All-time boxing great says he is ready to be at the top of the sport again.
Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao declared he was back to his best as he weighed in comfortably under the 147 pound limit on Saturday ahead of his comeback fight against American Brandon Rios.
Asked if his army of fans in Asia would see the Pacquiao that lost both his last two fights in 2012 or the ferocious destroying force of 2006, his last ring appearance on the continent, “Pac-Man” oozed confidence and said it would definitely be the latter on Sunday morning.
“This fight is going to be different,” he told HBO television immediately after tipping the scales at 145 pounds.
Pacquiao, who will be 35 next month, has put himself though two months of intense physical preparation, “like when I was young”, in General Santos City in the lead-up to the World Boxing Organisation International welterweight championship bout.
“This is one of the longest training camps I had in my boxing career,” a smiling Pacquiao said. “We did our best training and we did it like when I was young,” added the only man to have world titles at eight different weights.
His Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach agreed. “This was the happiest and most productive camp I have had with Manny in years,” Roach said.
“Based on our last workout, I don’t see how Rios makes it past the fourth round.”
Pacquiao, a Filipino congressman, had to deal during training camp with the tragic distraction of Super Typhoon Haiyan tearing through his country on November 8, leaving more than 5,000 people dead or missing.
“I cried when I saw what had happened,” he admitted earlier this week. “To all the people and the families who have been affected by this storm, the typhoon: This fight is for you.”
Pacquiao enjoyed huge support from a large Filipino presence at the Cotai Arena for the 7:30 am (2330 GMT, Friday) weigh-in as chants of “Manny, Manny” rang around the auditorium.
“I’m so happy that the fight is in Asia and very close to the Philippines,” he said and paraded a T-shirt on stage reading “WBO Rescue Team – Yolanda (Haiyan) Relief”.
Rios came in just under the welterweight limit at 146 1/2 pounds, a pound and a half heavier than Pacquiao who is two inches shorter than the American.
The former lightweight world champion has never fought at welterweight but said the step up was no problem.
“I feel I’m 100 per cent of my weight now. I didn’t have to take any off,” said Rios after stepping on the scales.
“How am I going to beat him?” he said. “My heart and my balls. I’m hungry. I want that title.
“Here’s a message to Freddie Roach: Supposedly I’m a bum. I can’t make the weight. I’m a fat loser — you’ll see in the ring tomorrow.”
Fight promoter Bob Arum said that it had been 38 years since his Top Rank organisation had held such an oddly-timed weigh-in, designed to cater to TV audiences in the US.
“The last time we did something like this early in the morning was Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier in 1975,” said Arum, referring to the “Thriller in Manila” which has gone down in history as one of the greatest heavyweight contests of all time.
“And what a fight that turned out to be.”