Sunday, April 02, 2023  |



Notebook: Manny Pacquiao feels pull of public service over boxing

Fighters Network

LAS VEGAS – As Manny Pacquiao heads into his welterweight world title challenge against Yordenis Ugas in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Saturday (Fox Sports PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena, he has been a bit reflective given the strong possibility this will be his final fight.

Even though he says boxing remains his “passion,” at age 42, Pacquiao is considering retirement in order to run for president of the Philippines. He already serves as a senator and is devoted to public service and helping the poor in his country.

So, when asked during a session with a handful of reporters on Wednesday after the formal news conference what meant more to him, his vast boxing accomplishments or the work he has done outside the ring in the name of public service, the answer was easy for him.

“Thank you for that question,” said Pacquiao, who has given millions to the poor and personally funded and given away thousands of houses to the homeless and outboard motors to fishermen, among many other charitable endeavors. “My heart’s desire, if you ask me, material things in this world are not important to Manny Pacquiao. Whatever I have done – my fame, my records, my position in the government, what I have is not important to me.

“What is important is my relationship with God and how I can help people and how I can inspire people. That’s my priority in my heart. Things come in and out, but your relationship to God is the most important thing and to be an inspiration. Later on, when Manny Pacquiao is no longer in this world after 50 years, 40 years, I want them to remember me that Manny Pacquiao is not only one of the good boxers in the ring, but he is friendly guy, he’s a nice guy, he helped people. We should show the real love to each other outside the ring. That is my heart’s desire.”

Ugas sure of one thing

Ugas, who is making the first defense of the WBA title that was stripped from Pacquiao in January, is convinced of one thing going into the fight.

“I’m 100-percent certain that he cannot knock me out,” Ugas said through an interpreter. “I’ve done all the preparation over these past six years to get in this position. I’ve hit my stride and I just don’t believe I can be stopped by Manny. And I don’t think Manny Pacquiao can knock me out.

“We made the adjustments we had to in the last two weeks (since he replaced injured Errol Spence Jr.), so that I’m ready for Pacquiao. We’ve done everything we had to and we’re 100-percent ready to go Saturday night. There are no excuses heading into this fight. I’ve been in this position taking a short-notice fight before, although obviously never against a legend and a fighter the caliber of Pacquiao. I have no concerns though, and I believe both of us are going to be prepared for this fight. … I’m here to wreck any future plans Manny Pacquiao has in the ring and make sure that Saturday is his last fight.”

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said he has ample respect for Ugas.

“I had Ugas winning his fight with Shawn Porter,” Roach said. “Ugas goes for the kill right away. He likes to go for the home run when he throws his punches. He would rather win a fight by knockout than on points.”

Undisputed Manny?

While Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) said that if he continues to box after facing Ugas he would like to still face Errol Spence Jr., if he is medically cleared to return following his retina surgery, and Terence Crawford, he perked up and he smiled when another possible opponent was suggested to him by a reporter.

For all of Pacquiao’s records and accomplishments, he was reminded that one thing he has never achieved is being an undisputed champion, and since Pacquiao and his team have often said he would have no problem making 140 pounds again, what would he think of potentially challenging undisputed junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor?

“That’s a good one! It’s interesting,” Pacquiao said of the Scottish star, who grew up idolizing Pacquiao and having a pet dog he named Manny.

Oscar De La Hoya (left) vs. Manny Pacquiao. Photo credit: Ed Mulholland/HBO Boxing

Pacquiao punishes De La Hoya. Photo by Ed Mulholland/HBO Boxing

Pacquiao’s biggest win?

Pacquiao has scored numerous significant victories in his 26-year career, so which one does he consider his greatest and most satisfying?

He had no problem answering the question: his 2008 eighth-round annihilation of Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya.

“The greatest victory is the De La Hoya fight. Why? Because I came from 135 to 147,” Pacquiao said. “That’s unusual. Not many boxers can do that. From 122 to 126, 130, 135, then moving up to 147. It was Oscar.”

Pacquiao had stopped David Diaz to win the WBC lightweight title in June 2008 and then moved up two weight classes to fight De La Hoya in a massively hyped nontitle bout. De La Hoya was the big favorite and the much bigger man, but Pacquiao dominated every moment of the fight until De La Hoya’s corner stopped the fight with him on the stool after the eighth, sending him into retirement, which he will end when he returns to face MMA star Vitor Belfort in a boxing match on Sept. 11.

