MANILA: Manny Pacquiao will receive no special treatment on his first foray into professional basketball, a rival player has vowed, as the Philippine boxing superstar struggles with a hectic training schedule for both sports.
Beau Belga, a 113-kilogram(250-pound), 1.95-meter (6 foot 5 inch) Philippine Basketball Association bruiser, told Manila’s sports news website Spin.ph on Friday that he will be no walkover when the 1.69-meter (5ft 7in) Pacquiao starts playing next month.
“I have no intention of hurting him, but I will play my normal game against him. I don’t have to change it just because he’s Manny Pacquiao,” the 27-year-old center-forward of the league’s Rain or Shine team added.
“This is basketball. He won’t get an open shot or [be]allowed to drive past me,” Belga added.
Pacquiao, 35, has won world boxing titles in eight different weight divisions and was drafted by expansion team Kia in August even though he has no experience in high-level basketball.
He is known for playing intense pick-up games during breaks in training for bouts, and remains in top physical condition while enjoying a successful sunset to his career in the ring.
The boxer was hired as player and coach for Kia, which will open their account on October 19 in a league that has produced players of enough caliber to see the Philippines qualify for this year’s World Cup.
Kia face another expansion team on opening day, and are scheduled to play Belga’s Rain or Shine later in the tournament.
Kia team manager Eric Pineda told Spin.ph the would-be pro-basketball star has been forced to skip much of the team’s daily training to fit in his boxing workouts.
“They (Kia) know they cannot compete for time with Manny’s boxing career. They know how important Manny’s next fight is,” Pineda added.
Belga, known by Filipino basketball fans as “Extra Rice” for his heft, told the website he had played against Pacquiao previously, and suggested he was none too impressed.
“People are saying he has improved, probably because he was challenged by the fans’ criticism,” Belga said.
“He’s the rookie, I am the veteran,” he added.
Pacquiao, who is also an elected member of the Philippine parliament, is in training for the defense of his World Boxing Organization welterweight title against undefeated American Chris Algieri in Macau in November.