Manny Pacquiao cries ‘one more’ as ‘last fight’ looms
It’s been a familiar refrain, an appeal borne out of voraciousness than urgency, each time Manny Pacquiao trains for a fight. One more round of sparring. One more go at the speed ball. One more session with the heavy bag.
Pacquiao, a workout junkie, asks for one more of whatever at the end of each training session that it has become one of the default narratives for journalists covering his fights.
Manny Pacquiao had to be restrained again. Manny Pacquiao had to be physically pulled out of the ring again. Manny Pacquiao had to negotiate his way out of a rest day again.
On Monday, at Wild Card Gym, the Filipino ring icon was at it again. Not just at the end of the training session but at the end of each workout set.
Time out, a trainer would yell after one set. Pacquiao would continue on. The double end. The heavy bag. The shadowboxing.
Wisp of nostalgia
“I thought we had a deal?” strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune told Pacquiao in an attempt to get him to taper off for the day. Pacquiao smiled. The words didn’t need to be said. One more.
This time though, there was a touch of sentimentality, a wisp of nostalgia with each extended workout set.
Manny Pacquiao fights Timothy Bradley Jr. on April 9 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. If his prior pronouncements hold true, this is the farewell fight of the Filipino ring icon. And if this is the farewell fight, then this is the last workout for Pacquiao at
Wild Card Gym, the training haven where he forged his place in boxing history.
Right after Monday’s session, Pacquiao broke routine and huddled his corner on the ring for a prayer.
“It’s the first time we did that,” Pacquiao said.
It also could be the last.
“He’s the best thing that ever happened to Wild Card, he’s the best thing that happened in my life,” said trainer Freddie Roach.
The walls of the gym have been a silent witness to his growth from a one-punch wonder to the sport’s only eight-division champion. Everywhere, photos of Pacquiao are pasted on every available space, along with old fight posters and pictures of other fighters who have made Wild Card their home.
Little to prove
The gym has had an explosion in membership ever since Pacquiao started blurring weight lines and winning world titles in devastating fashion—and members live by the gym slogan that encapsulates all the hard work he has put to get to where he is: It ain’t easy.
But more than the aura or atmosphere of greatness and grit that pervades the gym, there is an even more palpable proof of Pacquiao’s presence in the gym. The laundromat below Wild Card has become an extension of the gym, where Pacquiao prepares for fights.
But the boxer said it is time to heed his family’s call to hang up his gloves. After all, there is very little else he has to prove in the sport, notwithstanding last year’s loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I have no regrets,” Pacquiao said. “I faced every fighter I could possibly fight and I’m happy with my accomplishments in boxing. It’s the first time someone got eight titles in eight different divisions.”
“I will miss him,” Roach said.
“I’ll still visit,” Pacquiao later said.
Memories never die
The trainer said he has no particular favorite memory of Pacquiao at Wild Card but added that he will always be struck with how much of a nice guy Pacquiao is, especially to the people inside the gym.
Rob Peters, the gym muscle who makes sure order is maintained no matter how chaotic things may often get during a Pacquiao training camp, agreed.
Peters’ favorite memory “of all time, not just of Pacquiao in Wild Card,” proves that as good as Pacquiao is on the ring, he is a better person off it, literally.
“I wasn’t working for him yet; this was the Morales fight,” Peters recalled. “There were a lot of people around and I was on the ring with Freddie. My wife and kids were inside the gym. I pulled Freddie to me and instantly, I thought that Manny had taken it wrongly, that I pulled his trainer away from him.
“He wouldn’t look at me. Instead, he jumps past the ropes and runs to my wife and kids, talks to them and has his picture taken with them. My wife and kids were beaming. That became my favorite memory forever. I told myself that I’d work for this guy if he’d let me. Ang mamatay nang dahil sa’yo (to die because of you) became all too real for me.”
‘He saved my life’
Roach, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, once told a magazine and newspaper interview that when a scrawny Pacquiao, armed with a wicked left and nothing else, walked into Wild Card some 15 years ago, it was a lifesaver.
“He walked into my gym and an hour later I was his new trainer,” Roach said during a press conference in 2009. “He saved my life.”
On Monday, he toned down the hyperbole, saying with a laugh he wasn’t really in “grave danger that time.”
“But he changed my life forever,” Roach said. “He changed this gym forever.”
After cooling down with several sets of abdominal crunches, Pacquiao got dressed and prepared to lead a convoy out to Las Vegas. Again, if retirement plans don’t miscarry, that could be the last trip he would make with Roach to the US fight capital.
“It’s going to be disappointing that I won’t be making that trip anymore because this could be the last one,” Roach said.
“But I’ll always visit him in the Philippines and we’ll be friends forever, sure,” he added.
That sense of finality hasn’t sunk in for some people just yet.
Asked how he feels about Monday’s training session being possibly Pacquiao’s last in the cozy little gym at the corner of Vine and Sta. Monica, Peters rubbed his chin and gave it some thought.
“Man, I hadn’t even thought of it that way,” he said, pausing for a while before adding: “Man, that’s crazy. That’s …”
“I can’t even think of this as his last time here,” Peters said. “I mean, I’ll look at this as just another fight and, you know … I don’t know. I’ll miss working with the guy. I’ll miss working for him. I’ll probably always hope that, well, you know …”
Peters let the statement hang. There were no words needed. The faraway look in his eyes betrayed just exactly what it was he and probably Roach and the other Wild Card guys were hoping for.
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