By Ponciano Melo Jr.
Manny Pacquiao thrives in big moments.
Enjoying the support and company of those around him, the emotional, spiritual backing he has received from fans fuel him in every big fight.
With every clap and cheer, especially from his fellow kababayans during his many mythic matches abroad, the PacMan has ridden the faith placed on him by the millions of Filipinos around the globe.
And the eight-time world champion knows for the 71st time this coming July 20 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the throng of supporters won’t let him down.
The obvious reason? Even in training the faithful follow.
"I want to have people around so that I'm motivated,” Pacquiao said in an interview with AFP during his training camp in Los Angeles.
The camp, which continued from Manila, is now kicking in high gear as Pacquiao is putting in all the work in the six-week training camp.
Pacquiao will be looking to deal Keith Thurman Jr.’s first pro defeat, banking on extra motivation as the man opposite him inside the squared circle in less than a month’s time vowed to “retire” the fighting Senator.
But before looking into finishing the fight next month, Pacquiao looks to finish the sumptuous meal prepared for him by Pinoy chefs in his home LA.
"My feeling is that I don't want anybody to see me being lazy. I want to impress them every day. I love it, as long as it's not distracting me or affecting my training,” he said in between hearty portions of grilled meat, rice, and broth.
Being the people person that he is, Pacquiao says that the buzz energizes him. For him, this is all but an added boost, but those in his closest corner may have qualms about all the frenzy.
"A lot of it is support, a lot of it is they want to be on TV or something," said legendary trainer Freddie Roach. "But it works for him. He knows how to get in shape and he does it very, very well.”
"Manny's a nice guy. He likes to help people. I always say that's why he might be broke when he's through. Because he gives it all away. He's just too generous,” Roach quipped.
Waking up early in his LA mansion, which has been the headquarters of his California base camp in the past 10 years, Pacquiao prepares before dawn every day for his bout.
Along with the progressing intensity in training, Pacquiao does some cardio over the hills of Hollywood alongside around two dozen training partners, his security details, and of course, friends, and fans.
With only a couple of weeks left in training and until one of the biggest fights of the year unfolds, Pacquiao has already honed his training regimen to near perfection. And a little crowd here and there will do nothing to break the Pacman’s concentration coming into the fight.
During a workout some time back, a crowd of around 100 people, composed of a majority of LA-based Filipinos, gathered to watch the eight-division world champion do back-bending exercises, a series of pushups, sit-ups, crunches and all the things ordinary folks could only dream of doing.
Among the camera flashes, the Pacman still keeps a radiant smile, occasionally checking his phone or chatting up with some of the people in the crowd.
Call it a distraction, call it an excess factor, but Pacquiao loves the attention.
It can be said then, that the 40-year-old Filipino boxing icon has a lot in his mind, but one thing is for sure up on that list: capturing the American Thurman’s WBA super world welterweight crown come July 20.
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