LAS VEGAS — During his efforts to reawaken the fire in Manny Pacquiao in advance of Saturday's rematch with Tim Bradley, trainer Freddie Roach has asserted that the fighter's spiritual beliefs have played a role in his being overly compassionate toward opponents.
Entering his return bout with Bradley, who dethroned Pacquiao by split-decision in June 2012, Pacquiao is 5-2 with no knockouts over the course of his past seven fights. Pacquiao last scored a stoppage win in November 2009, when he stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th round.
In his past three fights, Pacquiao has lost to Bradley, suffered a sixth-round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012 and unanimously decisioned Brandon Rios in November.
"We're all human beings and Manny has been compassionate about some opponents and it's just, like, he doesn't feel that he needs to hurt people just as long as he wins the fight. I told him, 'Manny, we just can't do that because if you knocked out Marquez around earlier, then you getting knocked out would have never happened,'" said Roach of Pacquiao, who expressed a renewed commitment to his faith in the lead-up to the first fight with Bradley.
"So, we're doing our best to get him out of being that compassionate but I can't guarantee that until we see the fight. It goes back. He's always had that. He's a very religious person and so forth and he's very deeply religious. That's where a lot of that compassion comes from. As I told him, 'In the Bible, there's a lot of violence also. It's a sport that God doesn't control; you control it. I try to talk some sense into him about being compassionate. Obviously, I haven't gotten there yet because he was still a little compassionate in his last fight and he seems a little more fired up for this one but I can't guarantee that if he hurts [Bradley], he'll finish him."
ROACH: BOTH PACQUIAO, FLOYD MAYWEATHER TO BLAME IF THEY DON'T FIGHT
Roach believes history will hold Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. equally accountable for failing to fight each other if their megabout fails to come to fruition.
Past negotiations have failed over money and drug testing, as Mayweather defends his RING and WBC 147-pound championships against WBA counterpart Marcos Maidana on May 3 on Showtime Pay-Per-View at the MGM Grand.
"I think people will say, 'Why didn't they fight each other?,' and blame both guys, to be honest with you. I think that they will blame both guys. I'm really not worried about that fight because if if it was going to happen, then it would have happened already," said Roach during a Thursday interview with reporters at the MGM.
"Over time, why hasn't this fight happened? Every big fight has happened in the history of boxing but sometimes, they happen sooner, sometimes, later. But it seems like they happen. How much interest is there? It's still a big fight but not as big as it was a few years ago."
Mayweather is coming off a majority decision last September that dethroned Saul Alvarez as RING and WBC 154-pound champion, adding those belts to the WBA title Mayweather already owned.
"I don't think 'Canelo' as a threat guy. He's just a young fighter coming up. He got better but I don't rate him so high yet. He has a lot to prove; I think. I honestly think that for Mayweather, the most important thing is for him to retire undefeated and I don't think that he'll take any chances in doing that. Because when he retires undefeated, he can say that he's better than Sugar Ray Robinson and all of these great fighters that have losses on their records and he doesn't [have any losses,]" said Roach.
"He has an argument, so I think if he wants that zero on his record so badly, then he won't take that chance in fighting Manny. Two years ago, I think that Floyd Mayweather would have wanted to fight Manny but now, he's so close to the end of his career. Why take that chance? That's how I feel. But the thing is, when they were both in their prime two years ago and there was a lot of interest in the fight, sure both fighters wanted to make that fight happen."
BOB ARUM THREATENS BOYCOTT OF THE MGM
Pacquiao is 5-3-1 with three knockouts at the MGM Grand but Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum has declared that Saturday's bout with Bradley could be his last at the venue, according to a report in The Telegraph.
On Wednesday, with the MGM Grand's President of Sports and Entertainment, Richard Sturm in attendance, Arum ripped the casino for advertising Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s Showtime Pay-Per-View-televised fight with Marcos Maidana that is being promoted by rival Golden Boy Promotions.
In addition to a large, 20-story-plus mural of Mayweather which reads "Home of The Champion" on the side of the MGM facing the Strip, had been posters plastered to the sides of slot machines, dangling and rotating from the ceilings and otherwise displayed in various places throughout the building.
"The chairman, Jim Mirren said, 'I'm coming over; I'm going to make them change every sign,' but they didn't. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. They doubled the Mayweather signs. And every Filipino, every person who feels that way, ought to boycott the MGM forever. I am very angry," said Arum.
