HBO has greenlit On Freddie Roach, a six-episode unscripted series that will follow the famous boxing trainer who leads some of the world's best fighters while also battling Parkinson's Disease. Filmmaker Peter Berg will direct and executive produce the series, which will be presented in a cinema-verite format and HBO hopes to debut in the first quarter of 2012.
Also on board as executive producers are veteran sportscaster and lead HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley, as well as Sarah Aubrey and Michael Price. The HBO series is a co-production of Film 44 and Atticus Entertainment. While the plan is for the show to use very limited narration, Lampley is on board to provide the voice-overs.
The series will follow Roach as he balances a huge load, from training top fighters including the world's best pugilist Manny Pacquiao to owning and operating the famous Wildcard Boxing Club in Hollywood. Roach has also recently signed a new deal to assist with the training of the U.S. Olympic boxing team.
Roach is considered by most to be the top trainer in the sport, and does so despite battling Parkinson's, which may or may not be tied to his own past as a boxer. The 51-year-old lives next door to his mother, not far from his Wild Card gym.
"Boxing is around him and in his life, but the throughline of this project is Freddie versus Parkinson's," Lampley said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Freddie's life is ideal for this because it's so full constantly with him doing so many things, and his constant effort to put lot of marks on the board before his curtains close, that is a lot of the drama of the show, his own personal war against his syndrome, and his ongoing drive to keep his life going in an active way."
The idea was formed through ICM agent Nick Khan, who reps both Lampley and Roach. Lampley says Roach had been approached before from other parties for reality shows, but "this time it clicked."
The project was originally taken to AMC, Lampley says, but when the sides didn't seem to be on the same page from a creative standpoint, it was taken to HBO, which Lampley calls "a natural and ideal home" for the series given the network's long-time history with both elite boxing and award-winning unscripted sports programming.
"We are truly excited about this innovative new reality series that will allow HBO to partner with Peter Berg," said HBO programming president Michael Lombardo in a statement. "Freddie Roach is an extraordinary person and many of our subscribers are familiar with his superior work in training some of the world's premier fighters. This will be a fascinating and unique series."
"HBO's enthusiasm in supporting a less conventional, verité style of storytelling is why they continue to create original and truly innovative programming," said Peter Berg in a statement. "It's why they are the best and we are very excited to be working with them."