MANILA, Philippines – It’s not uncommon for working people to hit the gym after a day at the office. What Manny Pacquiao does in any day isn’t common for most people, however.
Pacquiao, 37, arrived at the gym following a full day at the Philippine Senate to spar 8 rounds – the first 5 with 2012 US Olympian Jose Ramirez and the final 3 with local journeyman Leonardo Doronio. It’s a blistering way to jump back into the gym after skipping a workout on Monday because proceedings ran until 11 pm. Pacquiao, who is preparing for his November 5 fight with WBO welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, did more than just break a sweat.
From the first round on Ramirez, an unbeaten boxer at 18-0 (13 knockouts) who is 13 years his junior, tried to push Pacquiao to the ropes and bang away with hip-shattering left hooks to the body and right hands between the guard. Pacquiao, fresh off a “retirement” that lasted just long enough for him to win one of 12 Senate seats up for grabs, fought back with a ferocity that comes out when he’s in the sort of brawl that he loves. It was better than most fights, but by the fifth round Ramirez was not nearly as aggressive and was replaced by the 15-13-3 (10 KOs) Doronio, who was battered around the ring for 3 rounds.
“That’s why Freddie likes me sparring Manny because he says that I bring the dog out of Manny,” said Ramirez after his fourth session in two weeks with the 8-division champion.
Freddie Roach, who trains both and handpicked Ramirez to spar with Pacquiao, expects something similar when Pacquiao fights the current WBO welterweight titleholder Vargas, a 27-year-old Mexican-American from Los Angeles who brings a 27-1 (10 KOs) record to the ring.
“I think Vargas will try to press the fight until he gets hit, and then he’ll run,” said Roach.
What does Pacquiao have left to gain by continuing to fight on, nearly 22 years after he made his debut? Nothing, aside for money, which he admits he needs to help support those whom he financially assists. And what does he have to prove? Nothing, he’s won world titles in more weights than anyone ever likely will. So what keeps him pushing his body to the limit?
“I just want to prove to the people, to the fans of boxing even though I have a lot of work…I can still manage my time and manage my career,” said Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs).
“My goal is, I want to get another title. This coming fight, Vargas is the champion so I want to get the belt again.”
Roach acknowledges that Pacquiao has “done it all” and offers a simpler explanation for what brings Pacquiao back to the ring.
“He’s just having fun. He’s still the most dedicated trainer I’ve ever seen,” said Roach. Among the fun at the gym on Tuesday was Manny’s two-year-old son Israel, who mimed his dad’s shadowboxing and ab workouts but seemed most captivated when uncle Bobby Pacquiao rolled a ball at him to coax the toddler out of the ring.
The new guys
Who else can Pacquiao fight if a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr never materializes?
“There’s some good names out there, always up and coming new guys, I’m sure they’re out there,” said Roach. “Until he starts losing to those ordinary guys, then we’ll stop.” And on Terence Crawford, the unbeaten junior welterweight titleholder who is also under the Top Rank banner? “He’s a good runner, that’s all I know. He fights like [Floyd] Mayweather a little bit, very careful. Good boxer.”
It helps that Vargas, an all-out warrior who overcame 2008 Olympian Saddam Ali to win the vacant title in March, has a style which plays into Pacquiao’s. And an entertaining fight – which if nothing else this figures to be – could present Pacquiao as indispensable to premium TV networks as he prepares to fight on a pay-per-view produced independently by Top Rank.
“Yes he’s good for my style but I won’t [be] overconfident. I won’t take lightly this opponent,” added Pacquiao.
Pacquiao and camp are set to leave the Philippines around October 20, which gives me about 3 weeks to finish up training in the Philippines. Conditioning coach Justin Fortune will leave on October 17 to resume treatments for throat cancer.
What more does Pacquiao have to prove? Nothing, except maybe to himself.
“I don’t feel 37 or 38 now. I feel young. My body is still young and I can still do what I did in the past 10 years. I can discipline myself. It all depends on how you discipline yourself both as a public servant and as a boxer,” said Pacquiao. – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.