From their Hollywood-based training camp, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and three-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach, along with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, hosted a Media Conference Call on Wednesday to discuss PacMan’s training camp in the typhoon-plagued Philippines and his return to the U.S. as he prepares for the biggest and most important fight of his career against Miguel Cotto for the WBO welterweight world championship on a November 14 PPV superfight from Las Vegas. Here’s a full transcript of what they had to say.
BOB ARUM: As we come down the home stretch here I know everybody is excited. This fight has received more attention and more interest I think than any fight in the last five or ten years. I think people are really interested in this fight because there is so much to talk about – their styles and their training in the different parts of the world. Interest in boxing is due to Manny Pacquiao’s rise in the sport. Manny Pacquiao has passion and is a unique fighter. He just won the very prestigious Gusi Peace Prize given out in Asia and of the 17 people that have received this award he is the only athlete. That is great for the sport and congratulations. Freddie Roach is now the model for all trainers and people now realize he is the best trainer in the world and it is a great privilege for me to introduce to both of you Manny Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach.
FREDDIE ROACH: Training camp is going very well. We had four really good weeks in Baguio. There were a couple of typhoons that came our way but we didn’t miss a beat. We had really good sparring then we went back to Manila and it was intense because we had quite a few distractions so we had to break camp early. Now we are back at the Wild Card and Manny boxed great yesterday and had ten good rounds and he’s about 95% there right now and we are ready to go.
MANNY PACQUIAO: Thanks to all the fans. We are getting ready for a great fight on November 14th. I am very excited for this fight. It is going to be a great, great fight.
This would be your 7th division title – can you tell us about that?
MANNY PACQUIAO: First it is a very big honor for me and for the people in my country and I am honored to be fighting for another world championship. That is why I am very hungry for doing this fight because it is the first time in the history of boxing to win a title in seven different weight divisions.
FREDDIE ROACH: Fighting Miguel Cotto for a seventh world title is going to be unbelievable because Manny is a throwback. He is like a Henry Armstrong type. You don’t have fighters like that today that move up in weight like this to win championships in all of these different weight divisions. He is carrying his punch and his power with him along with his speed. He is just getting better and better in the ring. This is just one of the greatest achievements ever. He is passing people like Sugar Ray Leonard who was a six-time world champion, Tommy Hearns. He is in the level of the top 5 fighters of all time of any era.
Can he go any higher?
FREDDIE ROACH: I don’t think so. For him to fight at 147 we have to feed him 5 times a day to keep the weight on him. I think this will be our final stop but you never know. If something comes at 154, maybe we’ll go there.
Talk about the popularity of Manny?
FREDDIE ROACH: Even Mike Tyson didn’t have the drawing power that Manny Pacquiao has right now. Mike was always the biggest guy training and the attention was always there at the airports but the way Manny Pacquiao arrived the other day I never saw a crowd like that. People were swarming to try to get a touch or a look at Manny Pacquiao. His countrymen love him and he is a great inspiration for his country. That’s why we trained there for the first four weeks of this training camp and we had a great time there. It worked out very well. The people appreciated it and we appreciate them.
What do you attribute that to?
FREDDIE ROACH: He brightens up a room. He’s got class and a great smile. Manny Pacquiao is an endearing person and he is a great fighter. He is all action and he gives 100% every time.
Was 24/7 accurate in the depiction of disagreements in camp?
FREDDIE ROACH: There were no disagreements in camp. I just felt it was urgent that we do get out of there before the typhoon hit. I was worried about the safety of the sparring partners and Manny and the team and myself. I was just very concerned that the typhoon was going to come quicker than it did. Manny was more relaxed about it and I told him that I would be waiting in Manila for him just trying to get him motivated to go. That night at midnight he got motivated for me to go and he called me and said “let’s go.” So we left at midnight and went right to Manila.
