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Feature: A fighter at the core, Manny Pacquiao easily makes transition to new opponent

Twenty years ago, Freddie Roach was a nascent trainer. His mentor, Eddie Futch, had set him off on his own and Roach was proving to be a worthy successor to the master.

The star of Roach’s stable at that point was James Toney, the former middleweight champion who remained one of the most talented figures in boxing.

Roach was in Las Vegas to train a fighter on the undercard of an Oscar De La Hoya fight. A reporter approached Roach to ask about Toney, but all Roach could talk about was his undercard fighter.

He wouldn’t be an undercard fighter much longer.

Manny Pacquiao destroyed Lehlo Ledwaba that week to win a super bantamweight championship and to start an unmatched partnership that exists to this day.

On Saturday (9 p.m. ET, PPV) at T-Mobile Arena, Pacquiao will take on Yordenis Ugas in the main event of a Fox Sports PBC card in the Filipino senator’s first bout since defeating Keith Thurman for a belt in 2019.

He’s a few months away from a run for the presidency of his country and he’s rapidly closing in on his 43rd birthday. But Roach said the love of the game, the desire to succeed and the eagerness to take on all comers remains.

Social media was filled with fears for Pacquiao’s safety in June when he announced he’d fight Errol Spence Jr. in a welterweight title bout. But when Spence tore his retina and needed surgery on his right eye last week, Pacquiao never hesitated.

Had he opted to wait until Spence was healed, the entire card would have been scrapped. And if he had, he’d have had good reason: Ugas is a right-hander and Pacquiao spent nearly his entire camp preparing for a left-hander.

That he said yes so quickly and without reservation is one of the things that makes him arguably the most beloved figure in the sport.

“Manny has been the same way ever since I’ve known him,” Roach said. “He loves what he does and you can tell by the way he trains.”

Credit: Yahoo Sports

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