The mystery of Manny Pacquiao’s calvesBy Recah Trinidad
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Always say something new, the late Norman Mailer advised this deadline-beater at ringside during weigh-in for the Thrilla in Manila in 1975.
No idea if this aspirant newshound had come any close to following that tip.
But this reportage by my idol Gary Andrew Poole on Manny Pacquiao is a shining example of what the great Mr. Miller had wanted.
Please share this condensed version of that masterful piece, courtesy of Grantland:
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His powerful, grapefruit-sized calves are an important part of Manny Pacquao’s success as a boxer and public official. Pacquiao’s bulbous calf muscles may be the diminutive boxer’s most noticeable physical trait. The knockout power he’s used to drop and bloody far bigger men begins in those legs, as does the speed he’s employed to dance around the larger men’s blows. Those calf muscles are the product of genetics, of course, but they have also been formed over the course of Pacquiao’s life, going back to his childhood. Nearly 30 years ago, when Pacquiao was living in General Santos City, he started carrying water up and down a hill for his family. Back then he was just a poor kid, running from place to place to save money on jeepney or pedicab fares. In his youth, Pacquiao ran hundreds of miles, and he fought too, dancing on the balls of his feet for countless hours of sparring and boxing bouts. All of that running and boxing created stamina and those thick, bulging calves.
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But sometime in the past five years, Pacquiao’s calves started to bother him. He told associates that they had troubled him in his second fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, in March 2008. Later that year, as he prepared to fight David Diaz, he told confidantes that it felt like his muscles were being ripped from his shin bone.
Since Pacquiao hasn’t had the problem checked—or officially admitted he has a problem—no one really knows what’s causing his calf pain. It could be an electrolyte deficiency, a back issue, or even chronic exertional compartment syndrome.
Of course, Pacquiao’s reluctance to work within the realm of modern medicine is an age-old tradition.
In 2008, when Pacquiao began preparing to fight bigger opponents, Freddie Roach encouraged him to hire fitness trainer Alex Ariza, who instituted exercises to counterbalance Pacquiao’s overdeveloped calves.
After Pacquiao-Marquez II, the calf cramps were non-issues for six fights (Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito). Pacquiao’s opponents were well chosen, as they say in boxing. Pacquiao looked brilliant against slower, outmatched men, most of whom were fighting at uncomfortably low weight classes or catch weights. Pacquiao was never in trouble. There was never a peep about his calves.
Then leading up to his fight against Shane Mosley, I started hearing whispers that Pacquiao’s calf issues were making a comeback. The calves, however, could have been a code word for the standard list of distractions that make every Pacquiao camp a bit dicey.
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Was the pain an excuse to delay another of his tough hill runs? Were his calves hurting because he had the wrong shoes? Did he need to stretch more? Were his legs just getting old?
In May last year, Pacquiao fought Shane Mosley and knocked him down with a left in Round 3. Mosley, nearing 40, hadn’t looked good for several fights and there were rumors that he had sustained an Achilles injury in training but wouldn’t drop out because he was guaranteed $5 million for the fight. And yet Pacquiao, considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, couldn’t finish off Mosley. Why wasn’t he able to cut off the ring, track down Mosley and end the fight? Word from inside the Pacquiao camp was that his calves slowed him down.
In the run-up to Pacquiao-Marquez III last November, I heard the same rumors about personal distractions, over-training, and calf pain. Pacquiao was expected to stop Marquez, a 6-1 underdog. But without the spring he normally gets from his calves, Pacquiao becomes just another fighter with limited defensive skills. Marquez, whose counterpunching style has always troubled Pacquiao, was able to catch the usually elusive Filipino with a variety of punches. Pacquiao, a southpaw, had worked on going to his right to avoid Marquez’s tough left hook. To Freddie Roach’s horror, once the opening ball rang Pacquiao was suddenly incapable of moving to the right. Midway through the fight, as it became apparent that Pacquiao wasn’t on his game and that he might lose, he started complaining about the calves. Was the pain real? Was it an excuse?
The cornermen weren’t sure, and even though Pacquiao escaped with a win, there was growing concern among his cornermen and his promoter about the state of his legs—and to some extent, his desire.
Will he be pain-free for his bout with Timoth Bradley on June ?
“How are my calves? Bigger!” says Pacquiao, laughing. “They feel fine.”
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- What a class act by Alaska
- It’s a no-contest tune-up for Manny Pacquiao
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Tags: Manny Pacquiao