Sparring with Porter, Antillon and Castillo…
FREDDIE ROACH: Well, Shawn Porter has a great left hook and puncher and we used him quite a bit with Manny and we worked on getting away from that shot and he worked out really well for us. And of course Jose Luis Castillo, he has experience and he knows how to box. We are just getting ready for Miguel Cotto and whatever he brings. If he wants to box us or he wants to fight us, we’re ready for both and we had really good sparring. We still have good sparring and the guys are getting ready to go again tomorrow.
Is it safe to say Miguel Cotto will be the biggest challenge of his career?
FREDDIE ROACH: I don’t know if it is his biggest challenge. We have fought some great fighters like Morales, Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya. He’s a very good fighter and he is champion of the world. Manny is moving up a weight class but we fought Oscar at this weight. I am very confident in my guy and we are 100% ready for the fight. I feel like Manny, with the power he is punching with right now at this weight I feel that he is going to knock Cotto out. I look forward to the win.
How does Manny compare to those such as Ali and De La Hoya?
BOB ARUM: Ali was a proponent of a political position and also became a spokesman for the civil rights movement at the time when it was really emerging into everybody’s vision, so Ali had a tremendous political impact, particularly his stance on the Viet Nam war and when he came back to fight, people just idolized him. Manny Pacquiao does not have that major political statement because he is not controversial but he is engaged in politics in the Philippines and everything that he does is very pro-humanity, so he is rather loved by people in the Philippines, the United States and all over the world. To that extent he has really crossed over to the American public. People know who Manny Pacquiao is and he is genuinely admired. But I have never seen anything like the adulation that he is treated by Filipinos in the Philippines and all over the world. That is something that even Ali never even really had – that type of frenzy, with 90 million people in the Philippines and 11 million Filipino people around the world.
As far as Oscar is concerned, Oscar was popular in the United States. He was good looking, he was charismatic and he was a good fighter. But his popularity was pretty much limited to the United States. Now that made him a lot of money but around the world he didn’t have the recognition of either of Ali or Manny.
How tough was it to train Manny in Baguio with all of the distractions?
FREDDIE ROACH: We asked people to stay away. We closed the gym down. There were no problems at all. There were no politicians bothering him trying to get his support. Those first four weeks were the best that we ever had. Manny was on fire from day 1. I thought he was trying to impress me because he knew that Baguio was far away and I wanted to stay closer to Wild Card but when he chose Baguio I thought he was just trying to show me how great it was but he never stopped. He was on fire the whole month there and we had a great camp. The weather messed with us a little bit but we ran in the rain. We went in the pool. We did what we had to do. We ran inside sometimes and we had no distractions. We had a great first month. The last week in Manila was a little tougher with the politicians trying to make meetings with Manny and pulling him in every direction they could. Those five days in Manila were not that great but the first four weeks were great.
You said Manny was ready physically but not mentally…
FREDDIE ROACH: The last day of boxing in Manila I was disappointed that he didn’t do that well because his mind was somewhere else. But he assured me everything would be great when we got to LA and we boxed yesterday and we started playing. We still had a little bit of jet lag and I didn’t expect a lot from Manny because he looked a little tired in his eyes but he gave me ten great ro\unds yesterday and he’s back on track and he’s very close to being ready for the fight. We’ll have two more big sparring days then we’ll start tapering off.
Manny, do you feel ready both mentally and physically for this fight?
MANNY PACQUIAO: I feel I am 100% conditioned for the fight and I can’t wait for November 14th.
How much will the fighters that Cotto has fought play into how you attack him?
FREDDIE ROACH: I have seen all the tapes on him and he makes certain adjustments when he fights a southpaw which is something that we can expect, but he never fought a guy like Manny Pacquiao — with the speed. I think that’s where he is going to have trouble – with the speed. I don’t really think he can handle it, but we’ll see.
Do you expect him to come at you?
FREDDIE ROACH: No I don’t. I think he is going to try and be a counter-puncher and not come at us.
