Boxing coach Freddie Roach spars with sport's impact on health

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- On the second floor of a modest strip mall in Hollywood, sits Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym. At $5 a day, it draws sweat-drenched boxers. There's a reason they all come here.

Roach is perhaps the best in the game, a six-time Trainer of the Year, who's worked with champions like Mike Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya and, for more than 10 years, popular welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao.

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Freddie Roach
CBS News
But it's Roach's battles, in and out of the ring, that deliver the most compelling storyline.

A notorious brawler from a dead-end Boston neighborhood, Roach admits he overstayed his welcome inside the ropes.

"And two years after I retire, I end up getting Parkinson's," he says, acknowledging that the sport he loves may have triggered the disease.

Roach's diagnosis, trauma-induced Parkinson's, has left the 54-year-old with mild hand tremors and slurring speech, but so far, he's avoided more serious symptoms.

He takes medication and Botox injections to control spasms, but doctors also credit Roach's rigorous workout routine, heavy on hand-eye coordination drills.

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Freddie Roach has worked with champions like Mike Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya and Manny Pacquiao.
CBS News
"When I get in the ring, I have no symptoms whatsoever," he says.

Still, in the methodical mayhem that is boxing, an unavoidable question shadows Roach: Does he have any concerns that the young boxers he's training might one day suffer his fate?

"Yes, I do, and that's why I watch them closely," he says. "I know my fighters well. That's like the hardest thing in the world for me -- it's very difficult to tell a fighter that it's over."

Roach realizes that the sport that gave him so much fame and fortune may ultimately take his life.

"It is the biggest fight of my life, for sure, and I'm winning," he says. "I think I'm ahead on the scorecards."

The walls of the Wild Card Gym are plastered with posters of the sport's greatest fighters. Look hard enough and you might spot one of its greatest battlers.


  • Bill Whitaker

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