When WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao broke training camp recently to play for the professional basketball team he owns in the Philippines, it raised questions about how seriously he was preparing for his Nov. 22 title fight with Chris Algieri in Macau, China.
Trainer Freddie Roach added to the perception that their camp has little respect for Huntington's Algieri during a conference call Thursday when he said Pacquiao has some sparring partners "who are better than our opponent."
Asked to clarify that remark, Roach said he was referring primarily to unbeaten Ukrainian light welterweight Viktor Postol, whose 5-11 height, long reach and strong jab mimic the 5-10 Algieri's major assets. "Postol is as talented as Algieri, and he has a better left hand," Roach said.
When it was suggested that he was disrespecting Algieri, Roach responded, "Sometimes, the truth hurts."
Despite those comments, Roach knows the danger Algieri poses. He trained heavily favored Ruslan Provodnikov, who knocked down Algieri twice in the first round of their June fight only to lose the WBO light-welterweight title by a split decision. That's why Roach felt it was important to test Pacquiao with Postol, who is rated the No. 5 140-pounder by BoxRec.com, ahead of No. 7 Algieri.
"Postol is smart," Roach said. "I see Manny having trouble with him. He makes Manny think. That's something Algieri will do, also."
Size could be an issue for the 5-6 Pacquiao, which is why he negotiated a 144-pound catchweight to limit how big Algieri can come into the fight. "I'm excited to fight a tall opponent like Algieri," said Pacquiao, who beat 5-11 Antonio Margarito. "I know what I'm doing."
You would think size and the risk of injury before a big fight also would be an issue for Pacquiao in basketball, but he chose to make his professional hoops debut in his team's opener.
"It was on a Sunday when I wasn't training," Pacquiao said. "I didn't play long. I just played to encourage my team. We won. I felt very excited because it was in front of 52,000 [fans]."
Roach and promoter Bob Arum said Pacquiao promised not to play basketball again before the fight. Pacquiao is head coach, but he will rely on his assistants until after the fight.
Arum added that he expects the pay-per-view numbers to fall in the range of 750,000 to 900,000 buys because Algieri has generated publicity that has reached beyond hardcore boxing fans to the public. Should Algieri pull an upset, Arum said the contract calls for a Pacquiao rematch in his next fight.
"Algieri is one of the most confident fighters I've run across," Arum said. "He's convinced he's ready to give the fight of his life. If he wins, he'd be a huge attraction."