Boxing gloves and the Bible don't seem to go together. But pound for pound king, crossover superstar and sporting icon Manny Pacquiao who has been named one of the most influential athletes in the US has somehow bridged the gap.
Boxing gloves enabled him to break away from the shackles of his childhood poverty and to reach the top in a sometimes brutal sport while the Bible has helped him discover himself and his true worthiness, helping him discard his wayward ways marred by late nights, gambling and womanizing and to turn his attention to his charming wife Jinkee and their four kids.
When Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza abandoned him in the middle of their Baguio City training camp although he did get Manny's permission to go and train WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr , there were members of Team Pacquiao who condemned Ariza.
Celebrated trainer Freddie Roach minced no words when he branded Ariza's action "unprofessional" and accused the strength and conditioning coach of doing it "for the money" since he is also believed to have a share with American Billy Keane in the management of Chavez Jr.
To Roach, Ariza's actions were "unacceptable."
But Pacquiao reacted calmly and fell back on his knowledge of the scriptures by telling those who condemned Ariza not to judge the man, reflecting the words of Matthew 7 verse 1 "Judge not that you be not judged."
Significantly, while Ariza was in Baguio they did not go through the plyometrics routine but the day after he left camp, Pacquiao went through the routine assisted by childhood friend and Filipino trainer Restituto "Buboy" Fernandez, Nonoy Neri and a former amateur boxer and trainer who has impressed Roach, Marvin Somodio.
Pacquiao showed no concern over the absence of Ariza in going through his plyometric routine which is aimed at enhancing an athlete's speed, power and explosiveness.
Manny demonstrated his speed and punching power when he engaged Russian welterweight Ruslan Providknov in four rounds of sparring on April 26, Thursday, two days ahead of schedule. The Russian has an impressive ring record of 21-1 with 14 knockouts.
Pacquiao's adviser Michael Koncz described the four rounds as "a very good sparring sessions and indicated that the two fighters had "some heated exchanges."
Koncz told us that Pacquiao "looked much better than usual considering it was his first sparring session."
The best was yet to come. Pacquiao went another four rounds with Providknov on Saturday and looked much better according to Koncz. He said this is usually the case with Manny as he "gets better with every sparring day". Koncz said "his timing was much better" and he had the measure of the Russian who is known as an aggressive fighter.
Pacquiao goes about his preparations each day jogging early morning, working out at the Shape Up Gym in the afternoons and after some rest takes to his newfound inspiration of Bible study and turns himself into a preacher-man before a large and attentive audience.
Fernandez sees "a huge difference" between the Manny Pacquiao who appeared to struggle in his last couple of fights against Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez. He tells us, "Manny is like the hungry teenaged fighter who first came to Manila. He's hungry again. It's the old Manny."
Buboy who knows his childhood companion intimately, attributes this to the dramatic change in Pacquiao's lifestyle "with no late nights and no problems to think about. His only mission is to study the Bible. When you see Manny who is a congressman and is known the world over in front of you explaining the scriptures, no matter who you are, your hair will stand on end."