Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios are just 10 days away from meeting in the ring. The two will meet in a 12-round welterweight battle in Macau, China. Pacquiao makes his long awaited return following his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December and hopes to make a statement against Brandon Rios. The fight will be part of a live five-bout pay-per-view card on November 23 beginning at 9 PM ET / 6 PM PT.
Trainer Freddie Roach joined a recent press call to discuss all the latest news about the fight and recapped Pacquiao’s training up to this point. Here is what was said during his Q & A with the boxing press.
FREDDIE ROACH: Training camp has been going great. We have been sparring very well. We have six rounds to spar tomorrow and four rounds on Saturday then we are going to head to Macau on Monday afternoon after training. We are 90% ready. We have the game plan down. We know how we are going to fight Brandon Rios. He’s a taller guy and we have been watching the tapes of his last 10 fights. We have a great game plan and Manny knows how to fight this fighter and I believe it’s going to be a great night for the Philippines.
Freddie, I understand you gave Manny the day off today, is he looking that good?
FREDDIE ROACH: He is doing really good. He had a great run in the morning. He did a lot of sprints and had a great run. When he came into the gym, he looked a little tired and I said, “you know Manny, you can take the day off. Go home and get some rest.” I think what has happened here is weighing on his mind so I gave him the day off since he had the great run and we can pick it back up tomorrow.
Do you have heightened anticipation since Manny is coming off back-to-back losses?
FREDDIE ROACH: I think it is a situation where he has to look impressive in this fight and we are doing everything possible to do that. We have Manny’s mind on the right path I believe. He knows he has to look impressive in the fight and he knows Brandon Rios is coming off of a loss also. We can’t give into him at all in this fight.
After watching what Ruslan Provodnikov has done to his opponents, how do you feel about the rough sparring sessions Manny had with him?
FREDDIE ROACH: He always did real well and Manny handles Ruslan in the beginning of the sparring. But then Ruslan, of course, learned how to fight Manny. It was great work for both guys and I don’t think it was too hard on Manny. We had two sparring partners, four actually, but two left. We have had tough guys because Rios is a tough kid. We cut the sparring down quite a bit – we average about 150 rounds but now we do 110 – we didn’t need the wear and tear at this point in his career.
So the typhoon did not touch you guys. Has Manny been thinking about this great tragedy and has it affected training?
FREDDIE ROACH: Training has been going well and he’s trying to keep his focus on boxing but I did talk to Manny today about it and on Sunday we took some trainers and other fighters down to visit the kids in Baguio, but for him to go down there now, it’s way too close to the fight and he needs to buckle down and stay in the gym for the moment.
How do you feel Rios will be in the fight? Do you still feel he will charge forward?
FREDDIE ROACH: The more I see of Rios in the tapes the better I feel. He’s just a tough guy and tough guys don’t win fights. Manny can outbox him and he can do it with ease.
Have you seen anything in camp that would show you he has slipped a little bit? To put the knockout behind him?
FREDDIE ROACH: He has definitely put the knockout behind him. Manny Pacquiao knows that the knockout is part of the sport. He realizes that if you aren’t able to handle the knockout you picked the wrong sport. He is totally recovered and is brave as ever in the ring. We had a good session on Tuesday – we went eight-rounds with two tough guys – one a little bit bigger and one a little bit stronger – and Manny’s doing great.
What do you say to the skeptics that say this is the end for Manny Pacquiao?
FREDDIE ROACH: Well, Manny was fighting one of the best fights he has fought in a long time. At the time he fell into the punch- those things happen. Whether it was a lucky punch, Marquez was throwing a lot of punches. The thing, in that fight, if Manny had waited one second more, Manny was going to win that fight by knockout. Nothing carried over. Manny has looked great in training. I know people are skeptical about him but knockouts are what they are. Manny Pacquiao is a realist. He understands it is part of the sport. He’s been knocked out twice before – I remember him showing me the tapes when we first started working together and I said, “I don’t want to see those knockouts. You know what happened.” So he accepts that and I don’t think it’s going to affect him AT ALL. But we probably won’t know until the fight.
Do you feel it is overblown? Everyone except the judges thought Manny beat Bradley then the one punch against Marquez. We could be sitting here saying Manny won his last two fights…
FREDDIE ROACH: Definitely. That’s why I don’t think it will bother him any. He does realize that it is part of the sport. To be honest with you, when I was knocked out for the first time, it changed my whole career, because I was never as brave as Manny. I loft my self confidence. But Manny is not like me. Manny is a realist and he accepts it. I know everybody doesn’t think the same way, but since he accepts it, it doesn’t bother him.
Can you talk about the time difference?
FREDDIE ROACH: Well, we get up early in the morning and we are running then we train in the afternoon and we are getting him used to having two meals before the fight and I think that’s a big factor, as long as he gets those two meals in him it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. We’ll be ready to fight. We are in the same time zone as China, in the Philippines so we don’t have to worry about that change. We do get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and we’re on the road by 4:30. We get a meal in him in the morning then a small lunch before the afternoon workout and it’s been working out really well.
As a Congressman, has the disaster distracted Manny even though it was not near, has he gotten calls? Meetings or conference calls?
