Pacquiao still a fan favorite as he hits Las Vegas

Ryan Songalia
Pacquiao still a fan favorite as he hits Las Vegas
Hundreds of fans greet Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr at their Grand Arrivals at MGM Grand before their third fight

LAS VEGAS, USA – Whoever said Manny Pacquiao wasn’t popular anymore was telling a lie.

Hundreds of fans filled up the lobby of the MGM Grand on Tuesday, April 5, for the Grand Arrivals of Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr, which kicks off fight week leading up to their third meeting on Saturday, April 9 (US time).

Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 knockouts) entered the lobby to the tune of a familiar favorite –’s Bebot – as fans sought autographs and selfies with the 8-division champion. At least one fan held a sign showing support for Pacquiao’s upcoming senatorial bid in the May general elections.

His smile was genuine and carefree, belying the controversies that plagued his training camp and a reported attack by a man in Los Angeles just before breaking camp to travel to Las Vegas.

“I’m so thankful to the warm welcome from the people. You know that I love you all,” said the 8-division boxing champion Pacquiao.

Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs), flanked by his head trainer Teddy Atlas and father Tim Bradley Sr, was appreciative of the attention as he stayed behind to sign posters for fans. Bradley, who won a controversial decision in their first fight and lost a decision in a rematch, touted his trainer as the reason why he feels confident in winning their third fight.

Timothy Bradley Jr will be working for the second time with trainer Teddy Atlas. Photo by Wendell Alinea/Rappler

“Everybody knows I’ve made some changes for my training camp,” said Bradley. “I’ve hired Teddy Atlas as my trainer, the fact that I have an analyst, a great trainer, a great man in my [team] to make the difference.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever trained. Honestly, I feel like I haven’t trained for this fight. That’s how fresh I feel.”

Six rounds of padwork

Pacquiao did feel – and looked – like he had been training. Pacquiao, age 37, left the Grand Arrival ceremony to work out at the Top Rank Gym. He completed 6 rounds of padwork, showing off some of his speed and power.

Pacquiao’s face showed the focus of a man eager to leave a lasting impression in what he says will be his final fight before devoting time to his political career, but here were moments of levity, like when he interrupted a session to call out trainer Freddie Roach for passing gas in the middle of a round. At one point Pacquiao exclaimed “Rio Olympics!” as he fired off punches, a reference to rumors that he is considering boxing at the 2016 Olympics under new guidelines allowing professionals to compete.

“My condition is 100%. I’m ready, it’s all set, I’m ready for the fight on Saturday,” said Pacquiao. “We’re just maintaining my condition, warm-up, no more power. Save the power for Saturday.”

“He’s throwing really hard with both hands,” added Roach. “His shoulder is not bothering him at all. He’s been punching like that the whole camp. The last two spars were like the two best spars that I’ve seen from him in a long time.”

Justin Fortune, Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach, thinks Pacquiao has been focused on landing harder shots with his right hook in the gym to allay concerns over his surgically repaired rotator cuff, which he says affected training for his most recent fight, a unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr in May.

“Everyone was worried about it but he’s proved us wrong. It’s a great punch. It’s the left hand I’d watch out for. They’re both devastating punches,” said Fortune, who adds there were no specific exercises they did to fortify the repaired shoulder.

Pacquiao hasn’t scored a knockout since 2009, when he stopped Miguel Cotto in 12 rounds to win his first welterweight title. If this truly is the final fight of his 21-year career, Pacquiao wants the last image to be a fun one for his fans. 

“I want an explosive performance and to win convincingly to make the fans happy. Of course, to add the honor for my country. It’s my legacy,” said Pacquiao.

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