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The Promised Man, Part II: Can Roach Lead Marroquin to a Title?

The Promised Man, Part II: Can Roach Lead Marroquin to a Title?


Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series examining Roberto Marroquin's decision to train with Freddie Roach. The first is available here. Marroquin fights Saturday, Aug. 7 on a Top Rank Live! card.

Top prospect Roberto Marroquin left his native Dallas for the famous, Hollywood-based Wild Card Gym harboring no illusions. The 20-year-old knows as well as anyone that while he's good, he's not that good--yet.

Enter Wild Card honcho and fistic swami Freddie Roach. The former boxer has trained multiple champions, most famously pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao. And, like matchmaker Bruce Trampler--who introduced the Hall of Fame cornerman to the up-and-comer from Texas--Roach sees in Marroquin something special.

During a phone chat, Roach ticks off the strongest aspects of Marroquin's game, such as the prospect's defense and assured grasp of the fundamentals of the sport. Also: "He's very poised for a young guy. Not like a lot of fighters, not too many mistakes," says Roach.

By his own admission, Marroquin's poise was tested when he first stepped foot in the Wild Card. It's hallowed ground--a place that inspires shock and awe in boxing's tight-knit kingdom. This is especially true for a young prince like Marroquin whose ascension to the throne has only just begun.

Says Trampler: "I've talked to Freddie a few times about him, and we talked about the adjustment from Texas. Robert was a big fish in a small pond. Now he's a small fish in a big pond."

Although he was initially intimidated, Marroquin says the move was precisely what he needed. "Down in Dallas, you go up to the gym and it's basically--it's just you're the man, you know. Everybody looks up to you. But whenever I'm here at the Wild Card Gym--it's like no one's looking up to you. Everybody's trying to beat you. Everybody wants to hurt you, to knock you down.

"I don't like to get hit," he continues, laughing. "But it's just what I needed to improve my skills. It's great."

Showing up may be the most important part of life, as Woody Allen famously suggested, but in boxing being present only accounts for a small percentage of what's required to be successful. To that end, Roach says that while Marroquin has "a good start," his technical skills need to be sharpened.

"The biggest thing is not moving in and out in a straight line," Roach says, noting that Marroquin needs to give more angles. "He's getting better at it all the time, but he's still not 100 percent comfortable with it. It's not automatic yet."

Roach is also eager to exploit two key advantages Marroquin has over others in the 122-pound range: his height and reach. At 5'8" and with a 70-inch reach, he has the ability to damage opponents from a distance--i.e., without getting touched up himself. Hence Roach's focus on perfecting Marroquin's jab.

Says Marroquin: "That's the major thing that we're actually trying to master. The most important thing is to keep the guys out of reach."

During his sparring sessions, Roach has Marroquin working with "one of my Ukraine boys" and "one of my Mexican fighters," both of whom are either as good or better than Marroquin. "So it's very competitive," says Roach. "Because the only way he's going to improve is if he's with those type of guys."

Both Roach and Trampler say it'll take two to three more years for Marroquin to move up the chain to contender status and a title shot. ("You don't want to rush him," says Roach.) It's a trajectory Marroquin is comfortable with. After all, Marroquin has another goal besides a championship belt: He wants to finish college.

Before summer break and his move, albeit temporary, to Hollywood, Marroquin was attending Northwood University, which is about 20 minutes outside of Dallas. Once fall semester starts, Marroquin hopes to enroll as a part-time student. Needless to say, it won't be easy. He'll not only be shuffling back and forth between Texas and California to train, but also traveling to bouts.

"Right now, boxing is the way I pay my tuition. So, if I don't look good in boxing, there's no college," Marroquin says, adding that he's about two years away from a degree in accounting. "I need to sit down and think how everything's gonna go. We're gonna take it one step at a time."

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