To do that, he has to limit the distractions ahead of the 24 November fight in Macau. So that rules out a visit to the areas most devastated by the deadly typhoon to the north of where he’s in a training camp at General Santos, in the southern Philippines.
It’s a heart-wrenching decision but his handlers, including veteran trainer Freddie Roach, have insisted it is for the best. Instead, the Filipino congressman is dedicating the fight against Rios to the people.
In what he called a “statement to his people”, the 34-year-old Pacquiao said: “I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy. But I’m in deep training for a crucial fight so I regret I cannot go.”
“I will send help to those who need it the most,” he added, “and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times.”
Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz said that the former pound-for-pound champion was hoping to visit devastated parts of the Philippines after his fight at The Venetian Casino’s Cotai Arena in Macau, and wants to cheer them up with a victory.
Authorities have confirmed at least 2300 have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the typhoon.
Koncz, who is in camp with the boxer in General Santos, said he is declining interview requests for Pacquiao in a bid to lock out any distractions. He said Pacquiao’s camp had been watching developments and getting frequent updates in the wake of the typhoon, and it was difficult for the former champ ion not to go out and help.
“Manny’s desire was to go to that area and to visit them and lift the spirits,” Koncz said. “But we have the most important fight of his career.
“His heart and prayers go out to the survivors and the victims’ families. Absolutely, he is dedicating this fight to the victims of this.”
Pacquiao and his entourage leave for Macau on Monday.
“It’s been one of the best camps I can remember. No tensions within – everyone dedicated to our jobs and working hard,” Koncz said.
“Manny’s in the best physical condition he can be in. His mindset is on showing the world he can still compete to the highest level.”
Pacquiao has said the Rios fight, his first of the year, will be the start of his intended return to peak form and to show that consecutive losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez are not the start of a decline.
“The fans are going to be in for a fight, for a treat,” Koncz said. “If Manny sticks to the game plan, I truly don’t believe the fight is going to go more than four or five rounds.
“He’s determined to show the world nothing has declined in his skills and abilities. He’s very motivated for this fight.”
Koncz said if anyone was able to put the outside distractions on hold, at least for the duration of a bout, it was Pacquiao.
“Manny knows how to manage himself. He’s been in the game a long time and knows his body better than anyone else,” Koncz said. “He’s in that zone right now, he’s ready. If he had to go tomorrow, he’d be ready.”
By the time Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 knockouts) gets into the ring against Rios, it will be about two years since his last victory.
Pacquiao’s loss to Bradley was widely lampooned as a poor judging decision, but his knockout loss to Marquez was much more sobering.
Koncz said he took nothing away from Marquez, but it was the result of a defensive lapse by Pacquiao and “we don’t view that as a loss”.
“He fought with a lot of energy and threw a lot of punches,” Koncz said. “Unfortunately he got careless and walked into a punch from Marquez and got knocked out.
“We view that as a mistake in the last seconds and [he] walked into a good punch. We have to erase that memory for the fans.”