Wakee Salud took my phone call yesterday. Like we do in almost every Manny Pacquiao fight, I call him two weeks prior to fight night.
Wakee is Manny’s closest buddy. Their friendship began in 2005 after Manny’s loss to Erik Morales. Then, Wakee invited him to Lapu-Lapu City for a promotion. When Manny trained in Cebu for Marco Antonio Barrera back in 2007, where was his second home? The Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym in Labangon.
Since 2005, Wakee has been Manny’s good luck charm, with a 15-fight winning streak. “Every fight since we became close, I’ve watched in person,” he said.
“I’m leaving for Las Vegas on June 6,” said Wakee.
Anybody else from Cebu who’s going? I asked. “Tommy, Margot and, I think, Del Mar,” he said.
I queried Wakee about Timothy Ray Bradley, Jr. The 28-year-old Californian is undefeated in 28 fights. The “Desert Storm,” as he’s nicknamed, stands 5-foot-6 and is the current WBO Light Welterweight champ.
“No chance for Bradley,” he said. “Easy fight for Manny.”
Prediction? “Knockout gyud!” he added. Not that Bradley is a patsy. It’s just that, according to Wakee, his best friend is at a completely different level today.
“Si Manny, wala na gyud mag….. kuwan-kuwan,” said Wakee, stressing on the last word whose meaning is loaded with sinister connotations. Translated in English: He’s no longer fooling around. He’s all boxing business.
Wakee considers this 2012 as Manny’s best training ever. But, I asked, doesn’t he and MP’s team always say the same thing? Doesn’t Freddie Roach always brag—to mentally scare the enemy—that Manny’s condition is the best he’s ever seen? Doesn’t this happen every pre-fight?
No, says Wakee. This time, it’s real. He saw Manny in Baguio a few weeks ago like he’s seen him in the “City of Pines” in every previous training session. Now, it’s different.
In Manny’s last two fights, Wakee admits that MP was unimpressive. Though he handily defeated Shane Mosley, the verdict on his showing was poor. Unlike the Manny of old who would destroy and annihilate, he was hesitant and unsure. He had cramps. The same with their Trilogy versus Juan Manuel Marquez. We thought Manny lost. Lahi gyud ang karaan na Manny, we all agreed.
“I watched Manny train in Baguio in those two previous fights and kibawo na ko daan (I already knew),” said Wakee. “Manny wasn’t at his best. He’d stay up very late at night. He’d skip his runs and footwork exercises. He kept on going back to Manila. That’s why I wasn’t surprised with Manny’s subpar performance in those last two fights.”
Now? “The best gyud karon ang condition ni Manny,” he said.
Wakee enumerated three reasons. The 3 P’s I call them: Pahaway. Practice. Pangadji.
Rest. Relentless Training. Prayer.
“Manny is very well rested in his training now,” said Wakee, who last saw MP at the Manila airport prior to his departure for the Wild Card Gym. “Unlike before when he’d stay up late and had too many distractions. Also, sakto gyud sa practice and training.”
Finally, the last and most essential P: prayer. “Dako gyud na usab kay (There are a lot of changes with) Manny. He keeps on reading the Bible. Everyday, he would have Bible studies. He would not be comfortable if a day passes that he doesn’t read the Bible.”
When I asked Wakee if his buddy invited him to join their Bible-reading sessions, he let out a long and hearty laugh. “Manny keeps on convincing me,” said Wakee. “Jinkee even sent me a Bible. And even Jinkee’s sisters have all become regular Bible readers.”
I told Wakee that I believe this will be Manny’s last fight. “No, no. Dili pa (not yet),” he said. “If he won’t fight Mayweather next, then I think Manny will have three more fights.”
Floyd? “Dayon gyud na (It will push through). Manny has already agreed to all his demands. Drug testing. And many others. The only problem is the money, the sharing. For me, the best solution is 40-40. They’re guaranteed 40 percent each with the winner receiving the balance. Winner gets 60 percent; loser, 40 percent. Fair, di ba?”
I agree. But first… next Sunday.