by Peter Owen Nelson
For Antonio Margarito, training is over, and the delicate maintenance of weight has begun, leading to the weigh-in late Friday. Calories are reduced. Dehydration sets in. Extraordinary lengths are taken for an extraordinary day of combat. For Manny Pacqiuao, life is never normal, but the days leading to a weigh-in remain as doused in protein shakes as any other. Wednesday night at 7:14 was as illustrative a time as any of the two wildly divergent approaches these men take to a weigh-in:
Margarito, looking muscled, though a bit gaunt in the face, finished work on the treadmill in a black sweatsuit to squeeze out water weight and slouched into a corner beside his trainer Robert Garcia. Like most fighters, Margarito has ceased mitt work by now, wary to put on any more muscle that would only add to his weight. Like Pacquiao, Margarito tends to smile a lot, but here he appears subdued. Perhaps the fight has him more serious; perhaps his weight has him less animated; perhaps he is still feeling the added media scrutiny of his character from late Tuesday for his role in a video in which he, Garcia, and Oxnard stablemate Brandon Rios laugh while mocking trainer Freddie Roach's tremors (a symptom of his 20-year struggle with Parkinson's).
Just upstairs and around the corner, at the back of over 70,000 square feet in the Longhorn Exhibit Hall sits Manny Pacquiao with his wife in a cordoned off area surrounded by a buffet and teeming entourage that grows with each passing minute. The congressman is fresh from several rounds of mitts with Roach in the ring. As his stablemate Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. spars, Pacquiao is in a festive mood: donning a cowboy hat and taking the microphone with his six-piece band, serenading the fighters in the ring with an impassioned rendition of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." Roach notes, "This is the first time he's ever asked me if he can sing, but only to be respectful of the workouts."
In his hotel room that night, Roach struggles to convince his pupil to taper off his regimen as the two meet just before Pacquiao's curfew sends guests scrambling out of his suite:
Pacquiao asked, "We run tomorrow?"
Roach replied, "Half-run. Half-walk."
Pacquiao smiled: "Maybe. Negotiations are still open."
On Thursday, Pacquiao proceeds as usual, including a light track workout (followed by sleep and then piling into black Acura SUVs with enormous "Team Pacquiao" decals). While Margarito continues a quest to cut pounds off his frame, Pacquiao wakes up four pounds under the 150-pound upper limit for this fight (according to Ariza). As usual, he consumes inordinate quantities of white rice, soup, and water - and once in his workout, he begs Roach to allow him to run mitts for "one more round" (they did four to cap off training camp).
Before that workout, Roach enters the convention center housing the ring to find avid Pacquiao fans awaiting the fighter's arrival. A security guard asks: "Should I throw these people out?"
Roach lays out his mitts and chest protector, and says, "I'll leave it up to Manny." Roach then continues, "He'll just say, 'yes.' He likes having people around, and I like my fighter happy before a fight." For Roach and Pacquiao, they hope practicing contentment will lead to its greater fulfillment on Saturday night when Pacquiao faces Margarito in the ring.