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What is it like to spar with the king of boxing?

22
Feb

This must be an ominous sight for Manny Pacquiao's sparring partners. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — No one knows what it’s like to exchange punches with the No. 1 fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao, more than his sparring partners.

Ray Beltran, Mike Dallas and Abdullai Amidu, working with Pacquiao at the Wild Card Boxing Club for his fight against Joshua Clottey on March 13, have gone toe to toe with the Filipino champion on numerous occasions.

They offered their thoughts after each of them went three rounds with Pacquiao last week.

BELTRAN

Beltran (23-4, 15 knockouts) has worked with Pacquiao since he was a featherweight, the longest tenure of the three sparring partners. The Mexican-born resident of Phoenix, who fights between lightweight and junior welterweight, is coming off a seventh-round knockout victory over David Torres last month.

Question: So, is sparring with Manny the same as sparring with anyone?

Answer: (Laughs.) No way. Sparring with him demands a lot of energy. The way he fights, you have to be ready every second. He knows how to use angles. That makes sparring with him more intense, which gets you the most tired.

Q: What makes him so difficult to beat?

A: Start with him being a southpaw. Then, from there, he’s not like just any southpaw. I told you about the angles. And his legs are always moving here and there and everywhere. He has speed, power. His style is very unique; it’s what makes him the way he is – on top.

Q: You don’t see any weaknesses?

A: I don’t see any. Especially mentally, he’s on top of his game. He believes in himself, that no one can beat him. When a fighter is like that, he’s the most dangerous he can be.

Q: Would you call him perfect fighter?

A: Almost. I can figure out other styles but he’s very unpredictable. Like I said, he catches you from so many different angles. You don’t know how to react. I think he does that better than anybody. It makes him very difficult to fight. ÔǪ A fighter with good technique and smart might give him problems. If you’re not smart enough, though, you’re down.

Q: How much better is he now compared to when you first sparred with him?

A: I remember when he fought (Marco Antonio) Barrera the first time (in 2003). He was more aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. He was just aggressive, you know. Now, he’s become a better boxer. He has better technique. He uses his brain more. He’s much smarter now. You can see it in the way he fights. He and (trainer) Freddie (Roach) see weaknesses in opponents and they work on it. They’re very good together.

Q: Give me an example of something he does better now.

A: Before, I think I could get him easier because he was so aggressive. I could cut him off. I’m not saying it was easy but I just had more opportunities. Now, he is aggressive and he catches your punches. He uses offense AND defense. He’s way better than he was.

DALLAS

Dallas (11-0-1, 2 KOs) is a talented 23-year-old prospect from Bakersfield, Calif. He is skillful and very quick but hasn’t shown knockout power. Dallas also sparred with Pacquiao for his fight against Oscar De La Hoya in 2008.

Q: Do you feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the best fighter in the world?

A: Oh yeah. I’m grateful they invited me to camp. I’m learning more and more from him every day. When I make mistakes, he corrects me. It’s a great learning experience.

Q: What is like being in the ring with him?

A: I’m so tense in there. You’re afraid of making a mistake because you don’t want to get caught. He’s a very hard puncher. You always have to be alert. And when you’re thinking a lot, mentally you can wear down. I get more tired sparring with him because of that. I’m just starting to loosen up, to relax, and I’m getting better all the time.

Q: What makes him so good?

A: He’s strong, even stronger than he was before the De La Hoya fight. He’s a good counterpuncher. He’s strong, he’s fast and his legs are really something. His footwork is incredible. He moves like a cat. He’s real fast. I’m a fast guy too; I’ve been trying to match his speed. I don’t know how I’m doing but I feel I’m doing an OK job.

Q: Do you see any weaknesses?

A: Everyone can improve on something. It seems like he’s always working on something. Sometimes he might be lacking in some area. And the next day you can see he improved on it.

Q: How hard does he punch?

A: He’s strong. He caught me a couple of times. He’s way stronger than he used to be. You can tell he’s improved in that area since the De La Hoya fight. I think he has nothing to do but improve because he’s a work horse. Basically you have to kick him out of the gym. He’ll train all day if you leave him in here. I try to pick up that kind of stuff and apply it to me own training.

Q: How much does sparring with him help you?

A: He’s the best fighter in the world. It definitely gets me ready for my fights. I know I’m not going to fight anyone as good as him.

ABDULLAI AMIDU

Amidu (18-0, 17 KOs) was a terror in his native Ghana, where he knocked out all but one of his opponents. The 27-year-old welterweight is big, strong and skillful. His three-round session with Pacquiao was the most spirited. He and Clottey come from the same country but don’t know one another well. “When I see him,” Amidu said, “I say hi. That’s it.” This is his first camp with Pacquiao. He has also sparred with Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz.

Q: What are your impressions of Pacquiao?

A: He’s in good condition. He punches hard. He has a lot of speed. He has good movement. He has everything.

Q: Is he what you expected?

A: I knew a few things about him. His punches come from different directions. They don’t come from where you expect them to. You have to be ready for every eventuality.

Q: Do you understand after working with him why he is so successful?

A: He has a lot of respect for humanity. God blesses him a lot. He’s very disciplined, always in good condition.

Q: What do you think of his footwork?

A: I’m very impressed. If you have good footwork, you can do a lot in boxing. You have to have good movement, to move from every angle. He can do that.

Q: Is he the best you’ve worked with?

A: He’s the best.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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