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UCLA

Training in Title Town

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By Mark Davis

Published Jul 1, 2015 8:00 AM


Filipino Fighter Manny Pacquiao chose to train at Drake Stadium for his bout with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

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Photo by Michal Czerwonka

Pacquiao versus Mayweather might have fallen a bit short of fight of the century, but preparing for the May 2 bout still required discipline and effort from world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao. And with a record 57 wins to just six losses and two draws, plus world titles in eight weight divisions, the 36-year-old Filipino fighter’s stellar credentials are indisputable. So you know any training facility he uses has to be state-of-the-sport.

And where better to find it than at UCLA?

Last March, when times called for intense training, the boxer looked to the home of champions, UCLA Drake Track and Field Stadium.

Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach, Justin Fortune, a boxing icon in his own right, cited Drake’s excellent “equipment, facilities, gadgets and other components” as reasons for choosing the facility.

Despite predictions from the wags at BruinsNation.com that limited access to parking would give Pacquiao more privacy to train, wherever the boxer goes, crowds appear.

Still photographers and camera crews, including a major Filipino TV outlet crew and a documentary crew, captured Pacquiao’s every movement as he ran laps and duckwalked the stadium stairs, tracing the path of the dreaded “Drake snake.” Pacquiao’s team of up-and-coming boxers, clad in bright blue uniforms emblazoned with their “Kayote Boyz” moniker, sparred with the champ.

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Photo by Michal Czerwonka

Pacman, the boxer’s loyal Jack Russell terrier, yelped excitedly whenever Manny was nearby. Dozens of fans, including students, staff, faculty and members of the general public, did their best to snap selfies with the quick-moving Pacquiao in the frame.

Even his vocal coach, Helena Buscema, turned up, adhering to Pacquiao’s one rule for his entourage: If you’re showing up, then you’re working out. Pacquiao isn’t the only champion athlete looking to tap into UCLA’s winning vibe this spring. Others recently spotted training at Drake include pugilists Ray Beltran and Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin; NBA guard Nate Robinson; the Washington Redskins’ DeSean Jackson; twotime Olympic medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson ’06; and former Seattle Storm soccer star Rick Blubaugh.

While Drake was home field to former UCLA soccer and Women’s World Cup team members and Olympic gold medalists Sydney Leroux ’12 and Lauren Cheney, the very discriminating can scope out the next generation of champions there, such as potential Olympians from UCLA track and field Ida Storm and Marcus Nilsson.

As for Pacquiao, he might even consider returning to UCLA for additional training — perhaps through the stellar curriculum offered at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. At 32, he was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives. And if items on the New Pacland (a news site devoted to all things Manny) are to be believed, Pacquiao may leave the boxing ring for a very different fighting arena. Reports suggest he is considering a run for governor of the province of Sarangani — the next step in an eventual run for president of his homeland. His wife, Jinkee, currently serves as that province’s vice governor.

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