The build up to Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Brandon Rios at the weekend was marred on Wednesday by a spat between the two camps.
Pacquiao’s coach Freddie Roach and his counterpart Robert Garcia were involved in a slanging match at a gym in Macau.
Rios was booked in to train from 9am until 11am with Pacquiao due after him, and when Roach and others from the Filipino’s team arrived, he became involved in a furious exchange with Garcia and members of Rios’ entourage.
The dispute added an extra edge to the pre-fight press conference, with promoter Bob Arum joking that he would get an American television celebrity to adjudicate.
“There is a controversy and it has to be decided,” said Arum. “So I’ve asked my wife, Lovee, who’s sitting out there, to call our friend Judge Judy. And we’re going to do something on Skype and each of them will present the case and Judy will decide. I don’t know if you Chinese people, know who Judge Judy is?”
The incident didn’t seem to impress Pacquiao, who is dedicating the fight to those in the Philippines who lost their lives to Typhoon Haiyan.
“No trash talking before the fight,” he said. “It’s not a good example to all the people who are admiring boxing. For me, all I can say is that if anyone has a grievance against anyone, forgive as the Lord forgives. All I can say is this is a sport, nothing personal. We are doing our job in the ring and after that, you know, nothing personal… this is our job to perform and entertain people.
After cutting a swathe through the lighter weights between 2005 and 2011 when he won world titles from super-featherweight through to welterweight, Pacquiao has lost his last two fights, a split decision to Timothy Bradley and a sixth round knockout to fierce rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
At 34 and with 18 years and 61 fights as a professional behind him, Pacquiao is past his peak, but is keen to raise his game for what could, potentially, be the final time given what has happened in his native country.
Roach, who has long guided Pacquiao’s career, said the former eight-weight world champion was in the shape of his life having trained in the Philippines for the fight in his native General Santos City.
“We had a great training,” he said. “Manny’s been training really hard for this fight. General Santos was a great training camp. Manny was at home nd he was very comfortable. Every day was a good day. We did a lot of hard work. I came about six weeks ago but Willy McMillan ran the camp for the first two weeks and did a great job. Manny’s in the best shape of his life and I expect him to have the performance of a lifetime and I’ve never seen him look better.”
Speaking briefly about the earlier bust up, Roach sought to lay the blame on Garcia. Garcia, for his part, said that Roach was at fault.
It shouldn’t detract from what should be a fascinating encounter, especially as Rios says he has improved his discipline ahead of the fight.
Twice recently Rios came in overweight for lightweight title fights, and he lost last time out to Mike Alvarado when challenging for the interim WBO light-welterweight title.
He should be more comfortable at welterweight, and said Pacquaio would be in for a shock if he had underestimated him.
The fight is slated to hold on Saturday, November 23, at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China.