Mind Games Include Pacquiao’s Training

McALLEN, Texas (MindaNews / 26 March) – Eight Division World Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao does a strenuous physical activity for eight hours everyday, yet interestingly he also engages in a three to four hours of mental exercises as he prepares for the biggest fight of his boxing career against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2 at the MGM Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He plays chess and dart.

Playing chess allows the Filipino boxing icon to strategize his defense and offense as the game progresses, very similar to the game plan he is going through together with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and his assistants.

It’s a game plan that seeks to exploit Mayweather’s weak areas as well as effectively respond to the American boxer’s strengths.

Boxing, along with other sports, places high prominence on the individual athlete’s decision-making ability on how best to do defense and offense, depending on what is at hand at the very moment. Inputs from the trainers are usually conveyed mostly in in-between rounds during short breaks.

Obviously, Pacquiao wants to sharpen his capacity to make the appropriate and quick decisions in the light of what has happened with his fight with boxer Juan Manuel Marquez where he thought he could finish off the Mexican, only to be knocked out by a perfect counter punch.

Like chess, the end game in boxing needs to lead to victory instead of defeat.

The Mindanawon congressman also plays dart, specifically to improve his focus during the fight and not be swayed by whatever distractions that might be brought to his attention.

Dart allows the player to mute any distractions around as he walks, establishes the right stance, breathes, aims then releases the dart pin to the desired target.

It was the game I was privileged to play for three nights with the late Catholic bishop Bienvenido Tudtud, then bishop of the Marawi Prelature at the height of negotiations for the release of 11 Carmelite nuns who were abducted by Maranao bandits at their convent in Marawi City on July 1986.

I was then covering the kidnapping and Tatay Bido, as we fondly call him, graciously invited me to stay at his bishop residence in downtown Marawi. I joined them in early evening prayers, then supper, after which he invited me to play dart with him. It was on the second night that I finally understood the reason for the game.

The game generated in him a sense of calmness, fortitude and a renewed vigor as he engaged with police and military officials, Catholic and Muslim clergy, political and community leaders on the following day in a series of meetings in different locations.

There were a lot of distractions, but Bishop Tudtud pursued only one thing – the release of the contemplative nuns. Five days later, they were released unharmed with no ransom given, only an undisclosed amount for “board and lodging” expense.

This is also true with Manny Pacquiao, as evidenced by the media wanting to talk to him and celebrities wanting to visit him, and the many ordinary people just seeking to shake his hands or take selfies with him.

However, it appears that the discipline in his ongoing training is clearly evident. He starts his day at 4 a.m., then sleeps at 9 p.m.

As for his demeanor, Pacquiao’s assistant trainer and long-time buddy Buboy Fernandez says the Filipino boxer, unlike before, now listens intently to all instructions given to him by Freddie Roach.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries, the countries they’re presently working in, their growing up years or homecomings in Mindanao, their hopes and dreams and suggestions for Our Mindanao. Merpuvel Roa, who used to be based in Ozamiz City as journalist, left his city in 2004. He is now a youth specialist in his church. As founding member of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative, he continues to touch base and writes this column for MindaNews.)