By NICK GIONGCO
LOS ANGELES — It was a day for prayer and eventually a time for relaxation for Manny Pacquiao on Sunday as the Filipino ring star spent his day off surrounded by friends and supporters looking as though the coming week will be filled with more fun and games.
Less than a week before he faces Tim Bradley in a rematch on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Pacquiao belted out some of his favorite foreign and OPM songs, presided over a weight loss contest that saw him shell out $100,000 in cash prizes and played in a darts tournament that he organized.
This all happened in a span of a few hours inside his lavish mansion near the chic area of Hancock Park where he has been holding out whenever he is not sweating it out at the Wild Card Boxing Club just a few blocks away in Hollywood.
Still, Pacquiao’s kind demeanour is not a sign that he is taking it nice and easy as he just can’t wait to enter the ring.
Pacquiao is slated to leave for Las Vegas after his last sparring session here on Monday and the 35-year-old is drooling over the opportunity of strutting his wares anew in the very same venue where he made a rousing introduction 13 years ago.
“I get excited just by thinking of returning to Las Vegas,” said Pacquiao, who last fought in Sin City in December 2012 when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out cold in the sixth round of a fight that he was beginning to dominate.
In his lone appearance last year, Pacquiao was brought to Macau where he outpointed Brandon Rios, a fight that was specially made to revive his career.
His confidence level buoyed by the Rios victory, Pacquiao is pursuing the job of exacting payback against a guy he was supposed to beat up but ended up getting beat instead, albeit on a controversial manner.
Pacquiao said Bradley’s antics and brand of trash-talk, which is becoming to sound like Ali-esque, is starting to get under his skin.
“In this fight, I will prove that I still have it…that it is premature to count me out,” added Pacquiao, whose fight on US soil will be his 24th.
Bradley, meanwhile, is deeply entrenched in his own buildup in Palm Springs, which is about an hour-and-a-half drive from here.
Denied respect even after being awarded a split decision over Pacquiao in June 2012, Bradley is looking to settle the issue once and for all.
“I want to win by a knockout…not by a decision,” said the 30-year-old, a 2-1 underdog against one of boxing’s all-time greats.
Joel Diaz, Bradley’s long-time trainer, shares the belief that they can’t afford to rely on the scorecards this time.
“We won’t win by a decision if it’s a close fight,” said Diaz.
However, Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach thinks the scoresheets will be meaningless in the end.
“Manny’s going to win by knockout and he is going to look good doing it,” said Roach.
It’s fight week and expect the war of words to escalate further.