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Pacman gets OK to play pro ball

GENERAL SANTOS--Impressed by the gains achieved by World Boxing Organization welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao in his initial preparations since pitching camp here for his fight with American Chris Algieri, trainer Freddie Roach has given his prized pupil permission to play for his Team Kia on opening day of the Philippine Basketball Association’s 40th season on Oct.19 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

“Yeah, he asked my permission to play on opening day for the fans, so I told him I’ll allow him to see action for only one minute,” Roach said with a laugh following a rigorous 12-round session Friday at the Pacman Gym here.

“What if he exceeds a minute?” one reporter asked Roach.

“I myself will take him out. I’m coming with him to Manila, sit on the team bench and act as the head coach with him as my assistant, “ Roach said. “Nah, of course he can play as long as he wishes, if that’s what it will take to make the fans happy. I just told him to take care not to get injured.”

Roach added: “Any kind of injury that can postpone or completely cancel his fight can mean the end of his boxing career and all the years he’s been in this profession of choice.”

The American trainer arrived here Wednesday with two of Pacquiao’s sparring partners -- welterweights San Martyniouk and Mike Jones.

“I know how tough and sometimes rough basketball games here are and all I beg his would-be rivals is to please take care of Manny. You can block his shots, steal the ball away, but please don’t hurt him, if you, indeed, treasure him as your boxing icon,” he pleaded.

“Like boxing, Manny’s doing this not only for his passion for basketball, but to make basketball fans happy,” he said. “Much as I don’t want him to play, especially in this period of preparations for a coming fight, I just can’t stop him completely. He loves basketball so much in the same way that he loves boxing, so I’m giving that to him.”

The training Hall of Famer added though that he’s allowing the eight-division world champion to play only on opening day.

“The permit is only for the opening day. We had just shifted training  to a higher level and I don’t want that interrupted,” he emphasized. “Sparring sessions had just been started. The killer conditioning regimen will continue and that will already sap his energy.”

The 54-year-old former fighter himself expressed satisfaction with the way Pacquiao has been responding to the tough grind.

“I was surprised really with the gains he had achieved. Buboy, Nonoy and Haplas (assistant trainers Buboy Fernandez, Nonoy Neri and Roger Fernandez) must have done their homework well, while I was away,” he said. “I would also like to thank Justin (Fortune, the conditioning coach) for a job well done.”

Roach believes that Pacquiao needs two more weeks of camp and he will be ready to fight.

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