The moment he saw Eumir Marcial walk through the door of Wild Card Boxing Club, the image of Manny Pacquiao entering it nearly 20 years ago flashed on Freddie Roach's mind.
He remembered the scrawny brown fighter looking for someone to do mitts with him. Roach did, not knowing they'll become one of sports' fabled partnerships.
Pacquiao, the eight-division world champion and sitting Philippine senator, and Roach, a seven-time Trainer of the Year, are still together, both their ring legacy secured.
Truth is, Marcial was sent over by Pacquiao for polishing before making his pro debut and chasing his 2021 Tokyo Olympics dream.
No wonder, Roach welcomed the 24-year-old Marcial, accompanied by MP (Manny Pacquiao) Promotions president Sean Gibbons, with fatherly warmth at the second floor of his Hollywood sweatshop.
"Eumir and I had a great time," Roach told boxingscene.com. "I told him the story of how Manny and I met and showed him the original ring where we trained for so many fights, the dressing room Manny used in the original portion of the gym, and had a nice talk about what we expected from each other.
"There is one difference between my first look at Manny and Eumir. Manny was fighting at 122 pounds while Eumir will be starting at 160. That's quite a difference!"
Of course, Pacquiao's skill level, who was scrambling to prepare for his bout with South African Lehlo Ledwaba for the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight title then, and that of Marcial, a silver medalist in the 2019 World Boxing Championship and three-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, were different too.
Roach found this out when they retreated to the private ring downstairs, where Pacquiao and other big guns normally train, for a short workout.
"We did 4 rounds of mitts followed by work on the heavy bag and the speed bag," said Roach. "Eumir has a lot of power and talent but we have a lot of work to do. It's a very unusual situation working on a fighter's professional debut knowing that we will be preparing for the Olympics after he turns professional.
“I really hope we can be the first to bring a world title and Olympic gold to the Philippines. That would be very special."
For Marcial, being at Pacquiao's old haunt and training under Roach is a dream come true.
"I felt like I was walking in Manny's footsteps when Freddie was giving me the tour of the original part of Wild Card and telling me stories about training with Manny," Marcial told boxingscene.com.
"To see the Philippines flag so prominently displayed made me very proud. And working out with Freddie was a great learning experience. I cannot wait to return for our next session."
It's going to be a daily grind as Gibbons searches for a suitable opponent, but Marcial hardly cares.
He has a role model in Pacquiao and a master teacher in Roach to follow. – Rappler.com