Trainer says world title in seventh weight class looks likely, probably not eighth
Manny Pacquiao made his grand arrival at the MGM Grand on Tuesday, marking the first time in the world champion’s career the Las Vegas ceremony didn’t take place at Mandalay Bay.
Although Pacquiao is known to be superstitious — he stays in the same hotel room at Mandalay Bay for each of his Las Vegas fights — head trainer Freddie Roach said Tuesday’s change wouldn’t throw off his fighter.
“He is superstitious, but stuff like that he doesn’t care about,” Roach said with a shrug.
“Of course,” he added, “He’ll still be staying in the same room.”
Pacquiao’s fans certainly had no trouble tracking him down, as they packed their way into the hotel’s lobby to catch a final glimpse of the Filipino before his WBO welterweight title fight with Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.
By the time Cotto arrived 90 minutes later, the scene had noticeably died down a bit.
After months of promoting the fight with the reigning pound-for-pound king, however, Cotto says he’s used to Pacquiao’s crowd and that it hasn’t affected his mindset coming into the fight.
“I’ve known since we agreed to do this fight that it’s just going to be me and him in the ring,” Cotto said. “When we get in there, no one can help Manny. No one can hand him something to hit me with.
“I expected it to be like this. Everything Manny has, he has earned.”
Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KO) is seeking a world title in an unprecedented seventh weight class when he takes on Cotto (34-1, 27 KO) Saturday night.
He claimed his first on Dec. 4, 1998, when he defeated Chatchai Sasakul for the WBC flyweight title in his 25th professional fight.
As time progressed and opportunities at world titles in heavier weight classes continued to present themselves, Pacquiao transformed from the 105-pound fighter he started his career as to a legitimate welterweight contender.
A transformation of such magnitude actually, that he says he can barely recognize the kid he once was.
“I watch the tape when I was fighting at 105 pounds and I think, ‘I’m just a kid,’” Pacquiao said. “I think back to moving up to 108, then 112, 115, 118, up to welterweight — I can’t believe it. It’s just happened.”
In addition to world titles, another incentive for Pacquiao to move up in weight (at least initially) may have been a desire to stop cutting weight — a process Pacquiao admits was difficult in the early stages of his career.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “When I captured my first title in the flyweight division, I lost my belt because I didn’t make the weight. I decided after that fight to move up to 122 pounds.”
Cutting down won’t be an issue this week, as Roach said they’re feeding Pacquiao five times per day to keep the weight on.
According to his trainer, Pacquiao weighed 148 pounds Tuesday morning and will weigh-in right at 145 for the Nevada Athletic Commission on Friday.
“When he doesn’t have to miss a meal and can eat before weigh-in, which he’ll do twice, he’s happy,” Roach said. “He’ll weigh 149 to 150 pounds at most on fight night. I don’t like him gaining too much weight before the fight.”
While Pacquiao has shown the ability to maintain his speed no matter how much weight he adds, Roach said he believes this will be the last stop in his move up the weight classes.
“With the right opponent we could move up again,” Roach said. “But for top-level guys, I think this is it.”
The historical implications of Saturday night is enough that Pacquiao’s father, Rosalio, will travel to the U.S. from the Philippines to watch his son box live for the first time.
Pacquiao’s mother, Dionisia, saw her son live for the first time in May when he fought Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas.
“It is the first time my father is coming so I am very excited, he wanted to see this fight,” Pacquiao said. “This is a very important fight for me because I can do it, it’s going to be history in boxing. It’s an honor.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.