MANNY PACQUIAO began the US leg of his training camp in Los Angeles for his August 21 fight with Errol Spence last week, meeting his American rival at a kick-off press conference on Sunday (July 11).
“Errol Spence is a very difficult fight for me; perhaps the most difficult of my career,” Pacquiao, now 42 years old, said. “But I have been an underdog my whole life. I am used to that. It is why I work so hard. But the love and the prayers of my fellow Philippine citizens and Filipinos around the world sustain and inspire me. I fight for the glory of our nation and for underdogs everywhere.”
His trainer Freddie Roach adds, “Manny lives for the challenge and the competition. Manny loves hearing that the Las Vegas odds and the media favour Errol Spence.”
Spence is unbeaten in 27 pro fights, is 31 years old and is one of the leading current stars in US boxing. “I decided to pick Errol Spence because I want to give a good fight to the fans and I want a real fight. I’m a fighter and boxing is my passion,” Pacquiao explained. “Errol Spence is an aggressive fighter and he’s undefeated, young and dedicated to his career. He’s not an easy opponent and he’s the kind of fighter to never underestimate. I cannot underestimate him.
“I believe that Errol is better than Mayweather and is a better fighter than Mayweather.”
Mayweather outscored Pacquiao in their hugely lucrative 2015 contest. But he has fought a who’s who of boxing legends, including Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and many more. Pacquiao is a highly celebrated veteran, who beat Keith Thurman two years ago in his most recent fight. For Spence this upcoming clash could be the key moment in his career.
“Manny Pacquiao is the kind of guy who’ll give you a lot of compliments and gratitude and things like that. Then as soon as the bell rings, he’ll be jumping all over you,” Spence said. “We’re definitely going to be cautious and mindful that he does have power. He did knock down Keith Thurman and did hurt him with a body shot. [But] I don’t think any fighter can knock me out.”
“He’s very explosive and he’s fast,” he added. “We’ve got a gameplan and we’ve been working on it. Come August 21, we will see.”
Pacquiao hasn’t boxed another southpaw, as Spence is, for 13 years but his long-time coach Freddie Roach is looking to address that in the gym. “Manny knows it’s a tough fight – probably his toughest – but that’s why he began his conditioning so early in the Philippines. Usually jet lag keeps him out of the gym for one day the first week he arrives in Los Angeles. Not this time. He has been here every day, training two and half to three hours each afternoon. I usually hold off sparring the first week, but Manny insisted on sparring yesterday [July 8], so we brought in Maurice Lee and Alexis Rocha, who went two rounds each with Manny,” Roach said. “Manny has achieved so much in his boxing career and in his life. But everyone in camp can sense this fight has a special meaning. It is not just about beating a top pound-for-pound fighter or winning more titles. This time it’s all about boxing immortality for Manny Pacquiao. I am a Red Sox fan, and I can tell he wants to go out like Ted Williams did, hitting a home run in his last at bat. By the way, Ted Williams was also 42 when he did that.”
“I’m doing my best to focus my mind, my body, my spirit, of course, to win the fight,” Pacquiao concluded. “I’ve been boxing 30 years so I think I already saw the different kinds of style and different kinds of passion that I encounter in the ring. This kind of fight, I consider one of the top fights.”