Los Angeles - Manny Pacquiao believes he can beat Floyd Mayweather with the power of God after abandoning a life packed with sin.
Pacquiao, who fights the American in a welterweight title bout in Las Vegas on Saturday night, is in top form both in mind and spirit says his spiritual adviser, Jeric Soriano.
The Filipino traded his boozing, gambling and womanising ways for a devout life of prayer, says Soriano.
"Manny is a God-fearing man. Inside his heart of hearts he really loved God. Except the world got to him," Soriano said of Pacquiao's lifestyle before he became reborn in 2012.
Pacquiao now dreams of becoming a pastor and is building a 6 000-square metre "worship house" in his southern Philippine hometown of General Santos as a monument to his spiritual rebirth.
With Soriano's help, Pacquiao converted a few years ago to the born-again faith, which shuns many Catholic traditions such as religious images but emphasises strict adherence to the Bible.
He is now building a church to be called "The Word for Everyone" that can accommodate up 5 000 people, says pastor Boy Buan, who is overseeing the construction.
In 2012, Pacquiao acknowledged he had succumbed to many of the temptations on offer to ultra-wealthy sportsmen. The Philippine media had for years reported rumours of infidelity, drinking and gambling.
"I do realise I was a weak person. If I had died the other year, I believe my soul would have ended in hell," Pacquiao told reporters then. "I had faith, but I was doing things which were against the will of God."
In an interview before heading to the United States to train for this weekend's fight Pacquiao again reflected on his earlier life.
"All the things I loved and wanted were the same things that were most detestable before the eyes of God. I was a sinner," Pacquiao said.
Soriano says Pacquiao confided that he felt he was wasting his millions of dollars in boxing earnings on vices. "Why can't I channel that instead to a church that will speak the word of God?" Pacquiao asked.
Pacquiao claimed God appeared to him in a dream, says Soriano, a television commercial director who previously worked with the boxer.
"He was in a forest, a strong light hit him and pierced his body and he heard a voice asking him: Where are you? Why have you left me?" Soriano recalled this week.
Pacquiao was crying in his dream and woke up with his pillow soaked in tears. He was soon telling anyone who would listen the joy of being a believer.
Chats about fast cars with his staff then turned into Bible studies as Pacquiao tried to infect them with his new-found faith, according to Soriano.
"They say he’s fast in the ring. But when he received Jesus Christ, there was also speed in his (spiritual) growth. He has this hunger to know Jesus," he said.
The conversion also played a crucial role in saving his marriage to wife Jinkee with whom he now has five children.
Soriano said he became convinced Pacquiao was the real deal when he held on to his faith after losing to Timothy Bradley in 2012.
"He didn't throw Jesus away. He didn't see Jesus as a lucky charm. I knew it was real," Soriano said.
A few weeks ago, Soriano received a phone call from Pacquiao when it was at 02:30 in Manila and afternoon in the Los Angeles training camp.
"He said, pastor how are you? I am not worried. I am not stressed in this fight. God will bless me with favour. Victory belongs to us," Soriano said.
Publicly, Pacquiao has also been confident that God will help him defeat Mayweather."The Lord, my God that I am serving, will deliver him into my hands," Pacquiao said on Twitter.