So what does Pacquiao think about his old rival’s return after 13 years in retirement?

“That’s his passion. Boxing is his passion,” Pacquiao said. “If the sport is your passion even when you leave you will miss it.”

Ugas’ chances?

Ismael Salas, Ugas’ trainer, believes his fighter’s vast amateur pedigree as a longtime member of the Cuban national team, for which he won Olympic bronze in 2008 before defecting and turning pro in 2010, will be critical against Pacquiao.

“The experience that Ugas has from the Olympics and over 500 amateur bouts is going to be the most important thing for him in this fight,” Salas said. “We’ve been on a roll for these last 12 fights since Ugas has started working with me. We’re going to keep it going on Saturday.

“Pacquiao comes from a lot of angles, but so does Ugas. Ugas has mastered fighting southpaws, so we’ll see who is going to be able to see their opponent’s punches coming.”

Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), 35, is 11-1 with Salas in a stretch that began in 2016 with the only loss coming by heavily disputed decision challenging Shawn Porter for his welterweight world title in 2019. In that 12-fight stretch, Ugas has defeated Jamal James, Thomas Dulorme, Ray Robinson, Omar Figueroa Jr. and Abel Ramos.

Canelo thoughts?

As a huge boxing star and onetime pound-for-pound king, Pacquiao was asked what he thinks of Canelo Alvarez, today’s No. 1 star and pound-pound-for-pound king.

“He’s one of the best. He’s accomplished a lot and keep up the good work,” Pacquiao said. “His opponent is only himself if he keeps focusing on boxing and working hard, sacrifices, (has) discipline. He will last in boxing.”
Alvarez, a four-division champion, is the unified super middleweight world champion but had his first title run at junior middleweight, where Pacquiao topped out in his record run to titles in eight weight classes by battering Antonio Margarito in 2010 in a fight that was contracted at 150 pounds and for which Pacquiao weighed in at just 144½.

Pacquiao said he wouldn’t have considered fighting Alvarez in a junior middleweight fight. Alvarez won his first belt at 154 pounds in 2011.

“154 is too much for me. I am 5-foot-6, 5-7. (Maybe) if I became 5-9,” Pacquiao said with a laugh. “After the Margarito fight they ask me if I am going to defend my belt. I said, ‘No thank you. Give it to them. I am going back to 147. Why am I moving up to 154?’ But it a was a good experience.”

Atlas’ take on Pacquiao

Hall of Fame trainer and longtime television analyst Teddy Atlas knows up close what Pacquiao is capable of. Atlas was the head trainer for Timothy Bradley Jr. when Bradley fought Pacquiao for the third time on April 9, 2016, a fight in which Bradley got knocked down twice, lost a clear decision and then retired.

So, what is Atlas’ take on what Ugas can expect?

“We all know that saying — everyone has a plan until you hit them in the mouth. But with Manny, it’s more like, until you hit that hornets’ nest, and Manny is literally everywhere. Tim was great, but legends sting,” Atlas said. “When I evaluate a fighter, I look for dimensions, and Manny is like watching 3D where everything comes at you fast and from all directions. That’s the greatness of Manny, his combination of speed and power along with special instincts and a will to win. He’s never forgotten what he didn’t have, and he fights like he’s still looking for it.

“You can look at Manny Pacquiao as a force of nature. Like the ocean, he pulls you into counters, then pushes you back, catching you in retreat. The tide moving a piece of driftwood. His legs are the beach giving him the ability to strand opponents in space, while his hands crash like waves. I’ve seen it up close and it’s no day at the beach.”

Jeff Horn’s take

The last time Pacquiao lost a fight it was by extremely controversial decision to Jeff Horn on July 2, 2017, in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia.

The official defeat cost Pacquiao his WBO welterweight title and led to a brief one-fight split between Pacquiao and trainer Roach.

Since then Pacquiao has won three fights in row, all in impressive fashion against Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman.

It remains to be seen what kind strategy Ugas will employ against Pacquiao, but Horn explained what his strategy was when he pulled the upset over Pacquiao four years ago.

“I remember Manny being extremely fast at covering distance,” Horn said. “His explosiveness off his feet and his hand speed meant I had to stay way out of range of him or have him right there in front of me to hit. Because I am bigger than Pacquiao our plan was to fight him hard in close and always try and outwork him. The goal was to answer last and throw the last punch in the exchanges. Manny is a southpaw, so there was no secret to staying away from his lethal left power hand. I had seen him too many times do damage with that hand.”



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