Boxing’s eight-division champion, the electrifying Manny Pacquiao, will defend his world welterweight title against American challenger Chris Algieri next month in Macau.
A month before that much-anticipated fight, however, the 35-year-old Pacquiao will take on a far different challenge.
That is when the Kia Sorentos, where Pacquiao is the playing coach, take on fellow expansion team Blackwater Elite in the first featured game of the PBA’s 40th Season scheduled Oct. 19.
And just like Algieri, Pacquiao’s counterparts at Blackwater – led by 10-year PBA veteran point guard Paul Artadi – are preparing hard for their encounter with the boxing icon.
“Of course we respect Manny Pacquiao as a boxer, what he has done for our country… ma-star struck pa nga ako pag makaharap ko na sya e,” said Artadi yesterday when contacted by TEMPO.
“Pero siempre kapag nagumpisa na ang laban, ibang usapan na yun. We’re professional basketball players, we’re being paid for what we do, and I intend to perform my duties for my team,” added Artadi.
Does that mean he’s willing to bang bodies with Pacquiao?
“Yes, of course… trabaho lang,” said Artadi, who is known as a pesky defender during his stints with Purefoods, Barangay Ginebra, San Miguel Beer, Barako Bull, Air21 and Meralco.
“If it’s just a pick-up game, or exhibition game, pwede siguro palusutin. Pero kapag PBA na, iba yun,” said Artadi, who was among the players picked up by Blackwater during the PBA’s Dispersal Draft.
Other players from Blackwater expected to take a shot at Pacquiao are guards Bambam Gamalinda, Ogie Menor, JR Cawaling, Chris Timberlake and rookie point guard Juami Tiongson. Pacquiao, who was named recently as head coach of Kia before the same team selected him with the 11th overall pick in the PBA Rookie Draft, is also an elected congressman in Sarangani Province.
As part of his training regimen, Pacquiao plays pick-up games and his love for basketball led him to form a team that competed in various commercial leagues – the MP Gen_San Warriors. In March 2010, Pacquiao was bestowed honorary membership of the NBA’s Boston Celtics when he was presented with the green-and-white Celtics jersey with his name and the No. 1 emblazoned at the back.
Recently, the 5-foot-6 Pacquiao, who plays the guard spot with a soft touch from three-point range, sweat it out in a shooting drill at the training facility of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Paul Artadi awaits, however, to take the fight to Pacquiao at the risk of getting decked should the Pacman find the former UE Red Warrior getting too close for comfort.