There's been a hard edge to Manny Pacquiao this week that is noticeably different from his recent fight week appearances. He's been intense and quiet as he prepares to meet Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden. He's not the loose and jovial guy he was prior to recent matches.
It's a big fight for Pacquiao, who has fought Marquez three times but who has yet to win one of them decisively.
But 18-year-old Pacquiao fan John Rocero faces a far more difficult fight: He has a Stage 4 brain tumor and is in a fight for his life.
It was hard to tell that on Thursday, though, as Rocero, a San Francisco Giants fan from Stockton, Calif., got the opportunity to meet his hero in person. Pacquiao was incredibly gracious to Rocero and his parents, Roy and Patricia, and spent about 20 minutes with them in a visit arranged by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Pacquiao signed several t-shirts and a painting of himself that John's sister had done. He also accepted a wrapped gift from the family.
At one point, while standing in the middle of the seats at the Grand Garden, he motioned for John and Roy Rocero to come to him. The three huddled close, with Pacquiao putting his right hand on top of John Rocero's head and his left arm on Roy Rocero's shoulders.
They remained in the huddle for several minutes as Pacquiao prayed.
"He told me God would be with me and would help to heal me," John Rocero said.
Pacquiao related a story of a teen-ager who met him with cancer while he was running at UNLV before one of his recent fights.
He said that young man had lost his hair because of his chemotherapy treatments. The boy later checked in with him and Pacquiao said he is recovering and his hair is growing back.
Roy Rocero was born in the Philippines and was clearly awed by the national hero. He said it was a moment his son would remember forever.
"This shows you the kind of man he is," Roy Rocero said of Pacquiao. "He has so much going on in his life now, but he still took time to be with my son and pray for him."
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