LOS ANGELES: Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao enjoyed a strong first day of sparring on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in preparation for his May 2 showdown with unbeaten US rival Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Pacquiao’s workout at the Wild Card Gym included five hard rounds with a pair of sparring partners. It pleased trainer Freddie Roach as well as the Asian legend, who was anxious to start swinging his fists at foes following nearly two weeks of other training.
“After 13 days of strength and conditioning and boxing drills at Wild Card plus weeks more of working out in the Philippines in February, it was great to finally put on the headgear and spar,” Pacquiao said.
“My sparring partners gave me good work today. They were perfect for testing the strategy Freddie and I have developed to beat Floyd Mayweather. I was very happy with my stamina and speed.”
Roach was especially pleased with Pacquiao’s form considering he had not been inside the ropes since defeating Chris Algieri last November in Macau.
“Manny looked so fresh today. I’m very happy with what he showed me,” Roach said. “You couldn’t tell he had been away from the ring since the Algieri fight in November. Manny is on fire in the gym.”
Pacquiao, a two-term lawmaker from Sarangani province, is 57-5 with two drawn and 38 knockouts while Mayweather is 47-0 with 26 knockouts entering their Las Vegas matchup, a fight fans have been wanting to see for more than five years.
The much-anticipated showdown for the pound-for-pound global bragging rights is expected to break boxing revenue records.
Roach noted Pacquiao’s sparring started on St Patrick’s Day while US baseball teams were involved in pre-season spring training, making his confidence for the big fight clear.
“When Manny threw out the first punch it felt like opening day of Irish Spring Training,” Roach joked. “I am confident May 2 will be celebrated for years to come as St. Manny’s Day—the day he drove Mayweather out of boxing.”
Fast and aggressive
Pacquiao adviser Mike Koncz described the first sparring session of the Filipino champ as fast and aggressive, “Manny is so aggressive and fast in his first day of sparring session. His condition looks very good and the people around him have made a wonderful job,” Koncz told The Manila Times via telephone interview.
Pacquiao spent four to six rounds of sparring with Kenneth Sims Jr. (5-0 record with two knockouts) of Chicago and Rashidi Ellis (14-0 with 11 knockouts) of Massachusetts.
Both boxers have fighting styles similar to that of Mayweather’s.
“I’m very satisfied with what I saw and we’re expecting Manny to go stronger, faster and even smarter when the fight night comes,” said Koncz, who also said that unified bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba would not be commissioned as Pacquiao’s sparmate.
“We don’t need a 140 [pounds]and a southpaw sparring partner for Manny.”
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are designated sparring days for Pacquiao while Monday, Wednesday and Friday are devoted to strength and conditioning. Sunday is designated as rest day.
AFP WITH REPORT FROM JOSEF T. RAMOS