A revealing look inside Manny Pacquiao’s training camp as he prepares to face WBA Super World Welterweight Champion Keith Thurman in a 147-pound showdown Saturday, July 20, on FOX PPV.
Twenty-four years into his professional career, Manny Pacquaio’s mantra as a pugilist can be simplified into the following four words: “work hard, fight easy.”
So says the Filipino fighter as he prepares for another grueling workout at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, his second of the day as he continues to test his physical limits at the age of 40.
“It’s not just about training. It’s about working hard and pushing yourself to the limit. Push. Push. Push,” Pacquiao said. “If you don’t push your opponent, he will push you away in the ring.”
Pacquaio (61-7-2, 39 KOs) will try to push, punch and punish WBA Super World Welterweight Champion Keith Thurman on Saturday, July 20, in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, live on PBC on FOX PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) is Pacquiao’s toughest test in the squared circle since he faced Floyd Mayweather four years ago at the same venue. According to Pacquaio and his camp, he’s relishing the unfamiliar underdog role (Pacquiao has since become the betting favorite) and training harder than ever as he prepares to battle the undefeated American champion who is ten years his junior.
Today, he’ll spar 10 rounds and follow that up with a variety of drills on the bags for another 15 rounds right after. During sparring, Manny lets the eager and younger bull charge forward while he plays matador, countering with precise punches. He deliberately backs into the ropes and instructs his partner to start working.
“Go, go, go,” Pacquaio says, as trainer Buboy Fernandez offers instructions in Tagalog.
Then in typical Pacquaio fashion, he fires off a ten-punch salvo that catches the attention of his masked counterpart.
“Are you okay?” asks a concerned Pacquaio, realizing the onslaught and power might have been better saved for fight night.
The opponent he’s trading fists with today is Abraham Lopez, a 23-year-old welterweight with a record of 10-2 with three knockouts. This is the first camp Lopez has been employed as a sparring partner for Pacquaio. He’s amazed that a man old enough to be his father is still operating at a high level.
“Seeing him on TV and being in the ring with him are two different things,” Lopez said. “He keeps getting faster, focused and more determined by the day. I hope I can be like him. He’s 40-years-old, but age is just a number for Manny. Freddie Roach saw something in me that he liked and brought me on board. It’s just an honor to be in a ring with him.”
Roach doesn’t seem overly concerned about the task of beating the dangerous Thurman.
“Keith Thurman can’t fight. I’m not that high on this guy. Who has he fought? He’s worse than Adrien Broner,” Roach said. “We’re training like usual and it’s another fight night. This is not a new Manny. Age is only a number and Manny’s work ethic is unbelievable.”
Justin Fortune, Pacquaio’s strength and conditioning coach, offered a more calculated rebuke.
“It’s different this training camp with his leg workouts and improving on explosion, because we figure we have to chase Thurman around,” said Fortune. “Keith might try to tough guy it out for a few rounds, but if he tries to stand in the pocket, he will be committing suicide. Everyone who fights Pacquaio fights 10-to-20 times better because Manny brings that out of them. He elevates others, so we have to be ready for that. He is super determined to bash the crap out of this guy, so that’s good for us.”
“ I’m thankful because my power and speed is still there. ” Former Eight-Division World Champion - Manny Pacquiao
Pacquaio may be extra motivated to prove his detractors wrong but now that he’s a quadragenarian, he’s listening to his body more than he ever did in the past. Over the last year, he’s dialed down training whenever his body has been pushed to the brink.
“He was the first to observe that we need to adjust the training because he’s not young anymore,” said Fernandez. “We were happily surprised, but we all agreed because it was not advisable to continue like the past. We don’t know what he’s feeling, so balance is good.”
Even though he’s logged over 470 rounds in 71 professional fights, Pacquaio is still training with the vigor he had in his twenties. For Thurman, he’s been training six days a week, three of which are capped off with a second workout. He also spars two times a week, and still runs nine miles for his well-attended public workouts up the Griffith Park mountains. Not to mention the nearly three thousand sit-ups he does daily.
“I don’t think about being the underdog. I’m just worried about conditioning and focused on training,” said Pacquaio, a self-professed exercise addict. “Whatever happens in a toe-to-toe fight, I want to make sure that my stamina is still there. Stamina problems will change your style. I’m thankful because my power and speed is still there.”
If Pacquaio can get past Thurman, he can further embark on a hellacious run in the 147-pound division to further etch himself as an all-time great.
Roach says if his pupil comes away clean from the Thurman fight, he expects Pacquaio to fight again later this year.
“I know how to handle Manny better than anyone in the world. You don’t think I know what to do?” Roach said. “We have an agreement that I will tell him if he’s lost it and needs to retire. We’ll see.”
“There will never be another one like him, to be on top for as long as he has,” Fortune added. “He will quit when he wants to quit. He loves this sport so much. He looks great. He’s ten times more motivated today and he’s kicking the crap out of younger guys. Why stop now?”
For now, Pacquaio’s team of trainers consider it a victory if they can negotiate an extra day off for rest or cancelling a second workout as he heads into fight night. But the champ is motivated by a power beyond the tangible.
“I never thought that I’d still be fighting at this age. This is God’s grace, giving me good health, protecting me and giving me strength,” Pacquaio reflected. “It’s beyond my imagination what I have accomplished in my career. This is really God’s blessing. I believe my success is for a bigger purpose.”
For a closer look at Manny Pacquiao, check out his fighter page.