Joe Rein Writings


Pac Vows Win at Wild Card

Manny Pacquiao

Seeing Manny Pacquiao in the last few days of training at the Wild Card Gym for his Pay-Per-View junior lightweight match-up with Eric Morales on March 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it was as if royalty was in attendance. The modest space throbbed with what looked like the better part of Manila, and every other fighter and trainer sought a breathe of air, like commuters on a rush-hour train.

Manny PacquaioIn the swirl of activity, Murad Muhammad, Pacquiao's promoter, sat silent against the side wall watching Manny spar, no more than 15 feet from Pac's trainer, Freddie Roach, at the front desk. It might just as well have been 15 miles. The enmity between the two was so thick; you could cut it with a knife.

On Pac's final day of sparring with Raymondo Beltran and Jose Santa Cruz, he fine-tuned his tools at half speed; letting his hands go, gauging accuracy and timing. It was all working, like calibrating a fine timepiece.

Just as modifications were made in Team Pacquiao since the Marquez fight, Roach worked tirelessly with Pacquiao to sharpen the moves he'd need to overcome Morales' style.

No video shooting of his sparring was allowed. Trainers scanned the room like Secret Service, fixing anyone suspicious with a glare: "Put it away, now!" It was so congested, anyone seeking a better vantage point looked like Salmon swimming up stream.

Pacquiao's only 27, but he defines grace under pressure. This is the biggest fight of his life, and he has to stay focused. But, even while sparring, hitting bags and doing floor work, it's not hard to see why he's the soul of the Philippines. He acknowledged the waves and shouts of his countrymen with a welcoming grin.

Manny PacquaioAfter dressing in sweats, Pacquiao held court the way Ray Robinson did -- the center of a sea of reporters and adoring fans -- endlessly signing autographs, and taking pictures, with good humor. When he moved, they moved -- like planets around the sun.

If Pacquiao's learned as much in this training camp as he has outside, Morales may be in for an even bigger headache than he imagined. Only months ago, Pacquiao could barely get out an English word. But he stood confident in the Wild Card doorway, announcing to all, like Gen. Macarthur at Corregidor, in affect, "I will be back...with a victory!" in flawless English.

Freddy RoachIf Pac beats Morales, with his smile, electrifying style, and growing comfort with English, the money he's imagined might be a fraction of what he'll see as a crossover attraction, like Oscar De La Hoya.

When Manny's team and supporters funneled out of the gym, I spoke to Roach.


As Manny's training comes to a close in Los Angeles, what are your thoughts, Freddie?

FR: Good camp - longest we've ever had - nine weeks total by fight time. We had a little extra time to work on his right hand, to make him a two-fisted fighter. He has a lot of confidence in his left hand. He has a lot of power in his right hand; he just doesn't have the confidence. We worked on it over time, and I expect it to be very affective in this fight.


Morales has a big overhand right. In sparring, I see Manny sliding off to the right more than I ever have. Is that part of your strategy?

FR: Yeah, definitely. It's a very simple move, just to move away from this guy's power. He doesn't throw a real good left hook. He's got a good left uppercut to the body. To nullify that, it takes Manny one step to get away from it and walk him into Manny's power.

We watched a lot of tape on this guy. We think from that side, he can be hit. With the Marquez fight, Manny stood right in from of him too much. He just wanted to trade with him. In this fight, we're gonna use a lot more movement, side to side. Morales is one of those guys, if you stand in front of him, he will hit you.


When Manny was training here a week before the Marquez fight, I saw his foot slip doing stair stepping, and he winced with pain and favored it for the balance of the workout. It got little notice at the time. Was it a factor in the fight?

FR: It was bothering him a little bit - nothing broken, or anything, just stretched some muscles. No excuses. The blisters on his feet were the worst thing. People say a fighter shouldn't get blisters on his feet; he moves all the time...but he bought a cheap pair of socks. The blisters were terrible. He couldn't move. It was so bad; he got a sock deal with a company in the Philippines...a good pair of socks, actually.

It was a factor in the fight, and he had a slight fracture in his left hand. I feel if he didn't have that, he would have knocked that guy out. It's water under the bridge. He's on to bigger and better things right now.


Did your team make mistakes in the Marquez fight?

FR: Yeah, there were little things we just overlooked. We try not to overlook anything now - to make sure the equipment is right. A problem that shouldn't have happened did. Those things happen. You learn from your mistakes. We're gonna make sure he wears the right shoes and the right socks.

I wish Murad Muhammad wouldn't have picked Winning Gloves. This is a non-title fight. It's supposed to be either a coin toss, or wear whatever you want, as long as the Nevada Commission agrees. But, it's in the contract: We have to wear the gloves that Morales picks. I don't think Murad's looking out for his fighter, without even considering asking a simple question like that.

