By Jake Donovan
Fight night is always the deciding piece of evidence as to whether or not a fighter truly enjoyed the best training camp of his career.
Naturally, it’s the song that Manny Pacquiao and his camp are singing as the superstar fighter prepares for his June 9 showdown with Tim Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. There has been no shortage of hyperbole from past Pacquiao camps, though there have also been plenty of instances of a camp in disarray when it came to the Filipino superstar.
Personal problems surrounded Pacquiao’s last camp as he didn’t quite look like a pound-for-pound king in his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez last November. Pacquiao escaped with a majority decision, but looked vulnerable enough to where he was supplanted by fellow box office superstar Floyd Mayweather in the race for the sport’s best fighter.
“The fight was hard for me,” Pacquiao says of his less-than-scintillating effort in last year’s catchweight bout. “There were some family problems. But I was in shape.”
No such issues have surfaced for this camp, in which those who have observed insist that Pacquiao is at far greater peace with himself than ever before. Not even the scent of a silly scandal over comments regarding same-sex marriage has served cause to derail momentum.
“His focus is really good for this fight,” states Freddie Roach, the Hall of Fame trainer who has guided Pacquiao’s career for the past decade. “He has the edge where he doesn’t come in tired anymore. He started go to bible study and is focused on the fight. He and God are very close and he’s 100% focused with no distractions.”
The spiritual journey is believed to be the most positive effect on this stage of Pacquiao’s long and storied career. Sometimes all it takes is to simply drop to your knees and say a little prayer to figure out what is the next step.
“As someone who frequents his camps, the difference in Manny’s face is so apparent,” says Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter since 2006. “He’s not as tired as he once was. There is a glow on his face. I think this religious awakening on his part is all good. I’m a little biased because I’m religious as well. But I’m a firm believer that when young athletes find religion, it enhances their careers.”
Pacquiao can use all of the help he can get for his showdown with Bradley early next month. Bradley is unbeaten as a pro and the class of the 140 lb. division. Even in moving up to welterweight for this bout, the sculpted Californian is believed to provide a difficult challenge.
The high risk involved in what awaits Pacquiao is June is why his handlers made sure to ramp up efforts in training camp. That’s not to say that Pacquiao hasn’t hit a speed bump or two while preparing for Bradley, but there is less concern over the outcome of this fight than was believed to be the case at the same point in camp prior to facing Marquez.
“Manny is always covered in drama and distractions around him and it cost him a bit in the last fight,” Roach admits. “He’s fired up and ready to go. He had great sparring sessions. Everything is on track and right where it’s supposed to be.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]