The Pugilist

How Pacquiao’s planning his first KO in nearly five years

The Pugilist

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The journey toward redemption for Manny Pacquiao resumed on Tuesday, when his workout was so difficult that all he wanted to do when he stepped out of trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym was to go to sleep.

Pacquiao had arrived in Los Angeles late Saturday after conducting the first part of his training camp in the Philippines. He took Sunday off, and then slept in on Monday while fighting off jet lag.

So he began the American portion of perhaps the most important training camp he's faced in years on Tuesday by putting in a long, hard day that by end had left him with next-to-no energy.

"We're working very hard," Pacquiao said, almost as if by rote.

Even though Pacquiao remains one of boxing's biggest stars – No. 2 in the world behind Floyd Mayweather Jr. – his fight against Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on April 12 brings him to a sort of crossroads.

He's vowed to get a knockout, which he hasn't done since he stopped Miguel Cotto on November 14, 2009, in the bout that truly spurred calls for a match with Mayweather.

The theme of camp since the day Roach arrived in the Philippines last month was to do everything possible to prepare Pacquiao to finish Bradley. It not only would reinvigorate his fan base but end the growing sense that Pacquiao's best days are behind him.

Bradley scored a highly controversial decision over Pacquiao in 2012 in a fight most people thought Pacquiao won.

Pacquiao rocked Bradley early in that fight, but seemingly let Bradley off the hook and was content to box down the stretch.

He appeared on the verge of finishing Juan Manuel Marquez in his next fight, but as he went for it, he got knocked out cold with a colossal counterpunch from Marquez.

Pacquiao took nearly a year off, and out-boxed Brandon Rios, but appeared as if he were playing it safe and didn't want to take any risks.

That's good for a lot of fighters, but it's not what has made Pacquiao rich, famous and popular.

He knows it, and he's all about changing things for the Bradley fight. Of course, he's said that so frequently over the years that it tends to become background noise, but there is an edge to his voice now that wasn't there before.

"The focus this time is on aggressiveness," Pacquiao said. "I don't think he's going to try to go toe-to-toe with me, but I have to be more aggressive than I had been. I have been working on being aggressive."

One way that Roach has tried to convince him to do that is by doubling and tripling on his jab. He has a fast, accurate and damaging jab that creates other openings for him.

Pacquiao doesn't like to jab much against someone fast like Bradley – "He'll just block it and back away," Pacquiao said – but Roach said he thinks the jab will be important.

"I told Manny the other day, 'Manny, you have the best jab in the world and it drives me crazy that you don't use it,'" Roach said. "He can knock guys out with his jab. It's fast, hard and quick and I've been telling him he needs to use it more. In sparring, I've been getting him to double, triple and even throw four at a time. It sets up his left hand well."

If that's a strategy, though, Pacquiao didn't have much to say about it. He was weary and not interested in talking much about the intricacies of his jab and how he might apply it against Bradley.

He all but said, "I want to go to sleep," to a reporter querying him about Roach's words.

He also seemed to contradict himself. At one point, Pacquiao said jabbing against Bradley made little sense because he'd just block it and back away. But earlier, Pacquiao said that Roach's jab-heavy strategy will be critical to his success on April 12.

"This time, the focus is on using the jab," Pacquiao said. "It's correct to use the jab for this fight."

Now, perhaps Roach and Pacquiao are playing a game and trying to leave doubts in Bradley's mind about what strategy they plan to implement.

What's more likely is that Pacquiao had no interest in doing an interview and said what he had to do to get it over with, get out of the gym and get back to his home, where he could get some rest.

A member of his team later told Yahoo Sports that conditioning coach Justin Fortune "pretty much kicked his [butt]" on Tuesday with the training he put him through.

Whatever it was, his lack of interest in speaking about the fight will be long forgotten should he do as he has vowed since the fight was signed and go out and attack Bradley.

Roach was quick to point out that he indeed will make every attempt to do that.

"A lot of times I tell Manny he needs to go for the knockout and he says, 'Yeah, you're right,' and then in the fight, his compassionate side kicks in and he doesn't do it," Roach said. "But the difference this time is that Bradley said it to him. Bradley said at that first press conference that Manny lost his killer instinct.

"That must have bothered him, because more than once, Manny has said to me, 'Can you believe he said that to me?' And you can see by the way he's working, he wants to give people what they want, which is a knockout."

Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports

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