Sometimes, it’s difficult to read Pacquiao
FOR ALL the seeming confidence on the outside, we could sense a deep concern among the members of Team Pacquiao over his condition, less than three weeks before he takes on the much bigger, taller and stronger Antonio Margarito.
His final day of sparring was watched by a ridiculously large crowd at the Johnny Elorde gym in Quezon City. There, even the bellowing instructions of assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez about the need for silence, and the ban on the use of cellphones and video of any kind were openly flouted.
Manny looked good only in two flashes of brilliance, once against Amir Khan and once against Michael Medina.
But if we scored the four rounds he sparred with Amir, he lost three and probably eked out one. A flurry in the final 30 seconds of round three seemed to rock Amir, who later said Pacquiao didn’t hurt him.
In fact, Khan had Pacquiao in some trouble against the ropes on more than one occasion when they traded big shots, and trainer Freddie Roach himself said that Khan let Manny off the hook.
There was visibly no fire in Pacquiao.
He looked tired and listless, and even his sometimes fierce but often smiling eyes showed no emotion.
Khan, a fighter who possesses perhaps the fastest hands, was faster than Manny, who is also known for his speed.
Manny also laid on the ropes, which Roach said wasn’t in the gameplan, and took far too many body shots.
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Sometimes of course, it’s difficult to read Pacquiao.
Was he doing it deliberately to test his ability to take what will surely be the big shots of Margarito, who is expected to enter the ring at least 15 pounds heavier than Manny?
Was he trying to show the fans just how tough he was? Roach told us later that Pacquiao was playing around a little too much.
Conditioning expert Alex Ariza tried to moderate our concerns by saying two weeks is a long time. If Pacquiao does what he is expected to do, he said, then he’ll be alright on fight night.
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There was so much he was expected to do while he was here.
But he didn’t, due to many distractions.
These included playing basketball nightly, and driving down from Baguio to Manila and back again on two successive Sundays for events he could have missed and which the organizers would have—or should have—understood.
His occasional visits to Congress, despite Speaker Sonny Belmonte’s decision to allow Manny to concentrate on training, and his Malacañang meetings with President Aquino and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. could have been done at some other time, as Roach pointed out, not on his training time.
The Michael Koncz wedding and his six-song performance also irritated Roach, as did a late dinner at Camp John Hay.
In fairness to Manny, though, when advised to leave at 11 p.m. and get some rest, he did.
After a long flight to Los Angeles last Saturday, instead of resting on Sunday after hearing Mass, Pacquiao took a two-and-a-half-hour drive to San Diego to coach his ragtag basketball team.
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We share the concerns of many because Pacquiao is someone truly special. His incredible achievements have inspired a nation and its people who have embraced him as a national hero.
As Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said, he cannot, in his mind, conceive of Pacquiao losing. But he didn’t discount the possibility.
We ourselves wish to banish the thought, but are forced to face up to the reality given what we have seen over the past few weeks.
We fervently hope it would go away like a bad dream and that in the end Manny Pacquiao—as he has done so many times in the past—will overcome the odds, face the challenge and triumph.
That would be a moment devoutly to be wished.