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October 20, 2014

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Fight snapshot: Reviewing “24/7 Pacquiao/Cotto,” episode 3

Riffing on several key scenes from this weekend's third installment of HBO's "24/7 Pacquiao/Cotto," or ... who is Michael Koncz and why are they saying those terrible things about him:

READY FREDDIE: Manny Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach reiterated his contention that Saturday's welterweight title fight with Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand represents the culmination of a long relationship in which Pacquiao's boxing skills have been tuned virtually to perfection. "It took us like eight years to get to this point but everything we ever worked on now is in place," Roach said on "24/7."

PUBLIC EATINGS: One scene depicted a sight familiar to anyone who has dropped by Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., during a Pacquiao training camp. As Pacquiao and his team ate dinner at nearby Nat's Thai Food, fans gathered by the front window of the restaurant trying to look through to catch a glimpse of their hero. "Privacy, alas, is not on the menu," narrator Liev Schreiber intoned.

WHO'S THE BOSS? As Roach sees it, Cotto, rather than his relatively new trainer Joe Santiago, is the boss in his training camp. "He calls the shots," Roach said on the program.

The implication is that Roach, by contrast, is in charge of Camp Pacquiao.

This complements what Roach told me during a recent visit to the Wild Card: "He's a young trainer," Roach said of Santiago in an interview at the gym. "He's a sports medicine guy and all of a sudden he's a boxing guy. What's his experience? He's been with Cotto for a long time, yes, but he's always been in the background."

SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO? Training camps for major boxing matches have always been breeding grounds for some amount of tension and personality conflicts. But the animosity between Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz and others in the camp appears to be going off the charts. In this episode of "24/7," Roach said he regrets introducing Pacquiao to Koncz. He dismissed Koncz as a "gofer" who does only menial tasks like cleaning Pacquiao's pool. (In a previous episode, strength coach Alex Ariza said, in effect, that Koncz should stick to cutting Pacquiao's steak.) According to Roach, in a poll taken in the Philippines, 197 of 200 respondents said Koncz should be fired.

For his part, Koncz maintains he is a trusted and valued adviser to the boxer.

It was not shown on the program, but a sign hanging near the entrance to the Wild Card reads: "Michael Koncz Fan Club meeting tonight ... Canceled!"

GETTING STRONG NOW: Cotto's sparring partner Fred Tukes said Cotto is actually adding strength as he reduces his weight to the 145-pound limit set for Saturday's bout. "It's usually the opposite," Tukes said. "Usually when you start losing weight, you start getting weaker. But his punches started to increase (in power). That's the progression I've seen with Miguel."

Santiago said much the same thing in an interview at a Cotto training session last week. But these guys don't seem like the type to issue "talking points" or practice staying "on message." I believe they are speaking from the heart. If they're accurate then Pacquiao could be in for the toughest fight of his life.

The fourth and final installment of "24/7 Pacquiao/Cotto" debuts Friday night. Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein are the executive producers, and Aaron Cohen is the writer.

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