GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Before Manny Pacquiao gets his shot at revenge against WBO welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley in their April 12 rematch, Lydell Rhodes will be first to experience the Pacman’s fury.
The 26-year-old from Spencer, Okla. has spent the past few weeks in General Santos City, Philippines helping sharpen the eight-division world champion’s skills and reflexes ahead of his April 12 return match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.
Rhodes, who has lived and trained out of Las Vegas the past few years, holds an unbeaten record of 19-0 (9 knockouts). Rhodes says he has sparred over 20 rounds with Pacquiao across 4 sessions, and that the experience has been nothing short of shocking.
“It’s been hell in there,” Rhodes told Rappler.com on Wednesday afternoon, sporting a cut lip from a previous session. “He’s been bringing it every time. It’s been a lot of speed, power and intensity. That’s the hardest thing to get used to, his level of intensity. You don’t find that every day, the level that he competes at.”
Rhodes, who has lived and trained out of the boxing Mecca of Las Vegas the past few years, had a relative late start in boxing, picking up the sport at age 20 to stay in shape in the offseason while playing football at the University of Central Oklahoma.
He has made up for lost time by sparring many of the sport’s top fighters, including former 3-division champion Adrien Broner.
Still, Rhodes says he’s seeing things against Pacquiao that he has never seen before.
“His angles are crazy,” said Rhodes, who fights March 29 in Oklahoma City against an opponent to be named. “Like I said before, I have to say his intensity is phenomenal. I’ve never felt someone as intense as him when I’m sparring them.
“And the other thing that has surprised me is that he has very good timing. Usually people can’t time me because I have a really quick jab but he times it. He’s really ring savvy and times a lot of my punches. I didn’t expect that.”
What is it like getting hit by Pacquiao?
“It feels like I’m fighting a super middleweight,” said Rhodes. “He cracks, so the best thing for me or anybody else is try not to be there. That’s hard because he’s fast too, so he’s going to you regardless so you just gotta brace yourself and be ready.”
Pacquiao rested from the gym on Wednesday but will spar Thursday and Saturday before leaving for Los Angeles on Saturday evening, where he’ll finish up training at trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym. Joining him will be former world champions Kendall Holt and Steve Forbes, as well as junior welterweight prospect Julian Rodriguez for sparring.
Kapeng Barroca with Team Pacquiao
Life with Manny Pacquiao equates to life with basketball. Though the archipelago’s sports fans may have learned to share their heart with boxing in recent years, basketball still remains a close second for Pacquiao.
Every day 70-80 people congregate at the Sarangani province congressman’s home to play at Manny’s private court. Rhodes, an avid fan of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, joins in, and has been impressed by the game of one of Pacquiao’s personal guests: PBA Philippine Cup finals MVP Mark Barroca of San Mig Coffee.
“The dude got game. He’s doing stuff that you see in the NBA. He’s legit. he was the MVP and I see why, he was making every shot. The only thing he didn’t do was shoot blindfolded. His dribble and everything was on point.”
When even went as far as to say that the 5-foot-9 Coffee Prince had the goods to play in the NBA.
“I think he definitely does. The only thing that would challenge him is his height. I don’t think he’s actually that tall, but he can get away with it because he’s actually skilled, he’s quick and he can shoot. He creates very good space because he’s quick and he has very good handles so he can create the little distance to get his shot off.”
Thoughts on Pacquiao-Bradley II
Though most thought Pacquiao deserved the decision over Bradley in their first fight in April of 2012, Rhodes acknowledges that Pacquiao will still have his hands full when they meet once again.
Both Bradley and Pacquiao have had tough outings in subsequent fights, with Pacquiao being knocked out in six rounds by Juan Manuel Marquez in his next bout before decisioning former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios a year later. Bradley, on the other hand, was dropped twice in a life-or-death brawl with Ruslan Provodnikov before decisioning Marquez.
“I think it’s going to be a really highly competitive fight,” said Rhodes. “Both guys have something to prove. Manny wants to show everybody that he still has that tenacity that he always brings to the ring. Tim’s coming because it was so controversial, everybody thought that he lost but the three judges. He’s going to come in there looking to prove a point, and Manny’s going to come there to dominate to show everybody that he’s still on time.
I think it’s going to be a close decision but I think Manny’s going to come out and edge him in the decision.” – 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. An archive of his work can be found at ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.