‘Fire back in my eyes’

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Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines (L) and Chris Algieri of the US gesture during the official weigh-in ahead of their World Welterweight Championship bout at the Cotai Arena in Macau on November 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO

Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines (L) and Chris Algieri of the US gesture during the official weigh-in ahead of their World Welterweight Championship bout at the Cotai Arena in Macau on November 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO

Pacquiao: I’m stronger, faster than before

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MACAU: Confident that he is “faster and stronger than before,” Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao climbs the ring in the Venetian Hotel’s Cotai Arena on Sunday to defend his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown against American Chris Algieri.

“It’s a good day here and the feeling is alright. I feel so fine, faster and stronger than before,” the 35-year-old Pacquiao, who totes a 56-5-2 win-loss-draw record with 38 knockouts, told The Manila Times in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

“I think the old deadly Manny is back. I feel so excited to face an unbeaten opponent like Algieri. It’s a pleasure [to beat him],” he said.

The Saranggani congressman weighed in at 143.8 pounds on Saturday, a shade below the 144-pound catchweight. The 30-year-old New Yorker Algieri took three tries before making the limit. (See related story)

Pacquiao said he is eager to fight the taller Algieri, who is undefeated in his 20 fights. “I can’t say if he’s a smart guy because he has to achieve what I achieved. If he has the eight-weight world title belts, that’s the best time he can say he’s the smarter guy. One hundred percent I’m ready because I have that fire in my eyes.”

But he tempered his enthusiasm, saying he is not predicting a knockout, “but it’s going to be a fight people will enjoy because of my fantastic performance.”

Pacquiao’s last knockout victory was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto.

Algieri was equally confident of winning. “I know I did all the hard work that I needed to do,” the challenger told reporters after the weigh-in. “I’m ready to rock. I’m very inspired to fight a well-known experienced fighter like Pacquiao. Welcome to the Chris Algieri show.”

Algieri scored a split decision win against Siberian Ruslan Provodnikov last June despite being knocked down twice in the first round.

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach reiterated his prediction that his ward would dispose of Algieri in the first three rounds without ‘excessive effort.’

Algieri “is hollow and obviously overweight,” said Roach in separate interview. “I’m basically happy with the way Manny responded in his training since from the start of the training camp in General Santos. I’m confident Manny will easily knock him out.”

“Algieri doesn’t have any power. He will try to outbox us but it won’t happen. Ruslan is a heavy puncher but he’s not Pacquiao, who is smarter and deadlier, much more experienced. They just can’t compare the two, ” Roach said.

Algieri’s trainer Tim Lane has a different take, saying “Manny’s going to sleep, go back home and retire.”

Roach believes Pacquiao could win as many as world titles as he likes even at the age of 50, just like former American world titleholder Bernard Hopkins.

But Roach, 54, the six-time Boxing Writers Association of America Eddie Futch award winner, quickly added that Pacquiao should not be compared with the 49-year-old Hopkins (55-7-2 log with 32 knockouts) due to their age gap.

“Manny is doing very well and fine so far and he’s not even near retiring yet,” Roach told The Manila Times. “Manny is not done yet so you can’t compare him with Hopkins who is almost 10 years apart.”

Hopkins lost his unified World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation super light heavyweight belts to Sergey Kovalev last November 8.

Asked about his thoughts on Pacquiao trying to stay on as world champion in his 50’s, Top Rank Promotion head Bob Arum simply said: “No. We wish him not.”

Mike Koncz, the long time adviser of Pacquiao, agreed with Arum. “I don’t like to see him fight at that age. Manny can be successful as politician when he reaches that age. That’s what we’re wanted to be for him. But Manny, you know is a great athlete, so who knows?” Koncz said.

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