From boxing to jumpshots, Manny Pacquiao just knocks ‘em down.
by Tzvi Twersky // Images Chris Farina – Top Rank
Imagine for a second that you’re a renowned expert in your profession.
Imagine that you are among the best in the world at what you do.
Imagine that you’ve gained riches and fame due to your skill and expertise.
Now imagine wishing you could be doing something else.
Imagine being willing to give it all up, to risk everything, if only you could be in another line of work.
You may or may not have to conjure up any of this. This may be your story. Maybe not. But it’s definitely the way things are for Manny Pacquiao, no imagining involved.
Having won all but five of his career fights (49-3-2), the short, muscular Filipino is universally accepted as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers currently fighting. Having KO’ed 37 of his opponents, the latest being Ricky Hatton who got knocked out in the second round of their fight this past May, PacMan—as Pacquiao is known—is at the pinnacle of his ring game. Yet, Pacquiao dreams of something more…playing in the NBA.
A few days prior to Halloween, PacMan was asked: “If you could dress up as any boxer in history (and it can’t be yourself), who would it be?
His answer: “I would be “big” George Foreman. Not only because it would give me an opportunity to win a world title in an eighth weight division but…I would be big enough to play power forward in the NBA!”
Pacquiao stands all of 5-6, and depending on when his next fight is, walks around at about 140 pounds. Aside from the rare exception, you can’t play in the NBA at that size. Manny knows that, and he’s come to accept it.
So when not dodging and jabbing at opponents, PacMan plays pickup ball. Risking injury and the end of his career is not enough for him. He also owns a team in the Philippines, and frequently attends NBA games (when he’s in America).
With a fight coming up on Saturday in Las Vegas against WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, per trainer Freddie Roach’s rules, Paqcuiao hasn’t balled in about a month. Expect that to change soon after he steps out of the ring sometime late Saturday night.
Not too long ago, Manny Pacquiao took a break from hitting the bag to catch up with SLAM:
SLAM: Did you play any organized ball as a kid?
MP: Yes, I played on teams before. Now I actually own a team [PacMan Gensan] in one of the six professional leagues in the Philippines.
SLAM: When you play ball yourself what position do you play?
MP: I’m a point guard.
SLAM: Are you allowed to play basketball when you’re training?
MP: Yes, up until the last five weeks of camp basically.
SLAM: You play with your friends or you go the gym and play pickup?
MP: I play with whoever wants to play; sometimes my friend; sometimes my entire team wants to play. It’s a lot of fun for us.
SLAM: You watch a lot of NBA?
MP: Yes, I actually just [attended] a Lakers-Hawks game.
SLAM: Have you watched any games yet this year?
MP: Yes. I watched Lakers-Clippers on the first day.
SLAM: Were you impressed with Kobe?
MP: Yes, he’s really improved his team play the last couple of years.
SLAM: You’re among the best pound-for-pound boxers. Who’s the best pound-for-pound NBA player?
MP: In my opinion, I still believe it’s Allen Iverson (as does Rasheed Wallace); he’s so small and he scores more than anybody. Now, I think, Kobe and LeBron are the best, too.
SLAM: How did you come to own a team?
MP: It was a league that started five years ago [the Mindanao Visayas Basketball Association], and it’s like the NBA that each city has a team. And the city that I’m from came to me and offered a team, and I bought it. There are different conferences and seasons, and last year we won two of the four conferences.
SLAM: Are the players local products or do you bring in international players?
MP: Everybody is local, and I actually play with my brother Bobby on the team.
SLAM: Who’s better between the two of you?
MP: My brother is very good also. He’s a shooting guard. He’s fast and has a good fadeaway.
SLAM: So you guys play well in the backcourt together?
MP: Yes, a lot of alleyoops. (Laughs)
SLAM: You train hard for boxing, but basketball is a pretty good workout, too, no?
MP: Yes, especially because in boxing we don’t really run continuously for a very long time. So like boxing, the workout is short but very intense.
SLAM: You’ve said how Ron Artest and Paul Pierce can maybe box. Are there any boxers who could play ball?
MP: Yes. Roy Jones Jr. played in the past. My sparring partners and I play together in the Philippines. And Shawn Porter is pretty good. So there are a few boxers who can play ball. I think the quicker guys would do better than the big heavyweights.
SLAM: What do you love so much about the game?
MP: The teamwork and also the speed of the game. The strategy between two teams, how 10 different guys could play different styles and make it a good game.
Alas, PacMan is a boxer and not in the L.
That’s too bad for the guys who have to stand on the other side of the ring.
Want to hear more from Pacquiao? Be sure to pick up SLAM 134 when it hits newsstands!