Chris Farina - Top Rank
Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | 5:04 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | 11:05 p.m.
Freddie Roach is not a man given to hyperbole. When Manny Pacquiao's trainer says the pound-for-pound champion is having his best training camp, Sugar Shane Mosley had better pay attention.
Pacquiao is in the final stages of preparation in Hollywood for his bout with Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on May 7, and the Filipino congressman hasn't been so singularly focused on boxing for quite a while.
"He hasn't lost a step. He's working at a higher pace than ever," Roach said Wednesday in his Wild Card Gym. "He's not in the same condition as the last fight. He's in better condition than I've ever seen. He isn't going to get caught underestimating anybody."
Roach fretted about Pacquiao's focus and fitness throughout a rocky camp heading into last fall's win over Antonio Margarito, calling it the worst training session of their careers. Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) was newly elected to office, which added another responsibility to the usual pandemonium swirling around the Philippines' most famous man.
This time around, Roach and strength-and-conditioning coach Alex Ariza have been downright floored by the eight-division champion's determination to knock out Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs), who has never been stopped.
"It's the complete opposite side of the spectrum this time," said Ariza, who's in charge of Pacquiao's fitness. "I've never seen Manny more motivated. I thought (the camp before Pacquiao's victory over Miguel) Cotto was the perfect blueprint for a training camp, but this has surpassed it."
On their first day of workouts, Pacquiao did his running in the mountains, skipping the usual warmup days on the flats in Baguio, his Filipino base. He spent just three weeks training amid the innumerable distractions back home before starting his more monastic five-week session in Hollywood, reversing the schedule of last fall's camp.
Pacquiao already is solidly near the bout's 147-pound limit, and his sparring sessions already have exceeded 12 rounds, with Roach marveling at Pacquiao's sharpness and speed.
"When you take five or six months off like that, you get re-motivated," Ariza said. "He found something in his DNA that motivated him again to get going. I think he had so much of the political stuff wearing him down last time that he didn't have it in the ring. That's not going to be a problem now."
In yet another sign of his commitment, Pacquiao showed up to Wednesday's interview session just 15 minutes late _ which qualifies as extremely early in Manny's wild world.
Pacquiao doesn't acknowledge any special focus on this fight, but the congressman has been juggling more balls than most people could even carry for a long time now. He acknowledges needing an adjustment period to his legislative duties, which are getting easier to manage.
"I learned to rely on certain people to do my job," Pacquiao said. "It's different this time (around). I've been training, and I've set aside all work. ... I never distract myself. I never think I was distracted. I was focused on the fight, focused on the training."
Yet the Pacquiao circus is still among the most entertaining shows in sports. The successful singer is releasing another single _ a cover of Dan Hill's syrupy 1977 ballad, "Sometimes When We Touch" _ and he recently inked an endorsement deal to put his face on every bag of broccoli sold by one of the world's largest vegetable distributors as part of an overall endorsement of healthy eating and green practices.
Pacquiao doesn't share some fans' disappointment with Top Rank's choice of his latest opponent. Mosley, who turns 40 in September, has been unimpressive in his past two fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sergio Mora.
"I'm not going in confident, or underestimating him," Pacquiao said. "He's a pound-for-pound champion, a good fighter. I'm just going to be in condition and ready to fight. ... He can still fight. Compared to Margarito or somebody else, he's fast. Maybe this time, he trains hard for this fight, and he can do a lot of things."
Pacquiao also still holds out the slightest hope Mayweather will end his self-imposed exile and step in the ring with him. The former superstar hasn't fought in nearly a year and has no plans on the horizon after turning down a megafight with Pacquiao and refusing to explain why.
"I don't know," Pacquiao said with a wink when asked if he thought Mayweather would ever step in with him.
"For me, there's still a chance," Pacquiao said. "It's up to him if he wants to fight. I'll just do my job and make the fans happy."