When Freddie Roach first heard Manny Pacquiao would return from a two-year layoff to challenge unbeaten unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., the Hall-of-Fame trainer had anything but fear on his mind despite this serving as one of the most dangerous tests of the PacMan's 26-year career.
"I knew [Pacquiao] was going to fight again. We were looking for the best opponents out there," Roach told "Morning Kombat" last week. "I was actually hoping he would pick Mikey Garcia. I thought he was a better fight. But when he picked Spence, I called him up and said, 'Congratulations, you are fighting a real fight.'
"I love real fights in boxing because we need more of this stuff and not just actors who are famous for whatever they do. We need two really good fighters going at it and I can't wait."
At 42, Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) has yet to show much of a sustained decline despite a style so reliant upon speed and explosion. The only eight-division champion in boxing history looked anything but 40 two years ago -- the last time we saw him in dropping then-unbeaten titleholder Keith Thurman en route to a thrilling decision win.
Yet despite how devastating Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) has looked in defeating a who's who of the modern 147-pound era, including Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, Roach believes Pacquiao will have an even easier time with the 31-year-old southpaw than he did against Thurman.
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"I think Thurman is better than Spence, to be honest with you," Roach said. "I've watched tape on both guys and studied them. I know both of those guys very, very well. Overall, I just think [Thurman] is a better fighter. I told Manny to put this guy [Spence] on his ass in the first round and the momentum will head your way. So we are going to start fast and we are in shape to go 12 hard rounds. He better be ready for a 12-round fight.
"Spence, he is a good puncher and he hits hard but I think Manny's in and out motion will get [Spence] in trouble."
A victory this big at this stage would be a heck of a capstone to close out such a legendary career for the Filipino icon, who turned pro at 106 pounds as a teenager back in 1995, when Spence had just turned five. But Roach has joined those in boxing media questioning whether this could be the final chapter in Pacquiao's fighting career just as his competing one in politics continues to heat up.
"This might be it. I keep telling Manny, 'When you retire, I'm going to retire,'" Roach said. "The thing is, this could be our last fight but I still feel that somewhere inside, because he wants to run for president -- although he'll never say that to me -- I think he wants to defend the title as president of the Philippines. I would love that. I would tell him to do that but politics, we kind of stay away from. But I think Manny is that good for maybe one more."