It Isn’t Supposed to be Easy so Shogun Picked Roach’s Wild Card

It Isn’t Supposed to be Easy so Shogun Picked Roach’s Wild Card

–Kenny Rice

The top half business of the unassuming office style complex on 1123 Vine Street in Hollywood, CA. has a slogan, “It Ain’t Easy.” That sums it up after walking through the courtyard passed a few shops and a Manny Pacquiao souvenir place up the stairs into the the establishment. Nothing suggests along the way this is anything other than street tough.

The Wild Card Gym is just that; a throwback get straight to work set right out of a 1940 film noir.  A desk to sign in, pay the five bucks gym fee for the chance to train, either to get in shape or seriously get after it for an upcoming fight.  The key after signing in at the small front desk is not to interrupt or worse get smacked by someone pounding away at the five heavy bags placed just far enough from each other and right in your face off the entrance. Strategic in the location to firmly remind any tourist wannabe that nothing is remotely close to foo-foo here, it’s a real as a fighting gym will ever get. And for a real fighter that is all they want.

Virtually every big name in fighting has traversed this gauntlet over the years, from Pacquiao to Georges St. Pierre to Anderson Silva.

This is Freddie’s joint and the mountain of men in both boxing and MMA have come to the Mohammed of the ring, Hall of Fame trainer Roach.

Former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua had make the trek before as well . He came back for two weeks of intense training that concluded Friday with the plan being to return to Brazil to continue gearing up for a rematch with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira June 15 at UFC 161. Rua defeated “Little Nog” at the height of Pride days via decision in 2005. At 31 with a 2-2 mark since losing his UFC belt to Jon Jones, there can’t be too much work, too much time involved. Again just like the Wild Card slogan “It Ain’t Easy,” and there was only one man he wanted to be around to try and shore up some deficiency in his punching.

“Freddie Roach is great, in Brazil there aren’t that many quality boxing coaches and in the world there is only Freddie Roach,” Rua said after his hour workout. “I came here to work on my footwork and that is most improved. I am learning to shuffle my feet more to get in position to throw a punch with my most power. It has been a great two weeks, something to build on as I move ahead.”

Roach and Rua had moved back and forth, side to side with occasional pops from Rua’s glove to Roach’s mitts for much of the session. A tango of sorts mixed with strikes, but mostly movement and angles, heads bobs, feet plants and shifts in weight from the right back leg forward to bring sizzle on the blows with enough crack to the mitt that would bring a nod of respect from the master Roach.

As reflected in his gym, Roach is no nonsense when it comes to fighting. He was the first boxing guy to acknowledge MMA was a sport worthy of his time and effort for those who wanted to learn that being a good striker was not the same as throwing a good punch. And he pulls none is assessing anyone he works with, which brings both a grin and a wince at times from Shogun.

“He came in here and was hitting like a girl, now he hits like a boy,” Roach says with a wicked smile. “Mauricio has power, he is strong. What we are trying to work on here is getting the most out of the power, that every punch has a point to it. It’s always about weight and balance and timing, boxing or MMA. If you can’t get all your power into your punches you really have no power after all.”

Leonardo Salomao, Rua’s new manager, marveled at the improvement in Shogun over the last two weeks. “We wanted him to get sharper and focused and coming here to work with a legend like Freddie again was the answer. His mobility is so much better, efficient , and I have seen his confidence grow each day.”

“it’s everything I wanted it to be,” Rua concurred, “This was exactly what I had to get out of this part of the training now to go home and prepare for a tough opponent. I learned, I always do with Freddie.”

With that he wiped the sweat away from his face and took a moment to soak in the ambiance of Wild Card, the thousands of pictures and posters taped, stapled and framed chronicling fighting history. He pointed to the posters of Roach’s fights when he was a staple for TV boxing : vs. Bobby Chacon, vs. Reynaldo Zaragosa, vs. Carlos Bryant.

“He was tough, everybody says. He is still tough, I know,” Rua laughed hard.

It was time to depart. I wasn’t an easy two week. He didn’t want it to be and this was the one place he knew it wouldn’t.

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