By Rudy Mondragon
I just spent a couple of days in Los Angeles and I could not leave without paying a visit to the world famous Wild Card Boxing Gym. Located off Santa Monica Blvd and Lillian Way in Los Angeles is a second floor space where champions are made and champions train.
After a good 15 minute search for street parking, I finally made my way down Santa Monica Blvd towards Wild Card. I walked through the gate and to my left was Freddie’s signature Mercedes that has been made famous in many HBO 24/7 episodes.
Filled with excitement and hope that Freddie Roach would be present at the gym, I decided to walk the outside of the gym first. This way my excitement and hype would settle down before possibly meeting the world famous trainer. I walked past the famous stairs that Manny Pacquiao has walked up and down during his many training camps as documented by many news sources.
I walked to the front of the property and saw boxers and trainers talking boxing outside. The “1123” building sign that read “Wild Card Boxing Club” right next to the “Grupo Akron AA” sign. Approaching me was a man who looked like he was on his way to train at Wild Card. I struck a short conversation with him and it turns out I was talking to Super Featherweight boxer, Roger ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez. He let me know that I could walk up to the gym and simply check out the scene.
At this point I was chill and ready to walk into the gym. After many years of learning about the gym via HBO 24/7 episodes and other boxing reporters, I was finally there. I wanted to be respectful of the gym, so I asked the first person I saw about the gym rules. It was none other than Rob Peters. He quickly let me know that no pictures were allowed in the gym. I said I was okay with that and sat down in a near by bench to watch guys train. As I walked to the bench I noticed Michael Farenas had just finished his training for the day and was leaving the gym. I sat down on the bench and looked up to see who was chillin in the front desk. Surrounded by other boxing fans was Freddie Roach himself. He appeared to be very calm and relaxed. Signs of parkinson were absent. A man walked in selling strawberries and Freddie purchased 2 boxes full of fresh berries for those hanging out with him.
I wasn’t sure how to approach Freddie for a picture and short conversation. I decided to buy a Wild Card T-Shirt and go from there. Without hesitation, I asked Freddie if he could sign my shirt and take a picture with me. He happily agreed. As we posed side by side in the hot gym, I wiped the sweat bubbles off my forehead. The man who volunteered to take a picture of us jokingly said, “do you need to comb your hair first before you take a picture with my dad?” Freddie and I laughed together. He thanked me for visiting his gym. We shook hands and I wished him the best with his new trainee, Miguel Cotto.
Freddie is a loved man in that space. As he signed my t-shirt, fans came up to me and asked me if I knew how important that signature was? Respectfully, I let them know that I knew what I was getting. After all, this is the man who once trained (Head and Assistant) the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Chavez Jr., Rigondeaux, B-Hop, Khan, Wladimir Klitschko, Shaq, GSP, Anderson Silva, and many others. Although those were fans were directly talking to me, what they were really doing was indirectly paying their respects to Freddie. That says a lot about the hard work Freddie has put into his career.
In my opinion, it was a quiet day at the gym. Freddie’s top fighters don’t have fights until the fall of 2013. What I experienced at the gym on that day was the opposite of what the place would be like say, 2 weeks prior to a Manny Pacquiao or Miguel Cotto fight. An important question to lookout for is how will Freddie train Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto as their training schedules overlap? Miguel fights in October and Pacquiao fights in November. One fights in Florida while the other fights in China. It will be a balancing act that I am sure Freddie will handle with nothing less than professionalism.
Stay Tuned for my write up on my visit to the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy!