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 Pacquiao begins training camp for Hatton

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PostSubject: Pacquiao begins training camp for Hatton   Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:33 pm

After a well-deserved vacation, the Fighter of the Year for 2008 returned to work on Wednesday.

Manny Pacquiao, coming off a banner year, reported to the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., for the first day of training camp for his first fight of 2009 – a May 2 challenge to RING junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton.

Pacquiao and head trainer Freddie Roach, owner of the famous boxing gym, both arrived on Tuesday after spending the weekend in the UK to take part in the mega-fight’s kick-off media events that took place in Hatton’s hometown of Manchester, England.

Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 knockouts) and Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) have arguably the largest international followings in the sport, but one would assume that the 140-pound champ would be the overwhelming crowd favorite in Manchester.

Not so, according to Roach.

“I think there were more Filipinos in Manchester to support Manny than there were Hatton fans,” Roach told RingTV.com Wednesday. “If Ricky’s band wasn’t playing the whole time all we would have heard was Manny’s fans. We outdrew Hatton in his own hometown.”

Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Hatton in the U.S., said Roach’s account is an exaggeration, but not a gross exaggeration.

“There were about 6,000 spectators at the event, and to my estimation around 2,000 were Filipino fans – entire families who came from Manchester and surrounding areas – to cheer for Pacquiao,” said Schaefer, who was present at Saturday’s public media event which took place at the Trafford Centre, an outdoor food court that is said to be the largest in Europe.

“I was surprised that many Pacquiao fans turned out. Some of the Filipino fans drove as much as four hours to get there to support him. It was really amazing. We’ve done three Hatton fights that included media events in Manchester – the Floyd Mayweather, Juan Lazcano and Paul Malignaggi fights – and Ricky’s opponents never had any fans there. Or if they did, there weren’t enough of them to be heard over Ricky’s fans, but Pacquiao was different. He has fans everywhere and the ones in Manchester made a lot of noise.”

Pacquiao has plenty of fans in Hollywood too, most of them are his gym mates at the Wild Card gym.

On Wednesday, Pacquiao shook out and then shook hands with his buddies like welterweight prospect Rashad Holloway, who helped prepare him for his victory over Oscar De La Hoya last December, and Vanes Martirosyan, the undefeated 154-pound prospect who began his pro career fighting out of the Wild Card gym and recently reunited with Roach.

This week and next week, Pacquiao will only focus on his conditioning and Roach’s strategy for Hatton. On March 16, the sparring will begin.

Roach plans on aggressive lightweight contender Urbano Antillon (25-0, 18 KOs) being Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner. Rugged Armenian lightweight prospect Art Hovhannesyan (7-0-1, 2 KOs) will be the third man in Pacquiao’s sparring rotation.

Roach is still looking for a second leg, preferably “a big guy” who knows how to grapple a bit. But there’s plenty of time to fill out the sparring roster.

“Right now I just want Manny’s weight to be in the right area and for him to have our basic game plan down before we start sparring three times a week,” Roach said. “I also want him to get used to working with Michael Moorer.”

Moorer, the former heavyweight champ that Roach once trained, now oversees the gym when the famous trainer, who just turned 49, is away.

WILD CARD NOTES

The Wild Card gym, arguably the most prominent boxing club in the world, is not only home to former high-profile champs like Moorer and current elite fighters like Pacquiao, it is usually packed with young prospects.

That was certainly the case on Wednesday.

Holloway (9-1, 5 KOs), who appears to have fully recovered from the eye injury he suffered sparring with Antonio Margarito in early January, was working the heavybag in preparation of the March 21 card that he will co-headline at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.

Junior welterweight prospect Dean Byrne (10-0, 4 KOs) was standing around in a towel outside of the men’s dressing room as he waited for his turn to shower. The 24-year-old boxer from Ireland, who relocated to L.A. to work with Roach last year, will be on the March 16 day-before-St. Patrick’s Day card headlined by Andy Lee at Madison Square Garden.

Slick-boxing junior bantamweight prospect Manny Roman (14-0, 5 KOs), who will co-headline a club show in Montebello, Calif., on March 27, was doing his sit-ups with a few other fighters trained by Clemente Medina, who is best know for his work with Alfredo Angulo.

One of those Medina-trained fighters was welterweight prospect Robert Garcia, a hard-punching boxer from Texas who is quickly gaining a fierce gym rep in Southern California. Garcia (25-2, 18 KOs) will return to action on an April 4 card in Costa Rica.

Other prospects in the gym Tuesday who don’t have fights scheduled yet include: middleweight Craig McEwan (13-0, 8 KOs), an L.A.-based Scotsman who is coming off a seventh-round stoppage of tough Ivan Stovall; junior welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov (11-0, 7 KOs), a Siberian amateur standout has impressed Roach with his tenacity in sparring sessions; and Martirosyan, who busted up the middle knuckles on his right hand in his eight-round decision over Billy Lyell last month but is still itching to get back in the ring.

Martirosyan (23-0, 14 KOs) says he has tentative fights scheduled for mid-April or possibility the May 2 Hatton-Pacquiao undercard, which would be an NABO junior middleweight title bout.


By Doug Fischer
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