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Newsletter: The Fight Corner: Manny Pacquiao reflects on his past and his future

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao
(Armando García Parra)

Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. This newsletter will be delivered right to your inbox every week if you sign up here. Let’s get right to the news.

There’s a joy in the old-school feel of Manny Pacquiao’s return at age 40.

He’s reunited with trainer Freddie Roach at Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club, is coming back to U.S. pay-per-view on Jan. 19, and will step back into the historic but now lightly used MGM Grand ring in Las Vegas to face former four-division champion Adrien Broner.

“I’m so blessed and excited to be back in L.A., training in Hollywood at Wild Card — happy and excited for the fight,” Pacquiao told the Los Angeles Times over breakfast at his Hancock Park home.

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In July in Malaysia, Pacquiao collected the World Boxing Assn. secondary welterweight belt by knocking out Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse — Pacquiao’s first knockout since his 12th-round stoppage of Miguel Cotto in 2009 at the MGM Grand.

Absent from the U.S. since a Nov 2016 triumph over Jessie Vargas, Pacquiao reminded, “I had a couple of fights in MGM,” as if that was necessary considering his 2008 dismantling of Oscar De La Hoya, the famed 2009 knockout of Ricky Hatton and his 2015 loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. that stands as the richest one-day sporting event in history.

“My first fight in America was in MGM. Lehlo Ledwaba. June 23, 2001. Undercard to Oscar De La Hoya-Javier Castillejo. Very memorable fight for me. So coming back to the MGM … I’m so thankful.”

Reuniting with Roach has also been important after the seven-time trainer of the year wasn’t invited to join Pacquiao for the Matthysse victory.

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Pacquiao explained he wanted friend and longtime assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez elevated to head trainer for that important bout because he wanted Fernandez “to have the experience of being the head trainer because we have a lot of boxers to train.”

Pacquiao said he has 48 boxers in his MP Promotions stable, some of whom aspire to fight in the U.S. for his new American promoter, Premier Boxing Champions, headed by powerful manager Al Haymon. Fernandez will be responsible for cornering many of those fighters.

Roach was hurt by the slight last year, but he recently met Pacquiao at his L.A. hotel suite and patched up any resentment.

“It was good for Buboy to get that [pressure] of the experience, and there was nothing more to it than that. We explained it to Freddie and he was OK,” Pacquiao said. “Freddie was always with Team Pacquiao.”

Pacquiao explained what Roach refers to as “the Buboy project” of allowing Fernandez to remain the lead voice in the corner.

“I might not be in front of Manny. I will give that up to Buboy to help him along, but I will be right beside Manny and will give my instructions on what he needs to do in the fight,” Roach said.

Pacquiao’s longtime conditioning coach, Justin Fortune, and Roach foresee a special showing. Roach says Pacquiao’s devastating power remains, and Fortune forecast that Broner “won’t like getting hit that much, and will quit.”

Pacquiao smiled when asked how fiercely he’s pursuing a second consecutive knockout, pointing to his staying power as proof of dedication that separates him from the wayward Broner, who had two court cases Monday on separate sexual misconduct incidents.

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“Fight preparation is not easy. I’ve been in boxing since I was 12, and now I’m 40. Being positive and inspired, thinking about the things that make you happy — your God, friends and family — I’m always inspired,” Pacquiao said. “I love to work hard every day.”

Proof is that he hasn’t left the sport to work only as a senator in the Philippines.

“That’s right, that’s the evidence I have passion about boxing. Boxing is my passion. I love to do it and I feel good. I don’t feel different from before, even from my early 30s,” he said.

So while Broner may be younger and more athletic, Pacquiao counters, “It depends on how you’ve prepared for your fight. What is your interest? How are you working? That’s how you fight.”

The expectation is a convincing Pacquiao victory will generate renewed calls for a rematch against Mayweather, whose 2015 super-fight victory came weeks after Pacquiao suffered a serious shoulder injury that required post-fight surgery.

Mayweather cashed in $9 million for an exhibition knockout victory in Japan on Dec. 31.

“The boy [Tenshin Nasukawa] was crying. It was sad. I didn’t expect that. I thought this exhibition was about playing, not hurting people,” Pacquiao said.

Mayweather says he’s “in retirement. I’m taking one fight at a time. You know, I’m 40. After the fight, there’s a press conference, you can ask at that point. But leave that question mark until then.”

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Meanwhile, Pacquiao fights on in pursuit of the unfinished business.

“That’s the thinking in my mind and my heart — that there will be another [Mayweather] fight,” Pacquiao admitted.

Roach rebuilding

If the weeks surrounding Pacquiao’s Malaysia fight were full of despair for Roach, he has rebounded impressively.

Three weeks after Pacquiao-Broner, he’ll send his Puerto Rican WBA super-featherweight champion Alberto Machado to defend his belt for the third time, against Andrew Cancio, Feb. 9 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.

The next day, in Fresno, Roach will corner La Puente’s Jose Zepeda (30-1,25 knockouts) against World Boxing Council super-welterweight champion Jose Ramirez (23-0, 16 KO’s), a fighter who defected from Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club last year.

Can Zepeda win?

“Yes,” a beaming Roach responded.

Soon after, assistant trainer Roach said he expects unbeaten lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury of England to return to Wild Card with his lead trainer Ben Davison to launch his training camp for a Deontay Wilder WBC title rematch that should occur by June, either in New York or Las Vegas, according to industry officials.

Until next time

Stay tuned for future newsletters. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter: @latimespugmire


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