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Join Date: Sep 2008
Rep Power: 0
Total Points: 88,489.05
prevented me from attending the final stop on Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao’s multi-city “Dream Match” media tour, a public rally that was held at the Whittier Boulevard Arch in East Los Angeles this past Tuesday.
That’s OK. I didn’t care to elbow my way through a couple thousand fight fans and curious onlookers to listen to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer remind everyone that the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena soldout in a day (a $17 million gate) and then push the $60 closed circuit tickets. I didn’t need to listen to Top Rank boss Bob Arum tell me that the December 6th meeting between the biggest draw in the sport and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game will combine to make the boxing event of the year.
I know all that.
I’ve done enough HBO Countdown shows to be occasionally recognized by casual fans (yes, they really do exist) at gas stations, car washes, airports, Starbucks, even my daughter’s preschool, and what do the “normal folks” ask me?
“What do you think about De La Hoya-Pacquiao?”
“Does Manny have a shot?”
I tell them that I believe Pacquiao does have a shot. I can envision a competitive fight.
I’m just not certain how competitive. Right now I don’t give him enough of a shot to actually favor him to win, or to even consider the matchup to be an even-money fight.
But that perception could easily change over the next seven weeks – during the course of Pacquiao’s training camp.
I plan to drop in at least once a week between now and the last week of November not to merely observe Pacquiao in action, but to talk to his sparring partners and get impressions from the Wild Card Boxing Club regulars who will be around the PacMan on a day-to-day basis.
And, of course, it will be an excuse to talk to Freddie Roach. I never tire of talking to Coach Freddie – about any subject, really – but particularly boxing.
I have to be careful, though. Give Roach 30 uninterrupted minutes to pontificate about this fight and he’ll have you convinced that De La Hoya has absolutely no shot of winning. Seriously; and the great thing about that is that he means every word he says.
But seeing is believing; and for me to believe that it’s at all possible for the fight to even come close to equaling the hype of the event I need to see how effective Pacquiao sticks, moves and does his thing in the ring weighing more than 135 pounds.
So I dropped by the Wild Card yesterday to talk to Roach about the beginning of the training camp for what is by far the biggest fight of the Filipino Icon’s hall-of-fame career.
I arrived to the gym around 1 p.m., unsure if I’d catch Pacquiao, but once I entered the gym and saw that it was 80% cleared out with exception of a couple fighters, one boxing writer, and a cadre of photographers I knew the PacMan would be by shortly.
Two fighters – Rashad Holloway (who will be one of Pacquiao’s sparring partners) and Abdulla Amidu – were finishing up their workouts, and two muscle-bound Asian guys were hard at work, pounding the hell of the bags in front of them: Bobby Pacquiao and Steve Kim.
I’ll say this about “the Korean Hammer”, whose face was a grim mask of intensity as he shadow boxed with 10-pound weights in each hand, he works just as hard in the gym as he does covering this whacky sport we love so much.
I know more than a few readers get into heated arguments with Kim via email (he forwards me the nastiest, angriest back-and-forths he has with you wing-nuts out there, just as I do with emails from the assorted mutant freaks who pester me with their bulls__t), and I know that physical threats are occasionally exchanged, but here’s a little advice to any tough guys who actually think they can just walk up to ‘K9’ and take him out: number one, you better be a big mother f__ker because Kim ain’t a pip squeak, and two, and you’re ass better be in damn good shape.
Prentiss Byrd, one of key trainers at the Kronk during the storied Detroit gym’s glory years, who happened to drop by the Wild Card the same time I did to talk to Roach about potential sparring partners for Pacquiao noticed Kim’s form.
“You’re looking good, young man,” Byrd said, momentarily breaking the fiercely opinionated boxing writer’s concentration.
“What? Me? I’m just tryin’ to work off all this beer,” Kim joked.
“Monday Night Football, say no more,” Byrd laughed.
Roach asked Byrd about Emanuel Steward. Byrd says they talk occasionally, but not about boxing.
