LOS ANGELES — Manny Pacquiao was slipping around the floor outside the ring of the Wild Card Boxing club earlier this week, the result of downpours and a brand new pair of shoes which had not yet been broken in.
“What size shoe are you?,” Pacquiao asked sparring partner Arnold Gonzalez a few feet away on the punching bag. “Size 10,” the young amateur from Harlem responded. Pacquiao gifts the pair to Gonzalez and orders someone to bring out a fresh pair so he can finish up his round on the double end bag. Gonzalez tries them on and jumps around the ring to show them off and mimics his loud, rapid shadowboxing.
Pacquiao was frenetic during his final day of training in LA before traveling to Las Vegas where he will face Adrien Broner at the MGM Grand on Saturday.
He punched the corner pad with his taped fist and refused to end rounds after time was called. Buboy Fernandez, his head trainer, had to leap in and grab the jump rope from him, and yelled at him to get the cup protector off and end the workout. He joked around about Pacquiao being like a bull, and after holding the towel out like a matador’s cape, Pacquiao charged at it head first and clipped Fernandez with his fist in the leg.
“If we have our chance to get him, let’s take it,” said Fernandez, holding up four fingers.
Pacquiao now understands the power of the knockout. After not scoring one for nine years, and hearing suggestions that he was a spent force, Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 knockouts) erased much of that talk with a seven round demolition of Lucas Matthysse last July in Malaysia.
He never says he wants to score a knockout, instead preferring to term it that he wants to do the same thing he did in his last fight.
As the workout continued, Roach pointed to a whiteboard sign with a Rocky Marciano quote written in black marker: “Why waltz with a guy for 10 rounds if you can knock him out in 1?,” read the sign. Pacquiao stared at it for about a minute while he did the double-end bag.
“Smiling,” was Pacquiao’s response when asked what he thought of it. Asked to expound, he says a knockout is important because it would prove he’s still got some fight in him at age 40.
A knockout in Malaysia kept a career going at age 40. A knockout win over Broner makes him a major draw again in America.
Given Broner’s recent record (0-1-1 in his last two fights) and the secondary title belt Pacquiao holds, this fight isn’t a truly big fight. Some boxing fans, however, are interested in the possibility that Pacquiao could knock out Broner.
All of that aside, strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune said Pacquiao doesn’t hold any animus towards opponents, but views each fight as a challenge.
“He wants to stop him because he’s a fighter, it’s not because he hates him … Manny looks past that,” said Fortune. “Broner is very easy to dislike but Pacquiao is more on the sports side of it, the competitiveness, and the fact he wants to prove to people that he’s not over the hill at 40.”
Roach doesn’t believe in fights going the distance, just as a principle. He has said each fight should end in a knockout, and sees a dominant KO of Broner as something that gets people talking about Pacquiao stateside once again.
“I think it’s more important to knock him out and be the first one to do that. Just beating him, I don’t think just beating him is enough. I think we have to beat him decisively. We have to show the world that we’re still in this game,” said Roach.
Roach said Broner’s counterpunching style isn’t their favorite, but said that they’ve done their homework on how to get work done against his defensive posture.
“When he leans back on the back foot, you know he’s gonna counter with the right hand because there’s no other place to go. He’ll roll with it a bit like Mayweather, try to be Mayweather but the thing is, Manny’s not gonna fall for that. He knows that if he’s on the back foot he can drill him and go right through him and knock him off balance or he can feint and counter himself,” said Roach.
“I don’t think he’s gonna have problems with this guy at all.”
Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) has only been knocked down twice in his career, going down a couple of times in his 2013 unanimous decision loss to Marcos Maidana. He mostly kept his hands in his pockets in decision losses to Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia, and has struggled to get convincing victories over mid-level talents since stepping up to 147 pounds.
But at 29, he’s the much younger fighter, and seems to understand that a win over Pacquiao allows him to catch up after years of missteps.
Manny Pacquiao will fight in Las Vegas for the first time since 2016.
Garcia, who beat Broner in 2017, was at the Uzcategui-Plant fight on Sunday and said he thinks Broner will be more competitive than many are expecting, but figured he’ll still lose.
“Broner is a very good fighter, and though he’s had some ups and downs, I think he’s gonna surprise a lot of people and fight better,” said Garcia, who has his own uphill challenge against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence on March 16.
“I think Broner has a lot of chances to make it a good fight because he is fast, he is strong, but Manny I think his volume of punches will be overwhelming at times and I think that’s what’s gonna allow Manny to win.”
After changing his clothes, Pacquiao and team made their way caravan style to Las Vegas, departing from the Wild Card parking lot at 3 p.m. and about six hours later. Pacquiao will stay at the MGM Grand for this fight instead of his usual penthouse at the Mandalay Bay, but had not settled on where he will train.
Fortune says they’re doing nearly the same exact routine as their last fight — with some adjustments for the flight to LA, Christmas and his birthday. Some light training on Tuesday and Wednesday, then rest completely on Thursday and Friday before the weigh-in, heading into the fight.
Just like the last fight, as Pacquiao said.