No man is an island, but Manny Pacquiao is living on one these days.
He has found peace, order and room to breathe at the same place where he had previously trained amid chaos, sweat and near-stifling claustrophobia.
The truth is, he liked the old Wild Card Gym.
He has always been surrounded by people, even sleeping in rooms with six or seven of his friends scattered around on couches and chairs. He is the Philippines congressman from the province of Sarangani. He is a man of the people, and his very existence has always dictated having hordes of them around him.
But now, with the biggest boxing match of his life less than a month away, the area near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street has been rid of many of the hangers-on and sycophants who made being with Manny their main occupation.
Wild Card is Freddie Roach's gym. Roach is Pacquiao's longtime trainer. For years, as he trained for fights, Pacquiao would make his way to the Wild Card ring, just to spar, by weaving through the other gym rats and tattooed types hustling for time on the heavy bag. They paid their gym dues to Roach and Pacquiao never objected.
Recently, common sense prevailed, especially now with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his sights for one of the biggest fights in the history of boxing. It's Pacquiao versus Mayweather, the showdown that was never going to see showtime. Now it will.
For this, Pacquiao trains downstairs in quiet, and guarded, space, below the chaos. After all these years, it's a little jarring just to be there. You can talk to somebody and actually hear the answers. The pictures on the wall are even straight.
Thursday was a sparring day. With an appointment, you get a nod of admission from a guard and even a parking space. In days of yore, you could only hope to arrive when a customer at the nearby laundry left. Now that laundry is Pacquiao's private gym.
You don't get to watch the sparring. No media allowed for that now. No media interviews, period, after Saturday, except for news conferences.
Nor any complaints.
There is little left for the fighters to say. They want to train, eat well, sleep well and never answer another question. They've answered all of them 500 times.
Besides, with Pacquiao, you have one of the more glib teams in the sport to provide narrative for aging, material-challenged columnists.
Roach jokes about how, after all these years, he and Pacquiao still have communication problems.
"The other day, he tells me he has a sore leg," Roach says. "I tell him to fight through it, keep going. He does, then shows me afterward. It wasn't a sore leg. He had a blister on his foot."
Roach has been national trainer of the year so many times even he has lost count. He loves creating strategy, making the plan. He wants Pacquiao to keep Mayweather close to the ropes, where he can corner him and unleash combinations.
Roach says Mayweather's "straight right hand" is his best punch and they are working on ways to avoid that.
"I don't think we will every time," Roach says.
He says that many see danger in Mayweather's left jab to the body. Roach sees that more as an opening for Pacquiao's lefty power punches.
Another part of the team is promoter Bob Arum, who comes from his Top Rank Boxing office in Las Vegas for a couple of days each week to make sure things are well.
From Arum, the ultimate promotion veteran, the Ft. Knox side of this fight is mystifying. He outlines the main revenue streams: Live gate $73 million; pay-per-view, at $89.95 regular TV and $99.95 HD, at perhaps 3 million homes and $300 million; foreign TV rights $35 million; national closed-circuit TV $7 million; Las Vegas closed-circuit $3 million, and general fight sponsorship $12 million.
If the pay-per-view does come in at $300 million, this 36 minutes (or less) of prizefighting will generate $430 million. And that's before anybody sells a beer or T-shirt.
"I sit ringside with my wife," Arum says. "The scalpers are already asking for $90,000 for seats like mine. Can you imagine? I've set the target at $200,000 a seat now. For that, I'll go watch anywhere else."
Then there is the ever-present boxing intrigue.
We ask about the rumor, surfacing a few days ago, that the venue for the site, the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, is still without a signed contract with the main promoter, Mayweather's Al Haymon.
Arum shrugs and says nothing, a rare moment.
So we call Richard Sturm, president of entertainment and sports at the MGM Grand. Sturm answers, we identify ourselves and Sturm becomes about as chatty as a mime. He says all such inquiries need to go through his public relations staff. Hours later, we get the non-answer answer, in a statement from Sturm read by a PR person:
"The terms of our Mayweather-Pacquiao site agreement have been fully negotiated and are in place."
Nothing there about signatures and paper. Could be a huge story. Could be nothing. Time will tell, since Sturm won't.
Before he spars, Pacquiao is calm, almost spiritual. Recently, he told Katie Couric in an interview: "God will deliver him to my hand so I can beat him."
For Pacquiao, in English, that's a filibuster.
Thursday, he smiles, wraps his hands and answers in a series of one-word responses.
Is he tired of all this training and does he wish the fight were tomorrow? "Yes."
Is he nervous? "No."
Did his meeting with Mayweather in the hotel room in Miami confirm what his impressions had been about Mayweather? "Yes."
Would he say what those impressions are? "No."
The fight is May 2. Talk has already become cheap. Too bad the tickets aren't.