MACAU – Manny Pacquiao is often up at 6 a.m. on the Sunday morning of a fight weekend, usually having not gone to sleep as he celebrates a victory the night before.
This weekend though, he will be just awaking and getting out of bed to prepare to take on Chris Algieri, as Pacquiao seeks not just his 57th career victory but also his first knockout for more than five years.
In order to align the fight at the Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena with Saturday night prime time in the United States, the boxers will be in the rare position of squaring off at around noon local time, with Chinese clocks 13 hours ahead of the east coast. Hence, Pacquiao’s early wake-up call and a requisite shift in schedule.
“It is not always the easiest thing, trying to get Manny to do something different,” Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach told USA Today Sports. “But one thing we have insisted on has been that he gets to bed early and is getting eight hours sleep. He will be up early, we will get him ready, and there will be no stopping him.”
Pacquiao is famously nocturnal and has been known to have unpredictable resting patterns and a preference for sparring sessions later in the day. Reporters have sometimes been kept waiting hours for interviews if the Filipino star is sleeping and does not wish to be interrupted.
However, there is a strong sense that he wants to prove a point against Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs), with the New Yorker a heavy underdog among both bookies and experts. At 35, Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) seems hungrier than ever for a showdown with Floyd Mayweather and may figure that a resounding victory will enhance public demand for the fight boxing craves more than any other.
Realistically, if that mega-bout was going to happen, it probably would have happened already. Mayweather will only step in the ring with Pacquiao if and when it suits him, and that day may never come.
Even so, Pacquiao seems energized and his upbeat mentality has largely brushed away concerns he might take the comparatively unheralded Algieri lightly.
“I will be ready,” Pacquiao said. “The time makes no difference. Well, it is a little bit different, but it is not a problem for me. I am ready to fight, it doesn’t matter if it is daytime or night time.”
While Macau is a growing center for big-time boxing, the American pay-per-view audience is still vital to this fight’s bottom line success — and the final total that Pacquiao ends up pocketing. HBO had no interest in moving from its usual boxing timeslot and risk going head-to-head football telecasts.
Given the demand for tickets, the Macau audience, made up primarily of wealthy gamblers and the rising middle class of mainland China, has little problem with breakfast boxing — the undercard begins at 8 a.m. local time.
“With the live audience out here you are starting with a fresh slate,” promoter Bob Arum said. “They are new to boxing so they are not going to turn around and say, ‘Why is it at this time?’ They are just hungry to see great fights.”
Pacquiao’s speed is expected to be too much for Algieri, who showed bravery and intelligence in battling to a surprise victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in June, despite suffering a serious eye injury and being knocked down twice in the opening round.
Algieri, 30, who at 5-foot-10 is four inches taller than Pacquiao, hopes his height and reach advantage may work in his favor, but Pacquiao looks to have the edge in power, experience and speed.
Yet the enthusiasm of Algieri, a former world kickboxing champ who has won all 20 of his professional boxing contests, seemingly knows no bounds.
“I have a chance to beat one of the greats and set up my career just the way I want it to be,” Algieri said. “Do you think I care if it is the morning or not? I wish the fight was right now.”
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