Top Rank boss Bob Arum has been doing the rounds in Baguio this week observing the training of Manny Pacquiao ahead of his November WBC light middleweight title bout against Antonio Margarito, and until recently, was not impressed with what he was seeing in training from the favorite.
Widespread reports from the early part of Manny Pacquiao’s camp indicated that he was having problems with minor aches and injuries, the effect on his speed that the climb up in weight from welterweight to junior middleweight was having, and possibly even his motivation. To make matters even more difficult, heavy rainfall brought about by a passing typhoon has meant more missed days of roadwork.
Typically, when Arum travels to Pacquiao’s training camp before a fight, he gives glowing reports to the media of how fast and strong Pacquiao is looking, and isn’t worried about what the congressman might be doing outside the confines of the gym. This time though, Arum saw things that he says concerned him.
He commented this week that his charge was not looking as fast as usual, and at one point even began to talk about the 7 weight champion needing to resurrect the ‘old’ Pacquiao in order to win. Arum told the Inquirier yesterday:
“He has plenty of time to get into shape and be the old Manny Pacquiao again,”
“And if he’s the old Manny Pacquiao, he’s too fast and too talented to get beat by Margarito.”
How genuine Arum’s concerns were isn’t certain of course because above all else, he is always looking to sell the fight, and the closer the public believe it might be the more interested they will be in watching.
Despite whatever training difficulties Pacquiao might be having, he is still favored by oddsmakers to put Margarito away in less than ten rounds, which doesn’t lend itself to the idea that the fight will be closely contested.
Regardless of the veracity of Arum’s concerns though, trainer Freddie Roach and strength and conditioning expert Alex Ariza are both pleased with Pacquiao’s recent improvements, and have both stated recently that he is now on track once more to be in peak condition by the time the fight rolls around.
Alex Ariza told the Manila Times earlier today:
“We’re behind for a while but today we’re back to where we want to be,”
Perhaps tellingly, Ariza also mentioned to the gathered press recently that Pacquiao’s recent improvement was probably down to the fact that they have let his weight drop back down to 148lbs. Which could be indicative that junior middleweight is the very limit of how much weight Pacquiao can gain and still fight effectively.
Although his trainer has yet to put a definite figure on what his weight will be on the night of the fight, it is widely rumored that Margarito could be as much as 165lbs when he steps into the ring against Pacquiao. A size difference he and his team hope will be insurmountable for Pacquiao.
Previously, Roach and Ariza had stated that they intended for Pacquiao to weigh in at around 150lbs for the fight, so long as his speed wasn’t adversely affected. Against the already much larger Margarito though, speed rather than strength will likely be the biggest asset Pacquiao has, and he may well come in closer to 148lbs if he continues to look his best at that weight.
James Smith, Pitt: “Speed is definitely the key, Margarito is slow footed and a slow starter. Pacquiao at his fastest can blitz him in 5 rounds”
Rory Essman, New York: “No way he can go higher than he is now, he looks tiny already and people are talking about him fighting Chavez at middleweight. Any higher and he loses to someone he would beat at a lower weight”