MANILA, Philippines -- Olympic-bound Filipino boxer Eumir Marcial wants to give Manny Pacquiao a fitting birthday present when he makes his professional debut on December 16 in Los Angeles.
Because of the time difference, Marcial's fight against American Andrew Whitfield falls on Thursday, December 17, in the Philippines -- just in time for Pacquiao's 42nd birthday.
"We'd like to give Senator Pacquiao a nice birthday gift," said Sean Gibbons, the president of Manny Pacquiao (MP) Promotions who signed Marcial to a six-year contract in July.
Marcial has made no secret of his admiration for the "Pacman," and the 25-year-old is beginning to follow in the boxing icon's footsteps by training with Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. There, he believes he has greatly improved since arriving in October, and the results of his fight against Whitfield will show the fruits of his hard work.
Marcial's upcoming bout against Whitfield is part of his preparations for the Tokyo Olympics next year, where he will try to be the first athlete to win a gold medal for the Philippines.
"Sobrang dami po na naayos, kumbaga 'yung mga suntok ko. 'Yung dapat, kung gaano ako ka-agresibo doon sa laban," Marcial said of what he learned from Roach, during an appearance on "Power and Play" with former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on Saturday.
"Sobra, doble 'yung agresibo ko pero hindi 'yung nasasayang 'yung suntok ko. Kumbaga lahat 'yun ay talagang tatama talaga. Hindi 'yung kumbaga madaming suntok pero 'yung iba hindi tatama," he added. "So ayun mas na-practice po 'yung accuracy ko, 'yung power, 'yung speed."
"So malalaman na lang po. Masusubukan sa 16."
For Gibbons, working with Roach is like going to university for Marcial -- "the Freddie Roach school of boxing." The promoter was already impressed with the young Filipino when he signed him in July, but he has seen Marcial develop into a more patient, technical fighter during the past couple of months.
"He's fine-tuning what he already had," Gibbons noted. "He went to the Freddie Roach school of boxing and as you progress, you learn all these things."
"It's really like going to school, and Eumir has done a great job of learning a lot to this point," he added. "You've seen what Freddie did with Senator Pacquiao and you see what he's done with so many fighters. And that's what he does."
Marcial will be put to the test against a tough opponent on December 16, but Gibbons is optimistic that he will pass with flying colors and deliver a perfect birthday gift for Pacquiao.
"I think you're gonna see a lot of speed. You're gonna see power," he said. "I think people are gonna see a really good performance on Wednesday."