The boxing icon talks to us about preparing for his upcoming fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., how he’ll celebrate a potential win, and what’s on his mind when he’s in the ring.
Fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. may just be the single most career-defining moment in Manny Pacquiao’s 20-plus years as a professional boxer. The sport’s only name to win world championships in eight weight classes—a feat that led to him being named the 11th highest-paid athlete in the world in 2014, according to Forbes—Pacquiao is also a musician and congressman in his native Philippines, where he attracts a near-religious following, as well as a dedicated father to his five children with wife Jinkee. Between training sessions with longtime coach Freddie Roach, we spoke to Pacquiao in advance of his May 2 bout with Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
How are you feeling at this point? Do you feel a sense of relief that you’re finally going up against someone you’ve been waiting to fight for years?
MANNY PACQUIAO: I’m really excited for this fight to happen. I’ve had a great training camp and I’m ready to go.
In terms of technique, which areas have you dedicated a lot of attention to in preparation for this particular fight?
MP: We’re working on a lot of things I cannot discuss now—secret strategy. I think a lot of people will be surprised at how this fight plays out. I know everyone considers me the underdog but I’ve never lost as an underdog before and I’m confident that will continue on May 2.
Would you say that you’ve felt pressure to train harder for this fight than any other fight in your career?
MP: Not pressure, incentive. I really want to beat Floyd Mayweather and that’s why I’ve worked so hard in training camp. I also want to bring honor and glory to the Philippines and Filipinos around the world.
We all know you train like a mad man but how do you deal with the mental stress of preparing for a fight like this?
MP: I’ve never felt stress for a fight, only excitement. [Fighters like Marco Antonio] Barrera, [Oscar] De La Hoya, [and Miguel] Cotto have always brought out the best in me. Knowing I have prepared to the best of my abilities has always been a great comfort to me. I also have the strength of my family and my faith in the Lord. I never feel stress.
You’ve had quite a few visitors lately to your training sessions—everyone from Mark Wahlberg to Sylvester Stallone—and it was recently reported that even Muhammad Ali is siding with you. How does it feel to have that kind of celebrity support?
MP: It’s a blessing. I am grateful for everyone’s support, whether they’re famous or not.
You’re planning on walking into the ring to one of your own songs—can you tell us a bit about it?
MP: It’s a song dedicated to Filipinos everywhere—I am fighting for them. I even directed the music video. I’m very proud of it.
What are you usually thinking about or envisioning when you’re in the ring?
MP: The fight! It’s all I think about, from the opening bell until the closing bell. I’ve poured so much into preparation and training—so much hard work—[that] the fight itself is all I think about after so much mental, physical, and spiritual buildup.
How do you feel about the location of the fight? Do you like competing in Vegas?
MP: I really do enjoy Las Vegas because it’s the fight capital of the world. Las Vegas is so exciting during fight week and I’ve had most of my biggest victories there. It has been a major part of my boxing career.
If you win, how are you going to celebrate?
MP: I’ll go to church with my family and then celebrate with a feast of Filipino delicacies. Then I’ll go home and celebrate by sharing the victory with my countrymen.
PHOTOGRAPHY VIA CHRIS FARINA