March 14, 2010

THE MAN IN THE RING:

Manny Pacquiao: The Fight of His Life: Boxer goes for his greatest win yet — congressman (Gendy Alimurung, Mar 11 2010, LA Weekly)

He was dirt. The floor of his house was made of dirt. The walls were thatched. His entire family of seven squatted in the house, small as a prison cell, sleeping on cardboard boxes. There is no deprivation like Third World deprivation. "They were invisible," says Winchell Campos, who is writing the boxer's biography. "They would die and nobody would care."

Pacquiao dropped out of elementary school to sell doughnuts, ice water and fish he caught from the sea. One day in 1990, watching television, he saw the invincible Mike Tyson fall to James "Buster" Douglas, and fell in love with boxing. The underdog can win, he learned. He punched a rubber flip-flop tied around the trunk of a palm tree. He imagined himself a champion. He was 11 years old.

At 14, he ran away from home, from sleepy General Santos City in the lawless southern tip of the Philippines, a rusty, run-down town lost in time. He stowed away on a ship bound for the megacity Manila. Before boxing training in the afternoon, he welded steel at a factory, then used his weekly pay to buy flowers, which he would sell on the streets for twice the price. At 16, he turned pro, a gangly 106 pounds. He fought like a mad dog, wild and out of control.

How does it start, this decade's most captivating sports winning streak? When the student is ready, they say, the master will appear. It is 2001. Pacquiao is 22 years old, on his first trip to America, working his way West from the East Coast, going from gym to gym in search of a trainer. Everyone turns him down. He is too small, they say. There is no money in the lower weight divisions. Boxing is obsessed with giants, with Tyson and Evander Holyfield, heavyweights who lumber around the ring like ogres. Pacquiao climbs the stairs to the scruffy Wild Card, his second-to-last stop before heading home in defeat.

He works one round of mitts with coach Freddie Roach, who has always believed the little guys make better fighters. Roach once fought as a little guy, too, long before the Parkinson's set in, before the Botox injections to the neck, before the daily pills and discussions of brain surgery. "Usually it takes time to get to know somebody because timing is a little bit different, a little awkward," the coach recalls. "But me and him, it was like we'd been doing it our whole lives." In that instant, Roach found his ideal student. Pacquiao, his "master of boxing." [...]

In some ways, the only way to understand 31-year-old Pacquiao is by the numbers.

The number of crunches he does in one day: 1,400.

The number of calories he eats in one day: 7,000.

The number of calories he burns: upward of 5,000.

The number of hours he sleeps at night: He tries to hit eight (with a midday nap) but sometimes misses. "Sometimes he can't sleep. He's got a lot on his mind," says conditioning coach Alex Ariza.

The number of days he gets off a week: one.

Sunday, the Lord's day, is the only day Pacquiao rests.

Even as he has gone up in weight to his current 147 pounds, the PacMan has lost none of his speed. "Manny is high-intensity," says Ariza. "We have to slow him down as it is."

Pacquiao wakes up at the crack of dawn, then runs four miles in Griffith Park, all of them uphill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2010 6:36 AM
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