FREDDIE ROACH: We have had a lot of calls about the tragedy of course. We talk about it in the gym a little bit with the other trainers and taking the people down like we did in Baguio. He told me he wanted to go down on Sunday but it’s too close to the fight for him to take any time off and we talked about that. He is focused on the fight still but obviously it is a big distraction because it killed all of those people. We do talk about it in the gym – about how many people got killed in the storm and how many more have been affected. He is concerned about it yes, very much, but I think we have him pretty much on track on the fight. He knows it’s a big fight and he knows it’s a must-win situation and it’s bigger than that because he has to win for the country also, not just his boxing career, he knows he has to win for the people and he told me that yesterday. They seem to be inspiring each other.
What was the weather in General Santos City during the storm?
FREDDIE ROACH: It was very unusual. It was sunny and hot. We got a little bit of rain that evening but that was it – no wind. It didn’t come in our direction at all.
You had said there would be fewer distractions training in General Santos City, how as that worked out?
FREDDIE ROACH: We have a nice gym and we tried to close it down but there are a lot of people that try to slip in and we had a lot more relatives this week than we did last. The people still love to see Manny Pacquiao. We work out on the third floor of a building and they have big windows and a lot of people watch from the streets to get a glimpse of Manny moving around the ring and so forth. But as far as politics go, those people didn’t come until the storm hit the other day. Of course that was tragic and Manny does care about people and he’s been doing all he can from here but for the fight though, up until that point, we had a very good training camp and we probably haven’t had as many people in the gym as we have in Hollywood, but there have been a lot of reporters but that comes with being a big-time boxer. We do the best we can and the closer the fight gets the more we have to work on that.
How difficult is it for you to be far away from your other fighters – Martirosyan and Provodnikov – who had recent fights?
FREDDIE ROACH: I tried as best that I could to work with my assistant and he did a great job with them. Both fighters are very close to Manny. Manny will be real happy to see them and they are both coming to the fight. For people that were saying I was washed up, I think we are going to have three wins in a row and I will be in contention for Trainer of the Year – and Fighter of the Year – again. The thing is, Manny is in great shape for this fight. I expect big things out of Manny in this fight.
Alvarado became more of a boxer in his second fight, a win, against Rios. Is that something you pick up on?
FREDDIE ROACH: Of course, I watch a lot of tapes. When you fight a taller guy you fight much different that when you fight a shorter guy and Manny is a bit shorter so I have to depend on how he fights us so he will throw more uppercuts against a shorter guy. The first fight obviously he looked great and he stopped him. In the second fight he got outboxed and I told Manny, “That’s how you beat this guy, you outbox him. You don’t trade with this guy. You just weave in and out and the fight will be easy.’” We have the game plan down perfectly. I know he is a tough guy but tough guys don’t win fights. Good boxers win fights.
Do you know who the officials will be for this fight?
FREDDIE ROACH: I got the list from Mike Koncz the other day and I am familiar with all three, all four, and we have no problem with the judges. I don’t remember the names but I am happy with all of them.
Does the fact that Alvarado beat Rios and Provodnikov beat up Alvarado and Provodnikov sparred with Manny bode well for Manny?
FREDDIE ROACH: Manny and Ruslan sparred together and are good friends. When they sparred it was great work for each other. Neither would get beat up and I would never let that happen. Manny got the best of Ruslan and obviously he’s a tough kid and a very strong puncher but Manny has been sparring with bigger guys for this because Rios is going to be a little bit bigger but it’s the first time he’ll be fighting at 147 but he was a fat guy and did have to lose weight. He’s moving up to 147 and still had to lose weight. That tells you what kind of discipline he has and I think we are going to take advantage of that.
How do you think the fight will go and how long do you think it will go?
FREDDIE ROACH: I think Manny is going to outbox him and knock him out inside six rounds.
Would you have the retirement discussion if he wins but struggles?
FREDDIE ROACH: I think Manny will outbox this guy and end the fight early – he has more speed and power but that all depends on how the fight goes. If Manny boxes a good fight and does well and he gets a bad decision then we’d have to sit down and talk about it. But it’s really hard to say until we see the fight. If I see he is slowing down and slipping in the fight I will be the first one to tell him. We have an agreement that I will tell him that and he will retire. I don’t see him slipping in the gym at this moment and he’s doing really well. He’s fired up and anxious to get back in the ring and I see good things. If things don’t go well we will talk about retirement and going into politics full time or something like that.
FREDDIE ROACH: Rios was at 135 and had to lose weight. He went to 140 and had to lose weight and now he’s at 147 and has to lose weight. But I am pretty much worried about getting my fighter ready for the fight. Obviously I see clips of Rios training and so forth and he’s wearing clothes to create more sweat all the time and you wonder why he’s wearing that, but that’s not my job. That’s his trainer’s job so I don’t worry about that.
What do you do next after a win?
FREDDIE ROACH: We wanted to fight Marquez but Marquez refused to fight us. We want Marquez one more time, yes. That’s the fight we want. Mayweather too of course, but Marquez, he got lucky and we want to take that back.
FREDDIE ROACH: Manny is in great shape and we are ready to fight right now at this moment. Right now he is below weight by a little bit. He was on weight a month before the fight and Rios wasn’t but we’ll see him in the ring and see who the best boxer is.
Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images