LAS VEGAS -- Manny Pacquiao was barricaded alone in his bedroom atop The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Just outside his doors, however, was an ever-evolving cell comprised of Pacquiao's entourage, advisors, security, band, documentary film crews, paid photographers, family, friends and colleagues from Philippine congress -- encased by a membrane of as many aides, spouses and extended families as available oxygen would allow in a hotel suite.
After training Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Thursday, cornerman Freddie Roach waited two hours for Pacquiao to materialize for his final workout at Top Rank Gym before Saturday's welterweight showdown with Shane Mosley. He then phoned his fighter, tongue firmly in cheek, to ask a question:
"Manny, do you want me to kill all those people?"
To depart for training, Pacquiao (52-3-2) needed only to escape the myriad requests he has received for tickets. According to sources within his camp, Pacquiao has been inundated with approximately 1,400 requests from "all those people," while having bought only 1,000 to give away (a cost conservatively estimated in the mid-six figures). To get that number down, all Pacquiao had to do was agree to Roach's offer. Ever the diplomat, Pacquiao graciously declined.
Instead, at just past sunset, the congressman headed not to the gym but to the UNLV track, surrounded by a security detail and small entourage that included Olympic gold medal speed skater Apolo Ohno and poker champion Johnny Chan. There, Pacquaio would do roadwork. The next gloved punch he throws will be against Mosley (46-6-1) to defend his WBO welterweight title.
News surfaced earlier Thursday that Pacquiao's previous opponent, Antonio Margarito, is still recovering from an uppercut that severely injured his eye, killing the possibility of a Margarito-Miguel Cotto rematch. This makes Margarito the fourth of Pacquiao's past five opponents who have either retired (Oscar De La Hoya) or have not fought since (Ricky Hatton, Joshua Clottey and Margarito). At 39, Mosley seeks to upset the 8-to-1 odds against him, as well as the 80 percent chance suggested by recent numbers that a fight against Pacquiao will be a man's last.
To combat Mosley, Pacquiao and Roach have devised a new weapon: "Bruce Lee" (in honor of Pacquiao's idol, of whom a portrait hangs in his Los Angeles home bearing both his likeness and Pacquiao's own in a single canvas and for whom, more recently, Pacquiao modeled his hairstyle). Bruce Lee is a five-punch combination: jab, straight left, hook, left to the body while going under the opponent's hook, angled body shot. Asked what purpose the first left to the body serves, Roach said, "Just to mess with Shane."
Before one of his final workouts in Los Angeles, Pacquiao, 32, said, "We have to be ready for Mosley to go to the body." In preparation for this, Pacquiao ensured that at least four of those 1,000 tickets he would dole out were earned. One day, when sparring partner David Rodela entered the locker room of Wild Card asking for four tickets, Pacquiao began a negotiation:
"OK, if we go body to body," Pacquiao said.
"Manny, no, please ..." pleaded Rodela.
"Do you want tickets?"
In the end, Pacquiao and Rodela would stand toe-to-toe exchanging nothing but body shots for up to three rounds at a time. Rodela said of the experience: "I couldn't drive afterwards. He'd hit my arms. I couldn't lift them. My doctor told me I had something called bone bruise. I think Manny likes body-to-body not just to prepare for Mosley but also maybe because [Floyd] Mayweather, he exposes that shoulder." (Although Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, has made a formal offer for Pacquiao next to face Juan Manuel Marquez for a third time, boxing's biggest fight remains a potential Pacquiao-Mayweather match.)
Back at the UNLV track, Pacquiao began to torture his strength coach, Alex Ariza, asking, "How many laps? Twelve?"
Ariza's veins bulged slightly out of his head. "Bro, you're already on weight! Why do you want to run more weight off?"
Pacquiao shrugged. "But we eat after," he said, then smiled with a maniacal glint in his eye as Ariza threw up his hands and walked off. (For the record, Pacquiao would tip the scales at 145 pounds at Friday's weigh-in, compared to Mosley's 147.)
It was a typical scene around Pacquiao's camp. The fighter is known for playfully tormenting so many of his assistant trainers: spitting water in their faces, slapping them gingerly across the face, spanking them not so gently on the rump, poking them sharply in the belly and creeping up behind them to kick one of their knees out from under them. They never reciprocate. No truth to power is ever told. As his political career, music recordings and movies suggest, the eight-division world champion is a man of many pursuits. Among his minions, Pacquiao serves not only as king of his court, but also as its jester.
Roach exists outside this realm, due to his stature in the ring. (Likely not since Aristotle taught Alexander the Great has a king treated his educator with such privilege). Roach asked Pacquiao to run six laps and then walk a final two with him. Pacquiao assented. "I have to slow him down," Roach said. "It's the hardest job in the world, but also probably the best one for a trainer to have."
At Wild Card, during a day-planning strategy with Roach, Pacquiao asked a favor: "If I slow down, tell me, and I retire."
"You tell me, too, Manny," Roach said. "Then we can both go get jobs."
As Pacquiao shadowboxed at the UNLV track, it did not appear that either man would need to polish his resume anytime soon.