by Ronnie Nathanielsz

Senator and eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao’s final sparring session at the “Flash” Elorde Gym in the Mall of Asia complex in Pasay City will be behind closed doors on Thursday.

Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz told Standard that Pacquiao himself had issued instructions for the gym to be off-limits with only the training staff allowed to enter the gym for his final workout, Thursday, apparently upset that a previous sparring session with unbeaten Jose Ramirez (18-0, 13 KO’s) last week had been uploaded by a TV journalist.

Team Pacquiao led by the “Fighter of the Decade” and Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach is scheduled to leave for Los Angeles, California where he will wind down his sparring at the Wild Card Gym of Roach.

Strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune who left for LA last Monday told us he expects Manny to have at least three more sparring sessions before his showdown with Jessie Vargas for Vargas’ WBO welterweight title at the Thomas & Mack Center on November 5.

The fight card which will also include five division super bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino” Flash in a title defense against unbeaten Jessie Magdaleno will be telecast by Solar Sports and GMA 7 as well as on pay-per-view over Sky Cable and Cignal TV.

The TV panel will include former WBO/WBA flyweight champion Brian Viloria, Mike Ochosa and this reporter who together with Mike regularly team-up for Viva Sports top-rating weekly program “The Main Event” on Pinoy Box Office  (PBO) over Sky Cable and  Cignal TV at 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays with a replay at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

This weekend will feature  the first in a two-part special on the Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas championship bout which will include highlights the fights of Pacquiao’s third fight against Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley and Vargas’ showdown with Bradley which referee Pat Russell mistakenly stopped when he heard the ten-second clapper thinking it was the end of the fight with Bradley hurt and staggering from a cracking right hand with Vargas thinking he had won by a TKO in the final  round. However, all three judges scored the fight for Bradley when the fight was stopped.

Pacquiao has had some ferocious sparring sessions with the 5’10” Jose Ramirez who approximates the style of Vargas.

After six rounds of sparring last Saturday, Ramirez told  the Manila Standard “while its been a tough camp for Manny, he is going to be more than ready" when he faces Vargas on November 5.

On Monday, October 24, Manny will begin phase two of his training camp, at Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood.

While Pacquiao will be looking to become a three-time WBO welterweight champion as well as the first senator to win a world title, Vargas will be resolute in enforcing a term limit on the future Hall of Famer's boxing career.

Roach said "I have been training Manny for 15 years and even after all this time he still amazes me. He's pushing 38 and he still outworks every fighter I've ever worked with.  He's had a killer schedule during this training camp but it's been really productive.  You'd have to see it to believe it."

A typical work/training day for Pacquiao begins with a 5 a.m. wakeup call that has him doing his multi-mile morning run one hour later.  His run is followed by grueling strength and conditioning work with Justin Fortune.  After that, it's a shower, a daily reading of the Bible and breakfast before he heads off in business attire to the Senate for a full day of legislative duties.  Pacquiao usually arrives at the gym between 5 and 6 p.m. where he works out for three hours with Roach and his sparring partners.  The day ends with dinner at home followed by a game of chess and a deep sleep.  True to his promise to the electorate, Pacquiao did not miss one senate session.

He told us  "Boxing is my passion and public service is my calling.  I will continue to travel both roads as long as I can do both effectively.  I dedicate the fights I take on to my fans and my countrymen.  They have kept me in their prayers.  I fight to bring glory to the Philippines whether I'm wearing boxing gloves or standing on the floor of the senate."

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has been quoted saying, "Manny is the only person I know who you can read about in the sports section and the national news section of the same newspaper on a daily basis.When Manny is inducted into the Hall of Fame, his plaque will say he was boxing's only eight-division world champion, but that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what makes him so special.  He is literally a national treasure who has brought great honor to the sport and to his country.  He's the amazing Manny."