Manny Pacquiao with sparmates Abie Lopez (left) and Arnold Gonzalez at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.
Jhay Otamias
Sparmates like Manny Pacquiao’s chances
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Manny Pacquiao’s sparmates Abraham (Abie) Lopez and Arnold Gonzalez are convinced the Filipino icon will beat Keith Thurman in their WBA welterweight unification championship showdown in Las Vegas on July 20 even as the fight is expected to be a tough grind.

Pacquiao engaged Lopez and Gonzalez over four rounds each in sparring when he opened training camp at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles last week, leaving a strong impression on the hired guns. Lopez, 23, is 5-9 and has a 69 1/2-inch reach while Gonzalez, 24, is 5-7. They both fight like Thurman who is 30 and 5-7 1/2 with a 69-inch wingspan. Pacquiao, 40, is 5-5 1/2 with a 67-inch reach. MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons and trainer Freddie Roach assembled Pacquiao’s sparring team. Gonzalez was one of Pacquiao’s sparring partners in the training camp for Adrien Broner early this year.

Lopez said it’s an “honor and blessing” to work with Pacquiao. “It’s my first time sparring with Manny,” said Lopez who describes himself as a dedicated fighter. “I know later on, I’m going to learn a lot. But from him, I know I’m going to learn a lot more. Manny has a heavy hand. He’s very quick. I see no speed going down. His power’s there. He’s not losing his speed. Manny is Manny. I love the way he moves, his jab, his right (hand). Manny’s not done yet. I’m very confident. Manny’s going to do great and do the best he possibly can. Hopefully, he’ll come out with the victory.”

Lopez totes a record of 10-2-1, with 3 KOs. He lost a four-round majority decision to Alfonzo Olvera in his pro debut then ran a streak of 11 unbeaten fights, including a draw, and last November, dropped a six-round verdict to Jesus Bibiano.

Gonzalez, a two-time Golden Gloves national amateur champion, works out of George Foreman III’s Everybody Fights Gym in New York. He turned pro last February, outpointing Stacey Anderson in a four-rounder. “On our first day of sparring, Manny looked really sharp,” said Gonzalez. “I can tell he’s been training in the Philippines. I was with Manny for the Broner camp and they invited me back to work for the Thurman camp. I don’t think age matters in Manny’s case. I remember sparring for the Broner fight and he’s just as sharp. His movement is just as good, he’s moving side to side, using angles, his feet are fast. He’s still got it.”

Gonzalez said Pacquiao is in for a hard fight but should prevail. “Thurman’s a young and strong fighter,” he said. “Thurman’s been hurt in the past and I can see Manny hurting him. So I would say a 10th or 11th round stoppage for Manny.”

What sets Thurman apart from other fighters is his insight, according to his trainer Dan Birmingham. He’s often described as cerebral. “It’s always been my dream to accomplish as much as I can accomplish,” said Thurman, quoted by Gary Shelton in The Ring Magazine. “Nobody’s going to stop me but me. I always say this: I’ve got 12 rounds to hit you one time. The odds are in my favor. I feel like a professor or a doctor, someone who is well-acquainted with speed, technique, footwork, stamina, angles. I’m thinking all these forms of attack at a rapid pace every single round.” 

Since arriving in L. A. last June 15, Pacquiao has alternated morning runs at Griffith Park and Pan Pacific Park while working out at the Wild Card Gym in the afternoon. Los Angeles-based photographer Jhay Otamias closely monitors Pacquiao’s daily grind.

“The senator’s looking good,” said Gibbons. Pacquiao started sparring in Manila a month ago with Australian Tim Tszyu, Frenchman Jaber Zayani and Filipino Jestoni Autida. The plan is to move up from eight rounds to 10 to 12 then down to 10 to eight to taper off a week before the bout.

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