by Ronnie Nathanielsz

“Fighter of the Decade” Manny Pacquiao sprained his ankle while playing basketball on Saturday but was able to attend the 11th anniversary celebration of the “River of God” church at the Crowne Plaza on Ortigas where he spoke to a huge congregation that listened intently.

After the worship in which his wife Jinkee and their four children participated in actively, Standard and ABS-CBN’S Dyan Castillejo had an exclusive interview with the eight division world champion on a variety of issues.

He said the sprain occurred during a third consecutive game of basketball he played the previous evening but shrugged it off saying “Its not the first time,” conceding that his failure to use an ankle support and to tape his ankles led to the injury but stressed “its okay.”

Pacquiao said that even when he starts serious training for his showdown  with Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios in Macau on November 24 although celebrated trainer Freddie Roach has, in the past, expressed his concern over playing basketball while training for a fight precisely because of the risk of injury.

Right now Pacquiao has been jogging and doing light training. He said “serious training will begin when trainer Freddie Roach arrives in Pacquiao's hometown of General Santos City after the fight of Miguel Cotto (whom Roach now trains) on October 6.

He said he was “excited” to enter  the ring after a layoff of almost one year since his stunning 6th round knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas last December 8 and that he was looking forward to his fight with Rios  because “it’s a good fight, a good test and my opponent is good and very aggressive.”

Asked whether he still considers himself an elite fighter. Pacquiao said “that’s what I’m  trying to prove to the people on November 24. Its hard to say right now but I’m doing my best in training to show it to them.”

When confronted with the question that he might be careless in trying to go for a knockout because he wants to prove himself to the fans and win impressively, Pacquiao replied “it depends of course. In my last fight (against Marquez) I learned a lot and I need to apply that in training.”