Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao began training yesterday for his June world title defence against US challenger Timothy Bradley, saying he has God in his corner.
Reciting biblical passages as he shadow-boxed in a park, Pacquiao said finding God earlier this year had not deprived him of the devastating speed and power that earned him eight world titles in as many divisions.
"Nothing has changed. I am still fully focused on training, although now I am happier because I have God," he told reporters in the northern mountain resort of Baguio, where he undergoes altitude training ahead of all his fights.
Regarded by many in the sport as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, Pacquiao, 54-3 with two draws, stakes his World Boxing Organisation welterweight crown against the undefeated Bradley in Las Vegas on June 9.
Some feared the 33-year-old's conversion would extinguish his killer instinct in the ring and bring his glittering career to an abrupt halt.
The left-hander, who has translated his sports fame into huge riches, a movie career and election to parliament, announced in January that he had become a changed man after a religious vision.
Formerly a heavy gambler fond of late-night parties, Pacquiao said he had been chosen by God to use his fame to spread the Christian message.
He told a Manila radio station last month that God had told him in a dream to retire soon, but did not say when.
His American coach Freddie Roach has brought up to Baguio a team of sparring partners headlined by Briton Amir Khan, one of the world's highest-ranked light-welterweights, Pacquiao aide Buboy Fernandez said.
"Bradley has his own moves. He's good at head movement and we have to pay attention to that. He can also bend the rules to his advantage," Fernandez said.