A week ago I did an interview with Steve Forbes at Wild Card
Boxing Club. At the time I wrote that up, I mentioned how lucky I felt to be
able to not only do my interview face to face, but to watch Steve spar with
Manny Pacquiao, and then get to stay the rest of the afternoon to watch the
remainder of Manny’s training.
Manny upon his arrival at Wild Card Boxing Club.
Barbara Pinnella photo
Now, after looking at the pictures taken at Media Day, I am really
just as excited when I think about the events that took place on the day I went,
as I was right after I left. So I decided to write up a little story on my
impressions of the goings on, more from a fan point of view than that of a
When I arrived a little before 1:00, cars were already
emptying out of the parking lot, while Pacquiao fans had begun to arrive and
mill about, waiting for a glimpse of their hero. I have been in Wild Card
several other times and, like all gyms across the country, the hustle and
bustle of activity hits you as you are walking up the stairs of Freddie Roach’s
pride and joy. But this time was remarkably different. There was a lot of
traffic, but most were making their way out this time, not moving from bag to
ring to rope.
There were a few people there that I knew, so we chatted a
bit as I watched the continuous exodus. Then I heard someone say, “Here he
comes,” and if I hadn’t heard that and looked to the door – which I was sitting
close to, mind you – I wouldn’t have even noticed him walk in. He and his
entourage quietly and unassumingly entered the gym.
While he changed clothes and warmed up, any stragglers who
were still there were firmly asked to leave – it was now “Pacquiao Time”. I
didn’t get to see all of the sparring he did with his first partner. That was
when I did my interview with Steve. But I was told that Manny was sparring 10
rounds, so I can only assume that partner number one (and I apologize for not
getting his name) went three.
Michael Dallas, Jr. went the next three. I thought he did a
good job, certainly a much stronger fighter than the kid I watched at the
beginning of his career. He also knows Pacquiao a little bit. This is the
second camp he has attended, as he sparred with him before the Oscar de la Hoya
fight as well.
Steve went last and did his four rounds. For both Michael
and Steve this was also preparation for their own fights. Dallas fights on
March 5th and Forbes on the 6th.
During the course of the sparring, sitting there watching
Manny ask for, and take, punches to his midsection and absorb them was amazing
to me, especially since I was only a few feet away. Quite an impact. And while
I know that in a fight that happens all the time, it was still something to see
up close and personal, so to speak.
So now Manny has fought his 10 rounds, and I just assume
that he is finished. What was I thinking? Now I know that when a fighter is
training for a fight there are many stages involved in that, but at the time I
just figured that the sparring would be the biggest work of the day, and it
would slow down from there.
Not close. Now, I watched Pacquiao/Cotto 24/7. I enjoyed the
insight, since with most sports I cover I’ve always liked what goes on behind
the scenes better anyway, more interesting to me. So while I should have
expected it, I was still surprised to actually witness it. When it seemed as if
Pacquiao was cooling down a bit, he then stepped it up big time with footwork
and shadow boxing. Then the heavy bag. Then the speed bag. Then some rope
jumping. Then weights, then stretching, and even though I’m certain that I have
them out of order and maybe even left something out, by now you get the
And there was still some quick moments thrown in there to
have a few laughs and even sing a little bit, in Spanish no less. Every now and
then he would look out the window at the growing crowd below and give a little
wave to them, then switch right back into his other gear and train once more.
Had to do this - Manny and me.
If I had any doubt before, I now am completely aware of what
goes into the making of a champion. Believe me, it ain’t easy! I’m certain that
there are many, many people who train hard, make sacrifices, and do as much as
they can to reach a level of greatness. As with other sports, one thing is
missing – raw talent. Can’t teach that, you either have it or you don’t,
particularly to make it all the way to the top. Is Pacquiao a gifted fighter?
Absolutely. Add in the right time, right place, and the right trainer, then
combine that with the dedication he gives to his training and you get a
Welterweight monster. Never mind the other championships he holds at six other
When I went to leave the crowds had grown considerably. They
were behind the fence in back of the parking lot, in the lot itself, and lined
up along the entrance into the Wild Card parking lot. One of them asked me as I
was leaving if “HE” was almost ready to come out. When I told him that I wasn’t
sure, he just nodded and told me OK. No anger, no shoving, just a group of
people waiting to get a glimpse or possibly an autograph from this man who is
the pride of the Philippines.
How many people get to spend a few hours watching the best
at his profession train for a fight? I’m sure that those who have been around
for some time have done so, perhaps many times. Possibly it is old hat for
them. But I have to say that I would have never dreamed I would be sitting at
Wild Card, watching Manny Pacquiao. With that said, I also had to have that
obligatory ‘take my picture with Manny’ experience…which is also my profile
picture on FaceBook, and my wallpaper on my cell phone. And I have to show that
pic to almost everyone. If they don’t know who Manny is, they do when I’m
through with them!
I can’t end this without a huge thanks to Freddie Roach for
allowing me to be a part of this corner of his world. And you have it backwards
– it is I who respects YOU!
So now I can get back into journalist mode and be more
serious, keeping my excited emotions in check. Until, well, who knows?