There was a time when everybody thought Manny Pacquiao was finished. The loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. was forgivable considering the eight-division world champion’s performance was hindered by a right shoulder injury. But he followed that performance with a pair of ho-hum victories against Jessie Vargas and Timothy Bradley in which he was more content on doing just enough to win rather than excite his fans. Then he lost a controversial decision to Jeff Horn in 2017.
In the eyes of many, it was over for Pacquiao. He briefly severed ties with longtime trainer Freddie Roach and fought the weathered and washed-up Lucas Matthysse. But then something was triggered in Pacquiao. The Filipino senator annihilated Matthysse, reunited with Roach and stormed Adrien Broner with a performance that suggested that the old Manny Pacquiao was back. It put him in position for the massive fight against Keith Thurman that will take place July 20 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“His pay per view numbers sucked,” Roach told Sporting News with a laugh Wednesday when asked why his pupil has fought like the old Manny Pacquiao again. “That’s the real reason. People want knockouts, and on pay per view, people want knockouts more because they are paying to see it. I was urging him on about this.
“I told him for quite a while that the equation where he just has to do enough to beat his opponents — where you don’t have to really hurt them or try to knock them out — won’t work. That fell apart with Jeff Horn. I like when the judges are taken out of the result.”
Roach suggested the losses to Mayweather and Horn, while not ideal, were probably the best things to happen to Pacquiao. Up until those fights, he was seemingly content on allowing his opponents to survive. In large part due to his religion, the man who ransacked multiple divisions with blistering knockouts was gone. In his place was Senator Pacquiao, who boxed in his spare time. And it showed.
Roach sought to advise his student on refocusing on boxing and handling his responsibilities if he wanted to continue making a living as a fighter. But when challenged, Pacquiao decided it would be best for the two to part ways in a controversial decision that rippled through boxing.
“He’s always had a full plate of responsibilities,” Roach explained. “He knew it was hard to be a senator and a boxer at the same time. He needed to choose one or the other and I got let go for trying to give him good advice.”
But absence only makes the heart grow stronger, and the two were right back at it after the Matthysse fight. With Roach refining Pacquiao’s tool set, the duo saw tremendous results against Broner, and they hope to see the same against the undefeated Thurman.
It also helps that Thurman has spoken about ending Pacquiao’s career, which has lit a fire under the 40-year-old, much to Roach’s delight.
“Whenever Manny is upset or dislikes an opponent he fights much more aggressive,” Roach said. “And when he’s more aggressive he’s a much better fighter. I’m hoping for the knockout.”