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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pacquiao shuts out distractions

LOS ANGELES - Well before the media throng invaded Freddie Roach's gym Wednesday, a distinct smell filled the room.

Boxers' sweat and pain, coupled with a small hot room.

That odor — reality — hits Roach and his star pupil Manny Pacquiao every day. Away from the interview requests, photo shoots and guest TV spots, Pacquiao gets down to business in a Hollywood gym.

But, just like with the odor, you couldn't dodge reality when you arrived. This neighborhood seemed a world away from the glitz and glamour that Hollywood is known for.

Pacquiao's megafight with junior welterweight king Ricky Hatton is a little more than two weeks away, but Roach said his man is ready. He added, however, that "we can always improve."

Nobody at the Wild Card Boxing Club is fooling themselves. Pacquiao — with his interests in acting, politics and philanthropy to name a few — will likely retire in a year or so.

That isn't to say that the man widely regarded as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter isn't interested in training.

"I stay focused," Pacquiao said. "I have to step (away from) the commitments and think all about the fight."

His trainer made supremely sure of that, closing the gym when Pacquiao works out.

It would be completely understandable to think that after sending Oscar De La Hoya into retirement, Pacquiao would have a letdown in intensity. Ricky Hatton is a big name, but Oscar De La Hoya was the face of this era of boxing. And Pacquiao not only beat him — he destroyed him.

Pacquiao said he's just as intense now as he was for December's De La Hoya fight because "boxing is my life. Boxing is my passion. ... I have to maintain my name on the top."

To prove that point, Pacquiao has added weight training to his regimen. One of his regular sparing partners said he feels the new strength.

"Every once in a while, he's got that one punch," welterweight Raymond Serrano said.

Serrano added that Pacquiao's speed is still there.

What could be even more telling about Pacquiao's focus is that he added fellow southpaw and former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer to his team. Pacquiao said Moorer can help be a bridge between the fighter and Roach as well as offer fresh suggestions.

In talking with Pacquiao, one could get the sense of a quiet intensity. As he answered question after question, his mind never seemed to wander as he wrapped his hands in a small changing room.

He was quiet, calm and almost aloof in answering questions about the past and the future.

But Pacquiao was in the now. He didn't seem to be thinking about a fight with Hatton or about the tons of public relations events left to do. He just looked ready to get some work done in the gym.

"Once he got here, we cut those (distractions)," Roach said. "When Manny is training for a fight, he leaves that stuff out."


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