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By Rich Mazon

Mon, 14 Mar 2011

It's about 16 degrees Celsius or 61 degrees Fahrenheit this morning in Baguio City, Philippines. The whole team is here. His trusted coach flew 7000 miles to be here to once again lead the preparations. The media is present with their cameras clicking and running in the background. The common people, fans, passerby's and onlookers stop whatever they are doing and gather around him, armed with their cell phone cameras to capture an image of him. His conditioning coach is present, despite the rumors that he is not part of the team anymore. Everyone, vital or not in his game plan is here in the city of pines. It is the start of camp for the best fighter in the world.

The exercises, the warm ups, the stretching all commenced. Early mornings in this city is so invigorating. The air is clean. The weather is conducive at this time of the year. It is summer in the rest of the archipelago with temperatures in the high 80?s F. / 30?s C. but it is comfortably cool here. It is time to rise up early. Time to put on the jogging suit which bears his name. It is time to put those brand new training sneakers that also bear his name to the test. It is time to put rubber to the pavement. It is time for roadwork. The hard grind starts for the pound for pound king.

Then off to the gym we go for more exercises. Exercises to strengthen the core, the back, the arms, the legs. And most of all, the return to the ring for the bulk of the camp. The protective pads are placed on the champ, the gloves are donned, the headgear is fitted. His ever knowledgeable coach is ready and waiting for him on the ring. His protective gears are on too. His mitts are placed on both of his hands. It is sparring time once again in the confines of the Coyeesan gym in the city of pines for the fighting pride of this country.

His fight is 8 weeks away but the days will go fast. Days that are crucial leading to the fight. It is here where stamina is improved, nutrition is monitored, rest and recovery is essential. It is here where strategies are planned, practiced and executed. Sparring is initiated. The sparmates jump in the ring in a whistle?s blow and fight as instructed. Moves are calculated, feints, fakes and actual punch are launched. It is a mimic of a fight but it is not horsing around. Punches are thrown. Some will catch him in his gear, some wont. He will launch his own too, some will glanced his spar mates, some will land on their gear and some will hit them in parts that are not protected. It is not unusual to have a bloody nose, a swollen cheekbone or a busted lip. Its just part of the drill.

The fight is criticized by many. He is fighting a fighter who is on the twilight of his career. One who came from two unimpressive outings. One whose skills are in question now. But it is who it is. A fighter is a fighter. And this one has been in many great duels where he came out the victor. He packs a punch himself. He is a slugger, a pressure fighter. The same style that is known of him too. His last two bouts may be unimpressive but his reputation precedes him. And in boxing, reputation is a factor. Can this guy hurt him? He definitely can. That is why he is no different.

Distractions abound in camp. He is no stranger to it. Distractions of all kind. And why not, he is not a plain prize fighter. He is an icon of this country. A matinee idol, a rock star. But most of all, He is also a public servant, a lawmaker in this country?s house of representatives, a congressman of his hometown. His day to day matters are not confined to boxing. And one should realize that you don?t take a day off being an icon, a matinee idol, a rock star, a congressman and a public servant during fight camp. He will be bothered on matters other than boxing. He will be approached by people outside of the sport on matters that does not pertain to it but matters that needs his attention anyway. His popularity attracts many to him. His entourage has grown tremendously. And within a group of this many is the potential for discord and disharmony. There will be bickering, quarrels and conflict within its members. He will be at the center at times or a mere observant at most, but it will present a disturbance to him. He will be distracted.

But he will, like his resiliency on the ring will manage it with ease. He will approach them like he approach his foes, methodical, clock like and specific. In his desire to get everything done he will adjust body and mind to achieve what he wants. He will like in majority of his fights, get it done. And the complaining, the questions and the doubts will be again relegated at the back of the minds of those that follow his every move.

This has been the scenario before. It might or might not be the same this time. But this is fight camp. This is where the campaign starts. This is where the course of operations materialize. It seems exaggerated for many. But not everyone has gone through what he has gone. Fifty seven total fights, fifty seven times where his whole being is put at staked against the aggression of another, fifty seven times of imminent danger. That is the reality. And the end result will be seen on fight night in eight weeks time.

A fight is a fight. It does not matter who the enemy is, nor the place, nor the circumstances surrounding it. A fight is a fight. The danger is real, the risk is doubled, the peril is present. A fight is a fight. This is what he is, a prize fighter. But one that carries a nation in every punch that he throws. A nation that holds its breath on every punch that lands on him praying it does not incapacitate him. A nation that prays for him in the heat of the duel. A nation that cheers on his victory and is devastated by his defeat. He knows he is just a prize fighter but these are the circumstances that surround this particular prize fighter. He cannot let them down. he cannot take a knee. He will not quit. He cannot just take the pay check and run. It does not matter who is in front of him at that given night, at that given time.. This is no different. A fight is a fight.

Today fight camp begins yet again for Manny Pacquiao.

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