‘Please don’t get injured,’ PBA commissioner tells Pacquiao
MANILA, Philippines - When Manny Pacquiao was selected eleventh overall by the Kia Sorentos in the 2014 Philippine Basketball Association draft, the 35-year-old became the oldest rookie in league history.
The eight division boxing champion, who also holds the title of head coach for the expansion team, is probably not going to outshine Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders as a star of two sports, however.
Pacquiao’s team will open up the PBA regular season on October 19 against fellow expansion team Blackwater Elite at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Philippines. And while the game marks a seminal moment in the 40-year history of the PBA, the date that most people are looking forward to as it pertains to Pacquiao is November 23.
That’s the day he defends his WBO welterweight title against unbeaten New Yorker Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 knockouts) at The Venetian in Macau. Algieri, 30, rose to prominence over the summer, upsetting Ruslan Provodnikov by split decision in June to win the WBO junior welterweight title.
Pacquiao made his pre-season debut against Blackwater in an 88-77 loss this past Saturday, scoring 1 point, grabbing a rebound and committing two turnovers in ten minutes of play.
Speaking to the media at the league’s pre-season press conference on Tuesday, October 7, PBA commissioner Chito Salud said he had spoken to Pacquiao after the game and that Pacquiao assured he would be present for his team’s first regular season game.
“He said that he will be there and will play a couple of minutes. But I told him, ‘please don’t get injured,’” Salud said.
"Manny is just fulfilling his dreams. Manny is smart; he will not place the league, his team and himself in a bad position.”
Kia Motors representative Ginia Domingo tells Rappler that team management is wary of the Sarangani congressman sustaining an injury, which could derail his fight with Algieri.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, who arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday to begin the serious training phase of camp, had worked out a deal previously with his fighter to cut off basketball activities four weeks before fight time.
Promoter Bob Arum told ABS-CBN that Pacquiao’s purse for the pay-per-view fight “is guaranteed to be not less than $20 million,” which is significantly more than the 150,000 pesos ($3,351) a month maximum afforded to first-year players.
“We’ve discussed this often with coach Manny Pacquiao and he has always assured us that he is very fit so the likelihood of him getting injured is very minimal,” said Domingo. “But of course we are very careful of that.
“If you notice he hasn’t really been playing with the team during tuneup games except for our preseason game last Saturday against Blackwater Elite. He will play with the team only on the 19th. He doesn’t really join the other tuneup games or other practice sessions because he’s still a boxer and that’s what he’s doing now.”
Pacquiao, who wears jersey number 17, will begin sparring on Friday at his gym in General Santos City with Estonia native Stan "The Man" Martyniouk, a seven-year professional with a record of 13-2 (2 KOs).
Speaking on Pacquiao’s role with the team, Domingo expounded: “He’s actually our point guard. He’s a leader. The team looks up to him because he’s very positive. If he’s in the court playing with the team, it’s a really ‘Go! Let’s give it our all and try to win this game.’ So that very positive vibe, that’s what he brings into the team.
“Of course he likes to shoot his three point shots. We have to give it to him because he likes to do that and it makes him feel good. Unfortunately when he did that in the last game against Blackwater it didn’t get in but you can expect him to keep trying to make those attempts.”
To deal with the game’s more technical aspects, Kia’s official 2014-2015 roster lists nine assistant coaches, highlighted by former FEU Tamaraws and Globalport Batang Pier coach Glenn Capacio.
Aside from Pacquiao, Kia’s roster is composed of Hans Thiele, LA Revilla, Kenneth Ighalo, Richard Alonzo, Rudy Lingganay, Eder Saldua, Joshua Webb, Paul Sanga, Alvin Padilla, Richard Alvarez and Reil Cervantes, Angelus Raymundo, Michael Burtscher with Virgil Bunsucesco listed as its reserve player.
Domingo said that third round draft pick Rene Pacquiao, a cousin of Manny’s, was relegated to a “practice player” while confirming that draftee Giorgio Umali of Seattle Pacific University and former Talk ’N Text guard Jai Reyes have been cut.
When asked about the team’s goals for their inaugural season, Domingo kept expectations low.
“We’d like to believe that we could get to tenth place [out of 12 teams]; that would be a decent finish for us among the other teams.” - 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.
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