By Ponciano Melo Jr.
LOS ANGELES, California — Manny Pacquiao knows the crucial stretch is nigh.
That’s why the action in his training camp is following suit, as the Fighting Pride of the Philippines is grinding it out with legendary coach Freddie Roach to further solidify his stake at his upcoming bout with Keith Thurman Jr. next month.
Being the only eight-division world champion in eight different weight classes in professional fistic arts, the fighting Senator and many-time WBA welterweight champion “Pac Man” knows, that when he returns to the ring on July 20 against the younger Thurman at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, he is up for one helluva challenge.
What for is this fight billed as one of the biggest this year then, right?
Pacquiao, who challenges undefeated “One Time” Thurman for his Super WBA Welterweight World Championship belt, is all out in his training camp which continued here after a brief camp in Manila. The training camp, scheduled for six weeks, is two weeks shorter than the traditional two months.
But by the looks of it, this writer sees Pacquiao hitting his stride just at the right time.
The US training camp, which kicked off with eight rounds of sparring, comes at the heels of Pacquiao arriving at LAX after a grueling 19-hour flight. Brushing off jetlag, the Pacman ran some laps before heading back into Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood.
He is now preparing for his third world championship fight in the past 12 months.
But that fact does not seem to faze Manny (61-7-2), who has begun the most intense part of his training and conditioning in preparation for his much-awaited bout with Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs).
As per reports, this is the first time in recent year that Pacquiao, 40, and ten years the senior of Thurman, has been pegged as an underdog by major race and sports books around the globe.
But if you ask coach Freddie who’d he put his last penny on, he’d pick otherwise.
“I haven’t made a bet in a long time, but the oddsmakers have brought me back. I’m going to make a huge score betting on Manny in this fight,” said Roach in an interview with Boxing Insider.
“Manny loves beating undefeated fighters, especially the younger ones. Heck, at this stage of the game, everyone Manny faces is younger. But that makes it fun for Manny. And when Manny is having fun, his opponents had better watch out,” he added.
Roach, widely regarded as one of the best boxing trainers of all time said he was very pleased with Manny’s first day at Wild Card saying that Buboy Fernandez as well as strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune have him in great condition for the rigors of this part of training camp.
He even said that Manny insisted on going the distance, jetlagged and all.
“We were scheduled for six rounds of sparring and Manny insisted on going eight with two sparring partners. He’s running the Hollywood Hills like a deer. Nobody has the work ethic and conditioning like Manny. I can already see we are going to have to hold him back throughout camp.”
“This is a great matchup. Thurman has youth and size. I’m sure he will come into the ring with 160 pounds behind his big right hand. Manny will be under 150,” Roach continued.
“But we will have speed and movement. Winning this fight will come down to taking chances. Manny proved in his last two fights, against Matthysse and Broner, that he has his killer instinct back. Thurman better be prepared to shoot the works.”
Judging by the looks of the ongoing training camp, I’d put my money on Manny.
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