LAS VEGAS - With a little help from some friends, I got the nod for SPIN.ph writer Rex Alba to join Manny Pacquiao's morning runs in Los Angeles where the last leg of his training camp was held.
In an attempt to gauge Pacquiao's readiness to challenge Jessie Vargas for the WBO welterweight title, the assignment was given to Alba, a licensed physical therapist by vocation, a fitness buff by recreation.
Alba, 38, is clearly no slouch. An aspiring American Ninja Warrior, he works out with maniacal zeal, spending as much time in a cross fit box as he does at home. Still, Rex was barely able to keep up with Pacquiao's break neck pace, but at least, he lived to tell the tale.
Pacquiao's daily grind starts around 6 a.m., just as the sun begins to set on the City of Angels. From his palatial abode on Plymouth boulevard, he runs a good 2.5 miles to Pan Pacific Park. He is joined by his close-in security and workout buddies, many of whom are boxers and martial arts enthusiasts.
As soon as he arrives in the park, Pacquiao does some killer ab work for at least 15 minutes with short breaks in between - flutter kicks, flutter crosses, crunches. It's a routine only a glutton for punishment would love.
On some days, Pacquiao runs at Griffith Park where he tears through the uphill climb with fantastical ease, leaving behind 80 percent of his entourage. Some basketball is inserted in the mix and, of course, the motherlode is sparring at the Wild Card gym in the afternoon.
The diet is another matter.
Prior to his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. last May 2015, Manny invited me to dinner at his house in Los Angeles. I expected a feast but the menu looked like it came out of a Weight Watchers convention. No fried food, no junk stuff, and definitely no extra rice. It hasn't changed since.
These days, Pacquiao's breakfast consists of boiled egg whites, grapes, bananas and strawberries. Lunch is soup of the meat and fish variety, enhanced with corn, ginger and, when the occasion demands, malunggay.
Dinner is skinless chicken meat, lean beef, or kabob meat. After workouts at Wild Card, Manny has been known to stop by Nat's Thai Food where he unwinds and entertains friends. Without fail, he leaves behind $500 on the table.
Despite being 37 and nine years older than his foe, Pacquiao is a 5-1 favorite to beat Vargas.
I agree. Manny might be old and gray. But his skills and punching power remain the same. And his hips are narrow as a bigot's mind, enough to fit a welterweight belt.