Climb back to top begins for Pacquiao in hometown

Edwin G. Espejo

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Manny Pacquiao begins his road back to the top by training in General Santos.

BACK IN ACTION. Pacquiao begins his preparation for his fight against Brandon Rios. Photo by Rappler/Edwin Espejo. 

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines — Amid reports he is going broke, if not already broke, Rep. Manny Pacquiao pitched camp and started training for his November comeback fight against American Brandon Rios.

He began his daily early morning run at the P. Acharon Sports Complex and shadow boxed at his Wild Card Gym Wednesday, August 21, although longtime friend and trainer Buboy Fernandez said Pacquiao always kept himself fit by playing basketball.

Pacquiao looked trim even if he has not fought since his knockout loss to perennial nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012. 

Longest layoff

This will be the longest layoff period for Pacquiao who has never been out of fight for more than 7 months since turning professional in January 1995.

His November fight in Macau will also be the first time in his career that he will be fighting only once in a year.

Two successive losses in 2012, against Marquez and Timothy Bradley, have led to his ring inactivity.

Politics also took away his time as Pacquiao ran for re-election and supported the candidacies of his wife Jinkee and brother Roel.

Pacquiao broke?

On Thursday, a Cebu-based daily quoted a longtime Pacquiao confidante who said the 8-division world boxing champion is already broke.

Boxing promoter and manager Rex ‘Wakee’ Salud said all of Pacquiao’s winnings are now gone.

An ABS-CBN report also said the Sarangani congressman is now selling his mansion in Los Angeles for US$2.7 million.

Whether he no longer needed the house or he badly needed cash, Pacquiao arrived at his gym unperturbed by the reports.

Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum had said Pacquiao will save a lot from the guaranteed purse of his Rios fight as it will be tax free.  His fight prize has not been disclosed but it is believed Pacquiao will be getting far less than he got when he fought Marquez.

Arum is targeting the huge but largely untested China market for a pay-per-view fare featuring Pacquiao.

High risk, high reward

It is a risky undertaking but could also reap huge rewards.

But whatever happens, Pacquiao needs to win big against Rios, a former lightweight champion who packs power on both hands.  Rios is also taller, younger and could be hungrier than the Filipino boxing icon.

If anything, however, Rios’ fighting style fits into Pacquiao’s needed fare and a convincing victory could get him back on track as a still bankable marquee fighter.

For Pacquiao lawyer Jeng Gacal, the Pacquiao-Rios fight is boxing’s version of the movie Hunger Games.  Both are coming off a loss and need to win to give their boxing careers a much-needed boost.

Pacquiao said the decision to spend the whole duration of his training camp in his hometown city will enable him to spend time with his family and constituents.

But he also clarified that he is not taking his November fight lightly.

First day in the gym

Thursday gym session turned from tensed silence as most gym rats are seeing their boxing idol for the first time and in flesh.

Pacquiao started by taping his hands himself.  After a short limbering, he went to throw several combinations to a double end bag before climbing the ring to shadow box.  Then it was a full 12 rounds of doing the mitts with Buboy.  When it was over, he turned to the speed ball and skipped the rope.

Before winding up, it was his turn to don the mitts and allowed two women gym clients to throw punch combinations at him, alternately mocking and teasing them.  He then joined them in doing the abs exercise.

The mood then turned relaxed as Pacquiao began joking and kidding around.

The training has just begun and the road back to the top will not be easy for Pacquiao who, only last month during the world tour to promote his fight, said a presidential run is a possibility for him.

He needs to win against Rios to have at least a shot at the candidacy first. –

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