Tough choices ahead for Pacquiao

BY foxsports • November 15, 2011

With his biggest payday in the balance — a bout of global interest with Floyd Mayweather — welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao’s personal and professional lives are in turmoil.

The day after his disputed majority decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao wanted to surprise his wife, Jinkee, with a ceremony renewing their vows at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

But she apparently refused, according to several sources intimately familiar with the Pacquiao camp, citing his alleged infidelities. After a lengthy discussion at the hotel, they say, Jinkee refused to go through with the ceremony unless Pacquiao fired his agent, Michael Koncz.

“I have no knowledge of that,” said Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum.

“I don’t know who the f--- gave you that information,” said Koncz. “I’m not going to discuss Manny and Jinkee’s personal business in the media.”

That’s fair enough, if not exactly a denial. But even Pacquiao’s longtime trainer and confidante, Freddie Roach — who had predicted a knockout against Marquez — admitted that his fighter was not at his best on Saturday night.

“I think distractions outside the ring got to him,” Roach said in an interview Monday at his Wild Card gym in Hollywood.

Roach refused to specify those distractions, merely saying “they aren’t excuses.” But it’s clear there is serious disagreement within the Pacquiao camp on a variety of fronts, including the fighter's marriage, his training habits, and his next opponent. When asked whom he wants for Pacquiao's next opponent, Roach said emphatically: “Floyd Mayweather.”

When asked whom Pacquiao wanted next, he responded again: “Floyd Mayweather.”

People have been talking about Mayweather-Pacquiao almost as long as they fantasized about Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. But now would seem the ideal time to actually make the match. What the world suddenly dismisses as a disputed Pacquiao victory actually represents the best-yet opportunity to make the fight of this still-young century. Only last week, Mayweather’s camp — uncharacteristically explicit in regard to its prospective Filipino foe — made known its preference for a May 5 date with Pacquiao.

Just as Holyfield’s lackluster showing against Bobby Czyz helped make the Tyson fight, Pacquaio’s performance against Marquez — whom Floyd handled so easily a couple of years ago — should fully incentivize the Mayweather camp.

Nevertheless, immediately after the fight, Arum was talking about making Pacquiao-Marquez IV instead of Pacquiao-Mayweather.

“Bob said, ‘We don’t need Mayweather. We can do a fourth fight,’ ” Roach recalled.

“That’s what he said in the ring.”

Arum is not to be blamed. It’s good business, as he promotes both Pacquiao and Marquez. Plus, it’s a good way to stick it to Mayweather and his promoter, Al Haymon, both of whom he loathes (the feeling, rest assured, is mutual).

Rather, the responsibility — on many levels — now belongs to Pacquiao.

At some point, Roach argued, “Bob has to give Manny what he wants. If Manny says, ‘I want Mayweather,’ Bob will have to give him Mayweather.”

In other words, it comes down to how hard Pacquiao pushes for the Mayweather fight.

“He needs to be pushy,” said Roach. “He’s got to step up and tell (Arum) who he wants to fight.”

“Freddie can say whatever he wants,” said Arum. “I’m going to sit with Manny and do whatever Manny wants to do.”

In fact, Pacquiao needs to make his choices plain on a number of fronts: with his wife, his promoter and his trainer. For two fights now, Pacquiao has been less than diligent in listening to his strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza.

The last two training camps have seen Pacquiao show great enthusiasm for running the hills of Los Angeles' Griffith Park, but not for following Ariza’s advice. There are those in Pacquiao’s camp who blame the cramping and fatigue in his calves on his reluctance to abide by Ariza’s regimen.

“The biomechanics of running up and down hills is different than what’s required in boxing,” said Ariza. “Manny is a side-to-side fighter. His strength is lateral movement.”

Ariza also refused to address personal issues, but allowed that he met with the fighter Sunday to review a tape of the previous night’s bout with Marquez. It was the second consecutive fight that Pacquiao complained of stiffness in his legs. It was also, Ariza said, the second consecutive fight in which he shrugged off the coach’s track work and agility drills.

Ariza joined Team Pacquiao in 2008, after the second disputed victory over Marquez. The years since have seen Pacquiao move up in weight to become a global brand with consecutive victories over David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Marquez. Within the camp, there is a feeling that the last two (both decisions) have been distinctly less impressive than the previous six.

“It’s very simple,” Ariza told him Sunday. “My way is Diaz, De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Clottey, Margarito. Your way is Mosley and Marquez.”

It’s the champ’s choice.

It always is.

And quite suddenly, Manny Pacquiao has a lot of them to make.