Freddie Roach is lauded by many fans and experts as the best boxing trainer in the world today. He holds mitts and works the corner for big name world champions including Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Julio César Chávez, Jr.
Kombat Arts boxer Mohammed Abedeen, veteran of around 80 amateur bouts and aspiring pro, recently had the opportunity to train at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California for two memorable months.
Here is part two of our conversation with Mo about his Wild Card experience, where we get to know more about him and his thoughts on the sport he’s dedicated his life to.
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JEF CATAPANG: Were you still in Cali when Pacquiao/Bradley went down?
MO ABEDEEN: No . . . I had to come back [to Mississauga] for business here but they actually invited me out to see the fight in Vegas. And unfortunately, I couldn’t come.
What did you think of the decision?
I thought Manny won. I had the score 10 rounds to two. But I don’t know if the response from people is justified. Boxing is boxing, there are robberies and bad decisions that happen. Nobody cried when [Gabriel] Campillo lost to [Tavoris] Cloud, right? Campillo should have won that. I guess it’s selective judging. And then they bring up the Marquez/Pacquiao fight. Although I had Marquez winning that fight, I think it was a close fight and it could have gone either way. I believe Marquez won, but Paquiao was the champion. He didn’t beat the champion.
Is there any way in your head you could give it to Bradley then as well?
No. There’s no way I can give it Bradley, especially because Manny is the champion. Bradley did not beat the champion. I don’t think he even came close.
What do you think of decisions like that? People like to come up with conspiracies. Is it just bad judging?
I would like to hope for the sake of the sport that it’s just bad judging. I had never heard any talk of any conspiracy like that. I could definitely see [Bob] Arum motivating the judges [to give rounds to Bradley] if it’s a close round, but there’s no way that judges are going to know if a fight is going to be that close, like, ‘if a round is close, give it to Bradley.’ I think Manny won, but whatever. It’s boxing, there’s going to be bad decisions here and there. It’s not a perfect system.
How did you get into boxing?
A lot of kids don’t follow boxing, they like hockey or basketball or whatever. I was very similar. It was actually a teacher who forced me to do a report on Muhammad Ali. [After that] I started to watch boxing, and I really fell in love with boxing. This was in late middle school. I started boxing in my first or second year of high school.
You mentioned Ali already – who are your heroes in the sport?
Definitely Muhammad Ali is up there, for his accomplishments both in the ring and out of the ring. I don’t know if we have any person in boxing [who can achieve the same things]. Manny, of course, is making a statement in politics. Hopefully he can turn things around in the Philippines and become a good role model that way. I really respect pure fighters like Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, of course Pacquiao, [Floyd] Mayweather — right now, you can’t deny his skill — and Andre Ward, who is a very, very good person and a very good boxer.
What was it like seeing Pacquiao at Wild Card, seeing one of your heroes in person?
I was shocked, honestly. I know he’s big. You don’t need to tell me Manny is big! But how big he is there was so surprising. Every day at the gym after he finishes there’s literally 100 to 200 people waiting outside for him. I’m not exaggerating. After the gym, they have his brother Bobby come in to distract people because he looks like Manny. He’s like a fake Manny.
Earlier you told me the next step for you is to go pro. Do you have a date set for that?
No, I’m trying to get good promotion here [in Canada]. Once I get that . . . You know, the training atmosphere, everything, it’s so good in L.A. and the idea of going pro there is still an option. I loved it down there. It was an amazing experience and it’s an amazing lifestyle to live. I feel like some part of me would think if I trained with those guys consistently I would get better. Just from the eight weeks I was there I feel I’ve grown tremendously, just from being around these champions. How could you not? But I think my time will come for that. All of the guys I was training with there were already pro. What they do is they go pro wherever they’re from, they gain maybe five to 15 fights, and then they go down to L.A. and try to make their name bigger there.
We have a new class starting here at Kombat Arts, Competitive Boxing with Ray Olubowale. Do you have any advice for any new students who are looking to compete?
Hard work. It’s the same advice I’ve always known, but I take from it as well. Hard work and dedication. Persistence in your craft. Things are going to get hard, and you’ve got to want it bad enough to fight through it. You can fall into a pattern where you just go through the motions, you’re just going to the classes . . . the advice I’d give is always try to get better and always think about what you’re doing. Don’t just do it. If you’re given an exercise, think about what you’re trying to benefit from it. Think about where you want to be. Have dreams . . . have dreams. Dream big . . . dream big.