By Rupert Ouano
First time visitor to Pacquiao’s Wild Card Gym reports on a day at the boxing champ’s official training camp
LOS ANGELES — As of early July and in tune with the re-opening of Las Vegas together with the easing of local travel restrictions for the vaccinated public, Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California, which is almost synonymous with Manny Pacquiao, has re-opened after being closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wild Card Gym has not only opened to the general public, but it is again serving as the primary venue for Manny Pacquiao’s training camp for his upcoming championship fight against Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas in the welterweight division on August 21, 2021, which will be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As an avid enthusiast of the sport of boxing and as a follower of physical fitness, I was fortunate to get an appointment to visit the Wild Card Gym and watch Manny Pacquiao train. Because of current local COVID guidelines issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for general public safety to prevent the spread of disease, everyone must undergo screening, pass a COVID swab rapid antigen test, and wear a mask even if fully vaccinated before entering the gym.
Manny’s training camp is private. It is about two thousand square feet of exclusive space located on the ground floor of the Wild Card Gym, which is fully equipped with a boxing ring, punching bags, agility bag, speed bag, changing room, bathroom, and a wall mural of pictures, photos, and boxing mementos designed and arranged by his American coach Freddie Roach.
My unsolicited review of Manny Pacquiao boxing skill and routines is from an amateur but nevertheless intuitive, accurate and observant point of view:
1. The fast mitts routine of Manny with his trainer Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez can be compared to the sound of a rolling drum in a rhythmic cadence of equally spaced punches delivered with lightning speed with no allowance for a skip, out-of-sync tune, or a missing beat.
2. Manny has a southpaw stance. He starts a jab with his right hand to roughly calculate the reach needed to throw an effective punch against his opponent and finishes it with a strong left straight to the head or the body. He appears ambidextrous because he can effortlessly and swiftly switch from his dominant left hand executing a jab first and ending with a straight from the right hand followed by either a hook or upper cut from the left hand. The speed with which he switches from one dominant hand to another is enough to confuse his opponent. Plus, he is able to move fast and away from one fixed stance to avoid a counterpunch.
3. Manny has a very disciplined daily routine of a 30-minute warm-up before he dons his boxing gloves, followed by a 4-hour routine of mitts, shadow boxing, freelance on the punching bag, and agility and speed ball exercises.
4. Manny’s boxing skill is best personified by his strength, power, speed, stamina, endurance, timing, and rhythm on the speed ball exercise because this involves rapid eye contact, hand punch precision, uniformity of punch delivery, flexible arm movement, lightning speed, cardiovascular/pulmonary fitness, breath and strength preservation as he performs this exercise non-stop for 15 minutes.
5. Manny cools down by skipping rope, light footed, with precise timing and hand/foot coordination as he lands mostly on the balls of his feet in a combination of alternating single leg hops and both full leg hops. He skips rope with so much grace it is reminiscent of the gleeful mood of childhood games we used to play for fun as opposed to a grueling routine.
6. Manny’s best 15 abdominal exercises, including the teaser pause with helicopter legs and leg thrusts, side crunches, his trademark unilateral bicycle elbow to knee crunch, are great to emulate for those who want to develop a 6 pack because they work on the upper, lower, and side abdomen. The grueling final abdominal blow with a wooden 2×2 rod is a routine for professional boxers only and should not be tried at home without caution.
7. Manny is surrounded by upcoming boxing greats such as Boxer John Riel Casimero who hails from my hometown of Guizo, Mandaue City, Cebu. Casimero will fight Cuban boxer Rigondeaux on August 14 at Carson, California, for the bantamweight championship division.
8. Manny’s presence in the boxing ring is not complete without his long-time, ever loyal chief trainer Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez who hails from General Santos City and has been with Manny for every one of Manny’s 67 professional boxing fights.
9. Manny ends his boxing exercise routine with his head bent down on the boxing rink floor in silent prayer.
10. Manny Pacquiao is truly a great inspiration. As I stepped onto the soft matted floor of his private boxing ring, I could feel the lightness of his good spirit. As he soars like a dancer on the balls of his feet, he swiftly and effortlessly defends himself from a punch by a nimble slip, a shoulder roll, blocking, parrying, a bob, a weave, and shifting his stance quickly to deliver a counterpunch. The completeness of his world, wrapped around on all sides by ropes in a 16-feet by 24-feet enclave called a boxing ring, is all that he needs to conquer the universe and beyond.
A visit to the Wild Card Gym is a story of impossibilities made possible. Mankind will always face challenges, but there is no challenge that every strong-willed human cannot overcome if one always remains focused on that elusive goal. Winning is only part of the story; the caveat behind winning is the story of the struggles and determination it takes to win.
Our best wishes to Champion Boxer Manny Pacquiao for a victorious August 21, a fight to watch, a fight to remember, against opponent Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas at the T – Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Errol Spence, who was originally scheduled to box on the 21st, had to back out on August 10 due to a left eye retinal tear.