Manny Pacquiao believes the best way to bring inspiration and hope to the victims of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in his native Philippines is to win his comeback fight against Brandon Rios.
To do that, he has to limit the distractions ahead of the November 24 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 veteran trainer Freddie Roach, have insisted it is for the best.
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.”
Roach persuaded Pacquiao not to compromise his preparations for the fight, although he had granted him some time off to assist remotely.
“While he’s focused on the fight, obviously it’s a distraction because he cares about his people,” Roach said in a teleconference on Wednesday. “We talk about it in the gym. He is concerned about it, yes, but he is pretty much on track for the fight.”
Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz told The Associated Press in a telephone interview 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.
Authorities have confirmed at least 2,300 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced by the typhoon.
Koncz, who is in camp with the boxer in General Santos, said 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 Marquez 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.”
Koncz said if anyone was able to put the outside distractions on hold, at least for the duration of a bout, it was Pacquiao.
“Manny knows how to manage himself. He’s been in the game a long time and knows his body better than anyone else. He’s in that zone right now, he’s ready. If he had to go tomorrow, he’d be ready.”