Killer in Manila: Busting a gut to keep up with Pacman

Manny Pacquiao is laying on a mat in the middle of the foyer of his $18 million Manila mansion and he is busting out 1300 crunches.


As you do. Thirteen hundred.

These are his “morning crunches”. He’ll do the same amount in the afternoon. His “afternoon crunches”.

Next week, when he ramps up his preparation for the July 2 fight against Queenslander Jeff Horn in Brisbane, he will do double that. I wasn’t good at maths at school but that’s 5200 crunches for the day. He says he’s been doing these morning and afternoon crunches everyday for his entire boxing career.

Me? I’m just watching him do his crunches because the road run earlier has absolutely busted me. It doesn’t take much these days.

Pacquiao smashed out two laps around the manicured streets of Forbes Park – a gated estate considered the Beverly Hills of Manila – in 23 minutes for a total distance of about five kilometres.

I had an asthma attack after a kilometre, tried to take a short cut down a side street but got lost and had to ask several people for directions to make my way back to the front of Pacquiao’s home, just as he completed his second circuit.

When Pacquiao returned from his run, he then went through ladder and hurdle work with one of his strength and conditioning trainers.

Next week, his Australian fitness coach Justin Fortune arrives. Fortune once described Pacquiao as a “physical freak”. Now you can see why. “Today is not heavy,” Pacquiao, 38, says later. “It’s light. We’re not in the hard training yet so, after this week, it will be hard.”

How much more?

“Three laps and more ladder work.”

What about the gut work? Ever get sick of that?

“Nice, I like that, so my body keeps in shape. I do it morning and afternoon my whole career.”

What about the Aussie guys?

“They’re good.”

(For the record, my colleague from The Australian, Brent Read, beat the Pacman home on the first circuit and did all the gut work with him, too. He’s presently in bed and not expected to surface for two days).

Crunch time: Pacquiao busts out one of 2600 ab crunches for the day in his Manila mansion. Photo: Chris Hyde

After avoiding the Australian media all day on Wednesday, Pacquiao could not have been more accommodating on Thursday, allowing us into some parts of his palatial home.

A few things stood out. He has a passion for chess and there are expensive chess boards dotted around the home. There are trophies behind his desk, along with a folded up American flag and other signed photos and memorabilia.

In a glass case sits a policeman’s hat, given to him as an honorary officer of the Manila police force. Given how many of them now have jobs with him as part of his security detail, it barely surprises.

Wearing his pollie hat

On Wednesday night, a different Pacquiao was hard at work. The Honourable Emmanuel D Pacquiao sat in the Philippine Senate and passionately argued his case for a new national boxing commission.

In March, Pacquiao tried to introduce a bill setting up the Philippine Boxing Commission, even though an agency already exists in this country. Evidently, it is not doing enough.

“That’s my goal: to put up a boxing commission in the Philippines,” he said on Thursday. “So it is more regulated and supervised. There have been some boxers who have died. A lot of friends of mine are injured. There is no medical check-up.”

He was then asked if, as a devout Christian, he ever worried about hurting his opponents.

“It’s nothing personal – I am doing my job,” he said.

Not every Manila local is as enamoured with Pacquiao, the politician, as much as Pacquiao, the boxer. As one cab driver said to me: “As a politician he makes a great boxer!”

Basketball also a passion

One of the men in Pacquiao’s corner and on Thursday morning’s road run was Mermann Flores, his full-time basketball skills coach. They met in 2015 while playing a match at an underground court under a church in Los Angeles.

“Before, I could guard him,” Flores said of Pacquiao, who plays point guard. “Now I can barely defend him.”

Pacquiao adores basketball as much as boxing. He’s a noted Boston Celtics fan and he will call up current and former Filipino professional players for matches here in Manila.

Do they ever take it easy on the 11-time world champion and national hero? “Only if it’s near fight time,” Flores grinned.

Fonz among the stars

Forget about the odd NRL player turning up for the Horn-Pacquiao fight – the Fonz is coming!

Yes, Henry Winkler of Happy Days fame is expected to headline a stack of Hollywood celebrities coming to the bout. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Wahlberg as well as boxing greats George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard and “Marvellous” Marvin Hagler are all lined up to attend.

Ticket sales for the July 2 fight are going strongly. According to Horn’s promoter, Duco Events, 37,000 seats have already been sold and corporate support is also very strong.