We've always fought in Reyes gloves...And, everyone knows, Reyes gloves are punchers' gloves. The Winning Gloves are a little bit more padded...I'm not happy about it, but it's not gonna make a difference in the fight. We'll get to this guy, either way.


What's your answer to those that say Pac's a one-dimensional fighter?

FR: In his last fight, he fought that fight. He fought a very poor fight. In the Barrera fight, he was a complete fighter. You're only as good as your last fight. They can say that right now, but after the Morales fight; they'll have a new view.


Do all the tensions behind the scenes affect Manny?

FR: It's been a pretty smooth transition, cause Manny's happy about things, because now he knows, he's the boss. It used to be that Murad Muhammad and Nazario used to write the checks. Manny's in charge of his own life now. He knows where every penny's goin'. There's full disclosure. It's like it should be, which he's never had before. But those guys are still trying to tell Manny that Shelly Finkel and the lawyers are bad for him. They've been trying to get to him to re-sign a different contract.

When he signed the last contract with Murad, he told me, 'I was under duress. They told me if I didn't sign that contract, I would never fight on HBO again.' And, that's a lie! He wasn't forced... but he was pressured into it. He's a real nice kid. He wants to make everyone happy. I think he's grown up a little bit, and he's starting to look out for himself.

I think the new team, with lawyers and Shelly Finkel, they're gonna get the right fights for Manny, for the most money he can make. That's the bottom line, what you want to do in this sport.


Shelly's a manager. After this fight, will Shelly look for a promoter?

FR: Manny's big enough where he doesn't really need a promoter right now. Shelly will do what he does with Mike Tyson: pay somebody a flat fee to put the fight on. You put Manny and Barrera together in the re-match; that sells itself.


So, you get somebody who understands the nuts and bolts, but Shelly's really putting it together?

FR: Yes, of course. When Tyson fights, Shelly hires somebody to put the show on and he pays them $300,000 - nothing outrageous, but fair. Everyone's happy. The fighter gets the bigger end of the money. That's the way it should be. That's who the people are coming to see.


Why'd you initiate this?

FR: I just do my job. I train Manny. Manny asked me for help, so I gave him help. He wanted me to put a team together, so I did that. Him and Shelly Finkel spoke. They liked each other, and they did a deal. Manny's very happy with the new team...He's got the lawyers looking out for him. I concentrate on my job; I know everything else is covered right now.


"Right now," meaning what?

FR: Murad Muhammad is the promoter right now...but what does he really do? This is a Bob Arum promotion; Bob Arum's the lead promoter in this fight. All Murad's doing is bringing Manny Pacquiao to the table, because he has him under contract. We'll see after the fight what happens...if that contract is still valid.


Why do you feel so strongly?

FR: I hate when anybody steals money off fighters; I was a fighter myself one time.


Give us an example?

FR: Before Manny signed his last contract with Murad, Bob Arum called me up and he negotiated this deal with me: It's the exact same pay day we're making now: a guarantee, plus 40% of the upside (after the break-even of the PPV money). The upside was going 100% to Manny. But now the upside is going to Murad Muhammad.

If the upside is $5, I want Manny to get the $5. He's the one putting his life on the line.


By making this deal with Finkel, do you profit?

FR: My deal with Manny is the same as it's always been. It's never been changed, ever since I took him on for the Ladwaba fight. He's always been very fair with me. I don't need to make any extra money off these guys. I told Shelly, I just want you to be honest with him and give him what he's supposed to get.


What kind of money are we talking about?

FR: The upside could be up to $3 million, if it does as well as Barrera-Morales did, and I think it will do better than that. In my opinion, that's not the promoter's money; that's Manny's money. People are paying to see him. The promoter, obviously, deserves to get something, but not more than the fighter.


How do you and Murad exist together?

FR: Murad Muhammad comes to my gym. He'll say 'Hi' to me and I'll say 'Hi" to him - that's all there is to it. I don't think there's any love lost between us.

He knows I don't like him, and I know he doesn't like me.

He told me he's coming after me, and stuff like that. Well, come on, if you're coming - cause I'm right here! I have no problem with that. He wants to come after me; what's that mean? Does he want to physically come after me? Any way!


If you can think about just the fight now, how's it going to play out?

FR: Macka Foley's betting Pacquiao will knock him out in the first round...It could happen, Manny's so explosive. More realistically, I think we're going to take this guy's body away - like we did with Barrera. I think we'll stop this guy some where's along the line, cause we're going to make Morales fight every minute of every round. I don't think he can keep the pace up with Manny Pacquiao. He's the most exciting fighter in the world today.

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