Is knocking out Cotto a feeling you have, like the Hatton fight?
FREDDIE ROACH: It is kind of growing on me. Working the mitts with Manny at this weight he is punching so much harder than he ever has. He is very used to it now. He is punching fast and hard now and I don’t think Cotto has enough. He is hittable and people that Manny can hit, he knocks out.
Is Cotto being hit something you have seen from the film?
FREDDIE ROACH: Definitely. The fight with Margarito of course he did take a beating in that. His first comeback fight was against an average guy and he didn’t look that great but getting knocked out for the first time takes your confidence away. He’s gaining confidence and he looked better in the Clottey fight of course, but he did try to quit in the 9th round when he was holding his eye with a real bad cut. But he sucked it up and came on and won the fight. It was a good one for him and it gave him a little more confidence back but that is our job to take that away from him right away. We are not going to let him get any confidence in this fight – we are going to start quick.
Do you feel Manny is a symbol of hope for the Filipinos?
FREDDIE ROACH: Yes. When the typhoon hit Manila pretty hard, Manny went down there on Sunday to help the people out and I asked him not to go because I thought it was dangerous. But it was his day off and he went to Manila and helped as much as he could. When the second typhoon hit, we kind of took charge a little bit and we went and spoke to the people and try to put a smile on their faces and we gave them a message from Manny of course but I made Manny stay in the hotel so he was safe so there were no problems because his fight was getting closer of course. He is so well-loved in his country and he wants to help the people and the people love him for that. It is amazing the crowds we draw. I am so popular there right now because of Manny. The people are nice to me and they treat me great. The only time they leave me alone is when Manny comes so sometimes I am happy when he is there.
Manny, how do you feel about the people being affected by these natural disasters?
MANNY PACQUIAO: I felt so bad. I do have to focus on my training because I have to prepare. But I try to help the people in my country as much as I can.
How do you feel that this will be the first true welterweight that Manny is fighting? We all know Oscar wasn’t throwing that hard that day…
FREDDIE ROACH: Before the fight everybody said Oscar was going to kill Manny. Why do you say that Oscar had a bad night? Why can’t you say that it was Manny having a good night?
Yes, but Miguel will probably be the hardest puncher Manny will have faced and how do you think he will deal with that if he gets hit?
FREDDIE ROACH: Miguel has a good left hook but I don’t think he is the strongest that we have faced though. Hatton was supposed to be stronger than us also. I have no worries about that because that doesn’t win fights. Boxing ability wins fights and Manny is a better boxer than him, so we’ll show it on the 14th.
How hard is it to train when your countrymen are suffering?
MANNY PACQUIAO: It is very difficult for me but I have to focus on my fight because nobody can help me in the ring. I am not only fighting for me but I am also fighting for my country.
How do you like the attention and how difficult is it to switch back to boxing?
MANNY PACQUIAO: It is my responsibility to focus on training. Of course I understand people want to take a picture and shake my hand because they are idolizing me and supporting me.
How much of a better boxer now is Manny?
FREDDIE ROACH: He is improving all the time and the thing is we are just taking the style of our opponents and making adjustments and he is improving all the time and we are making those adjustments for Cotto’s style and his big left hook and he is doing great. He is getting better and better all the time. He is going to be seven-time world champion and he is still learning, still evolving. He is very hungry to improve.
Manny, what do you have to say about Cotto?
MANNY PACQUIAO: Cotto is a bigger guy and a hard puncher and strong. He is a good fighter and a champion. For this fight it is a challenge.
How do you feel when your coach says you are going to knock him out in one round?
MANNY PACQUIAO: That is my coach’s prediction, but for me I have to focus on the fight and don’t think anything about that but if it comes it is a bonus. I always believe in my power but if I am lucky to hit a good punch against my opponent and knock him out that will mame me happy too.
If Manny knocks him out, will people say it was because Cotto was shot?
