WORLD Boxing Organization (WBA) welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao plunged into a nine-week training for his coming title showdown against Australian challenger Jeff Horn.
The 38-year-old Filipino ring icon is putting his 147-pound plum won in 2009, defended thrice, lost twice and regained as many times, on the block against the unheralded but ranked No. 2 former schoolteacher on July 2 at Suncorp Arena in Brisbane.
“Here we are again. Back to the salt mines,” Pacquiao said as he prepared to get back to work at the Elorde Gym inside the Mall of Asia compound in Pasay City.
“Balik-ensayo, balik-boksing at siyempre excited na maka-amoy na naman gym, makapagsuot ng boxing glove, sumuntok sa heavy bag, double end at speed ball.”
“Miss ko na rin ang tunog kapag tumatama ang glove sa pad. Sabik na rin magsayaw sa ibabaw ng ring, Mag-luksog lubid, mag-shadow box at maki-pag-spar na walang sawa nating ginagawa 22 years na tuwing may laban. Buhay ng boksingero,” he said with glow in his eyes.
“It’s been quiet a long time since the last time we did this routine, no? Six months na,” the eight-division champion said in reference to the last time he fought in November last year when he outpointed Mexican-American Jessie Vargas to win back the crown.
The nine-week training schedule is Pacquiao’s longest since losing to unbeaten arch-rival Floyd Mayweaher Jr. two years ago. The Pacman trained for no less than two months for the richest fight in the history of the sweet science.
“Katunayan yan na I’m not taking this fight lightly as some sectors think I am,” Pacquiao said. “At hindi ko rin ina-underestimate and kalaban ko.”
The sparring phase of the buildup regimen will come, according to assistant trainer Roger “Haplas” Fernandez, a week later, depending the availability of a sparring partner.
“Light lang muna. Pagpag lang at paalis-kalawang kumbaga itong first week tapos next week, sparring kung may makukuha agad na Pilipinong sparmate,” Fernandez related. “Training will turn serious and rigid pagdating na ni coach Freddie (Roach) maybe sa third week."
Focus, according to Fernandez, in the first two weeks will be on stamina-building, physical conditioning and recovering what Pacquiao lost in the six months he’d been away from the gym.
“Ibig sabihin, ihahanda lang muna namin si boss para pagdating ni coach Freddie kaya na niya ng mabibigat na routine,” he explained. “Besides, magbabago na namang bigla ang buhay ni boss.”
“Balik na naman sya sa buhay na gising sa madaling-araw para sa roadwork, breakfast, pahinga konti, biyahe puntang senado, attend ng mga hearing before lunch, attend ng session then tuloy sa gym. Parang buhay niya noong laban kay Vargas, his first fight, actually as a senator,” Fernandez recalled.
“Not an easy life if you ask me,” Choi Garcia, Pacquiao’s execjutive director in his seate office, butted in. “Pero nakaya nya yan noong last fight, makakaya din nya yan ngayon.”