By Ronnie Nathanielsz
The world’s No.1 pound-for-pound fighter and Filipino national treasure Manny Pacquiao began his first day of sparring with a spectacular performance at the Wild Card Gym of celebrated trainer Freddie Roach in Los Angeles.
In starting off aggressively Pacquiao showed he means business in preparing for his showdown against IBO light welterweight champion Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2.
Conditioning expert Alex Ariza told BoxingScene.com, insidesports.ph, Standard Today and Viva Sports that the first day of sparring was “very exciting.”
He said Pacquiao dropped sparring partner Art Hovhannesyan whom Ariza described as “a very tough, rugged Armenian who has been sparring here for a while. Manny dropped him in the second round and then cut him in the fourth” forcing an early end to the sparring session.
Ariza said Hovhannesyan was “a 147-150 pounder and Manny hit him with a straight left and he went down. Manny then caught him with what looked like an uppercut and that opened up a cut that ended the sparring at about two minutes into the fourth round.” The cut was about one inch on the left eyelid.
Hovhannesyan who lives in Glendale, California is undefeated with a ring record of 7-0-1- with 2 knockouts.
Ariza who helped prepare Pacquiao for his sensational 9th round demolition of WBC lightweight champion David Diaz and the December 6 battle with Oscar De La Hoya who quit at the end of the eighth round said Pacquiao “looks very strong.”
The conditioning expert noted “I’ve always said that at 140 pounds, he wont struggle to make weight, there are no diet issues and Manny is just so strong now.”
He said Pacquiao started his strength and conditioning on Monday and Ariza told us “ he did very well with that. He looks strong, almost like the De La Hoya fight.” He noted that Pacquiao is able to push himself but since its early in his training he gets a little tired. On Monday, Roach said Pacquiao went 15 rounds on the punch-mitts and it was he (Roach) who felt tired.
Ariza said that during the aborted sparring session Pacquiao was “just toying with this guy who is not as big as Rashad Holloway who was 165 pounds and another Mexican who was 160” when Pacquiao was preparing for De La Hoya.
Ariza pointed out that Pacquiao is now fighting opponents who are 5’8” or 5’9” “and Manny is hitting them. I just don’t see these smaller guys being able to take his punches. I knew he was going to be lethal at 140 pounds.”
He said WBO bantamweight champion Gerry Penalosa also worked out at the Wild Card while Bernabe Concepcion who fights WBO featherweight champion Steven Luevano on the Pacquiao-Hatton undercard also worked out after Pacquiao.
Ariza said he saw the 22 year old Concepcion train “a little bit and he looked sharp, he looked strong and he’s a good worker.”