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MAYWEATHER - DE LA HOYA PREVIEW

Many superlatives have been used to describe Floyd Mayweather in recent years.

But you won't hear any of them coming from the mouth of Freddie Roach.

A two-time Trainer of the Year and one of the most respected handlers in the sport, the 47-year-old Roach is the man tasked with plotting the downfall of the 'Pretty Boy' in Las Vegas on May 5.

And he believes his charge Oscar De La Hoya has what it takes to puncture Mayweather's perfect 37-0 record when they clash for the WBC world light-middleweight crown.

As he prepared the 'Golden Boy' for his date with destiny at the MGM Grand, he spoke exclusively to us about his man, Floyd and their eagerly-awaited showdown.

"Mayweather is a good fighter, a good boxer. But he's not a great finisher. He's a good boxer who I would liken to somebody like Willie Pep.

"He's had a couple of boring fights and I'm not that impressed with some of the opponents.

"Baldomir for example is a club fighter. He's a nice guy but he's not a great fighter. And Zab Judah as well.

"Floyd looked good against Gatti but he was made for him. Anybody who was betting on Gatti that night was betting with his heart and not his head."

The Las Vegas superfight pits not only the sport's biggest names, but also two of its most talented boxers. And Ricky Hatton for one said recently the match-up could be more chess than boxing.

Roach though knows Oscar can't sit back and expect to outpoint the lightning-quick Mayweather, and says his man will take risks in a bid to control the fight.

"We have to take risks. We have to be a little bit more aggressive than normal. We have to cut the ring down. He's a mover, he's not going to stand in front of us.

"We will be more aggressive than normal. I'm a more aggressive trainer than Floyd Mayweather Sr, who's more defensive."

"The thing is we have to control the ring. Control the ring, control the fight.

"We won't follow him around though. If you do that he sets you up to walk into shots. We need to make the ring smaller.

"There are definitely things we can exploit. It's not perfected yet but we're working on it.

"Mayweather makes mistakes but gets himself out of it with his speed. But it's all about timing. It's all about catching him at the right time.

One advantage De Le Hoya will definitely have is size - he's used to fighting at light-middle while Mayweather is moving up from welterweight.

Roach says: "I believe we have to use our physical strength and power and we have to let Floyd know he's in a real fight right from the off.

"While we'll be aggressive it's not a case of me telling Oscar to go in there and drop his hands. But I've told him if he wants to trade left hooks with Mayweather I'm more than happy because we have the better left hook.

One question mark over De La Hoya is stamina - in two defeats by Shane Mosley and one by Felix Trinidad he appeared to run out of gas in the latter stages and crucially allowed his opponent to take the initiative.

But Roach feels there won't be a repeat when his man goes at it with Mayweather.

"I was wondering about that when I came into camp, it's one of the first questions I wanted to answer and I think I've put my finger on it. I think he'd left too much in the gym and had done too much roadwork. So I've cut his roadwork down and it's really worked out great. I'm really pleased with the way everything has gone."

Mosley, twice a conqueror of De La Hoya and now part of his Golden Boy Promotions empire, has been in camp helping his old adversary prepare for the bout. And he's the perfect man to play Mayweather in the pre-fight tune-ups.

"We're sparring 10 rounds this afternoon with Shane Mosley, who has been a real asset here. He's about as fast as anybody you could have," said Roach.

The May 5 showdown on the Las Vegas Strip will cement the legacy of one of these two fighters.

And for Roach it's an unexpected opportunity to work with one of the sport's greatest talents in recent years.

He was the man chosen to step into the breach when Oscar parted company with Floyd Mayweather Sr (father of the 'Pretty Boy').

And having lived, worked and plotted with De La Hoya during recent weeks at their training camp in Puerto Rico, Roach has nothing but admiration for his new star pupil.

"I really didn't know him before this, I'd met him casually. His work ethic is great, you couldn't ask for a better student.

"Everything has been just like he told me it would be. Like I said, his work ethic and his discipline are great."

One feature of the build-up to this fascinating showdown is the trash talk Mayweather dished out when the fighters went on a country-wide promotional tour.

But Roach believes Floyd's motormouth could work against him when he gets into the ring.

He says the insults and disrespect have stoked a burning fire in the belly of an opponent who is now 34 and has more than $100million in the bank.

"I think Oscar really did need that. Floyd got under Oscar's skin a little bit. It made him train harder than he has for any other fight."

Roach gave up a lot to prepare De La Hoya for this moment - namely five world title fights including Manny Pacquiao's win over Jorge Solis and Peter Manfredo's Cardiff defeat at the hands of Joe Calzaghe.

And he hasn't come all this way to lose.

"It looks like it's going to be the biggest fight in history. It's been a great experience for me being in a great camp and working with Oscar.

"I had to give up five world title fights to do this, it was a tough decision to make. But sometimes in life you have to make those decisions.

"It's a must-win situation for me now."
 

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