HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Late Wednesday afternoon at the Wild Card Boxing Club, a familiar routine took place. There was the boxer Manny Pacquiao, and his trainer Freddie Roach, inside the ring, preparing for another fight. Pacquiao threw punches into Roach’s gloves, as the two debated strategy for their third meeting with Tim Bradley, scheduled for April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
SI.com spent time Wednesday with both men, interviewing Pacquiao at the gym after his workout and Roach over steaks at Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard. We’ll have plenty of coverage in the week before the fight, but wanted to give readers a few news items here.
1. Pacquiao thinking about Olympics: Manny Pacquiao is thinking about fighting in the Olympics, where his home country, the Philippines, has never medaled. “I’m considering it, but have not decided,” he said. “It would be a big honor to represent my country.”
One thing he’d need is approval. As it stands, once boxers become professionals, they forfeit their Olympic eligibility. But there is a vote in May on whether to allow professional boxers to compete in Rio this summer at the Games. If that passes, boxers like Pacquiao could join top athletes such as Roger Federer, LeBron James and Rory McIlroy in Olympic competition.
“He asked me if I’d train him,” Roach said. “Of course.”
2. The future for Pacquiao: While his third tilt with Bradley, which will take place 11 months after Pacquiao lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr., has been billed as perhaps Pacquiao’s final career bout, Roach doesn’t think so. Pacquiao said he isn’t sure. But when he retires, after this fight or three more, he may not do so alone. “I told him, I’ll retire when you retire,” Roach said. “Maybe this is my last fight.”
I asked Roach if that was because of the severe back pain that has bothered him in recent years that stems from an inflamed sciatic nerve. He said it was more because he’ll never have another fighter like Pacquiao. He doesn’t know what he’d do if he didn’t train fighters, but he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life waiting for another Pacquiao to walk through the door, either.
“Everyone comes to me with fighters and tells me, this is the next Manny Pacquiao, this is the next Manny Pacquaio,” Roach said. “I know for a fact that in all of our lifetimes we won’t live long enough to see another one. Because nobody’s going to do what he did. They might have similarities, might look like him, but there’s no guy out there that’s going to win eight world titles like him. It’s not going to happen.”
Pacquiao did tell Roach that it’s harder for him to recover than it used to be. He told Roach he needed the 10 months off after the Mayweather fight. “It ends for everybody,” Roach said. “It’s like watching Klitschko last fight. All of a sudden he don’t have nothing. I think it’s over.
“I mean, you’re a contender one time at one moment, and then you’re a f---ing bum the next.
3. Pacquiao on recent anti-gay statements: Pacquiao did not deny the comments attributed to him from a television interview in the Philippines in which he described people in gay relationships as “worse than animals.” His camp offered not unfamiliar explanations we’ve heard from other athletes who have been condemned – Nike dropped Pacquiao as its sponsor, HBO blasted his views – before. They said the clip was part of a longer interview and may have been taken out of context. Pacquiao didn’t avoid the subject, but he didn’t have much to say about it, either. “Fans know what’s in my heart,” he said.
This was the full quote attributed to Pacquiao: “It’s common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women, they are worse than animals.”
“The thing is, that went away so fast in the Philippines,” Roach said. “Nobody talked about it. I think there was something lost in translation.”
“I don’t know if it’s going to hurt the fight,” he continued. “True fight fans are true fight fans. I don’t know if people really care about that stuff. I mean, he keeps trying to correct it and post Bible verses, but he’s having a tough time.”
4. Pacquiao’s shoulder injury: I asked Roach when he knew that Pacquiao had injured his right shoulder before the Mayweather fight. He said it happened on April 6, 2015. He said it was a five-year-old injury that Pacquiao just happened to tear a month before he faced Mayweather. Roach had Pacquiao take a few days off from training and even swapped in a new group of lighter sparring partners.
“By fight time, I thought he was 100 percent again,” Roach said. “Because he was blasting me again with both hands, and everything seemed fine. I said, f---, he’s not hurt. He can still punch. In the warm-up, I had no problem with it. But then after the fourth round, after that flurry [he hit Mayweather with], he tore it.”
On Mayweather, Roach said, “He did surprise me with his jab. I didn’t think his jab was as good as it really is. And he has a lot of range with that.”
5. On preparations for fight vs. Bradley: Pacquiao arrived in the U.S. for this fight less than two weeks ago. Roach found his boxer’s workouts sluggish throughout last week. He chalked that up to age and jet lag. This Tuesday, though, he said Pacquiao had his best day of sparring.
At one point, Roach asked him, “Where’s that old Manny Pacquiao? You can still punch like crazy if you want to.”
Roach also told Pacquiao, “We’re not going to go with the hook this time. We’re going with the straight left hand. I said you’ll knock him out like that just like when you knocked out Ricky Hatton.”
The straight left is keeping Roach’s left shoulder in severe pain as they prepare for Pacquiao-Bradley III. “He’s doing a lot better than he thinks,” Roach said. “The only problem we’re having is the sparring a little bit now. He’s loose with it. His sparring is one of those things that he never gives me 100 percent anyway. But the mitts are what I’ve always gauged him on. On the mitts he’s as good as I’ve ever seen him. He hits f---ing hard.”
6. Who is the next opponent: In a perfect world, Roach wants Pacquiao to fight Bradley, then Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, then rematch with Mayweather. Roach said Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter and the founder of Top Rank Boxing, asked him if Pacquiao could handle Alvarez, who is a significantly larger boxer. “I think Manny can beat him,” Roach said.
“I have a feeling that this isn’t Manny’s last fight,” Roach continued. “But Manny does need a fight that he’s going to look good in. He’s going to show that his shoulder is 100 percent. There’s no way if his shoulder is still bad that people are going to buy Pay Per View from him. So I think this is a good test – to show the world that his shoulder’s fine.”
Mayweather has said he’ll never fight again. Roach isn’t so sure. Do you really think he can beat Floyd, I asked Roach. “100 percent,” Roach said.