LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Veteran trainer Freddie Roach says Manny Pacquiao has rediscovered his aggressive streak as the one-month countdown to his battle with welterweight champion Keith Thurman got under way.
Pacquiao has entered the final phase of training for the July 20 showdown with Thurman, arriving in Los Angeles last weekend to work under long-time trainer Roach at his famed Wild Card gym.
The 40-year-old eight-division world champion has been riled by trash-talking from WBA champion Thurman ahead of the bout, with the undefeated American vowing to send Pacquiao into retirement at Las Vegas’s MGM Grand next month.
Speaking to AFP at his Los Angeles home last week, Pacquiao said Thurman’s remarks had fuelled his training camp.
Asked for his response to Thurman’s retirement jibes, Pacquiao replied: “My response to him is we’ll see. He is giving me more motivation and determination to work hard and prove that it’s not true.
“I’m happy that he’s saying that ... It gives me inspiration to focus and do the best that I can in the ring.”
Pacquiao’s measured response contrasted with the assessment of his inner circle.
Former Australian heavyweight Justin Fortune, Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach, said the Filipino icon was “pissed off” by Thurman’s remarks.
“He’s said some pretty silly stuff,” Fortune said.
Roach meanwhile told AFP that Pacquiao had been “upset” by Thurman’s comments.
“Manny’s motivated for all his fights and this time, this guy’s talking a little trash,” Roach said.
“So that helps. Manny has got a bit upset. He wants to win this one a little bit more than usual.”
Pacquiao has carried that sense of grievance into his training sessions. For the first time in several fights, Roach is wearing protective padding around his torso during his mitt sessions.
“I was really happy I brought my padding back,” Roach told AFP. “Because I haven’t worn that in a while. I came up with that idea because I didn’t want Manny to go easy on his opponents.
“We went 10 rounds yesterday and he was really happy to see I had the padding.
“It does make a difference. I want him going full blast on the mitts.”
Roach meanwhile said he believed that while Pacquiao’s devout religious beliefs had eradicated his killer instinct, he had upped his aggression.
“Manny’s work ethic is great,” Roach said. “He works hard, and is incredibly dedicated. But he doesn’t have the killer instinct that he used to have.
“I think religion took that away from us. For a while he would tell me that he just needs to beat his opponents and not knock them out. But he doesn’t say that any more. He’s getting more aggressive.
“He was more aggressive in his last fight than I’ve seen him in years. I hope that continues into this fight. Because when Manny’s aggressive he’s a much better fighter.”
Roach, who was briefly exiled from the Filipino star’s corner before returning to help him defeat Adrien Broner in January, said his differing views on religion with Pacquiao remained a bone of contention.
“That’s an issue we don’t see eye-to-eye on, so we try not to talk about it,” he said. “Part of that I don’t like is that it has nothing to do with boxing, in my opinion. In the ring, you’re on your own.
“The guy who prays the most is not going to win the fight.”