Running those problems away

If you have problems, I recommend a solution: Run.

I don’t mean that you “run away from your problem.” That’s ineffective. If you don’t solve it, that nagging concern will continue to haunt you until you summon the resolve to fix it. As my dad often tells us: “Close those open loops.” These “open loops” are unresolved issues that should be addressed now.

By run, I mean literally: stepping one foot forward, then the other foot onward, swinging those arms, bobbing the head, walking, sprinting, following a straight path where your leg muscles push against the asphalt to propel you forward.

Running is medicine. It’s an anxiety-reducing pill that works. And it’s for free. (Well, you’ve got to buy a good pair of running shoes — but let’s reserve that for another article.) You can run anytime: morning or noon; if you’re insomniac, you can run at 12:14 a.m. On the treadmill. While wading through the swimming pool. On business trips or vacations. Around your subdivision, at Cempark, or circling the CCSC (Abellana) oval — the choice is yours, pick a spot, tighten those laces, then press “Go!” in your brain.

Running solves problems. Your mind clears. Whatever fears or worries you may possess, these evaporate as the sweat evaporates from your skin. Trust me. The best way to combat stress is to push hard physically.

Run when you’re feeling tired. You’ll emerge energized. Run when you’re feeling low. You’ll inhale that runner’s high. Run consistently. Make it a habit. Don’t run only when problems start chasing you; this is good medicine but, when you run four times each week, running ceases to be medicine — it becomes a vitamin. Remember the adage, “Prevention is better than cure?” Regular running is prevention. Take Vitamin R. That stands for Running — it’s good for your mental health.

You want to be more creative? Then don’t just sit there, slump on your chair, cross your feet, stare at the ceiling and daydream. Get out and go. After a 30-minute exertion of the body, your mind will release creative juices.

In “5 Brain Benefits of Running,” the author Denise Schipani explains in “New Thinking,” the first reward for running: “‘Running sparks the growth of fresh nerve cells, called neurogenesis, and new blood vessels, called angiogenesis,’ says J. Carson Smith, PhD.”

In the second reason, “Sweating the Details,” the author says, “Running helps you get better at learning and storing new information and memories, and can potentially stave off age-related dementia.”

When I searched “running good for the mind” in Google, a total of 519 million results can be accessed. This is indisputable. By doctors, scientists, psychology experts.

Running is the easiest way to good health. Why don’t more people run? Actually, more and more are running. What started as a craze six years ago when Cebu hosted events once a month has morphed into an every-Sunday activity. Can you plot a weekend without a fun run? Hardly. This is terrific. But it’s only a small percentage of our total population.

And so I address this to those who have yet to be bitten by the feet-tickling bug: When will you start? Here’s what I suggest: go to your favorite sports shop and buy those shoes today. Don’t delay. Just that simple act will inspire you to get on your feet.

Start by walking. Running is, simply analyzed, faster walking. Cajole a friend or force your husband to stroll with you before or after work. Then, join a 3K run. Start jogging. Walk-jog, hop-walk. Prioritize this time. Set aside — like you would lunch or taking a shower — time for running. Start with half an hour. I guarantee you: it’s addicting. When you skip a session because your son stayed longer in school, that’s okay. Try not to miss your next date with running.

As to your problem, no, it won’t disappear. But it will feel lighter; a solution will pop in your brain during that jog. Drink regularly: Vitamin R.

Floyd v. Manny? Implausible, yes, but possible

This is perplexing. I don’t understand it. The question: Why Money won’t fight Manny. Maybe Money doesn’t need money? Is he afraid? Scared that his unblemished record will be tarnished? I say all of the above.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Emmanuel Pacquiao. It’s the face-to-face bout that our planet’s seven billion people have been craving for. It’s what Mike Tyson wants. It’s what P-Noy wants. It’s what every Pinoy wants. Sadly, only one person can decide this and he says No.

Why? Reason No.1: He’s afraid to add a “1” to his “L” column. Mayweather is undefeated. He sports a 47-0 grade. Among those victories, he knocked-out 26. Why risk that perfect report card?