FREDDIE ROACH: Of course you will say that. That is everyone’s nature. No one likes to give credit where credit is due but I think Manny looked great in his last four fights and we are going to look great in this one too. Just put him in front of us and we’ll beat him. I think I have the greatest fighter in the world today and I think we’ll prove that again with Miguel Cotto.
MANNY PACQUIAO: It is their right for the people to think what they want. I am confident in my ability and the results of the fights.
What did Manny do when he went to help the people and what kind of effect did it have on him?
FREDDIE ROACH: It was very sad, but they brought money and they brought food and shelter and clothes. He was kind of tired when he got back. It was more mentally draining than anything for him to see the devastation. I think that 2800 people passed away in the storms so it was a very sad moment but once we got in the gym everything was fine. Manny has always been able to separate the drama of life from training in the gym.
Do you still have the $1000 in your pocket?
FREDDIE ROACH: Yes I do. If anyone can knock Manny down in sparring I will pay him $1,000. Manny was beating up on the sparring partners pretty good yesterday so it is not going anywhere.
Sparring is USA?
FREDDIE ROACH: We have some good sparring right now, Rashad Holloway, Shawn Porter and Ray Beltran. So we are getting good use out of them. Castillo and Antillon, they went home so we got some fresh guys in there to keep Manny more focused.
I read where you have told Manny to stay away from the ropes…
FREDDIE ROACH: Cotto has a very good left hook and his strength is on the ropes where he throws very good combinations and if he stays off the ropes it is going to be to our benefit. We are not reinventing the wheel; we are just adjusting to the styles of our opponents. We study them very well and we find their habits and adjust to them and Manny is very capable of doing that. He has a game plan and he sticks with it.
I understand there is a cane or stick in camp that Manny gets whacked with…
FREDDIE ROACH: It is a stick and it is from Thailand. He is not getting whacked with it. It is just a small motion. The Thai fighters use it to deaden the pain and we use it for sit-ups, but he is not getting whacked. It deadens the nerves so you can absorb a punch better. I don’t know if I agree with it 100% but Manny loves it. We have been doing it for 5 years now and it works for Manny and he loves it but if somebody is going to hit me with a stick they better bring a big one.
March 13 – is there a prospect for that fight?
BOB ARUM: We are not going to address that issue until November 15th, because this is a tough, tough fight and he is concentrating on this fight and this is where everybody should be concentrating and there is plenty of time after that date to pick out an opponent, to see who is available and to see what the lay of the land is. To do that now is absolutely counter-productive.
Manny has been knocked out twice and come back from that – what is the difference?
FREDDIE ROACH: After you get knocked out for the first time in your life you need time to get your confidence back and a couple of fights to get your confidence back and Cotto is at a good time because he is definitely getting better. When you are undefeated and you get knocked out in a hard fight it is going to take something out of you. His first fight back he didn’t look that good and the second fight he looked better – he’s getting more confidence. If we give him confidence in this fight he is going to get stronger and stronger and that’s why I feel we have to take it away from him right away.
BOB ARUM: You can see from the interest in this fight and you can see by the questions just how everybody believes, quite correctly, it will be a great night. I can’t wait for November 14th….This fight is great for boxing. I don’t know if you realize now the upswing that boxing is on, the fact that boxing is really on a roll. You can tell by the sponsors that are coming out to support this fight. We are really thrilled and I can say unequivocally that boxing is really back and thanks to Manny Pacquiao and thanks to the other great fighters out there, people are talking about boxing again and it is coming back to the mainstream. This all feels to me like the 80′s. We had Sugar Ray and Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns. We are in that era again. It is great and it’s going to help everybody who’s associated with the sport. I’m really enthusiastic, not only because I think it’s going to be a great fight, but I am enthusiastic because I can see the rebirth of boxing and that’s something that’s thrilling for me having been around boxing for so long to see that once again the great sport back and happy.