LOS ANGELES—One morning last month, as Manny Pacquiao ran laps around a track at the University of Southern California, his dog, Pacman, yelped from the bleachers in frustration, his bone-shaped name tag jingling with every leap.
“Sorry, Pacman,” said his handler, Noel Lautengco. “You cannot run today.”
As Pacquiao, the champion boxer, prepares for Saturday’s welterweight bout against Timothy Bradley, the most enthusiasm evident from any member of his entourage came from the smallest one: his Jack Russell terrier.
The dog, who bears his owner’s nickname, wasn’t allowed off his leash to run with his master that day, as he normally does on streets and trails around Los Angeles. As the boxer did sit-ups and push-ups on a mat, the dog pulled at the leash. And when Pacquiao was finished, he attacked the boxer with his own signature combination of comical jumping and crazy licking.
“He’s part of my team,” said Pacquiao, the World Boxing Organization welterweight champion, who hasn’t lost a fight since Pacman came into his life. “He’s a special dog.”
Pacman (the dog) lives in Los Angeles full time, where Pacquiao often trains. He typically travels to the Philippines when his owner works out there and joins him in Las Vegas for his fights, where he stays at the pet-friendly Mandalay Bay. He used to sleep with Pacquiao before the boxer realized he was allergic to the dog’s hair.
On the morning jogs before Pacquiao’s fights, Pacman is often by the boxer’s side. Pacman has nearly passed out from climbing the hills in Baguio City and scurried after coyotes while sprinting ahead of Pacquiao in their frequent jogs up to the Hollywood sign.
This training camp hasn’t been an ideal one for the pooch, however. Since his last fight, a majority decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in November, Pacquiao says he has eliminated distractions like gambling and drinking while sharpening his focus with daily Bible studies. Pacquiao hadn’t trained since then, and neither had Pacman.
“I kind of feel like he’s now the Woody in ‘Toy Story,’” said Brian Livingston, a marathoner who paces Pacquiao. “He’s become part of the menagerie.”
Before previous fights, Pacman wasn’t just a mascot. He drove the fighter to train harder than ever by running ahead of the pack. “Nobody could keep up with that dog,” said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer.
But this time, instead of darting around the Philippines in April, he stayed home and acquired an affinity for chicken kebabs and beef jerky. He still runs with Pacquiao, and his fitness has improved over the last month, but Pacman no longer pushes his owner’s endurance. “He’s getting old. He’s become fat,” Pacquiao said.
“Is he going to make weight?” asked Fred Sternburg, Pacquiao’s media representative.
“This time,” Pacquiao said, “he’s overweight.”
Other world-class fighters have embraced pets over the years. Boxing aficionados marvel about the time Mike Tyson filled a hotel room with pigeons. Floyd Patterson went on 4 a.m. runs with two German shepherds named Charlie Brown and Whitey. And for the Rumble in the Jungle with Muhammad Ali, George Foreman brought to Africa his own German Shepherd as a reliable running companion. He said his pet was his only friend after he lost and called his dogs “the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“I would not have been able to make it in my second career without my dogs,” said Foreman, who now owns 11 German shepherds. “If you don’t have a good dog, it’s going to be the most lonesome training camp you’ll ever have.”
There are almost as many accounts of Pacman joining Team Pacquiao as there are legends about Pacquiao. No one can remember exactly when Pacman arrived—sometime in 2008, around Pacquiao’s wins over David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya—but it’s certain the kinship started with Archie Banas, a friend who cooks for Pacquiao.
Banas picked Pacman, then named Amboy, from a litter of Jack Russell terriers. Banas said the puppies were direct descendants of Max, who played Milo in the 1994 film “The Mask.” The late Jack Russell terrier’s former owner, Joe McCarter, could not be sure about Pacman’s lineage but said this was possible. Banas’s wife wouldn’t let him keep Amboy, so he gave the dog to Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao’s assistant trainer. Fernandez promptly renamed him Leonard. “He was sleeping on Buboy’s tummy for three days,” Banas recalled.
But then Pacquiao saw Leonard on a morning run and fell in love at first sight. There is some dispute over how the dog got his new name. Fernandez says he gave it to him; Pacquiao says he came up with the name himself.
Lautengco is Pacman’s dog-sitter during camps. He takes temporary residence in a Hollywood motel—Pacman wakes him at 5 a.m. in a bed with a pink spread—and Lautengco sometimes finds unsavory presents waiting for him on his bath towel. “The hotel management is mad at him,” he said. When he was a teething puppy, Lautengco says, Pacman scratched and clawed through three couches that Pacquiao replaced.
Pacquiao has his own history with canines. He adored his childhood dog until his estranged father reportedly cooked and ate him. Pacquiao declined to comment on this.
He now maintains Pacman as part of an entourage that the journalist Gary Andrew Poole wrote in his Pacquiao biography “could easily be called the most ridiculous in sports history.” Livingston, the long-distance runner, met Pacquiao when they collided several years ago in Griffith Park, around the time Pacquiao’s associates were urging him to find a pacesetter without a wagging tail. And yet Pacman hasn’t disappeared since then.
“Manny likes to have this aura around him, and he’s created this patchwork of people who are essentially a reflection of him,” Livingston said. “Everybody serves a purpose. The dog is an extension of that.”
Lautengco recently drove Pacman to USC as the sun was rising. Pacman soon learned he wouldn’t be running with Pacquiao’s posse and was so fussy that Lautengco took him outside the stadium to calm down.
“When I bring him to the track, he forgets me,” Lautengco said. “His fun is to run with Manny.”
Lautengco finally gave in and let his son take Pacman for a lap. Before long, they were galloping right behind Pacquiao. “He keeps up with him in the mountains and everything,” said Kevin Hoskins, one of Pacquiao’s sparring partners. “He runs better than me.”
By the time Lautengco guided Pacman to Pacquiao—not until the dog sipped bottled water from Lautengco’s cupped hands—the boxer was on a yoga mat strengthening his core. Pacman sat behind Pacquiao as he did them. When Pacquiao stood up and leaned over, Pacman jumped to his waist.
It was 8 a.m. and Pacman hadn’t been let off his leash all morning. “Sometimes he chases squirrels,” Pacquiao said.