GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines (the Philippines) - Manny Pacquiao's closed-door sparring session started with an order to turn off all recording devices and ended with a silent prayer in the corner of the ring.
During two sweat-drenched hours, the Filipino boxer pounded bags, skipped rope and traded hard punches with sparring partners in preparation for his fight with American Brandon Rios in Macau next month.
At a post-workout meal of dried squid, fish and rice - which forms part of his 8,000-calorie daily intake - Pacquiao told how he was getting ready for every eventuality on Nov 24.
"I'm training with boxers who fight like Brandon so that I can prepare for his style," said the 34-year-old.
"But it's also important to practise for anything that might happen. If he wants to box, then I'll box; if he wants to fight, then I'll fight. "Whatever is useful, I will do it."
Anyone who takes on Pacquiao in the ring can expect to earn millions but the two men taking punches from the former world champion on Thursday can count their takings only in the thousands instead.
Ghana's Frederick Lawson and Los Angeles-based Englishman Liam Vaughan both predicted Pacquiao would knock Rios out after going four fast-paced rounds with the hard-hitting boxer at his own Wild Card gym.
"Pacquiao is very fast and he should be able to deal with Brandon easily," said Lawson who is undefeated in 21 fights, with 19 knockout wins.
Liverpool's Vaughan, who has had nine fights and lost only one, admitted he had been chosen to mimic Rios' aggressive tactics and was more than happy to press the action against a man who has risen through eight weight classes, snaring a fistful of titles along the way.
"Anyone who thinks Pacquiao is finished has got it wrong," said Vaughan, who will appear on the undercard in Macau. "His footwork is amazing and he can fight at a fast pace while staying focused - I'm learning so much from being in there."
Hall Of Fame trainer Freddie Roach kept an eagle eye on the action but urged caution against any perception that Rios will be a straight-forward assignment at the Cotai Arena.
"Rios likes to fight but he used to be an amateur champion so he knows how to box technically, even though he hasn't shown that in a while," said the 53-year-old, who is in the Philippines to train Pacquiao this time instead of at his Los Angeles gym.
"I think he may try to do that and move around a bit," he added, noting that as soon as Rios gets hit, he will "revert to type and back himself into a corner or something and that's when he will get taken out".
Roach's bad feeling towards Rios stems from the 27-year-old's repeated foul-mouthed transgressions, including a time when he mocked his Parkinson's disease.
When Pacquiao was pressed on what kind of feelings the trash talk had stoked in him, the deeply-religious fighter simply offered: "I will pray for him."
Judging by the opinions here, that could be the only one Rios gets as he heads into a fight against a man desperate to prove he still belongs at the top level after his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last year.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.