“The thing is, I’m not worried about the things in this world. I’m worried about my life when we die,” said Pacquiao, the WBO’s welterweight beltholder. “Like, are we going to have eternal life or are we going to hell. So I choose to invest my life to eternal life not to a short life.”
The adjustment has Pacquiao praying for the well-being of pound-for-pound rival and WBC welterweight and junior middleweight beltholder Floyd Mayweather Jr., who began serving an 87-day jail sentence on June 1 for a domestic violence case.
“I’m praying for him. I’m not thinking of him as an opponent or an enemy,” said Pacquiao. “I’m thinking of him as a friend and my brother. I’m praying for him that all things will be fine.”
The change also means that in advance of Saturday night’s defense against WBO junior welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley (28-0, 12 knockouts), Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) has done away with singing for his fans at pre- and post-fight concerts.
“Now it’s different. We’re gonna do a Bible Study. Before and after, we’re gonna do a Bible study,” said Pacquiao, adding “there will be singing, but a different type of singing. We will sing Christian songs.”
But if there are those who believe that Pacquiao’s love for his fellow man means that he has softened his stance on attempting to knock Bradley’s block off in the ring, the 33-year-old champion warns against it — albeit, gently.
“I love Tim Bradley as a brother, but we have a job in the ring that we need to do. We have to hurt people,” said Pacquiao, who meets Bradley in an HBO Pay Per View televised clash at the MGM Grand.
“That’s our position and part of the position is to do our job in the ring. After that, nothing personal. This is my job. God made me this profession, and I have a job in the ring, to entertain people and to make people happy.”
Asked how he reconciles the violence of boxing with his religion, Pacquiao said, “When I step into the ring, I change the button. I change the mood. I can do that, yes.”
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said that the fighter’s faith-based lifestyle changes, which include no longer gambling and womanizing, have contributed to a more focused training regimen than in the past.
“The thing is, he comes to the gym and he never comes in tired from maybe a late night of gambling or drinking or whatever his bad habits were. When you’re gambling, what does that lead to? Maybe a beer or two, and then, what comes after that is the girls,” said Roach.
“But he’s with his family now, and with the Bible study, he comes to the gym much more focused. We had a really good training camp. From all of the distractions he used to have, the trade off is unbelievable.”
Roach said that Pacquiao is motivated to erase the notion that he is “done as a fighter” in the wake of his lackluster majority decision victory over nemisis Juan Manuel Marquez in November.
“I think that a lot of people think that Manny’s all done. That’s the fire that we have, is that he wants to prove them wrong. So I think that he’s 100 percent up for the fight,” said Roach.
“Manny doesn’t take anyone lightly. If he was fighting me, he wouldn’t take me lightlty. Manny’s trained really well for the fight. We brought in four, new sparring partners. The Russian guys were really strong, good punchers.”
Roach pointed out that Pacquiao has always been “a compassionate person,” using the latter rounds of Pacquiao’s unanimous decision over Antonio Margarito in November of 2010, where he pulled his punches late in the fight.
“He’s always been a compassionate person, because he’s pulled up on guys before. But the thing is, I don’t think that will happen this time because of Bradley’s style,” said Roach.
“Bradley’s going to keep coming, and coming and coming. Because one thing about Bradley is that he’s a tough, durable guy and he will try.”
Bradley, for his part, expects a dogfight from Pacquiao.
“I think that he’s going to be definitely strong in this fight and very determined, and he’s got a lot to prove to everybody. His last few matches haven’t been as great,” said Bradley.
“He’s got a lot to prove, so he’s going to come out blazing. I think that he’s going to be well-prepared. I’m going to be facing an animal. I think that this guy is going to fight to the death. That’s just him. This guy is going to fight to the end.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org