Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roach and the Wild Card Crew Ready for Cotto

On Monday at the Wild Card, Freddie Roach was doing what he always does -train fighters to fight.

LOS ANGELES – You wouldn't have known it by the looks on the faces of Freddie Roach and the various people that make the Wild Card Gym operate – but there is going to be a big fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Roach was calm, cool and relaxed on Monday morning as his gym hummed with activity. You would never have known that his man, Manny Pacquiao, was going to be in the biggest fight of his life in only a few more days.

“Everything is good and we're in a good place right now,” said Roach as he watched some fighters spar. “Manny is ready to go and this is one of the best training camps we've ever had. It was long and there was some challenges to it, with having to train in Baguio and now here, but it all worked out and Manny is ready to go.”

Amir Khan was milling about this morning and he seemed very happy to be at the Wild Card as he prepares for his WBA title defense against Dmitriy Salita on Dec. 5.

“Manny has been looking very, very sharp,” said Khan as he stood on the steps that lead up to the gym. “There's no question that I think he will win and he will win impressively.”

On a day that saw the temperature in Los Angeles at a sunny and balmy 76 degrees everybody was doing their jobs and taking care of business at 1123 Vine St. Many Filipinos crowded around the gym parking lot clutching pictures of Manny in their hands with hopes of catching a glimpse of their hero. Spectators were wall-to-wall in the gym and every available seat was taken.

Pacquiao bodyguard and parking lot watchdog Rob Peters helped to direct traffic and keep the fans from parking their cars where they weren't supposed to.

“You can't park there, c'mon, man!” barked Peters at the Pacquiao fans that pulled into the small and cramped parking lot.

What is clear is that Manny Pacquiao is a huge celebrity in this city. Just a few blocks up from the gym on the corner of Selma Ave. and Vine St. is a massive billboard with Pacquiao's picture that is promoting Nike. It is actually in front of a billboard featuring Los Angeles Lakes star Kobe Bryant.

Pacquiao has become a crossover star here. People around the city are talking about the fight, talking about buying the fight on pay-per-view and talking about how they think things will go on Saturday night.

The mail is delivered to the Wild Card each day around 11:30am by a Korean woman that is the mail lady for area where the gym is located. She was delivering a box today that was simply addressed to 'Manny Pacquiao, Wild Card Gym.'

She was a bit taken aback at the television crews and the people that flooded the area around the gym. She had to sidestep Amir Khan as she made her journey up the steps to ensure that the mail got through. Today she only had one package that was addressed to Pacquiao. She trudged up the stairs that lead into the gym and handed the box to Freddie's brother, Pepper.

“Sorry about all this,” said Pepper about the crowd of people that filled the stairway. “But I'll take that one and make sure that he gets it Thanks.”

“I know who Manny Pacquiao is,” said the mail lady. “But this is the busiest as I have seen it here before one of his fights. All kinds of mail gets sent here for him. Some of the letters and packages just have 'Manny Pacquiao, Wild Card Gym' written on them, but I always make sure to bring it here. I know where it is and what the people mean. They have no street number and no zip code but I just bring it all here.”

This billboard of Pacquiao is located just a few blocks up from the gym on Vine St. in Hollywood.

The star of the show, which was of course Manny, had not shown up yet but the television crews from the Philippines, Great Britain and elsewhere had. Along with the fans, they were all anxiously awaiting the arrival of the man that has become boxing's biggest star.

Veteran trainer Jesse Reid was standing next to Roach as he supervised some fighters training on the speed and double-end bags. He was also confident that Pacquiao would win on Saturday night.

“Oh yeah, Manny is ready,” said Reid. “He's peaking right now, he's finely tuned and he'll get the job done on Saturday night. Trust me on that one,” as he nodded his head and gave the thumbs up.

It was a confident, jovial and relaxed atmosphere at the Wild Card this morning. There was no sense of doom or worry in the air - which means only one thing – Manny Pacquiao and his crew are ready for Miguel Cotto.

November 2009

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