Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Have a look back at the career of any great prizefighter and you’ll see that when they were at their best and in perfect mix, that everybody around them had a purpose and the chemistry surrounding that fighter was one of perfect composition.

Muhammad Ali kept the potent mix of master chemists Angelo Dundee, Bundini Brown and Herbert Muhammad as part of his magical recipe for nearly 20 years. They all served as integral parts of the ingredients that made the drink called "The Greatest" taste so sweet. Roberto Duran would submit himself to the daily lab work of master sweet scientists Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown while Carlos Eleta deftly managed Duran through the minefields of the hardest game. From start to finish Marvin Hagler had the Petronelli brothers mixing his potions in their Brockton, Massachusetts laboratory.

The greats figured out the successful concoction to what made them successful and once they found the right blend – they kept it.

Look at Mike Tyson as an example of tinkering gone bad. On the way up, Tyson had trainer and adopted father, Cus D’Amato watching his every move. Handling the day-to-day activities in the gym was Kevin Rooney. Also in the mix was assistant Steve Lott and co-managers Jimmy Jacobs and Bill Cayton. From a fistic standpoint, things went along beautifully for years. Team Tyson was a well-oiled machine that was plowing through opponents like a freight train through a cornfield.

When D’Amato passed away at age 77, the Tyson express never lost its steam and a year after D’Amato died, Tyson became the youngest person to ever hold the heavyweight title. His success continued on until he eventually won the undisputed heavyweight championship, basically cleaning out the division.

But then Tyson began to tinker with all of the elements that added up to making him one of the most expolosive heavyweights any of us had seen in years. One-by-one Tyson would remove the additives that made him so combustible and would add in the toxic ingredients known as Don King, Rory Holloway and Jon Horne . Before long, Tyson was on the receiving end of a horrific beating from a 42-1 underdog named Buster Douglas. Gone forever was his undefeated record, his future as one of the greats and eventually his millions. Tyson tinkered with the mix and the whole thing blew up on him like a meth-lab in the Ozarks.

So, as the little Filipino dragon named Manny Pacquiao begins to experiment with the successful elements that have made him one of the best fighters in the world, he is causing serious worry. There is concern that Pacquiao will muddle up the chemistry and horribly alter the secret ingredients that have made him one of the best fighters on the planet.

As it stands, Pacquiao is preparing to face a tough Mexican named Jorge Solis on April 14th. Although relatively unknown, Solis hasn’t lost in 35 professional prizefights dating back to 1998. A confident Pacquiao reportedly watched a recent tape of one of Solis’ fights and after viewing only two rounds declared that he had seen enough. Manny figures that Solis will be an easy night of work.

Pacquiao is not with his usual careful trainer, Freddie Roach who is away in Puerto Rico training Oscar De La Hoya. Nor is Pacquiao training within the friendly confines of The Wild Card Gym in North Hollywood, California as is usually the routine.

No, Manny Pacquiao is preparing for this fight thousands of miles away from trainer Roach in the middle of the steamy Philippines. His sparring partners are reported to be little more than human punching bags and Pacquiao’s body weight is already low as he goes through his regimen in the sticky heat of the Southeast Asian days.

What’s more he’s in the middle of the vortex of hurry and confusion that his life there has become. He’s perched in the middle of the triangle of distractions that invade his life from the moment that he wakes in the morning until the time that his head hits the pillow again at night. Hangers on, fans, pool halls, casinos, cock fight arenas and other forces sap his energy, confuse his mind and drain his body.

Freddie Roach is already sounding the alarm bells and he recently had this to say about the mysterious Solis, who has a record of 32-0. "I have no idea who the guy is. They accepted him as an opponent without seeing a tape on the guy. Nobody knows who Solis is. Top Rank and Bob Arum told Manny that Solis was an easy fight. There's no such thing as an easy fight."

In response, some of Pacquiao’s followers and those in his inner circle in the Philippines have gone on record as saying that Manny "doesn’t need" Roach anymore and that he’s doing just fine without him.

If being without his watchful trainer were not enough, one must also remember that Pacquiao is lodged somewhere between a rock and a hard place in a legal dispute among promoters Bob Arum of Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions headed by Oscar De La Hoya. Pacquiao signed simultaneous contracts with both companies and now the lawyers will have to untangle that woven web.

Finally, added to all of this mix, is the fact that Manny Pacquiao now aspires to become a politician. He has confirmed that he will run for a congressional seat in the May 14th provincial elections to be held in his native country.

Manny brushes the run for political office aside and says that preparing for a fight only a month before the election won’t hamper his plan to join congress or in his dealings with Solis. Pacquiao claims all of his physical training will simply give him more energy to endure the demands of a political campaign. Reportedly, and incredulously, Pacquiao is spending his non-training hours canvassing his electoral district to meet and greet the people and address their concerns.

When asked about Solis, Pacquiao said he is a "big challenge" and that he isn’t taking the Mexican for granted. "I’m not belittling Solis’ capabilities," Pacquiao told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a recent interview. "He is undefeated, so I believe he is tough. I won’t say I’ll knock him out, but I’ll do my best for the country and for my countrymen."

Pacquiao was scheduled to arrive in the United States around the beginning of March to finish up his final preparations for the Solis fight. So far, Pacquiao has been a no-show at the Wild Card Gym in California. His arrival date has been pushed back several times. After Pacquiao blew off the first of March arrival his promoter Bob Arum said he’d arrive on March 14th. Now the latest rumor making the rounds is that Pacquiao will arrive on March 17th which will be just in time to watch former foes Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez face off in Las Vegas.

Whatever the case, and whether Manny Pacquiao ever makes his grand arrival in the United States, and whether he wins the fight against Solis without Roach, and whether he wins the election - it’s now clear that the ingredients that made the wonderful concoction of a prizefighter called Manny Pacquiao are horribly out of sync.

All that remains to be seen now is whether all of these out of balance elements will result in some sort of combustible mixture that will blow up in Manny Pacquiao’s face.

March 2007

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