At this point before Manny Pacquiao fought Antonio Margarito in November, the pound-for-pound king’s handlers were nervous.
Paquiao, known for his conditioning, had fallen behind in his training at least in part because of myriad distractions while training in the Philippines. The result was that he had to work harder than necessary to win the fight.
How are the handlers feeling two-plus weeks away from Pacquiao’s fight against Shane Mosley on May 7?
Couldn’t be more calm.
“It’s the opposite side of the spectrum,” Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach, said at the fighter’s media day Wednesday at the Wild Card Boxing Club. “I don’t want to talk too much about it because I don’t want to jinx it. I’m really not a superstitious guy, though.
“At this level, there is no such thing as luck. Either you’re trained or you’re not. And we’re trained for this fight."
Trainer Freddie Roach, who has been with Pacquiao since 2001, put it more succinctly.
“This is the best camp we’ve ever had,” he said.
No one had to tell Pacquiao to make this the best camp he’s ever had. He just did it.
Why? Two possible reasons: One, he was in good but not great shape going into the Margarito fight, which he won handily but took punishment he might’ve avoided had he been 100 percent. And, two, he believes Mosley is a threat.
Ariza pointed to Margarito.
“I don’t think he was happy about the Margarito fight, taking punches he probably felt he shouldn’t have taken,” he said. “Manny said when he fought (Miguel) Cotto that Cotto hit him with his best shots to the body and all over and didn’t feel them. He said, ‘Against Margarito, I felt almost everything.'
“This time, he took the initiative. He said, “I want to get bigger and stronger.’ I think he’s taking Mosley seriously. I don’t think he took Margarito very seriously.”
Roach has boldly predicted that Pacquiao will become the first to knock out Mosley. In more contemplative moments, though, he acknowledges that the 39-year-old remains dangerous.
And he said Pacquiao feels the same way.
“You can’t take anyone lightly,” Roach said. “Shane does have one-punch knockout power. He’s dangerous from Round 1 to Round 12. We’ve seen him knock guys out in the 12th round before.
“Manny is focusing like he’s supposed to. I’m very happy where he’s at."
Roach said his prize pupil didn’t ease his way into training when they opened camp about a month ago in Baguio City, in the Philippines.
A sense of urgency was there from the start.
“I suggested that he start running on the flats to get into it, to start slowly building up," Roach said. "He went up the mountain the first day and he’s run in the hills every day since. He’s been pushing himself from Day 1."
If there’s any cause for concern, it’s that Pacquiao might be slightly over trained.
“Yes, that’s a concern,” Ariza said. “Manny had five months off. It’s not like he’s gone from one fight to another. I have to remind him, though, “You’re not 22, you’re 32. Give it break.
“Normally we’d have the distractions. Now it’s about cutting back and slowing down a bit.”
And that’s what will happen. Pacquiao, who sparred a taxing 11 rounds Tuesday, will begin to taper off by the end of the week and then ease into the fight in prime condition.
The Pacquiao camp also believes Mosley will be in optimal shape given the magnitude of this opportunity. However, at 39, his legs aren’t what they used to be.
And that could be the difference in the fight.
“I just want to get Manny in the best shape I can,” Ariza said. “I want Manny to be able to push Mosley to a point where he’s not comfortable holding that kind of pace. And I want Manny to able to push past that pace.
“Then hopefully we’ll past the few rounds when we think Mosley will be most dangerous and Manny’s conditioning will make him quit.”
Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank