Manny Pacquiao believes the best way to bring inspiration and hope to the victims of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in his native Philippinesis to win his comeback fight against Brandon Rios.
To do that, he has to limit the distractions before the 24 November fight in Macau. So that rules out a visit to the areas most devastated by the deadly typhoon to the north of where he’s in a training camp at General Santos, in the southern Philippines.
It’s a heart-wrenching decision but his handlers, including the veteran trainer Freddie Roach, have insisted it is for the best. Instead, the Filipino congressman is dedicating the fight against Rios to the people. In what he called a “statement to his people,” the 34-year-old Pacquiao said: “I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy. But I’m in deep training for a crucial fight so I regret I cannot go.”
“I will send help to those who need it the most,” he added, “and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times.”
Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz told the Associated Press in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the former pound-for-pound champion was hoping to visit devastated parts of the Philippines after his fight at the Venetian Casino’s Cotai Arena in Macau, and wants to cheer them up with a victory.
Koncz, who is in camp with the boxer in General Santos, said he is declining interview requests for Pacquiao in a bid to lock out any distractions. He said Pacquiao’s camp had been watching developments and getting frequent updates in the wake of the typhoon, and it was difficult for the former champion not to go out and help.
“Manny’s desire was to go to that area and to visit them and lift the spirits,” Koncz said. “But we have the most important fight of his career. His heart and prayers go out to the survivors and the victim’s families. Absolutely, he is dedicating this fight to the victims of this.”
Pacquiao and his entourage leave for Macau on Monday. “It’s been one of the best camps I can remember. No tensions within everyone dedicated to our jobs and working hard,” Konzc said. “Manny’s in the best physical condition he can be in. His mindset is on showing the world he can still compete to the highest level.”
Pacquiao has said the Rios fight, his first of the year, will be the start of his intended return to his peak form and to show that consecutive losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Márquez are not the start of a decline. “The fans are going to be in for a fight, for a treat,” Koncz said. “If Manny sticks to the game plan, I truly don’t believe the fight is going to go more than four or five rounds. He’s determined to show the world nothing has declined in his skills and abilities. He’s very motivated for this fight.”