The Fighting Roach Family, and NoXcuses Boxing Gym
Boxing is often a family affair, but on the other side, it is a place where you have to find accountability. That accountability is often referred to as no excuses, which is the same name as one of the country’s most emerging gyms in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas aptly nicknamed the “DMV. As you might have expected with that nickname for a region, those from there, are used to waiting – waiting for their moment to shine.
Meet Lamont Roach Sr., the head honcho of the famed gym out of Capital Heights, Maryland entitled NoXcuse Boxing Gym. The passion project, now heading strongly towards a two-decade effort between Lamont and his cousin Bernard Roach.
Bernard Roach, better known by his nickname Boogaloo, was a decorated amateur boxer, with a win over Vernon Forrest, as well competed at the 1988 Olympic Trials, and opted not to be a pro boxer, but rather a firefighter. Roach took a liking to help the youth and training at a certain point in his life, thus the origin of the gym.
First, he was at a local gym called “Fight To Fit”, but at a certain point, he wanted something that was his own, that is when Lamont was brought along to help. This period of time might be romanticized if it were a movie, but it was a rough time period of sacrifice. The gym was a revolving door of the different garages, firehouses, and backyards. Every thousand-step journey starts with one step, but for the Roach family, it must have felt like an endless marathon just to take the first step.
In 2006, they finally opened a gym, finally pursuing the ultimate goal in America, ownership of a business. It was in a warehouse that conversely had a boxing ring already in it. It was like it was destined. At the time a fighter named Jermaine looked to be the first fighter to emerge from the gym, with Lamont Roach Sr.’s son, Lamont Roach Jr., tagging along to the gym, as Roach Jr. was more fond of football. Roach Jr. didn’t like it at first, but the more he did, the more he took a liking to it. Winning probably helped with that as well, as Lamont Roach Jr. became the face of the gym.
D’Mitrius Ballard, who was training out of the gym at the time got signed with Golden Boy Promotions, as did former Joe Smith Jr. opponent Steve Geffard was also signed at that time, just not out of that gym. Two years later, Roach Jr. would follow suit, after an impressive amateur career signing with Golden Boy Promotions, as the dream looked to be turning into a reality.
For those new to the sport, you might not understand the change in the sport in 2014. Lamont Roach Jr. had signed with the industry-leader Golden Boy Promotions, who were putting on major fights with Danny Garcia, co-promoting Floyd Mayweather Jr., Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner, Deontay Wilder, and most of the faces that went on to be known as the faces of Premier Boxing Champions. Golden Boy Promotions had landed a landmark deal with the upstart FS1, a sports property that was via for the same spot held by ESPN2 and looking to cut into ESPN’s ratings as well. Luis Collazo would knock out Victor Ortiz on one of the first major broadcasts during this time. Not to mention deep fight cards on Showtime that saw four and even at times five entertaining bouts on one card.
Lamont Roach Jr. was the next wave of this era, being touted by Paulie Malignaggi, as showing poise and patience beyond his years in his 2015 fight against Herbert Quartey. Yet, most of Golden Boy Promotions’ roster was depleted as many of the fighters left for the upstart Premier Boxing Champions leaving Golden Boy Promotions going from an industry leader to an upstart, overnight. Roach Jr. was now an east coast fighter, fighting on the west coast mostly in 2016 and 2017, so the young fighter was mostly in Las Vegas and the great Los Angeles, California area.
It was as if everything went from lovely to complex, confusing, and uncertain overnight. The dream he had created now changed, and things were just getting worse.
Then tragedy struck. In 2017, Bernard Roach unexpectedly passed away at 52-years-old. The feeling was deflating. The foundation, the rock that held up the foundation was no longer there to finish what they had dreamed of starting building a world champion from the ground up. Lamont Roach Sr., the cousin of Bernard Roach, with no hesitation, continued the program. Some media picked up the story, but not unlike the tragic passing of Stacey Snyder, often the behind-the-scenes people don’t get the love they should.
Meanwhile, Roach Jr. who was listed as a top-25 fighter under 25-year-old, was not getting the accolades or acknowledgment that his record or skillset deserved. Roach Jr. existed on streaming platforms when that wasn’t a big deal, or even prelims wherever he could fit in.
