Four of the top trainers in the sport, Freddie Roach, Robert Garcia, Ronnie Shields and Stephen Edwards met with media in Los Angeles to discuss their fighters’ respective showdowns this Saturday, December 10 from Galen Center at USC.
Saturday’s event is headlined by featherweight world champion Jesus Cuellar defending against former three-division world champion Abner Mares in a long-awaited showdown. The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT with junior middleweight world champion Jermall Charlo and top-rated challenger Julian Williams in a world championship battle of undefeated rising stars in their prime.
Roach (Cuellar), Garcia (Mares), Shields (Charlo) and Edwards (Williams) spoke to media at the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown about their fighters and the highly anticipated matchups taking place this weekend in Los Angeles.
Here is what the participants had to say Wednesday:
FREDDIE ROACH, Cuellar’s Trainer
How has your relationship with Cuellar developed?
“I’ve gotten to know Cuellar quite well and have spent a lot of time with him. I think he’s learned a lot and I think he’ll carry that into the fight with him. He’s prepared and he won’t go out there just trying to look for a knockout. He’s a good puncher and everybody thinks he’s looking for the KO, but I told him to just let it happen. If you force it, it will never happen.
“He’s going in there with a good opponent, an experienced fighter with a lot of good fights under his belt. He’s caught punches before and knows how to handle it. And if [Mares] moves, we’ll cut the ring off to make it smaller and set traps for him. If he tries to come forward, I want my guy to show his power either way and show him who the boss is.”
On Garcia having the upper hand by having trained Cuellar:
“I don’t really know how their relationship is and I don’t really know how long they’ve been together. I heard that during his training camps that he had gone to Florida for another trainer so I don’t know how great they’re really getting along but again, I don’t really worry about the other side so much. I know my guy is ready for a hard 12-round fight.
“He does know my fighter well and I’ve tried to improve my fighter a lot and he said he never learned anything over there, but every day he learns in my gym. I just don’t think he’s the same guy that Robert is used to seeing and I think he’s improved a lot in a lot of different areas and I think he’ll show it in the fight.”
What are you predicting for Cuellar?
“I’m predicting better angles, not so wide with the punches, not so big with them. He goes out there looking for knockouts so many times and I’ve told him to just let it happen. He needs to get behind his jab a little bit. He has a good jab but he just doesn’t throw it that much because he’s always looking for the home run. So, we’ve worked a lot on not only looking for the home run right away and going out there and breaking this guy down.”
What’s the game plan if Abner comes to box?
“I think he’s going to try to box us, yes, so we have to put pressure on him and we have to keep him close to the ropes. We have to set traps on the ropes and into the corners and we’re well prepared for that. We did prepare for [Mares] coming at us also, trying to maybe catch him early and I want Cuellar to show his power right away because I think if we can get him to box and move, he can’t win the fight by moving away.”
ROBERT GARCIA, Mares’ Trainer
“Cuellar is very strong and hits really hard. He has tremendous power. He’s very strong physically and mentally. He has that warrior mentality that just goes out there looking for the knockout.
“I don’t have the secret recipe. It’s just that I know Abner is in great shape and we’ve had a year to prepare for this fight. And I know Cuellar very well. I know how he thinks and that could be a plus. I think facing a guy I used to train can be an advantage for us.
“I know Jesus and how he is in locker room. And I can use that against him. Even though he’s with a great trainer in Freddie Roach, he has never walked out to the arena with him. I did it for five fights and for two years. But I don’t think I need those advantages.
“If Abner does everything that he needs to do, there’s no doubt he will walk out of there a world champion. But this is my first fight with him so I don’t know if during the fight he will forget all I told him, and do what he is used to doing. He’s picked up a lot of good things from me, so I think he’ll stick to the game plan.”
What has impressed you most about Abner this camp?
“For a full year training and having dates and then the dates being cancelled, postponed, changed. It’s been four dates. They were scheduled to fight in March, then June. Then we were supposed to fight in October and now December. He never showed any signs of frustration or being upset. He always thought like I think: Things happen for a reason and this just gives us more time to work together and to learn from each other. So, I think it was the best thing that happened.”
Did you always have aspirations of becoming a trainer?
“Never did. It’s funny how it happened. When I had my last fight at 26, my plans were to forget about boxing. I hated boxing. The last couple of fights I had I didn’t want to be in the ring. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But then I started to come around my Dad’s gym in Oxnard (Calif.). The thing that I loved the most was the travel -- because I traveled around the world during the amateurs and the pros. My first three fights were in Japan. But we didn’t enjoy it. I was always trying to make weight. And I never got to enjoy it. But I never thought I’d be in this position to train nine world champions.
“I will have my 10th world champion, and I’m hoping it’s this Saturday. I’m very confident about it. One day I’ll have 15 or maybe 20, but that’s one thing I hate to do is predict it. But I do feel really good we can pull this one off.”
Who is your pick for Trainer of the Year?
“Manny Robles had two world champions and has two really good fighters. And Freddie Roach had a great year with Pacquiao. So, I think they would be good picks. I believe Manny Robles deserves it.”
Have you gotten the credit you are due?
“It’s mostly politics and who you know. Will I get it again? I really don’t care. My fighters are happy and my family is happy. I get the love from you reporters and the fans. And that’s all that’s important to me and my team.”
