We are less than two weeks away from seeing if Manny Pacquiao can climb another mountain, this one a (sort of) junior middleweight named Margarito.
Should Margarito prevail, the Mexican born hitter, who lives with dark cloud of suspicion hanging over his head, after being busted trying to wear hardened hand wraps into the ring to fight Shane Mosley in 2009, will achieve redemption. For all intents and purposes, we will by and large forgive, if not totally forget that Margarito, or, his trainer, acting as the lone gunman, tried to gain an illegal edge against Mosley. And, many of us surmise, hed likely done it before. But if Margarito, at 32 1/2, with much rust to shed after being put on hiatus against his will, by the California commission, which yanked his license for a year, can take out Pacquiao, we will tip our cap to him. We will acknowledge that he is a warrior, a true battler who doesnt need a foreign object or two to get it done.
On the second installment of HBOs exemplary 24/7, viewers see Margarito in camp, listening to trainer Robert Garcia, and working to get ready against the speediest hitter hes ever met.
When I beat Manny Pacquiao, there will be lots of fighters who want to work with you, Margarito says of Garcia. HBO introduced us properly to Garcia, telling us that his parents toiled in the strawberry fields of Oxnard, for about 30 years. His dad, Eduardo, was the head trainer at Oxnards La Colonia Gym, and brought his son Robert to prominence, to a 130 pound crown. The son said he has taken to training more than fighting (I was too nice).
Back to Team Pacquiao–Pacman put together a party for Michael Koncz, his advisor, who got married in Baguiao. The Congressman worked the room, at the mike, and we saw that he doesnt just do sappy ballads, he can rock.
He worked with sparring partner Amir Khan, Roachs second most prominent client, and in my estimation, a fighter who will jump up into the pound for pound top ten after his next fight, against Marcos Maidana (Dec. 11, in Vegas).
Roach said the five week camp in the Philippines has been up and down, with more bad days than usual. Hes looking forward to getting Manny to California, away from the hassle of the acolytes and political aides.
Margarito is already in Cali, and we see him get some R n R with his crew. Tomorrow, he says to wife Michelle, it will be back to the grind, up until camp breaks on November 6. That night, Garcia, Michelle and Tony watch the Pacman-Clottey scrap. Garcia says he thinks Tony will have the strength edge as he watches the Congressman get angles, as good as anyone in the biz, on the Ghanian. Yes, Pacman has speed, but what else, he says. Dont get impatient. Stay calm the whole time, the trainer counsels. Tony compares Clottey to a heavy bag, and says he wont be the same static target. Garcia says the more he studies Pacman in action, the more holes he sees.
Manny, meanwhile, skips a training session to meet his nations President, Benigno Aquino III. Then, in sparring, Manny is flat. A change of scenario will be welcomed by Roach.
They head to the airport, and Roach tells us that Manny doesnt get the wand treatment, or the nude xray treatment, that he can waltz on to the plane without a security check. The crew gets to LAX after 13 hours in the air. They are welcomed by a gaggle of Manny-iacs, and then they drive to his condo.
At Garcias gym, we see the crew get a giggle when a jokester brings a chunk of concrete and hands it to Garcia as he wraps Tonys hands. The whole gym explodes into laughter. To me, this is an interesting interlude..would a truly guilty conscience, and a crew who know the truth, engage in such joviality?
Brandon Rios, another Garcia client, busts on Pacman, calling him an a-hole as they all leaf through an issue of Ring. He admits that he though Margarito would be a dick but hes been impressed. Hes a cool ass dude, he says of the fighter who he thought would be a Cartel type. Rios, age 24, has been soaking up the training methods of Margarito. Tonys a hard worker, hes a beast, he kills himself in the gym, this guys the hardest working man in the business. He aint gonna play around, hes just going to eff up this dude, Rios says. The young fight is beefing up Margaritos confidence, saying he thinks Manny and Roach are scared, and theorizing that maybe Manny will pull out of the fight.
At the Wild Card, Roach says this camp was probably our worst camp ever. But now, he says, Manny will be properly focused. But he and fitness coach Alex Ariza are miffed that promoter Bob Arum asked Manny to come to Vegas that Friday. Theres two weeks left in camp, Ariza says, disapprovingly.
On Friday, we see Manny in Vegas, plugging Senator Harry Reids campaign. Ariza shakes his head, and seems legitimately worried. Margarito, we see, doesnt have any such pulls on his time.
TSS-EM says this is all much ado about not much. Speed, and the ability to whale away at the rusty Mexican because of his superior footwork, will bring Pacman a decision win, by a wide margin.