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The Manny Pacquiao Dysfunctional Entourage
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Behind the Fighter Manny Pacquiao, the Fight for His Favor
Manny Pacquiao is surrounded by his entourage, which includes trainers, assistants to the trainers, advisers, assistants to the advisers, cooks, dishwashers, car washers, drivers, publicists, gofers and security. More
By GREG BISHOP
Published: November 12, 2009
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LOS ANGELES — The condominium looks like a fraternity house, not the resting place for boxing royalty. Stained carpets cover the floor. Dartboards hang from the wall. Bowls of food, half-eaten leftovers, line the kitchen.
Manny Pacquiao, one of the best boxers in the world, sleeps here. But he does not sleep alone.
Pacquiao, who faces Miguel Cotto in a welterweight title fight Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, does not do anything alone.
His entourage — swollen, dysfunctional and, in his mind, necessary — makes sure of that. On a recent visit, while Pacquiao slept upstairs, one member did the laundry. Another surfed the Internet. Yet another sprawled on the couch, his booming snores interrupting another otherwise peaceful morning for Team Pacquiao.
“They’re all competing to be golden boy for the day,” said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer. “Clean his pool. Take his shoes off. They will do anything for Manny Pacquiao.”
Roach paused, unable to suppress his laughter.
“I’m telling you,” he continued, “the funniest thing is, whoever is on the best terms with Manny at that moment sleeps closest to him, at the foot of his bed.”
More than anything, they wait. They wait for Pacquiao to wake up, to eat, to spar, to sing, sign autographs, do interviews, act, shop.
Before one sparring session last month, members of the entourage arrived early, fetched towels, cleared the gym and debated what type of Gatorade their employer would prefer, finally settling on orange. When word came that Pacquiao was sleeping, that he might not practice, they waited, dozens of lives affected by the whimsical decisions of one man.
Team Pacquiao has perfected the art of functional dysfunction. The entourage consists of trainers, assistants to the trainers, advisers, assistants to the advisers, cooks, dishwashers, car washers, drivers, publicists, gofers and security.
Its size varies, as do assignments and sleeping arrangements, members shuffling from bunk beds to twin beds to the foot of the most important bed. Usually, at least 20 aid in Pacquiao’s routines.
“I see new guys every day,” said Joe Ramos, an assistant. “Guys who I don’t even know who they are, or what they do.”
Pacquiao craves companionship, seeking comfort in numbers. He said he likes good company, which explains why he sleeps in the condo while the sprawling house he owns nearby sits mostly empty, leaves in the pool, ants in the kitchen.
Confidants believe this stems from his childhood, when he grew up so poor in the Philippines that his younger brother, Bobby, described each day as “survival mode.” The path to reclaimed youth includes all of the activities Pacquiao missed, like darts, billiards, basketball and marathon karaoke sessions.
Pacquiao tolerates little disrespect based on placement in his hierarchy, another policy produced by his upbringing.
He once sold doughnuts on the street. So when Ramos suggested they find less expensive alternatives for washing his car, noting that Pacquiao paid a man at Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, where he trains, $200 three times a week, Pacquiao warned Ramos never to eliminate the job of someone trying to earn a living.
This leads to tasks that overlap, filled by people who perform the same function. Or people who perform essentially no function.
“There’s a lot going on,” said Rob Peters, the head of the security detail. “You have to know who everybody is, what they do. It’s almost like I need a chart.”
The entourage compares itself to a large family, but the daily competition for Pacquiao’s affection and power makes this brood competitive and intense. Winners receive perks, like riding in the car with Pacquiao, or sitting next to him while he eats.
They say they must fight to prove themselves, and while they do not mean this literally, sometimes fisticuffs occur. Recently in the Philippines, two members of Team Pacquiao, the adviser Michael Koncz and the conditioning coach Alex Ariza, came to blows over the coveted corner slots for Saturday’s bout Koncz said the fight was overblown and that he always operates with Pacquiao’s best interests at the forefront. Ariza said Koncz remains at the center of the team’s conflicts, whether attempting to have Roach fired, or failing to give credit to others, two charges Koncz dismissed.
During training, an unidentified culprit hung a sign inside the gym. It read: The meeting for the Mike Koncz Fan Club has been canceled. Roach claimed no knowledge of the sign’s source. But he was in no hurry to remove it. “I don’t know if he’s socially maladjusted, or if it’s just an ineptness to socialize,” Ariza said of Koncz on Wednesday in Las Vegas. “I know it sounds funny, but I’m serious. He’s caused disarray.”
Referring to Pacquiao, Roach added: “I know this: Alex doesn’t cut his meat for him. Mike Koncz does.”
Such is life in what may be the strangest entourage in sports. For as complex as their interactions with one another are, each member of the entourage has his own relationship with Pacquiao. And he is the only man each answers to.
There is Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao’s childhood friend, who worked as a janitor in Pacquiao’s first gym. Fernandez once handled the duties now performed by 15 men, like washing his boss’s socks, or holding a rice cooker near the vent in a hotel so staff could not smell food being prepared. His reward? His own room in the condo.
There is Koncz, who, despite the criticism, still holds significant sway, particularly in regard to Pacquiao’s finances. There is Peters, the security guard and Boston sports fan who must turn away families seeking autographs. There is Ramos, who handles tickets. He secured 500 for Saturday’s fight alone and still heard complaints from folks who wanted 30 instead of 29.
The worst job?
“The cook,” Pacquiao said. “Because there are so many. He must cook a lot.”
What concerns Ariza are those who take advantage, the hangers-on who can pay for their own tickets but choose not to, who spend all day waiting to pitch Pacquiao their products, who receive something and still want more.
Sometimes Pacquiao sequesters himself inside his bedroom, waiting for the living room to clear. Most nights, Peters stops by to expedite the process.
“The downfall of Manny Pacquiao, if there is one, will be his kindness and generosity,” Koncz said. “At some point, I fear that’s going to catch up to him.”
On Tuesday in Las Vegas, Pacquiao conducted interviews inside a trailer. When he finished, someone grabbed a jacket and helped him put it on. Someone else stood at the bottom of the stairs, in case he fell. Someone else started the team bus, each seat filled.
Off they went, the dysfunctional entourage that still manages to function, the boxer surrounded by his staff.
Sleeping arrangements, at least for some, were still to be decided.
Last edited by JulVal; 01-15-2010 at 10:40 PM.