by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – As the gentle waves of the Pacific Ocean break across the Santa Monica beach and a smooth calm breeze cools hundreds of onlookers, the Pride of the Philippines Manny Pacquiao stood solemnly along the Mariasol Cocina Mexicana restaurant porch with a horde of media clamoring for his attention.
The 29-year-old speaks slowly and softly. He stands with a sort of innocence about him ignoring his surroundings. The calming and relaxing beach scene is quite a contrasting image to the hectic media onslaught that all converged for Pacquiao. (Not to discredit Pacquiao’s opponent David Diaz, but he’s never experienced this kind of media attention in any of his previous fights.)
His quiet nature is also a discrepancy in Pacquiao’s own life. From the outside, he’s a gentle human being who would always take the time to sign a boxing glove or take a picture with a fan. But inside him is a competitive fire, one that burns and drives Pacquiao to success in the boxing ring.
He knows his spot in boxing history is solidified. Come Saturday, June 28, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Pacquiao can further enhance his stranglehold in the below welterweight division in boxing. A win against David Diaz, a formidable opponent, will take Pacquiao’s popularity to greater heights.
The three-time World Division champion (four titles if you count the 126-pound Ring Magazine title), Pacquiao has his eyes set on Diaz’s WBC Lightweight (135-pounds) Title. He would become the first ever Asian and Filipino boxer to accomplish such feat.
Looking at Pacquiao now with a ripped toned body similar to Bruce Lee’s, it’s hard to imagine that he started out as a scrawny 16-year-old strawweight of 106-pounds hailing from General Santos, Philippines.
At the age of 19, Pacquiao captured his first of three titles after knocking out Chatchai Sasakul of Thailand for the WBC Flyweight title. He then went up in weight and won the WBC International Superbantamweight title, and most recently, the WBC Super Featherweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez.
Top Rank President Bob Arum said that Pacquiao’s attempt to move up in weight for the world title should be even more reason why fans should come out and watch this “historic” fight.
“Moving up in weight is hard because nobody does that anymore,” said Top Rank President Bob Arum. “These aren’t Mickey Mouse belts. All four belts will be World Boxing Council belts, which arguably are the most important belts.
“Come Saturday, we’re going to see Manny make possibly history if he beats David Diaz.”
This fight also marks the first time Pacquiao will have the label “pound-4-pound” top boxer. Ring Magazine, the bible of boxing, bestowed the Filipino with the honor after Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his retirement.
Trainer Freddie Roach said he and Pacquiao would need to prove that moniker.
“To be pound-4-pound the best boxer in the world, we’re going to need to knock Diaz out,” said Roach.
What are Pacquiao’s thoughts about this historic fight? Recently, Pacquiao sat down with the Asian Journal to discuss his fight against Diaz and future in boxing.
Asian Journal: Four world titles in four-weight division. What does that accomplishment mean to you?
MP: It’s a big honor for me to get four title belts in four different divisions. It’s a very big deal. Being the first Asian and Filipino is even a bigger honor because nobody has done it before.
AJ: Everybody is expecting you to win this fight against David Diaz. How do you prevent yourself from underestimating your opponent?
MP: For me, I’m not underestimating him. Everybody thinks this is going to be an easy fight. This is a hard fight. Diaz is a good fighter and better boxer. I’m training hard because this is going to be a tough fight.
AJ: Since you are moving up in weight, do you think you can carry your speed and punching power over to the next division?
MP: Yes. I think I can do that. I’m still fast and the power will still be there. I just need to maintain my conditioning.
AJ: Diaz is a bigger fighter than you. Many boxing experts expect Diaz to attack your body. Are you doing anything to work against that?
MP: I’ve been preparing very hard on my body. (Pacquiao does over 1,000 reps of sit-ups in the morning and the afternoon). Both of my ribs (midsection) feel strong.
AJ: There’s a lot of talk that after this fight with Diaz, you’re going to move up in weight to 140-pounds to fight Ricky Hatton. Are there talks underway with the Hatton camp about a possible fight?
MP: There’s a lot of conversation with Hatton but I don’t pay attention to that. That’s my promoter’s job. Whatever decisions my promoter chooses I’ll do it. [But] We will talk about it (a Hatton fight) after this fight. Right now, I’m concentrating against Diaz.
AJ: Lastly, your friend Oscar De La Hoya recently announced that he is going to retire after his next fight, you’ve heard that Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his retirement, is there a possibility that you are going to retire early?
MP: I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. As long as I have power in my punch and I can still box, I’ll continue my boxing career.