"MGM ought to be ashamed of themselves. They invited us in here; they wanted us to do an event. We're practically done selling tickets and all over this facility, they're putting up signs for a Mayweather fight. And they justify it because he can't sell a ticket because nobody wants to buy tickets for a fight that is pre-ordained as a 15-1 fight. So, as far as I'm concerned, the MGM can stuff it. We're not coming back here.
"We're not doing any more fights here. It's a reason why other American gaming companies like the Sands, the Wynn far exceed the MGM, which struggles to pay its debts because there is no leadership here. They don't know what they're doing. To have people who are in the hotel who should be supporting us and working with us advertising another fight is absolutely unconscionable. But there will be a comeuppance. I guarantee it."
What does Roach think?
"Manny hasn't even seen it. He doesn't give a s–t. I don't care. It's not my decision; it's the hotel's decision," said Roach. "We have more important things on our mind than a f–king picture on the wall; okay? I don't care. It means nothing to me."
PACQUIAO IS BEST AT 'CLOSING DISTANCE'
Other than Marquez, against whom Pacquiao is 2-1-1, no fighter has been able to solve Pacquiao's ability to swoop in for the lethal blow, said Roach.
"Manny closes distance better than any fighter in the world, in my opinion. When he's on his toes and he uses his foot speed, he closes distance very fast," said Roach.
"So, most guys don't see that coming and that's why he has so much success with his feet. He has a little hesitation. You can't really tell when he's coming or when he's not coming but maybe Marquez figured that out though."
ROACH SAYS PACQUIAO'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT BEING KNOCKED OUT
Pacquiao has admitted that while his primary goal may be to win by stoppage against Bradley, in the back of his mind, he will be wary that he instead could wind up being the fighter knocked unconcious.
Roach, however, does not believe Pacquiao's awareness is to the point where it will be detrimental.
"Anyone can get knocked out if you get hit with the right shot. I mean, I don't care how good of a chin you have. I had 150 fights and a few pro fights before I ever got knocked down or out for the first time. I thought that it was f–kin' impossible and then, all of sudden, it's a reality. But if you get hit with the right shot, you'll go down. It's just part of life. I kind of fell apart. I didn't fight brave as well. It bothered me a lot. But Manny and I are two completely different people. It doesn't bother him at all because he accepts that and he understand that there is a risk going into the fight that you can be knocked out," said Roach of Pacquiao, who has been stopped three times.
"He knows that and he understands that. I mean, he's told me so many times that if you don't think that you can get knocked down or knocked out, you picked the wrong sport because that is part of our lives. But with me, I was just so hard-headed, I didn't think anyone could hurt me. The way that he fought Rios, maybe he could have gotten in there and jumped on him and knocked him out but we didn't want to do that because we made that mistake once before. Rios is a big guy and not a bad puncher, maybe a little bit better puncher than Timothy. But the thing is, he was a big strong guy and we didn't want to overdo it like we did in the Marquez fight and walk into a shot."
BERNARD HOPKINS STILL HAVING FUN WHILE APPROACHING 50
Not only does IBF titleholder Bernard Hopkins plan to make "a profound statement" against WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov in their 175-pound clash on April 19 but the 49-year-old said he plans to have fun doing it.
"To be 49 years old, approaching 50 and knocking on the door of being a senior citizen," said Hopkins, whose birthday was in January, in a prepared release, "it's a profound statement of my dedication. I'm still having fun. That’s the thing that a lot of us miss. I'm having more fun now than when I was in the middle or beginning of my career."
Hopkins will meet the 30-year-old Shumenov at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., on a Showtime-televised card to include an IBF welterweight title defense by Shawn Porter against ex-titleholder Palulie Malignaggi and a WBO middleweight belt defense by Peter Quillin opposite Lukas Konecny.
In October, Hopkins unanimously decisioned Karo Murat in defense of the IBF belt he won from Tavoris Cloud in March, extending his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown.
Hopkins first set the record at the age of 46 by outpointing Jean Pascal for the WBC’s title in May 2011 before being dethroned in a majority decision loss to Chad Dawson in April 2012.
Hopkins has already been an undisputed middleweight champion, having made a record 20 defenses of that belt. Hopkins reigned at 160 pounds from April 29, 1995, when he stopped Segundo Mercado in the seventh round to win the IBF's vacant title, to July 2005, when he was dethroned by Jermain Taylor following a split decision.
