LAS VEGAS – His coming rematch with Timothy Bradley marks the 15th time that Manny Pacquiao is doing a fight in this city where anything can happen.
It’s his 15th fight here since June 23, 2001 when as a late replacement he knocked out then IBF super-bantamweight champion Lehlo Ledwaba.
Pacquiao, young and skinny, fought in the undercard of Oscar dela Hoya’s show.
Nobody knew him then.
Saturday’s 12-round bout for Bradley’s WBO welterweight title will also mark Pacquiao’s 10th stint at the MGM Grand where he won some of his biggest fights.
Las Vegas or MGM is second home to Pacquiao.
Yet, after settling in inside his luxurious suite on the 61st floor of Mandalay Bay, the 35-year-old boxing legend said it felt like it was his first time here.
“It feels like when I was starting out and I wanted to become a world champion,” said Pacquiao as he sat on a velvet sofa, in a black leather jacket, blue jeans and Converse shoes.
“Parang ito yung break ko na lumaban ako para sa championship (It’s like my break for the world title),” added Pacquiao.
The last time he fought here in Vegas, in December of 2012, he was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez also at the MGM.
Prior to the loss to his Mexican foe, Pacquiao dropped a controversial decision to Bradley. But he has moved on with a lopsided win over Brandon Rios in Macau just five months ago.
“Excited ako. Masaya tayo,” he said.
Pacquiao sparred four rounds at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles at noontime before boarding an elegant SUV for a four-hour drive to Las Vegas.
Joining the Filipino congressman in the pilgrimage was more than a hundred family members and friends in a convoy that included a huge bus, with 56 passengers, and dozens of vehicles.
Pacquiao welcomed everybody to his suite where a buffet of favorite Filipino dishes lay on a table.
Pacquiao’s pet, a Jack Russel, roamed the suite.
“I’m really excited. I’m a hundred percent ready,” said the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight classes.
Monday’s two-hour workout at the Wild Card Gym capped a month-long training in LA. Sessions were held mostly behind closed doors.
Here in Vegas, five days to the fight, Pacquiao will have a couple more visits to the gym. On Friday, the official weigh-in will take place at the Grand Garden Arena.
“Maintain na lang,” Pacquiao said.