x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pacquiao aims for eighth belt tonight

Filipino's trainer says speed is the key but predicts knockout "inside of three rounds" against Mexican fighter Margarito.

Manny Pacquiao gets help stretching before a workout in Texas this week.
Manny Pacquiao gets help stretching before a workout in Texas this week.

DALLAS, TEXAS // Manny Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, uncannily accurate in his predictions, forecasts an early knockout by the Filipino fighter tonight when he faces Antonio Margarito of Mexico.

Pacquiao, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer, will be gunning for an eighth world championship in an unprecedented eighth weight class when he competes for the vacant WBC super-welterweight title.

"I am predicting a knockout inside of three rounds but don't be surprised if we get him in the first," Roach said. "Margarito's a slow starter and we're going to take advantage of that."

Margarito, a three-time world champion, is taller and heavier than Pacquiao, but Roach believes the Filipino left-hander holds a significant advantage because of his lighting hand speed. "I don't think Margarito's stronger," Roach said. "We have the better puncher. I don't rate Margarito's punching because he has no balance. I am really not worried about this fight."

Pacquiao has held boxing's mythical pound-for-pound tag since his December 2008 defeat of 10-time world champion Oscar De La Hoya and his demolition of Ricky Hatton five months later. On both occasions, Roach was Pacquiao's trainer and accurately forecast the result virtually to the round.

Although Roach had initial concerns over Pacquiao's preparations for this fight during a chaotic training camp in the Philippines, those worries have since been allayed.

"The first few weeks of training camp, mentally he lacked a little bit," Roach said. "Usually he gets ready for a fight in just two weeks but this time it took us the whole camp to get ready." Pacquiao, an enthusiastic actor and singer, is known for his various extra-curricular activities. His professional life took another twist earlier this year when he was elected to a congressional seat in his home country.

"Manny had his mind on congress a little bit too much in the Philippines," Roach said. "He missed that job and it was in direct competition with boxing. But once we returned to Los Angeles, he assured me he would get back and get focused.

"Everything is back to normal now and he is 100 per cent there. I have no concerns, no excuses. That's why we are going to win the fight. We have a great strategy to beat this guy."

Long renowned for his left hook, Pacquiao has worked hard on his right hand with Roach since the last of his two career defeats - a unanimous decision to Erik Morales of Mexico in March 2005.

"Someone told me that if Manny didn't have a good right hand, he would be just ordinary," Roach said. "It was my job to make him into a more physical fighter and get his right hand as good as the left. We are there now and Manny is a much more dangerous fighter with two hands. He's not so easy to hit any more."

Pacquiao, a winner of seven world titles in as many weight divisions, ranging up to 66.7kg, has a record of 51-3-2 with 38 knockouts.

* Reuters

How to watch the fight

eVision, a part of Etisalat and the leading Pay TV provider in the region, will broadcast the welterweight match between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito, from Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

The fight will be telecast live on e-View channel 210 on Sunday at 6am UAE time. 

eVision customers can also view a repeat telecast of the bout at 11am, 4pm and 9pm. To subscribe to eVision, customers can call 101 or 800101. This is the third boxing match broadcast of the year through ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel on eVision’s pay-per-view channel.