Training camp harmony bodes well for Manny Pacquiao

The general consensus is that, in some of his past fights, Manny Pacquiao was bothered and distracted by rivalries in his training camp and indiscretions he himself was responsible for.

That now appears to be a thing of the past.

His obsession with Bible studies and engaging in praise and worship has driven away the debilitating influence of wine, women, marital infidelity, big-time gambling at casinos in the U.S. and the Philippines, and cockpits at home.

A totally reformed Pacquiao when not training for his upcoming rematch against WBO welterweight champion Timothy “Desert Storm” spends time playing three games of basketball back-to-back-to-back to stay in top shape and spends the rest of the time with wife Jinkee who is expecting their fifth child – a boy – in May and his two other sons and two daughters.

The home-front completely stabilized the only pending problem concerned bickering among members of Team Pacquiao which centered around differences between former strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, Roach, assistant trainers Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao’s childhood friend and Nonoy Neri as well as Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz.

With Ariza out and a tentative peace between Koncz and some of Pacquiao’s friends who seemingly  dislike Koncz and his supposed influence over Pacquiao and his handling of MP Promotions in place, and Ariza no longer around after Roach told Manny he was a constant distraction in the training camp, the environment is oh so different.

Koncz told Yahoo Philippines “this is a great camp with harmony with Freddie (Roach)  and Buboy (Fernandez) handling the boxing part and Justin (Fortune )and Nonoy (Neri) doing the fitness and nutrition.”

He added “it’s a pleasant and enjoyable experience to be back with the old cast and crew.”

That cast includes the returning Justin Fortune who was a fixture at the Wild Card Gym before he and Roach had a misunderstanding and Justin decided to leave and set up his own Fortune Gym also in Los Angeles.
The former heavyweight contender who once battled champion Lennox Lewis has quickly put Pacquiao through a rigorous  grind and the fighter has responded positively.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who visited the Wild Card Gym on Thursday to watch Pacquiao train told us in an overseas telephone conversation he couldn’t be happier.

He noticed “there is no bickering in the  camp. Freddie (Roach)  is running it. Justin (Fortune) is doing the conditioning and it’s a very peaceable kind of camp.”

To Arum this augurs well for Pacquiao’s rematch with Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas  on April 12 (April 13 in Manila) in a fight to be telecast by Solar Sports which has been tied-up with Pacquiao since his first  fight against Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera in November 2003 which Pacquiao won by a spectacular 11th round TKO.

After watching Manny spar a total of eight rounds, blooding the nose of undefeated Lydell Rhodes (19-0, 9 KO’s) who fights much like Bradley and four rounds with former world lightweight champion Steve Forbes plus eight more furious rounds on the punch-mitts , Arum concluded that Pacquiao “looks very, very good. He is very focused and very determined which is the most important part of the battle.”

The eight division world champion kept the momentum going during another torrid workout on Saturday when he sparred eight rounds and went five rounds on the punch-mitts aside from a morning run at Pan Pacific Park as he accelerated training for a fight in which he intends to prove his days as an elite fighter are not yet over.

By all accounts Pacquiao has looked very good in sparring. This was highlighted when he went eight exciting rounds on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the Wild Card Gym.

To Koncz who appeared enthused over how the training  camp is going  “the sparring was great. Four rounds with Forbes and then four exciting rounds with Julian Rodriguez, a young strong kid.”
Rodriguez is an undefeated junior welterweight prospect with 2 knockouts in 3 wins and was an outstanding amateur who won the 2012 National Golden Gloves title before turning pro in November 2013 and signing up with Top Rank.

Arum himself told us that Rodriguez who is from New Jersey is “a very good prospect.”

Koncz told us “I believe the sparring that we have had with all the new guys (Forbes and Rodriguez)  has proven to be a change and some of the best sparring we have had.”

This momentum is likely to pick-up even further when former world light welterweight champion Kendall Holt joins the roster of sparring partners which Roach said would give him an opportunity to mix things up a little bit, pointing out that Holt had power and likes to engage in contrast to the veteran Forbes who is an intelligent boxer.

Holt lost his world title to Bradley by a unanimous twelve round decision despite dropping Bradley once in the opening round and once again in the final round.

Pacquiao’s training sessions have attracted some of the  biggest stars in show business. On Thursday, legendary musician Boy Dylan dropped by and watched Manny’s entire workout with publicist Fred Sternburg saying Dylan “watched Manny like a hawk.”

Among earlier visitors were singer Ashanti and her mother Tina Douglas who met Pacquiao during a recent New York Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden and was thrilled when Manny asked her to sing the American national anthem with American Idol sensation Jessica Sanchez to sing the Philippine National Anthem.

As Sternburg pointed out when it was all over, “there’s a boxing workout and then there’s a Manny workout.”
Whatever it is, it seems to be going pretty well.