The adulation for Manny Pacquiao is growing by the day. On his cellphone Wednesday, promoter Bob Arum was told 2,000 more seats were sold, meaning 38,000 tickets have been bought for Pacquiao's world welterweight title fight against Joshua Clottey on March 13 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
This is the disparity boxing creates. Future glory and perhaps a fifth straight Pacquiao knockout, televised to the world and shown to the Dallas masses in person and on the 160-foot-wide high-definition screen above the ring, await. But this also requires the grunt work that Pacquiao performs religiously, as he did Wednesday.
"There's no such thing as an easy fight," Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach said about Clottey.
The resounding theme of that message — don't let up — has been long embraced by Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts), who has devoutly followed Roach's directions at the gritty Wild Card Gym in Hollywood to become the fighter considered the best in the world.
How? Two important disciplines stick out. Pacquiao's attention to rapid and balanced footwork causes opponents to repeatedly lament after their defeat that they never saw a decisive punch coming. And Pacquiao, a southpaw, has labored to perfect a right-handed punch few others can match.
"His overall movement — I've never seen a fighter develop their ‘other' hand to the extent Manny has," Arum said. "At this point, his right is as good as his left. You think he's going to jab, and he throws a hook off the jab."
Pacquiao's willingness to learn has led to his sensational run of accomplishments — the seven weight-class world titles, TKOs in three of his last four fights (against David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto) with the 2009 knockout of the year against Ricky Hatton thrown in. He works unflinchingly in and around Wild Card, wrapping his hands in a stifling hot closet, jumping rope for hours, running so long on the concrete of Hollywood that he's recently developed shin splints.
"Everyone thinks he wins because of his hand speed, but it's his foot speed," Roach said. "You have to make both feet work together. His hands and feet are in balance, and that's the difference between him and so many others. It started coming together before the Diaz fight [in June 2008]. We work on patterns, drills, and by the fight most people don't know what's up. He's at the point now where it's all just about reactions, no thinking."
"It makes a good balance," Pacquiao said Wednesday. "It's been a good strategy."
Pacquiao said he's embraced that extra work dating to 2006, when he beat Erik Morales by 10th-round TKO.
What the public gets treated to now is the fine-tuning.
"Manny and Freddie are the best [fighter-trainer] combination, better than [ Muhammad] Ali and [Angelo] Dundee," Arum said. "Ali got to a point where he knew it all, and quit listening. Manny still listens."