HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – When Manny Pacquiao told Freddie Roach he was changing plans and would do his conditioning work in the Philippines for his fourth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez, Roach was not happy.
The Hall of Fame trainer feared Pacquiao would fall back into his old habits. And when Pacquiao showed up at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club Oct. 29 following three weeks of conditioning, Roach didn’t know what to think. But when Pacquiao went 12 rounds on the mitts that first day inside the ropes, Roach’s fears had been put to rest.
“I knew that Manny was serious,” Roach said. “He came here in shape and ready to work. But I won’t lie to you – I was scared to death when he was back in the Philippines.”
Pacquiao had indeed fallen into his old habits. He returned to the original script he and best friend and assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez used in the early days to get ready for a fight – running long and hard in the mountains and quick sprints on the track. No high-tech treadmills or plyometrics. No basketball or other cardio substitutes. Certainly no drinking and gambling, habits that used to drive Roach crazy while he prepared a world-class athlete for the sport’s biggest stage.
Pacquiao wraps up his training camp today and will make his “official” arrival at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of the MGM Grand for Saturday’s fight against Marquez at the Grand Garden. By comparison to previous training camps in Los Angeles, this one has been virtually drama free. The goofy publicity skits, the music jam sessions and Bible study classes that went into the wee hours have been substantially reduced or eliminated all together.
“I need to get back more to business,” Pacquiao said. “I needed to get that focus back.”
In their three prior meetings, there was a draw in 2004, a split-decision victory to Pacquiao in the 2008 rematch and a majority decision that Pacquiao got in their third meeting in 2011. But many fans and members of the boxing media believe Marquez won at least one, if not all three fights, which bothers Pacquiao.
“That’s why I need to win this fight convincingly,” Pacquiao said. “I need to answer the people who doubt me. I have to win this fight and show everyone who the better man truly is.”
Pacquiao, 33, will be fighting the calendar as well as 39-year-old Marquez (54-6-1, 39 knockouts) when they meet Saturday. He doesn’t have time to mess around with the likes of comedians Norm MacDonald and Daniel Tosh. He accommodates Jimmy Kimmel’s television show because theirs is a special friendship and it’s part of Pacquiao’s L.A. routine. He knows he needs to be at his best, both physically and mentally if he is to beat Marquez convincingly.
Pacquiao has additional motivation for winning Saturday. For the first time since March 19, 2005, when Erik Morales won a 12-round decision, he is looking to rebound from a defeat This time, Pacquiao is looking to move forward from his controversial June 9 split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden. In his 17-year professional career, Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) has never lost consecutive fights.
“I’m past it,” he said. “When you think in the past, you can’t move forward.
“There’s nothing you can do to change it. But I never like losing. So I need to move forward by winning this fight with Marquez.”
Pacquiao also knows a loss Saturday probably ends any hope of ever facing Floyd Mayweather Jr. The subject rarely comes up in conversation these days as Pacquiao has been willing to meet all of Mayweather’s demands, including all pre-fight drug testing as well as accepting less money. (Pacquiao is willing to fight for 45 percent of the gross revenue the fight would generate.) But the fighters have been unable to come to terms to face each other.
“What else is there to say?” Pacquiao said. “I agreed to everything he wanted and he still doesn’t want to fight me. I don’t think it will ever happen and if that’s the case, fine.”
Pacquiao doesn’t have time to wait for Mayweather to make up his mind. He’s running unopposed for re-election to Congress in the Philippines and his second term starts in May. There’s work to be done to help his constituents in Sarangani Province.
Pacquiao authored and helped pass a bill that made human trafficking illegal. He is also working to deliver on a campaign promise to provide better health care in his district.
“We’re still trying to get the hospital built,” Pacquiao said of the $500 million project. “We’ve got $200 million from the (federal) government, but we need to raise the rest. It’s not easy to accomplish things in Congress. But all things are possible with God’s help and guidance.”
Pacquiao plans to keep fighting into 2014, then shift full-time into politics. But if he were to lose badly to Marquez, he might leave boxing earlier.
“I’m not thinking negative thoughts,” Pacquiao said. “I’m thinking about being more aggressive for this fight (with Marquez). I want to put pressure on him, like I did in our first fight.”
Pacquiao said his home life is peaceful and the chaos within his marriage leading up to his last bout with Marquez on Nov. 12, 2011, does not exist now.
“There are no problems; everything is good,” Pacquiao said.
Roach said the last time Pacquiao was this focused and this well-prepared was in November 2010 when Pacquiao handled Antonio Margarito with ease in winning a 12-round unanimous decision at Cowboys Stadium.
“I like what I see,” Roach said. “His focus is where it hasn’t been for some time. I think it’s going to be his best fight yet.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.