By: Sean Crose
You can see it in seemingly endless videos on YouTube. A small group of people slowly approach as they run along a Los Angeles park in the quiet early morning hours. Closer and closer the runners get, until, finally, they pass by in a moment of crunching gravel and heavy breaths. The center of the group, the leader of the pack, if you will, is the one and only Manny Pacquiao, legendary star of the ring. This is his run, his park, his universe. As the video continues, Pacquiao and crew finish their run, sometimes at the peak of famed Griffith Park. There, an even larger crowd awaits to see their hero engage in calisthenics and shadow boxing. Welcome to a Manny Pacquiao training camp, the same kind of training camp the eight division titlist has always had.
Only it isn’t the same. Not any more. Pacquiao is older now, forty in fact. In the world of professional athletics, he may as well be a thousand. As Bernard Hopkins, who successfully defied age for ages, indicated, fighters who are getting on in years are better served fine tuning their regimens a bit. A boxer at forty isn’t the same as boxer at thirty, much less a boxer in his or her twenties. It was Pacquiao’s 2017 fight with Jeff Horn, which most feel Pacquiao should have won (though he lost a decision to Horn in Horn’s native Australia), that reportedly got the fighter to change his ways. “It’s not just about training, Pacquiao is quoted by saying by Premiere Boxing Champions which is promoting the Filipino icon’s Saturday bout against WBA welterweigtht champ Keith Thurman, “it’s about working hard and pushing yourself to the limit. Push. Push. Push,” Pacquiao adds that “if you don’t push your opponent, he will push you away in the ring.” Yet Pacquiao now feels that rest needs to be a top priority, as well.
“If he wakes up,” Yahoo quotes trainer Freddie Roach as saying, “and his body doesn’t feel right or he just doesn’t think he has it that day, he just takes the day off.” Roach adds that: “He never wanted to do that before. But he understands now that a day off here and there is actually more beneficial to him than just grinding, grinding and grinding some more is.” Strength and conditioning expert Justin Fortune is quoted by Yahoo as saying Pacquiao is now “training smarter, not harder, and listening to his body.”
With the fight between he and the younger, colorful Thurman now just days away, Pacquiao’s most recent training camp has ended. It will all be about resting and perhaps light exercise now that the bout itself is only days away. Pacquiao has looked impressive during the leadup to the Thurman fight, very impressive. Some say it’s because the brash Floridian has gotten under Pacquiao’s skin with his trash talk. Perhaps altering his preparation may have something to do with it, as well. No one will know how things will work out for Pacquiao until the opening bell rings Saturday night in Vegas. The only guarantee is that the fighter known as PacMan will slip in between the ropes that night looking ready for war – the very thing he’s been preparing for.