The "fight of the century" will take place this weekend between boxing legends Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas. Despite the media buzz and speculation surrounding his chances in the ring, Pacquiao still kept the focus on God and his Christian faith.
According to Skip Bayless of ESPN, the Filipino boxing legend consistently refers to the Bible in interviews leading up to the matchup. He noted how Pacquiao accepted Jesus Christ in life and was "born again" three years ago.
"According to insiders, he reads his Bible throughout the day and shares his faith with random fans he meets," Bayless wrote. "Just two Sundays ago, he gave his testimony to a packed house at the megachurch he attends just outside Los Angeles, Shepherd of the Hills Church, telling the throng how lost he once was while constantly getting drunk and cheating on his wife (who was with him that Sunday)."
Bayless expressed concern that Pacquiao's conversion to Christianity could affect his ability to take out Mayweather in the ring. However, trainer Freddie Roach indicated that his internationally famous protégé has the fight within himself to go the distance.
"That is a big plus for me that Manny does not like the guy," Roach said recently. "I think the killer instinct is going to come back faster."
Bayless reported that Pacquiao has made clear that he does not "hate" Mayweather. However, Roach has tried to motivate Pacquiao by pointing out Mayweather's "long history of domestic violence" and propensity to flaunt his wealth shamelessly; he talked with Michael Weinreb of Rolling Stone about the rise of Mayweather.
"To be honest, the kid was self-made," Roach said of Mayweather Jr. "We had a lot of talents in the gym, and the kid grew up watching these people, but his uncle Roger's probably his favorite. [Roger's] not a nice guy. He'll knock you out and spit on you and stuff."
Bayless thought that Roach was trying to convince Pacquiao to take out Mayweather as part of a "religious crusade." The trainer has previously accused Mayweather of being a "bad guy" and a "terrible role model for boxing."
"Roach referred to the killer instinct he believes Pacquiao lost when he became a Christian," Bayless wrote. "Can a man who has given his life to Christ still be capable of killer instinct? Can a Christian also be a lion?"
According to Bayless, the answer was yes, in the sense that Pacquiao should "compete as hard as he can within the rules." Those rules also allowed for the possibility of "knocking out Mayweather if he has the chance."
"Even as a Christian, I love boxing because it's the ultimate stand-alone test of a competitor's skill and will," Bayless wrote. "Just two opponents, lightly gloved, and a referee ready to jump in and stop it the moment he believes one opponent can no longer defend himself. I'm perfectly fine with Pacquiao the Christian wanting to separate Mayweather from his senses."
However, Bayless admitted that he was troubled when Pacquiao said that in context of the fight with Mayweather, "God will deliver him to me." Even though Bayless had no doubt Pacquiao's Christian faith was "100 percent genuine," he didn't believe God decided the outcome of athletic competitions.
"Will God make sure Pacquiao wins just because he has been so faithful to God and Mayweather has not? Nope," Bayless wrote. "I've seen too many devout Christians lose to Philistines. Goliath almost always beats David."
Bayless considered the possibility that Pacquiao was instead waging a psychological war with Mayweather before the fight. The strategy could be working too, based on Mayweather's recent comments.
"I'm a child of God too, aren't I?" Mayweather asked.
Regardless of how the fight goes down on Saturday, Pacquiao told Gareth Davies of the Telegraph that he found "peace of mind" with God.
"Peace of mind is the most important thing," Pacquiao said. "If God is with you, everything will be all right. I feel no pressure."