by Ronnie Nathanielsz
Training camp harmony has provided an added boost to "Fighter of the Decade" Manny Pacquiao's quest to correct the injustice done to him by judges Cynthia Ross and Duane Ford ,who inexplicably scored Pacquiao's first fight against Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley. The split decision victory was universally criticized by media and fight fans.
With his personal life completely stabilized and bickering among members of his training staff and entourage a thing of the past, Pacquiao had a superb week of sparring at the Wild Card Gym of celebrated trainer Freddie Roach which was highlighted by eight rounds including four with former world champion Steve Forbes and four with undefeated junior welterweight prospect Julian Rodriguez of New Jersey, an outstanding amateur who turned pro last November and has scored 2 knockouts in 3 wins so far.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who watched Pacquiao spar last week, noticed the change in the environment among the members of Team Pacquiao and told us "there is no bickering in the camp. Freddie (Roach) is running it. Justin (Fortune) is doing the conditioning and it’s a very peaceable kind of camp.”
Clearly the Roach-engineered ouster of former strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, after Roach complained to Pacquiao that Ariza was causing dissension within the camp, has helped ease bickering among Roach, Pacquiao's childhood friend and assistant trainer Restituto "Buboy" Fernandez, Nonoy Neri and Ariza.
Ariza's replacement, former heavyweight contender Justin Fortune who returned to the fold after leaving for a while following a disagreement with Roach which has long been resolved, has had a positive impact on Pacquiao himself who willingly goes through the rigorous grind orchestrated by Fortune.
Pacquiao's adviser Michael Koncz' relations within Team Pacquiao have also improved considerably following Pacquiao's vote of confidence in Koncz.
To Koncz, who has been with Pacquiao for some nine years, its an ideal setting as Pacquiao focuses on the task of winning his belt back.
Koncz told us “this is a great camp with harmony with Freddie (Roach) and Buboy (Fernandez) handling the boxing part and Justin (Fortune)and Nonoy (Neri) doing the fitness and nutrition.”
He added “it’s a pleasant and enjoyable experience to be back with the old cast and crew."