a complete fighter."
Roach compares his relationship with Pacquiao to one between a "father and son," so he's not afraid to discipline the fighter. One day early in training camp, Roach noticed that Pacquiao was sluggish. He asked around and discovered that Pacquiao had been out singing karaoke until the early hours of the morning. That night Roach chewed out the fighter in front of his entire entourage. He accused Pacquiao of not taking his training seriously and ordered him to keep a 9 p.m. curfew for the rest of the camp. The argument became so heated that the two men didn't speak for days. "A lot of people thought that I was going to get fired," says Roach. "No one talks to Manny like that anymore. But he knows that I have his best interests at heart."
As close as the two men have become, Roach has always made a point of keeping some distance between himself and his star pupil. In the mid-1980s Roach trained light heavyweight champion Virgil Hill, and the two were inseparable: They worked in the ring during the day and partied together at night. But as the line between Freddie the Boss and Freddie the Buddy became blurred, Hill started to tune Roach out, and he finally split with his cornerman after several years. "We became too close," says Roach. "I'd tell him to do something, and he would just laugh. It ruined our working relationship."
So Roach makes sure he is there to serve Pacquiao's every professional need, but his social exigencies? That's what the fighter's considerable entourage is for. Says Roach, "There has to be someone in charge."
It's Roach's concern for Pacquiao's best interests that could push the fighter into retirement. The trainer says he would like Pacquiao to fight two more times, and he has very specific terms for the growing line of would-be challengers. Pacquiao would fight WBA welterweight champion Shane Mosley—but at 143 pounds and not Mosley's preferred 147—in the fall. Or he might take on WBC lightweight champ Edwin Valero at 140 pounds, not 135. He would agree to face WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto as long as Cotto drops from 147 pounds to 142.
Perhaps the only fighter who can dictate terms to Pacquiao and Roach is Floyd Mayweather Jr., the former No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, who announced last week that he was coming out of retirement. "We will fight Floyd," says Roach, without specifying a date or weight limit. "Let him hang back on the ropes and not engage. Manny will beat the s--- out of him."
Roach says that Pacquiao will hang up the gloves after that. "What more does he have to prove?" he asks. "Two big fights, two big wins. Then let him go run for president of the Philippines."