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Inside Manny Pacquiao’s Fight Club

Spend the day with Pacquiao at the Wild Card Boxing Club, as he prepares for his megafight with Floyd Mayweather

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao trains at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California on March 19th, 2015.

Leslie dela Vega

Last month, Rolling Stone sent author Michael Weinreb to Los Angeles, to spend a day with boxer Manny Pacquiao as he trained for his May 2 fight with Floyd Mayweather. Turns out, the sparring and speed-bag work was only part of the story – the constant circus that follows his every move was impossible to ignore (Pacquiao is arguably the most famous fighter in the world, after all.)

"There is the inner circle, there is the outer circle and there are the ever-widening concentric circles of hangers-on who drift about the periphery like a distant star hovering around the sun," Weinreb writes of the scene at Wild Card. "There are the members of the Filipino media who show up every day, and there are the members of the American media who show up in fits and starts, and there are the HBO executives, and there is the promoter and there is the camera crew the promoter hired to document everything. There is the security detail and there are the pressmen and the managers and the canines and the trainers and the celebrities, because it would not be a Pacquiao camp without the celebrities."

It also would not be a Pacquiao camp without lunch at his favorite Thai restaurant, Nat's, a few jokes from entourage members Buboy and Nonoy or trainer Freddie Roach filling the swear jar he's set up at ringside ($5 per profanity, by the way). Through it all, photographer Leslie dela Vega snapped away, and here's her photo diary of the day with the Pride of the Philippines.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

The Door to Wild Card

The entrance to the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. Manny Pacquiao does his work on the ground floor of the gym with longtime trainer Freddie Roach, who knows the stakes are high for this five-years-in-the-making fight: "I feel we have to win this fight," he says. "This is a must-win situation. We don't want to be second best. Second best no one remembers." 

Freddie Roach

Leslie dela Vega

Freddie Roach Gets Ready to Work

Roach, Pacquiao's longtime trainer, first opened Wild Card 20 years ago, with boxing equipment donated by actor Mickey Rourke (who swore his fighting days were behind him). As he prepares for another day of working with his prized client, Roach is also planning for the day Pacquiao decides to hang 'em up. When asked if he hopes the May 2 fight with Mayweather would be his client's last, Roach replies "I would like that."

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Manny Pacquiao Makes His Entrance

Hands taped, Manny Pacquiao prepares for another day at Wild Card. Moments like this are rare as he fine tunes his training for Mayweather, but despite the constant media attention and throngs of fans, Pacquiao maintains he's happiest in a crowd. "I love people around me," he says. "That's what I want." 

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Prepares for War

As one of his sparring partners gets loose in the background, Pacquiao begins his mental preparations for the day's work. And though his opponent may engage in plenty of trash talk, Pac's not about to start a war of words with Mayweather: "Usually I don't comment on his personal life," is all he'll say.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Gets Loose

Pacquiao begins his in-ring work with a stretching program. Soon after, Roach had all members of the media removed from the gym, so he and his client could have some one-on-one time. That's par for the course: Recently, Roach asked comedian Dave Chappelle to leave a work-out session.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Gets Ready for the ‘Fight of the Century’

After stretching, Pacquiao takes a quick break to chat with his trainers. Though he's usually the silent type, even he'll admit that his May 2 fight with Mayweather will be one for the ages. "It's going to be a historic fight," he says. "Fight of the Century. People will remember this fight. I will not forget this fight."

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao’s Weapons of Choice

Two pairs of Pacquiao's customized boxing gloves sit ready at ringside. Is he prepared to use them on Mayweather? Roach certainly thinks so: "He knows he's a bad person," the trainer says of Pacquiao's opponent.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Gets Slick

Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao's assistant trainer, applies Vaseline to his face as he prepares to spar. Another member of Team Pacquiao, Nonoy Neri, looks on. Soon after, it was time to get down to business, and all members of the media were shown the door.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Readies the Rock

Pacquiao's right hand, taped and ready for action. Early in his career, Pac was a feared knockout artist, though he hasn't KO'ed an opponent since 2009, when he floored Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas. Still, the belief within Wild Card is that the streak will end on May 2.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Lacing ‘Em Up

Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri tie up Pacquiao's gloves for his sparring session. His fight against Floyd Mayweather was just six weeks away, and Roach was beginning to ramp up Pac's punching: "He'll be ready, that's for sure," Roach laughs.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

The Double-End Dance

Building his hand-eye coordination and getting his rhythm down pat, Pacquiao works the double-end bag as his training team watches (and offers encouragement) in the background.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao’s Pumped

After the double-bag, Pacquiao feeds off the energy in the room and begins working the floor, shuffling his feet and jabbing at air. After five years of false starts, he finally gets Floyd Mayweather on May 2.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Gets Fast and Furious

As his trainer looks on with a timer, Pacquiao pummels the speed bag, filling the air inside Wild Card with a constant, continuous cadence. For a former politician and part-time pop singer back in his native Philippines, he hits hard.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Fortune Smiles Upon Pacquiao

Justin Fortune, Pacquiao's conditioning coach and a former fighter, speaks with his client during training. Part of Pac's regiment for the Mayweather fight includes daily roadwork sessions in Los Angeles' Griffith Park.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Nobody Puts Manny in a Corner

Pacquiao practices his footwork in the ring. His speed may very well be a deciding factor in his fight against Mayweather; and as he readies himself for the battle of his career, Pac's putting in extra work to perfect his pace and space.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Waiting Outside Wild Card

Fans line up outside the Wild Card Boxing Club, in the hopes of meeting Manny. On most days, they arrive before the fighter himself, and continue to grow in number as the day progresses. On this afternoon, security had to be called in to keep the crowd from getting out of hand.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Lunch With Manny

Pacquiao finds a moment to relax behind closed doors at Nat's Thai Food. It's where he eats lunch most days, and today, he decides to head into the kitchen and cook for his team (and a pair of hungry folks from Rolling Stone, too).

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Cooks It Up

Pacquiao might not be as comfortable in Nat's cramped kitchen as he is in a boxing ring, but that didn't stop him from heading back behind the counter and cooking chicken fried rice for his training team, entourage and members of the media.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao’s Working for Tips

Though he's taking a break from training, Pacquiao is still on the job: During lunch, he keeps checking around the table to see if everyone has enough to eat, and if your plate is empty, he's ready to refill it for you. Let's see Floyd Mayweather do that.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Manny Meets His Fans

After eating at Nat's Thai Food, Pacquiao speaks with fans outside the restaurant. But not for long; his training team quickly whisks him back to Wild Card, where he still has hours of training ahead of him. May 2 will be here faster than he can imagine, and he knows Mayweather will be ready.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Signs Away

After Pacquiao eats at Nat's Thai Food, he exits the restaurant to a throng of autograph seekers and members of press. Undaunted, he makes his way through the crowd, signing whatever object is placed before him and even cracking a few jokes with his fans.

Manny Pacquiao

Leslie dela Vega

Pacquiao Rolls Out

Pacquiao and his brother, Bobby, a former fighter, climb into Pac's car and head home, where Roach says the training will only continue. "The work doesn't stop," he laughs, "because we can't stop."

In This Article: Boxing, sports

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