Killer instinct back, Pacquiao brings his best to Vegas
HOLLYWOOD/LAS VEGAS—There he was, the people’s champ, dazzling onlookers with blinding hand speed while shadowboxing, flaunting the power of his legs as he shuffled around, showing just how he would utilize footwork to cut the ring into tiny, suffocating spaces, and, well, smiling.
There was more than just confidence bursting from Manny Pacquiao’s sinewy limbs as he put the finishing touches on his last training day at Wild Card gym on Monday before he and his huge entourage convoyed out of this glitzy Los Angeles district and rolled straight for the neon-lined streets of Las Vegas.
There was joy. And trainer Freddie Roach was happy with that.
“He’s happy, I’m happy and we are where we want to be in this last day here,” Roach said. “Now, it’s Vegas, baby.”
There was roadwork. There was sparring and there were a few more rounds of mitts and other exercises. There was all that hard work and everything.
And even as Pacquiao continued tapering off for his May 2 (May 3 in Manila) fight date with that undefeated American bundle of flamboyance named Floyd Mayweather Jr., the eight-division champion’s energy was visibly amped up.
“I’m excited,” Pacquiao said in a tone that made his understatement a redundancy. “It’s a big fight. The whole world (will be) watching (this fight). It’s the fight of the century.”
Toughest of missions
It is certainly set to be the richest fight in history and Pacquiao will go into MGM Grand with the toughest of missions: deal the brash Mayweather his first professional defeat.
To accomplish that would require strict adherence to a fight plan cooked up by his corner to counter the craftsmanship of arguably one of the best boxers of all time.
That, and so much more—including a throwback to the days when Pacquiao was a ball of limitless energy that manifested itself in ripping, unrepentant, combinations and a beautifully brutal mix of speed and power.
Thankfully, Pacquiao knows exactly what it will take to beat Mayweather.
“Just focus and killer instinct,” said Pacquiao, the latter an urgent need considering the knock he had received from critics over its supposed disappearance in the last few fights.
Those who have watched him train for the Mayweather bout swear that trait has resurfaced.
“I was among the first to say before that Manny had lost his killer instinct,” said former world champion Gerry Peñalosa. “But now, watching him train, you can see a lot of the old Manny back.”
It did not take much for Pacquiao to reawaken his killer mode.
“Just thinking, imagining my mode before, trying to get back my mode before when I fought (Miguel) Cotto, (Ricky) Hatton and (Oscar) De La Hoya,” he explained.
That’s the Pacquiao that Roach needs on fight night. If that Pacquiao shows up, Roach believes Mayweather is screwed.
“He’d better not show up,” Roach warned.
The seven-time trainer of the year has “spies” in Las Vegas who spoke of trouble brewing in the Mayweather camp—missed training sessions, difficulty handling sparring partners—but those unverified pieces of information didn’t seem to have distracted Pacquiao from the task at hand and the work that needs to be put in to succeed.
‘The best Pacquiao’
Pacquiao, based on the hard work he has put in training, assured people they will see one thing at MGM Grand on May 2.
“The best Manny Pacquiao,” he vowed.
But of course. The fans demand it. A fight of this magnitude demands it. And, more importantly, this daunting mission—against a formidable foe—demands it.
Clues to fight strategy
How will the Pacman do it? How does anybody hit Mayweather, a fighter whose career is built on being nearly impossible to touch?
Pacquiao and Roach will reveal their answer when the fighters meet in the richest bout in boxing history. But clues to a strategy for breaking Mayweather’s impenetrable defense were evident in Pacquiao’s final workout at Wild Card gym.
Pacquiao was a whirlwind of motion from the moment he stepped in the ring, throwing dozens of punches in combinations against Roach’s mitts and chest protector.
Pacquiao also shadowboxed across the canvas, peppering the air with hundreds of rapid-fire punches long after his workout could have been over.
“You can beat Floyd Mayweather if you outwork him and never give him a chance to do the things he does best,” Roach said. “Manny is punching real hard, but I want him to outscore (Mayweather) in every round. I think we can win a 12-round decision. We want to throw a ton of punches.”
Aggression, punch volume
Pacquiao is betting on aggression, activity and punch volume to defeat Mayweather. He has trained fiercely to fight 12 rounds of nonstop offense.
“I’m not really looking for a knockout,” Pacquiao said. “We’re not looking only for a knockout, but for throwing a lot of punches, and also making sure that every round, we’re ahead on points.”
He has never faced a fighter with Mayweather’s skills in defense and counterpunching but Roach believes Mayweather has never dealt with an opponent as relentless as the southpaw Filipino congressman.
“Our volume of combinations is much higher than Mayweather’s,” Roach said. “Mayweather waits for you to finish your combination and throws back with the big right hand or the check hook, and we’re not going to be there for that. We’re going to be in and out, and I plan on Manny outscoring him that way.”
Roach also believes Mayweather’s legs will fade in the second half of the fight, particularly if Pacquiao chases him around the ring for the first half.
“Mayweather’s legs are shot,” Roach said. “As long as we can hit him and then move, Mayweather can’t touch us.”
Roach wants Pacquiao to be ready to fight from the opening bell. “I think Mayweather will come right after us. I hope he does. We’re ready,” Roach said.
All available rooms at Mandalay Bay and Delano hotel were taken as Pacquiao and his entourage arrived in Las Vegas in some 100 vehicles, including a recreational vehicle (RV) and a luxury bus bearing his image.
The usual four-and-a-half-hour travel time from Hollywood stretched to nearly six hours as traffic snarls greeted Pacquiao’s convoy, spearheaded by two groups of Filipino big bike riders.
Pacquiao and family
Pacquiao came first with wife Jinkee and their five children in a customized 17-seater RV. The champ personally handled the distribution of room keys to Team Pacquiao members.
They were welcomed at Pacquiao’s lavish suite at Delano to partake of trays of food (beef steak, pork adobo, pancit, kare-kare, steamed vegetables, lumpia and, of course, rice).
Pacquiao was so busy attending to the distribution of rooms that he went beyond his 9 p.m. bedtime deadline.
He’ll still sweat it out by jogging in an undisclosed private facility Tuesday morning, attend a Las Vegas fun rally at 11 a.m. at Mandalay Bay and then do gym work in the afternoon.
Actually, there should have been little room trouble were if not for the sudden cancellation of reservations earlier made by Mike Koncz, Pacquiao’s adviser, at MGM Grand.
In high spirits
Without any explanation, the rooms allotted for Pacquiao’s guests were blocked, necessitating adjustments in room assignments of Team Pacquiao members.
On the instigation of Top Rank chief honcho Bob Arum, Pacquiao will skip the Grand Arrival ceremonies slated at MGM Grand at 1 p.m. Instead, he will meet fans and supporters at Mandalay Bay.
Despite the minor hassle, Pacquiao remained in high spirits, even joking about the incident.
“If they think MGM can help him (Mayweather) by doing that, they’re mistaken,” said Pacquiao.
“When the time comes, it’s still between me and him on the ring,” Pacquiao told Manila-based sportswriters with a wink.
Pacquiao’s suite will be tightly guarded by his own security detail, including some Filipino members of the Los Angeles police and, reportedly, will be monitored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
That’s because the bout has become a global event, with high-ranking politicians, celebrities, business moguls, royalty and foreign dignitaries lining up to attend, never mind the exorbitant ticket prices that now fetch over $7,000 (floor price of $1,500) for general admission and $100,000 ($10,000) for prime seats in the resale market.
Originally posted: 1:44 PM | Tuesday, April 28th, 2015