GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 April) — Manny Pacquiao watchers are puzzled over the early departure of conditioning coach Alex Ariza from the champion’s Baguio camp.
There is no cause for alarm, however, as the coach and student will again hook up in the US when Pacquiao wraps up his Baguio leg of training and flies to the US in the first or second week of May.
Baguio has become the second training home for the eight-division world boxing champion. It is where he builds up his stamina by running the high altitude and through thin air. Besides, there is nothing in what Ariza has been doing that cannot be done by Pacquiao’s Filipino trainers.
In addition, I personally saw how the Bible-quoting champion looked very trim and already fit after just a week of hitting the gym in General Santos City (more on this chance encounter later). Pacquiao probably weighed no more than 154 pounds two days before he left for Manila en route to his Baguio camp.
Ariza of course has always been very vocal about Pacquiao’s penchant at throwing a monkey’s wrench on the conditioning regimen he has been preparing for the boxing champion by allowing so many distractions.
The recent presidential snub, no matter how Pacquiao downplayed it, will be more than just an annoying episode. But Manny being Manny could also be fired up by it. Pacquiao has mastered the art of reining over the organized chaos around him, some even caused by him. He thrives under pressure and cherishes the underdog image. No, Pacquiao is not the underdog against American Timothy Bradley. He is heavily favored to defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight title – perhaps by an early knockout.
He is up against the tenant at the Presidential Palace as a budding politician. And it is still a long way before 2016, when Pacquiao could try his political fortunes in a nationally-elected position. But next year’s mid-term election could be another curtain raiser for his second day job because, like it nor not, Manny still spends more of his working time in boxing rather than in Philippine Congress where he is a member of the House of Representatives.
Now back to that Waterfront Insular Hotel episode in Davao City where Pacquiao and I stood side by side inside the rest room. It was purely an unexpected incident.
As many have already known it, Pacquiao said he filed a libel complaint against me for that story about his friend who was placed under surveillance for the latter’s alleged involvement in carjacking activities. His libel complaint was reported all over the papers and available mass media.
Up to this writing, however, I have not received a copy of his complaint although a member of the city prosecution team confirmed that it indeed had been filed. Why it was not served to me, I honestly do not know.
So when we two almost literally ‘bumped into each other’ one would have expected high drama. Instead, we greeted each other as if nothing ever happened. More than anything else, Pacquiao did not expect to see me 147 kilometers away from our homes. His initial reaction upon seeing me was at first a brief disbelief. By my own reckoning, it was not after almost three seconds when he slowly grinned and greeted me, “O, naa man diay ang akong amigo dire.” (To the non-Visayan, pardon me but I will not provide you a translation)
After saying he is leaving for Baguio the following Monday in reply to my question, he went out of the rest room just the way we were before the libel complaint. We were never really close. We are not enemies either. Being a continuing subject, I always maintained a safe distance from him.
Sorry for those who expected the unexpected from our brief exchange of cordial and civil greetings, if you will call them as such. Like you, me and Manny obviously wanted to exchange ideas under different circumstances. Bitin, ano? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin Espejo writes for the asiancorrespondent.com)