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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boxer on the road to the top

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He got here in a hurry and he's leaving the same way, a lightning bug in the boxing forest.

For those who wonder about Manny Pacquiao's place in boxing history, he will be reclining in that place soon enough.

His trainer, Freddie Roach, hopes he retires after two more big fights. The Phillippine Star, the newspaper back home, editorialized Pacquiao should quit. It called Pacquiao "the great hope" and said that Filipinos "cling to him because hope is all there is. It is time he devotes the rest of his life as an icon of hope, to encourage Filipinos, especially the young, on the positive side of life."

But how do you tell someone to quit being the best in the world at something?

And why should Pacquiao, 30, get out of a main-event ring that he just now reached?

No one outside the boxing intelligentsia really knew Pac-Man until 2006, when he beat Erik Morales twice, and he was fighting at 129 pounds then.

And no one dreamed that Pacquiao would become the welterweight standard, or that he would nudge Oscar De La Hoya into full-time promotion.

Pacquiao has done that, one desperate lunge at a time. On Saturday, he moves up yet again, to a contract weight of 145 pounds, and a dangerous date with Miguel Cotto.

Is this too grandiose a leap for a guy who weighed 106 in his first professional bout?

"I have heard that before," said Pacquiao before a recent workout at Roach's Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. "I look at each fighter differently and I study what they try to do."

Cotto, 29, not only packs heat, he is probably the best technical boxer Pacquiao has faced. For that matter he is the first legitimate test for Pacquiao in almost a year and a half, considering that De La Hoya was past his expiration date when Pacquiao bludgeoned him last December, and Ricky Hatton was woefully unprepared for Pacquiao in May.

However, a poll of the MGM Grand press room before the De La Hoya fight would have uncovered very few votes for Pac-Man (except for Register colleague Carlos Arias).

Roach, for his part, sees few problems from Cotto.

"I see where Cotto says he's going to be a counter-puncher when Manny comes after him," Roach said, smiling, wearing a red T-shirt that proclaimed "Freddie Knows."

"Well, we'll see what happens when he gets hit. A lot of people say they're going to become something they're not, but when they hit, they always revert to what they really are. Cotto can punch. You have to be aware of that. But Manny has just kept improving, fight after fight. The other thing about him is that no matter what's going on around him, he walks into the gym and he puts everything else aside."

Last week, Pacquiao walked onto the set of Jimmy Kimmel's late night show and even sang a couple of numbers.

"And for those of us who have had to listen to Oscar try to sing," promoter Bob Arum said, "believe me, this guy is Caruso by comparison."

Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and Cotto, is always looking ahead to the next ring. Saturday's fight is the springboard for the winner to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what would be an unusually clear-cut battle for World's Baddest Man honors.

That is, unless Pacquiao and Cotto give us something epic, close and controversial, at which point they might do it again.

"The problem with negotiating with Mayweather is that he always wants to do it in the newspapers," Arum said.

There's another problem with Pacquiao. He wants to run for Congress in the Phillippines next year. Arum said Pacquiao can either run in a single congressional district or he can run on a nationwide slate. The latter route would be the easiest one, but if Pacquiao chooses the former method, he'll have to fight Mayweather in March, and Arum would have to wrap up the deal by the end of this month.

Pacquiao already has lost one congressional election, by 60,000 votes. And Filipino legislators are always criticized when they come to Vegas to watch Pac-Man, considering the overwhelming problems they face at home. This time The Phillippines is dealing with typhoon recovery. That won't stop some lawmakers from flying east this weekend.

You think our politics are seamy? The Phillippine Star said Pacquiao is only being pushed into it because of his legion of hangers-on.

"He does not need to ruin everything by jumping into the toxic lake of politics and poisoning himself," the editorial advised.

Those who have watched Manny Pacquiao know he jumps into everything. Those who haven't? They'd better jump to attention.

Source: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pacquiao-218533-cotto-arum.html

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