MANNY Pacquiao takes on a new fight on Sunday and it’s not on top of the ring.
The boxing superstar takes to the Philippine Arena floor for his highly-anticipated debut in the PBA when Kia Motors takes on fellow expansion franchise Blackwater in a ushering the 40th season of Asia’s first ever-play-for-pay league at the newly-built venue in Bocaue, Bulacan.
A crowd of about 55,000 is expected to be on hand to watch Pacquiao try his hand at another sport he dearly loves outside of boxing.
The Kia-Blackwater match is set at 3 p.m. shortly after the colorful opening rites, where Pacquiao’s lovely wife Jinkee is likewise expected to share the limelight as muse of the Sorentos.
Kia team manager Eric Pineda confirmed the Filipino boxing icon will be coming all the way from General Santos City to Manila, momentarily leaving his training camp for the upcoming 12-round welterweight title match against unbeaten Chris Algieri.
Pacquiao has yet to join the practices of Kia during the offseason, though he did suit up for the team during its 77-88 loss to Blackwater during a Liga ng Bayan preseason game in Binan, Laguna two weeks ago.
The 5-foot-6 rookie, selected 11th overall by Kia in the last draft, scored a point, grabbed a rebound, and had two turnovers in 10 and a half minutes of play against the Elite.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac admitted the Elite intend to pounce on Kia especially when Pacquiao fields himself on the court, aware the eight-time world champion never had the time to join the Sorentos in practice.
“Puwede (pound on Pacquiao’s unfamiliarity with KIA), kasi di naman siya nag-ensayo sa team so that could be a factor for us kung maglaro si Congressman Manny,” Isaac said on the eve of the Elite’s maiden game in the league.
But Kia top assistant coach Glen Capacio is optimistic the rookie playing-coach can easily follow the plays of the Sorentos during the game.
“Mataas ang basketball IQ niya (Pacquiao). We sent him videos and he knows the plays. May mga inputs siya na talagang mga tama,” said Capacio in defending the 35-year-old Pacquiao.
Kia will try to ride on the broad shoulders of comebacking forward Reil Cervantes, who has been leading the Sorentos in scoring and rebounding during their preseason campaign.
On the other hand, Isaac hopes to draw inspired plays from veteran free agents led by Eddie Laure, Paul Artadi, Bryan Faundo, and Chris Timberlake.