It was a grind as Roach Jr defeated good fighters such as Jonathan Oquendo, Alberto Mercado, and fought to a hotly debated draw with Orlando Cruz’s native Puerto Rico. Roach Jr., was built tough, as he gradually showed he was a world-class fighter so that he could remain one at the highest level. His father and Robert Diaz did a masterful job, in building him the old-fashioned way, against credible competition – but it was a different kind of era.
Roach Jr would unsuccessful face world champion, Jamel Herring at the apex mountain of Herring’s stardom, confidence, and ability. Though the 11th round went Roach’s way, the fight didn’t. It still haunts the family, a bit, but not enough to make them stop.
Since the loss, Roach Jr. has had four wins, and is holding out hope for the WBA 130 lbs title held by both Roger Gutierrez as he will face Hector Luis Garcia in the coming month. Albeit, sadly it seems like his lone shot for the belt is if Gutierrez wins, as if Garcia wins big-name fighters like Gary Russell Jr., and Leo Santa Cruz in that division, a blue-collar guy like Roach Jr., has to force the hands of the promotional bodies because he has earned his shot, but might not earn as many viewers as those names stated before.
That bout should see the winner face Roach Jr., who looks to have his hard road culminate in his first world championship for the gym, and his uncle boogaloo’s legacy, but in boxing, nothing is promised, but heartache, and frustration.
If he gets that bout, I feel he’d more than likely be the betting favorite against either fighter, despite being the challenger, yet the bigger question is IF he gets the fight than the result of the fight.
Roach’s journey has been a true blue-collar one, with everything being earned nothing given, and seemingly the hard road he took has now forged him as a top-10 perennial fighter in his weight class.
Roach Jr. is now the figurehead of No
The younger brother of Lamont Roach Jr. is one of a slew of amazing flyweights emerging across the nation as the other standouts are Ryan Williams and one of my favorite fighters in the country, Steven Navarro. Roach Jr., a power puncher, is bullying opponents in the ring, and endearing himself to anyone who gets to know him with a stoic sense of humor.
Roach is a pressure fighter, with sound logic, who is bullying guys at the lower weights in order to get the result he wants. His wins and even losses at the USA Boxing nationals are secondary to how fun his fights are. Roach is one of the most exciting young fighters the sport of boxing has seen in some time.
Add to the fact, if Jordan Roach doesn’t know you, you will be hard pressed to hear more than five words, if he likes you will hear about all the fighters he can beat once he is capable of going 12-rounds. With the emergence of the lower weight classes spawned by Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, and now with a fighter of the year contender Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, Jordan Roach could be the next great American flyweight, as he has made it clear he wants to be the next great American lower weight fighter. Roach is doing the big thing that most fighters talking about envisioning wins, and envisioning greatness, thus now all he has to do – is just be great.
Jordan Roach nicknamed “Iceman” not unlike Val Kilmer in Top Gun, his demeanor can be the same as an ice cube. Stoic void of emotion, and ready to get to business. This was best seen at the last national tournament in which he defeated every opponent while battling an illness, though he is quick to tell you it wasn’t COVID-19, and he was tested to make sure he didn’t have it by the way.
Jordan is one of those special young men, who when you meet and if you get to know him, you see the purity in his soul. He is simply a good person, but a mean one in the ring. My expectation for Jordan is no different than someone like “Tiger” Johnson – greatness. That being said, we can’t anoint anyone, these labels have to be given at the next level – the pro level, as no one watches the amateur unless you’re invested in some capacity.
While Boogaloo started the foundation, Lamont Roach Jr., built the pro recognition, and Jordan could be the one who really crashes down some doors, as a professional amongst the gym’s roster.
Jordan beyond that has the it-factor of a man much bigger than himself. Name a fighter and he will give the timeline of when he will beat him.
“The Iceman” is the future of the lower weights, along with the other great American fighters I mentioned.
The secret weapon of the gym is a fighter widely considered one of the best in the country, Benjamin Johnson. A fighter, who had one of his best performances by his team standards at this summer’s nationals, and that performance still netted him a national title.
Johnson is so good that his brackets are thinning once he enters the tournament. Johnson also has a habit of stopping his opponent at national tournaments, something that is rare and hints at a potential all-time great type ability. Johnson though unknown to the world, is known to those who are living in the tournament-to-tournament schedule of the USA Boxing circuit, as he has become one of the fighters making a name for himself on performance only.