That means it has gone past the 30,000 that saw Jeff Fenech fight Azumah Nelson at Princes Park in Melbourne in 1992 and a similar crowd for the Danny Green-Anthony Mundine fight at Allianz Stadium in 2006. Pacquiao’s promoters are desperate for a crowd of about 55,000 to be there for the Horn fight, which would be the largest he’s ever fought in front of.

The Queenslanders are sure to love him when they hear what Pacquiao had to say about Origin.

“Go Blues!” he said with a smile. If Laurie Daley is looking for a halfback option who will respond well to any “Cattledog” call, I’ve found him.

Ali still the legend

Pacquiao is a hero but the late Muhammad Ali remains a legend. Some still speak fondly of his 1975 fight, the “Thrilla in Manila”, Ali’s incredible win over Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum. A mall built in his honour was built and opened the following year. Question & Answer: Mark Hughes

We speak to the Knights legend ahead of the Beanies for Brain Cancer Round in the NRL.

When were you diagnosed, mate?

In August 2013. I was 36. I had headaches and before I knew it I was in John Hunter Hospital getting a tumour removed and into chemo and radiotherapy.

Worthy cause: Mark Hughes and Danny Buderus don their headgear in Newcastle ahead of the NRL’s Beanies for Brain Cancer round. Photo: Marina Neil

You’ve turned it into a massive positive. What is something your foundation as done.

Matt Callander is a great example. Mid-40s: One minute he’s going along fine and the next minute he’s struck down and it’s a tough road. Brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer of people under-40s. Yet it gets less than five per cent of government funding. The only way to try to change that is research. The Mark Hughes Foundation was formed to raise money. We’ve sent researchers on travel grants overseas, we’ve put a bio bank ??? a massive freezer that stores tumours ??? for research, a brain cancer care nurse in Newcastle, we’ve taken another guy off the tools to do research and we’re hoping to get another person at Royal North Shore researching it.

So you’ve been taking it easy.

Real easy mate! I face cancer all the time now, people all have their stories wherever I go, and that’s what I’ve signed up for.

What about the fundraising?

We did Kokoda last year. The big one this year is base camp at Everest. There’s a theme from the 1997 grand final. Our coach that year, Malcolm Reilly, is coming. The Johns brothers, Chief, Matt Gidley, Billy Peden … We’ve got two spots left on that trip. It’s on an auction list on our website. We have this round of the NRL coming up but we also have our Beanies for Brain Cancer Week (June 19-23) where schools, sports teams, businesses, can all participate.

The 1997 grand final. When did you have your last drink?

I was 20 at the time. We just rode that emotion for as long as we could. We did street parades through Cessnock and Maitland, it was incredible.

The legend has it you were the last man standing.

The legend has it that way and I’m not going to stand in the way of that. The story goes my big mate Chief (Paul Harragon) fell asleep in front of the toilets and people couldn’t get in. I hooked him up under my arm ??? we must’ve looked like the Winfield Cup ??? and we staggered out the door and everyone rose as one and applauded.

For more information go to 苏州美甲学校网markhughesfoundation苏州美甲学校苏州美甲学校论坛. The week

The Quote

“Is it his next fight or next contract?” ??? The Filipino masseuse at Singapore Airport when told you were on your way to Manila to interview Manny Pacquiao. (The connecting flight was delayed!)

Thumbs Up

Cancer, you evil [expletive]. But if there is one tiny silver lining it is the extraordinary courage it draws out and on that score Brett Kimmorley’s emotional interview on Fox Sports’ League Life about the death of his wife Sharnie was as brave as it gets. Broke your heart but made it swell, all at the same time.

Thumbs Down

The first word that popped into my head when I saw the Sportsbet ad featuring disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson was “vomit”. We’re all for tongue-in-cheek humour around here but paying a bloke who doped at the Olympics to spruik your betting products? Really, fellas? Who’s next? Lance Armstrong? Marion Jones?

It’s a big weekend for ??? Blues coach Laurie Daley and adviser Peter Sterling as they finalise the NSW team for Origin I. It will be announced at the True Blues function on Monday night.

It’s an even bigger weekend for ??? Will Hopoate, a devout Mormon who will lace up the footy boots this Sunday for the Bulldogs against the Roosters after refusing to play on Sundays in the past.

The author travelled to Manila courtesy of Duco Events.

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