"There were a lot more things I had to go through in my life but I'm having more fun now than I had in the last 16 years," said Hopkins. "Since about 40 years old, we're talking nine years later. It's a big deal. I don't want to downplay it."
Shumenov won his belt with a split decision over Gabriel Campillo in 2010, avenging a majority decision loss in their previous fight, in 2009.
Shumenov established a record for the light heavyweight division by defeating Campillo in just his 10th professional bout before making the first defense with a unanimous decision over Vyacheslav Uzelkov, who had knocked out Campillo in 2007.
Shumenov ended an 18-month absence in December, scoring knockdowns in the first, second and final round of a third-round stoppage over Tamas Kovacs for the fifth defense of his belt. Hopkins was ringside for Shumenov's victory at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"I'm not going to be surprised by his style," said Hopkins. "There's nothing he can do that I haven't seen. Can he say the same thing?"
JESSE HART: EXPECT 'FIREWORKS' VS. SAMUEL CLARKSON
Super middleweight Jesse Hart (12-0, 10 KOs) said "you can expect definitely fireworks" on Friday night when the 24-year-old faces 23-year-old Samuel Clarkson (10-2, 6 KOs), who will be after his fourth straight win since falling by split decision to Jas Phipps last April.
"You can expect definitely fireworks going on," said Hart, son of Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, a premier middleweight out of Philadelphia through the 1970s. "I'm just glad to be on television and on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights and I'm definitely going to give the people what they want. TV is going to love me."
Hart's hard-hitting father posted a career mark of 30-9-1 that included 28 knockouts, a victory over Sugar Ray Seales, a draw and a loss to Bennie Briscoe and setbacks against Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.
Part of a show Top Rank-promoted show, Hart-Clarkson will be the co-main event to the super middleweight bout between Giovanni Lorenzo (33-6, 25 KOs) and Gilberto Ramirez (27-0, 21 KOs).
The card also features Russian light heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev (2-0, 2 KOs), who captured the light heavyweight gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, against Dwayne Williams (5-1, 2 KOs) and lightweight Lydell Rhodes (19-0, 9 KOs) opposite Alejandro Rodriguez (21-13-1, 12 KOs).
WILFREDO VAZQUEZ JR. EYES REPEAT VS. MARVIN SONSONA ON JULY 7
Featherweights Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. vows to be even more impressive against Marvin Sonsona in their rematch of Vazquez's fourth-round stoppage victory from February 2010.
Vazquez and Sonsona will meet again on the undercard of Sergio Martinez's defense of his RING and WBC middleweight championships against Miguel Cotto on June 7 at New York's Madison Square Garden on HBO Pay-Per-View.
"Now, it's going to be a lot better because in the first fight, I wasn't as experienced. That's going to be an advantage to me. I'm a lot stronger than I was in the first fight," said Vazquez, through translation by Gaby Penagaricano.
"My career was jump-started by defeating Sonsona and this time will be no exception. For him to be put in my path at this time of my career, I'm going to be better prepared. I think that the knockout will be in the back of his mind, no question, even though time has passed."
A southpaw from General Santos City, Philippines, Sonsona (18-1-1, 15 KOs) has won four straight fights, three by knockout, since falling to Vazquez (23-3-1, 19 KOs), who has gone 5-3 with four stoppage wins since their last meeting.
VENROY JULY RETURNS ON SATURDAY
Cruiserweight Venroy July (16-1-2, 6 KOs), a 31-year-old Baltimore-based attorney and promoter, will face Quantis Graves (9-0-1, 4 KOs) on Saturday at the Patapsco Arena in Baltimore, according to a release by July's Hardwork Promotions.
"For me to become a championship-level fighter, I have to beat quality fighters,” said July, a 2007 graduate of Duke University’s School of Law. "Beating an unbeaten and well-regarded opponent like Quantis Graves will help me get there. I’ve seen him fight before and he’s a good fighter but so am I. I’m very confident that I’ll win this one."
July has benefited from sparring sessions with former RING cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham, now fighting as a heavyweight.
"Steve is a great guy and a great fighter. We went at it in the gym and knowing that I can hang with top fighters like that only adds to my confidence. Everybody in the gym tells you how good you are," said July.
"But actually going in there and trading punches with a top fighter is a whole different thing. My work with Steve Cunningham definitely helped me get ready for the Graves bout and future challenges."
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