Should we worry?
By Sid Ventura
For Yahoo! Southeast Asia
Freddie Roach has called their recent training in Baguio “the worst training camp ever.” Bob Arum didn’t hide his displeasure over what he saw during sparring, and said that if the fight were held that day, Manny Pacquiao would surely lose.
Meanwhile, Antonio Margarito is so sure of victory that he’s betting on himself and even wagering his Benz. To top it off, instead of hitting the gym in Los Angeles, Pacquiao motors off to San Diego to coach a basketball game.
Now, people are asking: should we worry about Pacquiao losing to Margarito on November 13?
Shortly after it was first announced that Margarito would be Pacquiao’s next opponent, I wrote about it here in Fit To Post, where I basically said the Mexican-American boxer wouldn’t be an easy opponent, and that Pacquiao’s camp would be foolish to look past him since he posed many unique challenges.
It turns out, those physical challenges aren’t the only ones Pacquiao’s camp has to deal with. The bigger challenge for Manny has been balancing his job as a fighter with his new job as an elected official.
Roach is right: driving down to Manila then driving back up to Baguio every week is too tiring, even for someone as physiologically gifted as Pacquiao. Even if he isn’t the one doing the driving, just sitting in a car for six hours exacts a heavy toll on your body.
Then, of course, there’s basketball.
Roach has repeatedly voiced his opposition to Pacquiao playing the sport while training, and again, he’s right. The risk of spraining an ankle, pulling a muscle, or – horror of horrors – blowing out a knee is just too big to ignore. And now, even when they’re in the United States, the pull of basketball is too great. Fine, he wasn’t playing. But even if he was just coaching, it still meant he wasn’t at the Wild Card Gym.
To counter Margarito’s nearly six-inch height advantage and the expected 10-plus-pound weight advantage he will have on fight night , conditioning coach Alex Ariza initially focused on bulking up Pacquiao. This however, robbed Manny of his greatest asset – his speed. So now they’ve gone back to what worked before, that is, concentrating on his quickness and rapid-fire punching. Forget about bulking him up.
This simply underscores an undeniable fact: Margarito is the biggest opponent Pacquiao has ever faced. While he may not be the most skilled or the hardest hitting (far from it), a boxer’s punching power, even a boxer like Pacquiao, still has its limits. It’s why boxing has weight classes in the first place. Yes, Pacquiao has moved up in weight without too much difficulty and smothered everyone in his way, but it appears he’s pushed the envelope to as far as it can go with this fight. This might be the heaviest he can fight at (a catchweight of 151 lbs) without sacrificing his speed and without diminishing the power of his punches. If Margarito enters the ring at over 160, which is most likely, that’s the heaviest human target Pacquiao’s fists will be hitting. Whether his punches will have the same devastating effect will a big key to this fight.
Even Roach sees it differently now, compared to when they first started training.
Back then, he told me in this interview that he didn’t discount the possibility of Pacquiao eventually fighting at 160 lbs (that’s middleweight). Now, he and Arum are one in saying that all of Manny’s future fights will be at 147, or welterweight. Good move. Chasing titles in as many weight classes as possible really isn’t worth it at this point. Besides, bagging seven is already an incredible accomplishment.
Has Pacquiao bitten off more than he can chew this time around?
If he has, then this would be a good time to do away with all these distractions and buckle down to work. He has to be at his utmost best if he wants to knock Margarito out. Despite everything, Roach is still confident that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And the Vegas oddsmakers apparently don’t think too much of all these negative reports, for Pacquiao is still the heavy betting favorite.
Yup, Pacquiao should still win this one. But that’s assuming he finishes these last two or so weeks of training the way he’s supposed to. That is, with total focus and zero distractions.
Reposted From Sid Ventura of Yahoo! Southeast Asia