GENERAL SANTOS CITY – With just two months left before his anticipated return to the ring, Manny Pacquiao plunged into serious training last week and was back on the oval track after a skipping some of his routine pre-fight preparations.

Pacquiao jogged and sprinted at P. Acharon Sports Complex here accompanied by his basketball team.

He was closely watched by Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri who are filling in while waiting for the arrival of coach Freddie Roach next month.

The Wild Card Gym in General Santos was also clamped down for visitors and onlookers to enable the 8-division world boxing champion to concentrate on his training.

Pacquiao is coming off from a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December last year and making a comeback fight against Brandon Rios on November 24 (Asian time) in Macau.

This year marks the longest layoff in the storied boxing career of Pacquiao who has not fought in his home city since 1996.  He knocked out Bert Batiller in four rounds for the only time he fought in General Santos as a professional.

His decision to train solely in General Santos is the closest his fight fans here are seeing him in action.

Noel Lautengco, uncle-in-law of Pacquiao who takes care of his dogs, said the Filipino boxing icon has already taken a leave of absence in the House of Representatives.

Pacquiao is in his second term as congressman representing the lone district of Sarangani where his wife Jinkee hails from.  Jinkee is also vice governor of the province.

Both Lautengco and Fernandez said Pacquiao is on track in his training and are not worried about the former world champion’s weight.

Observers say Pacquiao’s walking weight is above the 147-lb limit.

Pacquiao himself told ABS-CBN that it is easier to lose weight and still has eight weeks to shed off excess poundage.

Mabuti na ‘yung (Better if its) calibrated,” Lautengco said on Pacquiao’s weight issue.

Fun

After jogging in the oval track, Pacquiao gathered members of his basketball team and entourage for a relay run at the oval offering cash reward to the team who will win.  He ran the third leg of the team that placed second.

The former super welterweight champion was a promising track and field athlete before he got hooked into amateur boxing.

After the oval sprint, Pacquiao led his entourage into the swimming pool where the same rule applied.  Cash reward for the team who will finish first in the relay swim.

Imperative

The fun however will stop once Pacquiao climb the ring.  He needs to win against Rios to keep himself in boxing conversation.

Another loss could mean the end of his purse-rich fights.

Top Rank last week announced Pacquiao is guaranteed an US$18 million purse against Rios, lower than his US$26 million guaranteed prize money in his losing effort against Marquez.

For the first time since facing Oscar Larios at the Araneta Coliseum in 2006, Pacquiao will be fighting outside the US.  The Macau fight is a big promotional gamble for Top Rank’s Bob Arum who is confident Pacquiao will still sell despite two consecutive losses last year.

 

Still explosive

At the gym he owned, Pacquiao demonstrated he has not lost his vaunted power.  He repeatedly banged the mitts on Fernandez’ hands, who often grimaced in pain and later complained of pain.  It is actually Roach’s job at the mitts but in his absence, Fernandez and Neri have been alternating.

He goes full twelve rounds in the mitts, sometimes adding 5 more before hitting the bounce and speed balls.

It is obvious Pacquiao still has the hunger and thirst.