By CARLO ANOLIN
Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao that ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio has no ring rust despite a long layoff.
The key here is Pacio’s dedication to improving his arsenal amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Masipag na athlete natin ‘yan. Meron pa ‘yong time na maalala niyo last year, nag-stay pa yan sa gym para lang diretso ‘yong training yan,” said Sangiao. “As a coach nakikita ko na wala siyang ring rust. Marami siyang teammates, mga kuya at mga champions sila Geje [Eustaquio], sila Kevin [Belingon], at lahat ng mga sparmates niya, nakikita ko ‘yong nandyan pa rin at nag-i-improve siya lagi every training.
“Tingin ko mas maganda na naman ‘yong performance niya sa ngayon,” added the 42-year-old Team Lakay patriarch.
Pacio, who is set to defend his strawweight belt for the third time against Japanese rival and No. 1 contender Yosuke Saruta in ONE: Revolution on Sept. 24 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, last saw action in January 2020 where he scored a split decision win against former world champion Alex Silva.
A year and eight months have passed and “The Passion” will be returning to the Circle as the lone Filipino champion and the only titleholder from Team Lakay.
Despite contracting COVID-19 last April, the 25-year-old Pacio, who owns a 19-3 record, has since then recovered and focused more on the execution of the gameplan against the seasoned Japanese rival.
“Pinaghandaan talaga namin,” said Sangiao. “Dinagdagan talaga namin ‘yong time sa training sa mga side na ‘yon and siempre kilala natin sila as strikers. Tignan natin paano mag-work next week.
“Dinagdagan lang natin ‘yong time pero naka-schedule lahat ‘yon. Binalance natin and hopefullly and praying na magwo-work next week.”
Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Saruta, who holds a 21-9-3 win-loss-draw card, rides on a two-match win streak coming from Daichi Kitakata in October 2019 and division No. 2 Yoshitaka Naito in September last year.