It was nearly midnight on Wednesday in General Santos City, Philippines, and trainer Freddie Roach was hosting a long-distance conference call with American reporters in advance of Manny Pacquiao‘s Nov. 23 clash with Brandon Rios.
Roach explained how the fighting Filipino congressman is maintaining his focus in the Southern part of his nation against heart-wrenching emotional and political stress associated with the deadly typhoon which ravaged much of the Northern Philippines last week.
“Manny’s gotten a lot of calls for the tragedy of course, and we did talk about it in the gym, and about all of the trainers going down, but it’s too close to the fight for him to take any time off. So he is focused on the fight,” said Roach.
“But, obviously, it is a distraction because Manny really cares about his people. We do talk about it in the gym. We were talking about it yesterday, about how many people were killed in the storm. He is concerned about his people, but he knows that this is a big fight.”
Roach described the weather in General Santos City as “sunny and hot.”
“It’s very unusual. We got a little bit of rain one evening, but the storm didn’t come in our direction at all. Training is going well,” said Roach.
“I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy, but I’m in deep training, so I regret that I can not go,” said Pacquiao, according to The Associated Press. “I will send help to those who need it the most, and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times.”
In the meantime, Pacqauiao, who turns 35 in December, is trying to rebound from consecutive losses, having been dethroned as WBO 147-pound beltholder Tim Bradley in June ahead of suffering a sixth-round stoppage loss to rival Juan Manuel Marquez in December of 2012.
“This is a big fight. It’s a big one for the country also, and not just for his boxing career,” said Roach. “It’s a must-win situation, for sure. We need to look impressive in this fight. We’ve talked about it. He wants to win it for his people. He told me that again yesterday.”
Rios was slightly out-boxed in his last fight, when he was unanimously decisioned by 140-pounder Mike Alvarado in March. The fight was a rematch of Rios’s seventh-round knockout win five months earlier.
Alvarado, in turn, was knocked out in the 10th round last month by Ruslan Provodnikov, a former sparring partner for Pacquiao.
“Ruslan and Manny have been good friends. When they sparred, they worked very well for each other. Manny usually got the best of him, but Ruslan is a very strong puncher. As far as Rios, this is the first time that he’s fighting at 147,” said Roach.
“But Rios is still a fat guy, because he’s moving up from 140 to 147 and still has to lose weight, so that tells you the kind of discipline he has … I think that we’re going to take advantage of that. I feel like Manny’s going to out-box this guy, and that he’ll wind up knocking him out inside of six [rounds].”
In victory over Rios, Pacquiao would likely seek a rematch with Marquez, who’d he’d beaten twice and fought to a draw before the loss. Marquez lost a split decision to Bradley last month.
“Manny still wants Marquez. He wanted Marquez for this fight, actually. That would be a dream match,” said Roach.
“We want Marquez one more time. That’s the fight that we want. I mean, we would like Floyd Mayweather, too, of course, but Marquez, we want to get that back.”
Asked if he would discuss retirement with Pacquiao should he lose for the third straight time, Roach said, “Yes I would.”
“I think that this is a fight that he should win and I think that he’s at a much higher caliber than Brandon Rios,” said Roach.
“But if he lost this fight, depending on how the fight went, we would have a long discussion about that for sure. Because, after losing three in a row, it might be time to stop.”
Photo by Stephen Dunn-Getty Images; Ryan Songalia
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com