We can all see it now: the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, packed yet again with ever faithful Erik Morales fans, and yet there is still enough room for the parade of Pacquiao followers to rock the house. A sold out fight of course, standing room only at this, a stepping stone to another great trilogy only boxing can create. That’s right folks, Morales vs. Pacquiao II is here... Well, almost.
Although we can all taste the rematch as if it were tomorrow, the truth is there are two skilled and dedicated boxers that are vying to spoil any chance of that rematch taking place. Hector Velazquez and Zahir Raheem are at this very moment preparing for their biggest opportunity to make it to the big time. A win for either of them will guarantee them more money than they’ve ever made before and will etched their names in boxing fans heads everywhere, as the guy who beat Morales or the guy who beat Pacquiao.
Nonetheless there are also two very dedicated champions of the sport, preparing to go to battle with two fighters who have nothing to lose. We went to WildCard Gym in Los Angeles, to check out how preparations are going for one of those champions, the People’s Champ, Manny Pacquiao, as he prepare to take on Hector Velazquez at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this Sep. 10th.
I almost did not recognize WildCard Gym when I arrived; I could clearly see the staircase that leads to a now visible entrance. This is new to me since the only images I know of WildCard are those with crowds of people blocking the entrance, who want to get a glimpse or maybe more of Manny Pacquiao.
The atmosphere was much different this time around, compared to the frenzy it was in pre-Morales; showing Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach meant business when he said he would not allow Manny to have any distractions at the gym. The gym was relatively quiet and there was enough room for the regulars to go about their daily routines, and reporters and camera men all had enough room to move around and find a good spot to get their shots in. There was plenty of room for all, including Pacquiao’s cheerful new promoter, Gary Shaw, who right off the bat had certain chemistry with Pacquiao, a type of mutual trust his former Promoter Murad Muhammad could have never dreamed of having.
A major concern in the minds of Pacquiao fans, have been that Manny had a late start preparing for Velazquez and that it will effect his performance on Sep 10th; “I’m not late, I started training in the Philippines”, said Pacquiao, who threw sharp combinations as he shadow boxed and pleased the crowd of reporters, occasionally throwing out a few quotes in Spanish for his Mexican fans. Admitting that he feels even more comfortable now in his second fight at 130lbs, Pacquiao, over a series of cycles including the speed bag, shadow boxing, jump rope and working with the mitts with Roach, showed to the cameras that he has not lost any speed since moving up to 130 lbs.
With all the talk of a rematch with Morales you can bet there is one person who is not concentrating just yet on that possibility, “Right now I am very focused on my coming fight with Velazquez”, stated Manny. The Philippine idol was very direct about his dedication to coming in prepared for his bout against Velazquez, being sure he does not overlook this must win fight, “He is a good boxer, a tough boxer who is fighting the biggest fight of his life, he expects to win, but I expect to win too, I have to beat him to get to Morales”, said a stone faced Manny. Manny still got the hunger for that greatness to win, with his camp finally at peace, he can now solely concentrate on beating Velazquez and going from there.
In other action at WildCard, the American press got a glimpse of future world champion, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista. The very speedy and powerful 19 year old native of Bohol, Philippines, looked extremely promising as he sparred several rounds with world ranked flyweight star, Brian Viloria.
The Hawaiian punch, Brian Viloria, also looked very prepared for his fight on the 'Double Trouble' undercard. Viloria will be taking on WBC Light flyweight champion, Eric Ortiz (24-4-1), of Mexico City.
Viloria plans to jump back up to 112 lbs, if he takes the belt from Ortiz, at which point he could end up in the mix with interim WBC flyweight champ Jorge Arce, or current WBC champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. However, the possibility of a fight against Wonjongkam is unlikely as Brian said, “Wonjongkam would have to come out here… the bigger money and bigger draw is out here, not in Thailand, and Pongsaklek doesn’t like to leave Asia”.
The thought of Viloria getting into the 112 lbs mix is very intriguing, Viloria versus Arce or Wonjongkam would be very exciting, But first he must dethrone Eric Ortiz, “I feel good and ready to go”, said a confident Viloria. Even with the few unfortunate distractions that have plagued him lately, Viloria seems confident in his ability and is also prepared for battle. For this hopeful future Philippine champion, he plans to make it more than just double trouble come September 10th.
- Victor Perea, PhilBoxing.com.