By EDDIEG. ALINEA
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — A four-round sparring session marked Manny Pacquiao’s return to the ring Tuesday following a nine-month hiatus since losing his last fight to the now-retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. held last May.
And with the way he connected killing blows while absorbing equally lethal shots from his Congolese-Canadian dance-mate Ghislain Maduma for solid 12 minutes, it looked like the fighting Congressman from Sarangani Province hasn’t lost any of the assets that brought him enormous wealth and fame in 21 years of practicing his chosen profession.
That is if his handler and Maduma, himself, are to be believed.
“He’s okay.” No less than chief trainer Freddie Roach assessed following a day that saw his pupil of 15 years completed another seven rounds with the pads, and two rounds each with the double end and speed ball.
“There are still a lot of room for improvement. The speed is still there and so is the power and based on what I saw today, we can easily attain our target in no time, ” the Hall of Fame trainer said.
He said Pacquiao needs to improve more on his timing but added, “he’s gonna be better as days go on in the camp.”
Roach added that both Pacquiao and his mate had passed the test in only the very first day of sparring, the most important and crucial part of the Pacman’s preparation for his coming third fight with fellow former world welterweight champion Timothy Bradley.
Roach, would have wanted to cancel the day’s sparring schedule owing to Pacquiao’s not being able to hold the regular morning workout on the road, plus the fact that Maduma had just arrived and might still be suffering from jet lag.
Pacquiao, the only man in the world of sweet science to win titles in eight weight divisions, and Bradley, one of only six fighters to deal his rival a loss in a 21-year career, engage each other anew on April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las vegas , site of their previous two encounters
“I’m okay, Pacquiao, for his part, said. “Pinaghandaan naman natin ang sparring, kasama sa training yan.”
Maduma, a 31-year-old pro of five years, himself could not hide expressing his impression. “He’s good. Very fast and powerful. I’ve seen Bradley fight and what I can say is Pacquiao is stronger and quicker than Bradley.”
Asked if he is able to hit Pacquiao with solid punches, Maduma answered, “Yeah I did, but to tell you frankly, I couldn’t catch him. He moved a lot.”
( Photos by Wendell Rupert Alinea )