RONNIE SHIELDS, Charlo’s Trainer
“All I hear is Charlo is scared. Jermall isn’t scared to fight anyone. Why would a guy who is champion of the world be scared of fighting [Williams]?
“Jermall and Julian ran into each other a few times as amateurs, but not as professionals. I think they both realized they would meet in the ring and that it would happen.
“I’m not really surprised this fight happened this early in their careers, because both guys are great fighters. And they are both deserving to be at the top.”
On Charlo calling Williams an “undefeated nobody”:
“That’s just Jermall [laughing]. All fighters are confident in their ability, and he just feels like he’s the better guy. And I’m glad he feels that way, because I don’t have to do anything extra to motivate him. He’s highly motivated, and ready to go.”
How do you think this fight will end?
“I don’t look at the ends, I only look at the beginnings. If you go in looking to knock the guy out in the early rounds and don’t get it, what’s going to happen in the later rounds? I think I’ve got Jermall to the point where he can go 12 rounds with anyone. He doesn’t care who it is.”
What does Julian Williams do well?
“I think Julian does a lot of things well. You have to have the simple fundamentals in boxing, which I think carries a lot of fighters a long way. You have to have a good jab, combination of punches. And Jermall has the same thing. I think it will come down to who has the biggest will to win this fight. My guy has a huge will to win this fight.”
What is underrated about Jermall that fight fans might now know?
“I think that a lot of people don’t know how smart an individual he is. Outside of the ring, and inside of the ring. He’s so different than he appears in public. He’s a really quiet guy and does not really boast a lot.
“These days you see a lot of fighters using different guys, and not just the same guys [in terms of trainers]. I think a lot of fighters are trusting different people, and not just the same guy.
“I’ve known Jermall since he was eight-years-old and I know what type of guy he is, and what his will is. I just don’t see anybody beating him. He just has such a strong will to win, and he does everything right. And that’s hard to say about the other guy.”
“This could be Jermall’s last fight at 154 pounds. But he will make weight on Friday. If there was a chance he wasn’t going to make weight, I wouldn’t let him [fight at 154 pounds] because I realize it’s too dangerous, and I’m not going to take that chance with my guys.”
STEPHEN EDWARDS, Williams’ Trainer
“We were ready for this fight, maybe a year and a half ago but unfortunately it took a bit longer than we thought to come into fruition. But he’s had a great camp. I know Jermall is a formidable fighter, he has a great coach and I’m expecting a great fight. I think it’s really, really difficult to beat an undefeated fighter that does not know how to lose.
“We have a big task in front of us but he’ll be the third undefeated guy that Julian has fought. So, he’s used to being up under that kind of stress.”
On knowing Julian’s past life on the streets:
“I knew him but I wasn’t training him at the time. Ironically, I knew Julian in 2007 and I used to work at the shelter that he was at. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances I didn’t meet him until I was having a fight party for the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton fight and we became pretty good friends and then later I started training him in 2010. When he came to the party I knew who he was from attending some of his amateur fights and when he was ready to turn pro, he asked me for some help. We have a relationship outside of boxing and then I started working with him and here we are.”
Did he open up to you about his story shortly after you knew him?
“I kind of already knew it so it wasn’t a revelation. It kind of happened organically, you know, as you get to know somebody and you’re around them, I kind of started to learn different things about him and we started talking more about it. Actually, a lot of things came up through boxing because I would ask him ‘How do you not win Nationals as good as you are?’ I thought he was the best amateur in the city. I would say: ‘How long do you run?’ and ‘What kind of diet do you do?’ and he would say ‘I just lose weight by taking laxatives.’ I thought he was killing himself and that’s when I wanted to take him on in training. I said man, if he was 77-10 as an amateur taking laxatives to lose weight, he is ruining the lining of his stomach and decreasing his energy level too. So, I said to myself ‘this kid has a big upside.’
“If I could just get him to buy into a diet, buy into doing things the right way, he could be a world champion. I think that I believed that he was going to be a world champion before he did. That’s how the stories started to unravel about his homelessness, that he didn’t have anything to eat, that he would work at McDonalds and other places and that would be his diet.
“This is a national level fighter, ranked No. 3 in the country on a McDonald’s diet. So I always just kept in the back of my mind that he had an unbelievable upside and regardless of what was going on or what people were saying, I trust my eyes more than I trust anybody else’s and that’s what I believe.”
How much do you think his past goes into the way he fights?
“I definitely think that he has a hint of anger. He’s a little introverted and I’m very similar in certain things that we don’t talk about. Getting him ready for the Hugo Centeno fight when his mom passed away, we never talked about it. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. I hugged him, I told him I would help him with the funeral arrangements because he’s a young guy and he didn’t know how to handle those things.”
What can you say about Jermall?
“He’s not better than Julian at anything. I’m not trying to concede anything. He doesn’t punch harder, he’s not faster and you all can quote me when I say he’s not better than him at nothing. And determination. If it comes down to a point of who’s really willing to lose his life in the ring, I already know who’s willing to lose his life in the ring. But he’s not better at him at anything. Nothing. Not just determination, Julian is just the more skilled fighter and he has more on the inside and he’s going to show everyone on Saturday night.”