As a steady rain cascaded on the Pedro Acharon Sports Complex before dawn this past Wednesday morning, eight-division world champion and Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao could be seen dueling dog ‘Pac-Man’ for track supremacy. Setting a blistering pace, the feisty Jack Russell Terrier seemed to understand that this too may be his last training camp and went all out- much to the delight of his celebrated owner.
Only a small group of reporters and onlookers were on hand to follow Pacquiao, believing he had canceled his scheduled run due to the rain. But run on he did, with grim determination to finish this trilogy in style. “If I get the chance (to knock him out), why not? I want to win convincingly,” Pacquiao said when asked by reporters if he expects a knockout.
Pacquiao did actually win convincingly the last time these two met in April 2014 via wide unanimous decision; and if you ask most observers, he prevailed by a clear margin in their controversial first meeting in June 2012. Bradley was awarded with a 12 round split decision that infuriated Top Rank boss Bob Arum and an entire legion of fight fans. But Bradley’s 9th round TKO of Brandon Rios, coupled with no one else in the division to face due to a ridiculous rift between Arum and the monopolistic Al Haymon, has lead us to Bradley again for the WBO welterweight world championship at the MGM Grand casino on April 9 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
But despite being armed with 24 rounds of data against Bradley, Team Pacquiao is devoting a nine week camp to this bout, with the feeling that they are preparing for a ‘new’ Timothy Bradley. “Well you never know what he brings this time, and he has a good new trainer with Teddy Atlas,” offered Freddie Roach to this writer at the Pac/Bradley III presser in NYC.
“But there’s only so much he can do before he goes back to what he is. Bradley is really an old 32 and people are making too big a deal out of the Rios fight, but that f*cking guy wasn’t ready to fight at all. Maybe it’ll make Bradley believe he can stop Manny. We’ll see.”
To recapture and get a jump start on his rhythm, Pacquiao has been playing a lot of basketball for his professional team. Pac got his Steph Curry on during a Tuesday shooting clinic– dropping 45 points from an array of three’s with the ugliest jumpshot known to mankind. He did it again on Wednesday night, only to rise before dawn and repeat an extended track exhibition with ‘Pac-Man’ before pounding the mitts at his version of the Wild Card Gym.
Pacquiao’s intensified physical conditioning is being supervised by assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez and his younger brother Haplas Fernandez.
Chief trainer Roach, who is working with Jean Pascal ahead of his clash this weekend with Sergey Kovalev, is slated to arrive in the country on Feb. 2 to take over from the Fernandezes and hone the gameplan. Roach has already tabbed the speedy Chinese super lightweight star IK Yang as one of Pac’s initial sparring partners to prepare for the hard-headed and iron-willed Bradley.
Roach informed me that he is anxious to see how Pacquiao’s surgically repaired right shoulder responds to boxing training. since his physical activity has been restricted to basketball, swimming and therapeutic exercises since Dr. Neal ElAttrache fixed his partially torn right rotator cuff following his points loss to arch nemesis Floyd Mayweather in their now infamous May 2, 2015 bout. Ironically, “Money” also underwent a minimally invasive procedure last week to clean up tissue damage around his right rotator cuff from years of overuse. Pac desperately tried to get Mayweather back in the ring for his final bout to no avail, and is eager to show the world that he was ’60 percent’ of himself during a bout he still thinks he won.
“I wouldn’t be happy with that fight if I was him, and he knows why,” stated Pac in NYC, indicating Floyd knew he wasn’t the same fighter who trounced Chris Algieri in November 2014. “I’m satisfied with my career and what I’ve done in boxing. Now I want to finish it with a bang.” Smiling as he offered that last remark with an added gleam in his eyes, I asked Pacquiao if Floyd could make his “Hotline Bling” if that would only mean one thing. A little surprisingly, he was familiar with the hit song and hummed the melody.
“If he really wanted to fight me again- that’s the fight I want, he knows that,” said Pacquiao, through assorted giggling. “But we must take him at his word that he is retired and I have to focus on Bradley and move on from the sport. But yes, my hotline will be open!” If Pac turns the ring into a disturbing, dystopian nightmare and KO’s Bradley to recapture the WBO welterweight title, its hard to imagine the new 500 million dollar MGM Grand International in Las Vegas not being the site for May/Pac II, retirement talks be damned.
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