Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009 | 10:12 a.m.
Almost everyone who loves the sport of boxing, including some MMA enthusiasts, is now focusing on the Nov. 14 Welterweight Championship fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Although the fight is eight weeks away, tickets are virtually sold out with only a few remaining at the box office. More than 10,000 closed-circuit television seats will also be made available for public sale in Las Vegas at various MGM properties. Additionally, pay-per-view distributors are anticipating record sales for the telecast of the eagerly awaited match. While the promotional drums beat louder and louder, the real heavy lifting is being done by both boxers, who are now in vigorous training for the biggest fight in each of their respectable careers.
More than a week ago, Cotto left his familiar confines in Puerto Rico and set up camp in Tampa, Fla. The Fight Factory Gym, where Miguel is training is a state-of-the-art facility located in the Tampa Bay area, on the Gulf Coast. For most of his prior fights, Miguel trained in Puerto Rico. For this, his greatest challenge, he wanted to train away from home in order to avoid distractions which he has encountered in the past in Puerto Rico.
I plan to visit Miguel at his training camp during the week of Oct. 11, and I will provide you with a candid appraisal of Miguel’s training and conditioning. I always like to see world-class fighters work out, and make my own assessments as to how they approach the job at hand.
Pacquiao generally trains in Los Angeles at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym; however, because of certain IRS tax rules he is training outside the United States for the next four weeks and will then move his camp to the Wild Card Gym.
For those of you curious about such things, IRS rules provide that Manny would have a “substantial presence” in the United States and would therefore be subject to tax on his worldwide income – not just his US-based income – under the following circumstances:
If one-sixth of his days spent in America in 2007, plus one-third of the days spent in our country in 2008, are added to 100 percent of the days he was here in 2009, and if the resulting figure equals or exceeds 183 days (roughly six months, or half a year), that would establish what IRS calls a “substantial presence” and subject his worldwide income to U.S. income taxes.
That may be a good thing for our economy and trade deficit, but not so good for Manny and his missus. By training outside our borders for the next four weeks, Manny will avoid the dreaded “substantial presence” designation.
Manny has set up training camp in Baguio, a mountainous summer resort in the Philippines, about 250 kilometers north of Manila. Pacquiao chose Baguio because of its elevation and his belief that he would be able to train in seclusion because of its remote location.
Wrong. He was mobbed by thousands of fans upon his arrival and greeted by a full Philippine media contingent. It looks like Manny will be training amid the usual chaos he is familiar with at the Wild Card Gym where LA-based Filipinos attend his workouts.
Next Tuesday, Sept. 29, I will be on a plane to the Philippines to see for myself how Manny is doing in Baguio and will report back to you. Why go halfway around the world on a 15-hour flight, when I know Manny will be back in the States in just over a month?
Simple. Because to observe Manny in training is to witness something I have never seen in my 44 years of boxing. His workout is conducted full speed for five hours, without any breaks. No athlete in any sport engages in a routine as vigorous as Manny’s, and he does it six days a week for more than seven weeks of training.
This kid plays hard and he works even harder, which more than anything accounts for his unbelievable stamina in the ring on fight night. The drills and workout sessions that Manny endures under the watchful eyes of trainers Freddie Roach, Buboy Fernandez, and Nonoy Neri are a wonder to behold.
Veteran trainers have always been wary of their boxer “leaving his fight in the gym,” which is to say that an athlete can overtrain and be flat and stale come the night of his bout. Too much work can be, well, too much for even the most well-conditioned prizefighter. After all, we’re talking about the human body and the possibility, or indeed the likelihood, of it breaking down.
But Roach and Fernandez trust the experienced Alex Ariza, Manny’s conditioning coach, who knows when to say “when.” Unlike any other fighter I have ever seen, Manny’s “when” comes hours after most boxers have showered, dressed, and left the building.
Pacquiao, who weighed only 138 pounds for his last fight and has only once gone over 140, is amazing in that he has to eat constantly to maintain a higher weight. While his trainers won’t tell us how many pounds Manny may drop in a workout session, it has to be considerable.
Now while appear to be gushing at the time and energy expended by Pacquiao once he gets to training camp. Cotto also does not mess around. He is dedicated and serious when he trains, a study in lethal concentration and fierce resolve, but Cotto’s regimen more closely resembles that of other elite fighters. Manny’s work rate is simply mind-blowing, but Cotto’s is deadly serious. Nothing interferes with Miguel’s focus on his work. There is no entourage, no crowds of howling fans, just a hard man who has won several world titles and is bearing down on his preparations.
It’s fun to watch Pacquiao train. It’s scary to observe Cotto in the gym.
This fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto will be something special. It promises to be a match between two proud warriors who have trained well for the violent war of attrition this contest promises to be. Each man knows the risks involved, and both understand that somebody is liable to get hurt.
But that’s how these guys roll. Two great champions, one great fight. I can’t wait.