THE RING’s No. 1-rated pound-for-pound Manny Pacquiao and his chief cornerman, five-time Trainer of the Year, Freddie Roach, spent a Friday evening Skype session with troops from the P2K Provice of Afghanistan, offering the soldiers encouragement and thanking them for their service to the country, among other things.
“Talking to the troops last night was one of the best things that I’ve ever done,” said Roach. “It was very satisfying, making those guys laugh and smile.”
Pacquiao and Roach were interviewed for more than a half an hour by the troops, who make up the Task Force Duke, Third Brigade, First Infantry Division from Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The soldiers are currently stationed in FOB Salerno, Afghanistan in the P2K Province — which stands for the Paktyka, Khost and Paktia Province — as part of Operation Enduring Freedom 2011.
The event was a long-time goal of specialist John Martinez, who “was the one who MC’d the whole thing from over there,” according to publicist Fred Sternburg.
“This solder, John Martinez, contacted me from Afghanistan. He called us and he said that he wanted us to do this, and that they were going to run flags up in our honor over a couple of their bases in Afghanistan,” said Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum.
“This John Martinez kid is very nice. He has one month to go in Afghanistan, and then they’re shipping him back to Fort Hood. He seemed like a nice boy. He said that the soldiers were looking forward to it and that it was a big diversion for them.”
Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs) and Roach made their comments following a day at the Wild Card Boxing Club owned by Roach, where Pacquiao is preparing for the HBO Pay Per View televised defense of his WBO welterweight belt opposite RING and WBO/WBA lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) on Nov. 12.
Pacquiao has battled Marquez through a draw and a split-decision in May of 2004 and March of 2008 when they competed first for Marquez’s WBA and IBF featherweight titles and then his WBC junior lightweight belt.
“They gave it about 45 minutes, and it was just really neat to hear the enthusiasm and their questions that they were giving him,” said Sternburg. “As wiped out as Manny was from his workout that day, I think that he really got a kick out of it, and so did Freddie.”
Sternburg said the interviews were conducted from the Los Angeles-based apartment of Pacquiao, who, with Roach, was surrounded by members of his own camp as well as the cameras of HBO’s 24/7.
“This has been going on for a while where John Martinez had been asking to have this set up, and it was really neat. It was at about 8 a.m. their time. He asked for some gloves to be signed for himself and some officers in his troop,” said Sternburg.
“The soldiers asked a lot of questions of Manny and Freddie about training, who he would fight next, and if Manny would be running for president among other things. Regarding future opponents, Manny deferred to Bob Arum and said that he would not be eligible to run for president until 2020.”
Although the notion of a Pacquiao clash with RING No. 2 pound-for-pound WBC welterweight titleholder Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) was also a topic, it was not a major one, said Sternburg.
“You can tell that they’re really boxing fans. They didn’t even dwell on Mayweather that much. They asked the usual questions, you know, just ‘do you think that the fight’s going to happen?'” said Sternburg. “Manny gave his usual answers, you know, ‘if it does, you know, it would be great, but if it doesn’t, you know, life goes on.'”
Sternburg said that the troops honed in on the policital future of Pacquiao.
“The one thing that they kept asking is whether or not he was going to run for president. Manny told them that he would be running for governor of the Sarangani province in 2013. But Freddie kept on telling them, ‘he’ll be president one day, he’ll be president,'” said Sternburg.
“Both Manny and Freddie commended the troops for their patriotism and bravery and told them a grateful nation is very proud of them. It was an honor to be a part of it, I got a huge kick watching it, and I think that we all had a lump in our throats afterward knowing that these guys are in harms way. It was something else.”
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank Inc.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org