Manny Pacquiao’s daily training sessions in past years were marathons of running, sit-ups and other exhausting exercise complemented by tireless work on the punching bags.
Perhaps more remarkable is what Pacquiao’s longtime trainer Freddie Roach revealed of their 18-year union.
“Out of all those years, I’ve talked him into taking two days off,” Roach said.
But as Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 knockouts) prepares for his 70th career fight, Saturday against former world champion Adrien Broner in Las Vegas, he’s come to embrace the benefits of rest and recovery.
“It’s my first fight at the age of 40, so I’m excited to give my best and I agree with my coaches now, because that’s what we did in the last fight,” Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao is again working with Roach, a seven-time trainer of the year, after splitting with him before last year’s fight against Lucas Matthysse. Pacquiao made his friend and longtime assistant trainer “Buboy” Fernandez his primary cornerman for that fight, training in the Philippines with conditioning coach Justin Fortune, who has been in Pacquiao’s corner since the fighter burst upon the scene with a 2002 victory over Hall of Fame champion Marco Antonio Barrera.
“Super fast, trains like an absolute beast and is very strong — I don’t know how much he needed me at that stage. Maybe he didn’t,” Fortune said of Pacquiao.
“But we became friends, and the beauty in that is that as things have become different, that friendship allowed me to slow him down, to pull him back in the training for Matthysse and say, ‘You’ve had so many fights … you have a [ton] of experience … let’s use that to our advantage and not train like we’re in our 20s.’ Rest is very important for an athlete like he is now.”
Pacquiao made Matthysse his first knockout victim since 2009, dropping him in the third and fifth rounds before finishing him in the seventh to capture the World Boxing Assn. secondary welterweight belt.
Six months later, he’s taking the same approach.
“Sometimes, when I work hard, my body is still tired the next day and not recovered,” Pacquiao said. “So I’ll decide not to train, and to rest, to work hard again the next day.”
Pacquiao wasn’t always so receptive to that message. After judges in Australia slapped him with a loss by decision to Jeff Horn in July 2017, Roach warned him about balancing training with his duties as a senator in the Philippines. It was not well received.
But those words rang in Pacquiao’s ears before the Matthysse fight, and now with the Philippine Senate in recess, he’s focused on boxing.
“The best thing about our preparation now is that we don’t need to worry about the Senate right now,” Roach said. “He needed to be off [resting] instead of training at 10 at night while trying to do both … boxing training has to be on a fixed schedule.”
Fortune said he emphasized how conserving energy during the bout also is important.
“He sees a lot more results because of all of this. He’s more tactical now. He’s not wasting a flurry in there. He picks his shots. His combinations are so damn strong,” Fortune said.
However, there remains an innate defiance in Pacquiao.
Last week, morning rain showers prompted Roach to call a Pacquiao friend and order no outside running. “He’s already gone,” the friend told Roach.
At breakfast that morning, someone asked the time and distance of Pacquiao’s run and was told he ran 2½ miles at around a seven-minute mile. “Took it easy, huh?” someone said.
Pacquiao’s smile vanished.
“I was running all uphill. In the rain,” he said.
Cincinnati’s Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) has said he’s in elite shape, aiming to parlay his first Showtime pay-per-view main event into a run of major bouts.
“That’s why we work hard,” Pacquiao said. “I’ve accomplished what I want to accomplish in my career, but I want to maintain my name and show, in my first fight at 40, that I can still give the best of Manny Pacquiao — the speed, the power, everything.”