Manny Pacquiao’s place in boxing folklore has been guaranteed for some time. But the Filipino fight legend’s clash with WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence on August 21 carries a special meaning, according to Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach.
The eight-division champion will return from a 25-month absence next month to face the unbeaten Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) in a special Pay-Per-View attraction at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and master-trainer Roach says this fight is about immortality for the age-defying 42-year-old from Sarangani Province in the Philippines.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) flew into Los Angeles four days ago and has already engaged in four rounds of sparring with Maurice Lee and Alexis Rocha at Roach’s famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. After a session on Thursday, Pacquiao was tested by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association who collected a blood sample following his workout – the second time VADA has checked the Filipino this week. And, according to Roach, Pacquiao is relishing his unfamiliar role as the underdog.
“Manny lives for the challenge and the competition. Manny loves hearing that the Las Vegas odds and the media favour Errol Spence,” said Roach. “Manny knows it’s a tough fight – probably his toughest – but that’s why he began his conditioning so early in the Philippines.
“Usually, jet lag keeps him out of the gym for one day the first week he arrives in Los Angeles. Not this time. He has been here every day, training two and half to three hours each afternoon. I usually hold off sparring the first week, but Manny insisted on sparring yesterday, so we brought in Maurice Lee and Alexis Rocha, who went two rounds each with Manny.
“Manny has achieved so much in his boxing career and in his life. But everyone in camp can sense this fight has a special meaning. It is not just about beating a top pound-for-pound fighter or winning more titles. This time it’s all about boxing immortality for Manny Pacquiao. I am a [Boston] Red Sox fan, and I can tell he wants to go out like [baseball legend] Ted Williams did, hitting a home run in his last at bat. By the way, Ted Williams was also 42 when he did that.”
Both Lee and Rocha were full of praise for the ageless Filipino.
“What a great experience,” said Lee (12-1-2, 5 KOs). “I thought since he had just flown in from the Philippines, he would be a little tired and I could catch him with a few shots. But he was sharp, elusive, and unpredictable. Video tape does not prepare you for his speed and the angles he fights from. His punches were coming from everywhere! Calling him elite would be an understatement.”
Rocha (17-1, 11 KOs) added: “Sparring with Manny was definitely a learning experience. Manny has a very awkward style to fight because his punches come from all directions. He has fast and heavy hands and he throws punches in bunches.”