Boxing hero Pacquiao mixes religion and training

Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao has combined his new-found religious fervour with his training for an upcoming fight, holding bible-reading sessions after daily workouts.

The 33-year-old Pacquiao, who faces unbeaten American Timothy Bradley on June 9 in Las Vegas, said he would also follow up his fight with a "preaching session" at one of the country's biggest coliseums.

"It is open to all religions," he told reporters late Saturday in the mountainous resort city where he began altitude training last week.

Pacquiao, formerly known for enjoying late-night parties and gambling, now ends almost every training day with a bible session in an auditorium in the hotel which serves as his training camp.

These sessions, which can go for over two hours, have attracted scores of people who come to see the boxing hero ask religious questions and quote from the bible.

American boxing promoter Bob Arum who handles Pacquiao's fights, said he preferred this more devout fighter to the one who used to drink and gamble long into the night.

"It is much better than the things he did in the past," said Arum in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Earlier this year, Pacquiao, regarded by many in the sport as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, announced he had undergone a religious conversion and was giving up all of his vices.

As well as holding bible-reading sessions with the country's top broadcasting officials, Pacquiao has also carried out his duties as an elected legislator and host of a popular television gameshow.

However he has insisted that his faith has not affected his fighting skills which have made him an eight-time world champion with a record of 54-3 with two draws.

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