“I felt happy and of course, I proved to myself that I can still box.”
Did he feel any apprehension in that fight?
“No, I didn’t feel nervous.”
Hey, Manny; slow down. We’re having transcribing your soliloquies. But seriously, this amiable gentleman from General Santos City is about as expansive in his answers to media inquiries as Marshawn Lynch. Whether it’s cultural or not, for Pacquiao, less is more regarding his interactions with the media. But as you see him work out under the guidance of trainer Freddie Roach, you witness a craftsman who still takes great pride in his work with enough energy to light up a metropolis. While he may not want to talk about what’s at stake, those who work with Pacquiao on a daily basis aren’t so shy in expressing their admiration for his work ethic and dedication to this game.
When you ask Roach if his charge still has the same passion for the sport, he says without hesitating,’ “Yeah, he definitely does and that’s why he still does it. He knows he can do other stuff if he wanted. This is what he does best and that’s why he works so hard. If he didn’t like the sport, there’s no way he could go through with what he does every day.” As for the progress he’s seen from the very beginning of the Rios camp to now, the trainer states, “I think we’re all the way there. He’s training really good; he’s sparring well and when he wants to turn it up, he can. He’s not the most efficient guy in the gym - because he only gives you like 50 percent [sparring] - he saves the good stuff for the fight. He’s right where I want him. He’s in great shape.”
Photo © K9 Photos, MaxBoxing
For this camp, Roach decided to shuffle the deck and employ the likes of Steve Forbes, Lydell Rhodes and Julian Rodriguez to move around with, believing that Pacquiao had gotten much too cozy and friendly with the likes of David Rodela and Ray Beltran. These guys became too familiar for Pacquiao and the sparring sessions lacked the requisite intensity that satisfied Roach. As you see him work with this trio, Pacquiao seems more willing to move his hands than in prior years.
“Manny’s been pretty sharp and I know that a couple of weeks ago, he was a little sick and he was getting the rounds in and now he’s been cleared up and like the other day, we sparred and I had to laugh because he was doing some Pernell Whitaker- type moves,” said Forbes with a chuckle while on the steps of the Wild Card before his day’s work with Pacquiao. “His speed is there; his power’s there and he was having fun. I mean, it looked like he’s really having fun in there.” Forbes has been impressed by the enthusiasm Pacquiao comes with everyday. “He’s looking like the lively, fun guy I used to watch all the time.”
And does that surprise him?
“It didn’t but then again, it did,” said Forbes, “because he has so many commitments with the political stuff he does, family and being a singer and all that stuff. So many obligations but when he came here to camp, he came to be a fighter and that’s what he’s looking like.”
This mood has been fun and light in this camp, much of that has to do with the reemergence of Justin Fortune, who, after several years of estrangement from Roach, has seamlessly worked his way back as Pacquiao’s strength-and-conditioning coach. And according to Fortune, it’s not an old Pacquiao but the same ol’ Pacquiao he has reunited with.
“Yeah, absolutely; since the last time I worked with Manny, he’s still fast. It’s just a matter of training him back to where he was. So he has good muscle memory, so it comes back. The first week or so there was hard; he was sore and stuff but it’s definitely come back. And his aggression, his passion is still there,” said Fortune last week. “He’s happy; he’s punching well; he’s training hard. The knockout will come, even if he doesn’t look for it - it will come.”
It will take a very good version of Pacquiao to defeat the crafty Bradley, who has become one of the most accomplished fighters in the sport. But of course, the consensus is he’s already done that. The overwhelming majority of observers believe that Pacquiao, not Bradley, should’ve had his hands raised in victory back in June of 2012.
“After the bell for the 12th round, I thought I won the fight,” admitted Pacquiao as he continued to wrap his hands.” Did he think he won easily?
As the scorecards were being read that night, it was hard to imagine what was about to occur.
“When I heard the announcement of the second judge, I said, ‘Oh, what’s happening?’” recalled Pacquiao. And as the final card was announced for Bradley, a stunned worldwide audience shrieked. Many were outraged. As for the aggrieved party? “I was just smiling. This is boxing.”
Surely he had to be pissed off; right?
“I’m just surprised. I’m not angry,” said the man who seems to have the patience and understanding of Job.
Make no doubt about this; while he dipped his toe back in against the carefully hand-picked Rios, he’s in much deeper versus the “Desert Storm.” In many ways, this is a referendum not just on Pacquiao’s future but his present. When you ask him how much longer he plans on being in this racket, he says, “A couple more years, I’m only 35 now, so I can still fight.”
Does Pacquiao still consider himself among the pugilistic elite? His answer is characteristically short and sweet: “Yes, I believe that and the people will get that.”
The term “killer instinct” has served as the buzzwords for this promotion. But given how Pacquiao’s overexuberance led to getting knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth contest, how does Roach reconcile that result with his own belief that his fighter is better off pressing the gas pedal and never letting up?
“I just remind him that the thing is, ‘You tell me that you want to give the fans what they want and what they want is knockouts,’ He actually agreed with me on that because we had a little discussion about what the fans really want,” said Roach. “So I said to him, ‘Manny, people love it when you’re knocking people out and that’s what made you the star you are and when you hurt these people, you can’t give them the opportunity to go more rounds because they might get lucky and knock you out like Marquez. Knock Marquez out a round earlier, there would be no questions.’
“So the thing is, you can’t just keep letting these guys off the hook.”
Perhaps it’s not saying much but this past Friday night’s card on the NBC Sports Network from Philadelphia was the year’s best televised card thus far. Middleweight contender Curtis Stevens had to rally late to score a controversial stoppage over the talented Tureano Johnson in the 10th and final round. Then Steve Cunningham had to get off the canvas twice in the fifth round to decision the raw-but-hard-punching Amir Mansour over 10 frames.
It was exciting, controversial and, most of all, entertaining. All in all, an enjoyable night.
Stevens needed a KO to win this fight and that’s exactly what he got with less than a minute to go after shaking Johnson with a left hook. Now this stoppage wasn’t without controversy as it seemed that referee Gary Rosato stepped in prematurely. Just my opinion, Johnson had more than earned the right to see if he could weather the storm for another split-second or two and while some will reference the tragic events between Magomed Abdusalamov and Mike Perez, that fight was one in which Magomed had taken a sustained beating. Here, Johnson had controlled much of the action. Not every (non)stoppage is the same - nor should they be.
As for “USS” Cunningham, you can question his size or his punch resistance but you can never question his heart or constitution. At just 206 pounds, he’ll always be an undersized heavyweight (at least for this modern era) but while you can hurt him, you can’t necessarily sink this battleship. Like the Liberty Bell, Cunningham cracked but he never broke - and he captured the USBA heavyweight title in the process.
There were no real losers on this night. It was the rare show in which you came away wanting to see all four participants again - and soon - on television. With a budget that is a fraction of a fraction of what the premium cable networks spend on their shows, Main Events and NBC Sports Network simply staged a great show. It’s another example of that it’s never enough to spend big on marquee names; match-ups and matchmaking are absolutely just as vital.
A bout between middleweights Matthew Macklin and Daniel Geale will accompany the heavyweight bout between Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez on May 24th on HBO...PR Best Boxing Promotions announced over the weekend that Rocky Martinez is ill and has been pulled from his fight against Ray Beltran on the Pacquiao-Bradley undercard. Martinez has been replaced by Arash Usmanee...Vic Darchinyan will face WBA featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters on May 31st in Macao, China...How bout dem “Cardiac Cats” of John Calipari?...“Game of Thrones” is back. All is good in the world…
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