Byrd, who co-manages a few young prospects, including undefeated welterweight Michael Dallas Jr., is busy with his own boxing business but because of his Kronk connection, anyone who knows him (or has even heard of him) is bound to ask him about Steward.
“What’s up with Manny and Kermit?” Kim inquired about the split between the hall-of-fame trainer/manager and the welterweight puncher.
Byrd shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess someone’s gotta take the blame,” Kim snickered. “Thing is, Kermit’s running out of people to blame. He needs to blame whoever keeps putting him in with Margarito.”
[color=blue]Everyone standing around the front desk got a good laugh out of that quip. I could have stood around shooting the s__t with Byrd, Kim, manager Billy Keane and Roach for at least another hour, but the nanny who cares for my 6-month-old baby girl leaves at 3 p.m., and I was there on business.
That meant talking to Roach about the star of his stable (who entered the gym just as I began to question Freddie about the details to the beginning of their camp).
Roach told me that Pacquiao got in three days of training prior to embarking on the six-city media tour that ended in L.A. Tuesday. He said they were able to squeeze in two days of training during the press tour. Since returning to Southern California on Sunday, Pacquiao has been training every day.
His weight, according to Roach, is currently 152 pounds (which sounded right on the money looking at the five-division champ’s build as he began warming up behind us).
“So I guess between now and the end of November, you’ll gradually bring Manny down 10 to 12 pounds,” I presumed.
“That’s what I thought we’d do at first,” Roach said. “Originally, I wanted him to come in as a junior welterweight, but judging from the power he’s hitting with right now and his speed at this weight , I changed my mind. I talked to his nutritionist about it and he agreed with me that it would be better if we bring him down to 147 and maintain that weight the whole time, so he can eat well right up to the fight.”
Wow, that’s news to me.
“So you guys are confident going directly from Manny’s first fight at lightweight to fighting as a full-fledged welterweight?” I asked.
“Yup,” Roach replied with a big smile. “Manny weighed 146 and half pounds the night he fought [David] Diaz. He had to lose two pounds the day of the weighin to make 135. He told me that day, ‘This is the last time I’m fighting at lightweight’.
“Weighing in at 147, Manny won’t miss a meal right up to the day of the weighin, and he won’t put on any weight between the weighin and the fight.”
This revelation (to me, anyway) in Pacquiao’s planned fighting weight begs the question: does Roach want his brave little paladin to go for the knockout rather than attempt to out-speed, out-hustle and out-maneuver the naturally bigger man?
That’s a question that can wait until after a week or two of sparring, which begins next Tuesday.
I’ll leave you dear PacFans with this tidbit from Coach Freddie:
“I admit that at welterweight Manny’s power is better than his speed. His quickness was a little less at lightweight and it will be a little less than that at 147, but he’s still faster than most fighters; he’s still very effective at 147 pounds. Anything over 147 and I think he’d be a little sluggish.”
I can’t imagine a sluggish Pacquiao.
However, Roach believes that De La Hoya might be sluggish from straining his body down to 147 pounds. He observed that De La Hoya looked light, perhaps as low as 155 pounds, maybe lighter, during the media tour.
“For Oscar to get down close to welterweight early in his camp and then try to maintain it all the way to the fight is a mistake because at his age and with his size he’s going to struggle every day for two months,” said Roach, who added that he aims to make sure that the Golden Promoter comes in at the contracted weight on December 5th.
“He signed the contract to come in at 147,” said Roach, “and I don’t care about those provisions for him to pay $3 million for every pound that he’s over, I’ll make him make the weight if he comes over. He signed the damn contract and I’m tired of these fighters not making the weight they said they would on the contract.
“Oscar came in a pound over his contracted weight [of 150 pounds] when he fought Stevie Forbes and everyone just let him do it. I’m not going to give him that break; I don’t care how much money he’ll pay to come in heavy. He’s not getting away with not living up to his contract just because he’s rich.”
Well, if I didn’t know any better (and I admit that I often don’t), I’d say this fight is a little bit personal with Roach.
Join Date: Dec 2008
Rep Power: 0
Total Points: 1,113.60
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