HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Manny Pacquiao sat in a stifling little dressing room Wednesday afternoon at the Wild Card Boxing Club surrounded by about a dozen sweaty journalists shoving tape recorders in face, an experience he has endured countless times over the past decade.
The air was stale and the temperature must’ve been over 100 degrees (38c), or so it seemed. The conditions were miserable.
The unpleasant environment was such that the always-polite boxing icon might just reveal a little bit of an edge, as so many fighters do as a big fight approaches. And he had plenty of opportunities, given the same old questions he fielded.
Pacquiao was Pacquiao, though. Ridiculously nice, as patient as could be. And always saying the right thing.
What do you think of your opponent? someone asked.
“I never underestimate my opponent,” he said of Shane Mosley, who he faces on May 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “He’s a former pound-for-pound fighter, a good fighter. He’s also bigger than me. I don’t underestimate him.”
Do you think you will go down as one of the all-time greats?
Pacquiao was almost embarrassed by the question. And, of course, there was no chance he would answer in the affirmative. If Pacquiao is one thing, it’s profoundly humble. That's one of the main reasons he so beloved in the Philippines and beyond.
“I don’t know,” he responded. “… I just keep giving enjoyment, excitement to the people. I want to make people happy.”
You don’t care about how you will be remembered?
“I never think of myself compared to anybody. I don’t like that. … I'm just happy giving happiness and enjoyment to the people.”
Why face an opponent who hasn’t looked good in his last two fights?
“He can still fight. He’s not that slow compared to (Antonio) Margarito or somebody else. He moves fast. And maybe this time he will train (extra) hard.”
Freddie is predicting a knockout. Are you predicting one?
He wouldn’t bite.
“I never think about the knockout in the fight. I just do my best. And if the knockout comes, it will come."
Do you think you’ll ever fight Floyd Mayweather?
“There’s a chance. It’s up to him if he wants to fight. I’m ready any time."
Someone suggested that Mayweather might be waiting for Pacquiao, 32, to show signs of age before agreeing to fight him. Pacquiao found that amusing.
“Maybe he is waiting for me to get older,” he said with a laugh.
Pacquiao was asked about the advice he gave Victor Ortiz before the new welterweight titleholder faced Andre Berto last Saturday, advice Ortiz said helped him emerge with a victory.
Pacquiao picked Ortiz to win the fight based on a sparring session between Ortiz and him three years ago, which Roach said was among the best he’d ever witnessed. Pacquiao came away impressed with the younger fighter.
“I talked to Ortiz before the fight and gave him some advice he could use in the fight,” he said.
So now you’re an old guy giving advice to young fighters?
“I am getting old,” he said.
Seriously, do you feel as good as ever?
“You know, we have to accept that we can’t stay young,” he said. “We’re getting older. In our minds, we think we’re still young but in our body we’re getting older.”
Pacquiao was asked about reported distractions before his fight against Margarito in November, which he won easily. He said the distractions were nothing unusual. Then he was asked whether the ever-present boxing writers distract him.
This was his chance to take a little shot at members of media, who have been critical of him from time to time. Didn’t happen.
“You know what?” he said. “In all my success, you’re the most-important thing, the people who helped me to be Manny Pacquiao. Before anything, before somebody else, you guys are the most-important people who have helped us.”
The writers left the hot little room overheated and soaking wet from their own perspiration but with big smiles on their faces. That’s the effect Pacquiao has on everyone.
Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank