Maybe it was authentic. Maybe it was choreographed. Either way, as HBO’s 24/7 cameras showed footage of the Wednesday morning gym skirmish between members of the Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios entourages, documentary narrator Liev Schreiber was ready with just the right pot-stirring words.
“For all the pomp and pageantry, spectacle and splendor, boxing is at its heart about conflict,” he recited dramatically. “No matter how much they might enjoy themselves along the way, never forget that violence is their most effective form of communication.”
And just in case you were still deciding whether to plunk down the cash for Saturday night’s pay-per-view card from China’s gambling capital, the distinctive-voiced title star of Showtime’s popular Ray Donovan series had one more gravity-sopped go-home line.
“The sense of conflict at the heart of Pacquiao-Rios has proven to be contagious,” he said. “The final consequences will be revealed Saturday night.”
The weigh-in will be carried live on HBO on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by a rebroadcast of all three 24/7 episodes beginning at 7:30 p.m. The fight will be carried on the cable giant's pay-per-view arm beginning Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.
He Said, He Said
When it came to the actual nuts and bolts of the brief gym tete-a-tete between the two camps, the roles of victimizer and victim are clearly in the eyes of the beholders.
To hear Rios trainer Robert Garcia tell it, the undue aggression of Freddie Roach was the product of genuine concern that his charge is on the verge of a career-snuffing defeat.
“They definitely disrespected us,” Garcia said. “But it doesn’t bother us. It motivates us. They’re nervous. They’re scared. They’re worried.”
Meanwhile, Roach, who’s shown no inclination to hide his lack of affection for both Garcia and his fighter, merely continued the same mantra that his man is in for little more than a glorified workout come Saturday night.
“This is not a hard fight,” he said. “It’s an experienced, good fighter who’s fighting a tough guy. Tough guys don’t win fights; good fighters win fights. Everything he does, we do better. He’s lazy. Lazy people aren’t going to beat Manny Pacquiao.”
Fit and Trim
Though verbal chaos was unfolding around him in various directions, Pacquiao, to his credit, looked like the same determined, prepared fighter he’s been in each of his previous 24/7 star turns.
He looked to be in tip-top shape while working the mitts in the ring with Roach. He was pronounced ready to go by the trainer upon completing a 12-round sparring session with three partners—including Chinese pro Zou Shiming—going four rounds apiece.
“Once you start fighting him, you feel the full effect of his speed,” Shiming said.
The training camp was the first Pacquiao has had in his hometown of General Santos City. The fight in China is his first outside of the United States since he fought Oscar Larios in the Philippines on July 2, 2006.
“He knows what he needs to do in this fight,” Roach said. “I’m very confident. We had a good training camp in General Santos. I’m really happy where Manny’s at right now. He’s ready to go.”
Carrying the Load
Between cross-ocean plane goofiness and mid-afternoon Skype sessions with his kids, the third-episode cameras portrayed Rios more as a fun-loving family man and less as the foul-mouthed thug he’d resembled in Episodes 1 and 2.
Stepping up to assume his role as the latter was Garcia, who reacted angrily to Roach’s Episode 2 claim that he was a superior trainer and that his California-based Wild Card gym was the sport’s best.
Roach was named the Boxing Writers Association of America’s trainer of the year four times between 2006 and 2010, while Garcia—who also works with Nonito Donaire and Mikey Garcia—was voted the BWAA’s top trainer in 2012.
Garcia won 34 of 37 fights and was the IBF’s 130-pound champion in a pro career that stretched from 1992 to 2001, while Roach was 40-13 in an eight-year run between 1978 and 1986.
“They should be embarrassed to fu*king say that,” Garcia said, at the start of a half-minute barrage in which he dropped no less than 10 more F-bombs. “I’m 38 years old and I’m already accomplishing what he’s accomplished. The mother fu*ker will be asking me for a job.”
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from HBO's 24/7 Pacquiao/Rios, which aired on Nov. 21, 2013.