Renaissance Man(ny): Is Manny Pacquiao the best he’s ever been ahead of his fight vs. Keith Thurman?

I didn’t think that I would still be fighting all these years later,” says Manny Pacquiao, as we sit down for breakfast at his home in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. “But I am still here. I realized one day that it was up to me.”

As he prepares to fight undefeated Keith Thurman (29-0) for the WBA welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday on FOX PPV, Pacquiao tells me how he has flipped the script by using the wisdom of experience to stave off the effects of athletic aging.

A couple of years back, coming off a huge (and hotly-disputed) decision loss to unfancied Australian Jeff Horn, Pacquiao, by necessity, began to pay more attention to allowing his body to recover from training sessions.

As he did so, he found that not only did the extra rest help him avoid soreness and fatigue for the remainder of the day, but that he had greater energy levels to begin the next day’s sessions than ever before.

“The adjustment you make is the body recovery,” he says. “You have to take more time to and think about this more. It is up to you. If you are prepared to work hard, keep pushing yourself, punish the body, then recover, then you can do it. You have to think about it differently. It is not the same as when you are 30.”

The result? Nagging injuries disappeared. Sparring partners winced from receiving snappier shots. And road work partners struggled to keep up.

On Monday, I joined Pacquiao for his daily run up the incline of Griffith Park. He has done it for years and on this, the opening day of fight week, it was expected that he would complete a short segment at moderate pace, before an evening drive to Vegas.

Instead, he pushed himself through a grueling workout, churning up the road through the park to Griffith Observatory, then leading his group of training partners, camp assistants and even random joggers trying to keep up on another surge up a side trail.

I am a decent runner. I’ve run eight half marathons with a best time of 1h 50min last year. Pacquiao barely looked like he was moving, but he left me in the dust after 12 minutes and I needed a ride from a part of the following vehicle convoy to catch up. I kept pace again for another mile, before I fell off the back of the group once more.

At the end, fitness trainer Justin Fortune mildly berated Pacquiao for having run 50 minutes instead of the agreed 25. “At this point it is just a case of reining him in,” Fortune says. “He is in phenomenal shape. The only real danger is overtraining.”

The mood around the breakfast table less than an hour later is relaxed. Pacquiao prays, then picks at dishes of rice, chicken, bitter melon mixed with egg, squid, and banana. Traditional Filipino fare. “Clean food,” according to Fortune.

Over the meal, Pacquiao explained how the things people thought would be detrimental to his boxing have actually boosted him. Politics, where he has risen to a place in the Filipino Senate, brought balance into his life and taught him how to make best use of his time.

“A lot of people thought that being a politician would make it difficult to still be a good fighter,” Pacquiao says. “But I have been able to organize my life. Time management. It is very important. If I don’t have it then nothing is possible.”

Within a few hours of fighting Thurman, he will be on a direct flight back to the Philippines, where he will prepare for the State of the Union address.

“I have lot of things to do,” he says. “And not a lot of time to do them.”

Might one of those “things” include Floyd Mayweather? Mention of Mayweather elicits nervous laughter around the table. Everyone close to Pacquiao knows how much the defeat in 2015 stung him, especially how a hand injury restricted his preparation and effectiveness. He wants another crack – for redemption and for the massive payday.

“I think Floyd misses me,” Pacquiao laughs. “But I don’t have any idea if he is coming back to boxing. He is already retired. It is hard to answer because I can fight him if he wants to come back. But it is for him. If he decided to come back, why not?

“It was a very close fight. I thought I won the fight. I enjoyed it. All over the world people were talking about our fight.”

First things first, though. If Pacquiao can beat Thurman, knocking off yet another younger challenger coming for the crown, he’ll be not only managing his time, but well and truly turning back the clock.