Johnson, who is trained by Lamont Roach Sr. and his father, is a fighter with not just world title aspirations, but someone who could possibly be a figurehead of a company in the future. The goals and expectations are high and lofty, but Johnson so far has met each and every one.
His teammate Jordan Roach refers to Benjamin Johnson, as “…the best amateur boxer in the world”. Lofty praise from another fellow fighter.
Boxing is an incredibly brutal sport, as we set people up for failure, only to do it again and expect a different result. The hope is for Johnson to be a world champion, as his conditioning, power, and ability are seemingly top-tier, but time and time again, boxing has a way of breaking people’s hearts. Johnson looks to be the truth, but time reveals itself, as what makes NoXcuses so exciting is the trio of Lamont Roach Jr., a world title caliber fighter, Jordan Roach, an exciting fighter, and Benjamin Johnson, a potential star, who is fighting a popular lightweight weight class, all being professional in the same era.
The foundation is set for Lamont Roach Sr.’s gym to make a run as one of the marquee gyms in the nation. They have done all the hard work, invested in the amateurs, sparred the top guys, and gained over 30-years of experience, now comes the hard part. Does it work out? Who knows….
The Unsung Hero
During this time Lamont Sr had an assistant coach David Jacob III, the son of David Jacob who trained Sugar Ray Leonard. Jacob is boxing royalty, and has added valuable experience to the gym to add to the tenure of the institution.
Jacob would step up his role and assist him with the program at some point in 2014, I don’t know how the exact timelines, but when he did – it was welcomed with open arms. If you have ever been to a boxing gym, to see a new coach embraced somewhere, well, that doesn’t happen all that much.
David, better known as by his alias, Coach Clean, has been at the gym since 2014, as his role has evolved over time.
The Legacy of Boogaloo
Often we hear so much about living life without regret, but the sad truth is – life is filled with regrets, it is just how we frame those regrets. We can use the word “lived experience”, and that changes remorse and pity into wisdom. Just yesterday, someone I wish I knew better, told me they had cancer, I wish I hadn’t have been a failure to them young in life, but that regret shape me now to being kinder to people in the present. Past mistakes shape future misdeeds.
The comfort, discipline and institution laid down by coach Boogaloo, who never got to see the success in its entirety of the gym, nor seeing, Lamont Jr., win his first world title in his lifetime. Never seeing Jordan Roach, who was a child, and not seeing him develop into a fearsome Olympic hopeful, and Benjamin Johnson, the power puncher who could double for a model, wasn’t even mentioned in the same breathe he is now. These are all things Boogaloo never saw to fruition, but his influence helped develop, and instill.
Boxing is exhausting. Once you go through this journey, you appriciate how hard it is to win a world title, no matter how you do it, even if it is through brown-nosing and being a yes-man. Once you accomplish it though, it is hard to not look around and see all the people who are no longer there. Bernard Roach built something that was bigger than a mortal man, he built an insitution in the east coast for young men and women to develop into well-adjusted adults via the tough sport of boxing. Some of the alumni of the gym are Sean Davis, who plays in the NFL for the Pittsburg Steelers, but the ones Lamont Roach Sr., most smiles about are the ones who become enginerers, and have full-on professional careers that NoXcuses served as a place to model their life after early on.
What Boogaloo did wasn’t just create a world-class boxing gym, he provided structure and accountability not just from his teachings, but his actions. His life-long job of being a firefighter, made having a career normal to many young people who found that to not be the case. Boogaloo built something, and Lamont Roach Sr., is continuing it. They built a boxing family, that serves secondarily as a boxing gym.
Not unlike the “…if you build it, they will come,” saying in Field of Dreams, a great movie with Kevin Costner, Roach Jr. is a goodwill ambassador for doing things the right way and helping save kids who might go the wrong way. Channeling Boogaloo no longer being on this plane of existance, Boogaloo exists as a spirtual motivation driving forward for the gym, as it no longer is a slew of coaches it is Lamont Roach Sr., and Benjamin Johnson’s father observing the fighters and Boogaloo in spirit becoming a folk-legend, an omni-present feeling of perfection, and happiness for every young fighter who experienced him. In their minds, any perfect training day, any moment of happiness in the gym, that reminds them right or wrong of coach Boogaloo, as that is what his spirit left behind.
Watch as NoXcuses emerges over the next few years, as they become an overnight success story that only took 20-years to get there.