Floyd is trying to surpass the record of Rocky Marciano. The American, who lorded over the 1950s, won 49 and lost zero. Floyd is eyeing that figure. Don’t you think he wants to win thrice more, break Rocky’s streak and reach the magical “50?” That’s his goal. And a certain Gen. Santos City politician might thwart his plans.

Why risk it? He can fight Amir Khan. Win via unanimous decision. Seek a rematch. Win again. Reach 49 Ws. Fight one more unheralded bloke and summit that No. 50. Easy path, right?

Pacquiao has agreed to all of Mayweather’s requests. Blood testing. A smaller chunk of dollars to be harvested. Pacquiao is willing to bend, to bow, to accede to the spoiled-brat requests of Mr. Unpredictable just to face him inside that 23 ft. x 23 ft. platform.

Floyd’s response? Let’s do a 70-30 deal. What? Crazy. Well, yes, with that demand, he is. That’s preposterous. While a 50-50 deal is no longer possible — given Pacquiao’s two recent losses — that 70-30 proportion is out of proportion. Maybe 55-45? Or 60-40? Or how about a 55-35 split, with the last 10 percent going to the winner? If Floyd wins, he pockets 65%; if Manny wins, he nets 45. Fair? Actually, it’s unfair for Manny.. but sige nalang. To allow the “Fight of the Century” to happen, Manny’s willing to be Mr. Humility.

Is Floyd avoiding Manny because he’s a righty and he’s a lefty? One man thinks so. “The real problem is that Mayweather is so damn smart when it comes to boxing,” said Bob Arum, whom I had the chance to meet last year and who just turned 83 last Dec. 8. “He (Floyd) realizes that of all the fighters fought and all the fighters out there that Manny poses the biggest threat. Why? Because Manny is fast, Manny can punch and Manny is left handed. Floyd never wants to fight a left handed fighter because his style is designed to fight orthodox fighters.”

We know the strength of Floyd. It’s that “shield” called his left shoulder that he raises to cover his head that makes him impossible to hit. But, says Arum, that stance is good for everybody else — but not against Manny The Lefty. “If you look at his style and how he fights defensively,” said Arum, “everything he does is designed against a right-handed fighter.”

Arum is The Godfather of Boxing Promoters. When he speaks, people listen. He makes sense. With a potential windfall of at least $50 million (P2.25 billion), it’s shocking that anyone, even someone as wealthy as Floyd, will turn down that kind of cash. But, week after year after month, Floyd has spurned Manny’s hand to fight.

Instead, Mayweather is opting for weaker choices, favoring to meet the winner of today’s bout between Khan or Devon Alexander. Even Miguel Cotto, whom he defeated in 2012, is another possible opponent. Cotto would be a rehash; a has-been.

“To get Mayweather in the ring with Pacquiao is a monumental task,” said Arum. “Not because of splits, not because of money, because Manny stands the best chance of anybody that Floyd has faced to beat him.”

The key to Floyd’s yes? It’s to bait him. To tempt him by saying, “Why not be undefeated-for-life and finish 50-0 by beating Manny before you retire?”

This might tempt the narcissistic Floyd. Then, after he agrees, Manny beats him. Manny retires as Floyd heads home with his head bowed, his left shoulder swollen as big as his ego.

The Hometown King leads the Cavs

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The Cleveland Cavaliers lost their very first game this ’14 season. Then, after winning the next one against Chicago, they proceeded to lose the next two. Four wins after that and with a commanding 5-3 scorecard, NBA fans worldwide proclaimed the Cavs as legitimate title contenders.

What happened next? They lost the next four clashes, against Denver, San Antonio, Washington and Toronto. By then, people panicked. Sporting an embarrassing 5-7 win-loss record, many criticized LeBron and Co. The man himself, No. 23, summarized their state in that Nov. 22 loss to the Toronto Raptors in one simple yet horrifying word: “Fragile.”

Well, well. How time flies when you’re having fun and winning. Those defeats and that “fragile” spirit seemed too long ago. After a November that zigzagged and twirled like a roller-coaster — similar to the ones found near Cleveland (in Ohio) that’s considered as “the roller coaster capital of the world,” Cedar Point — that up-and-down first month for the Cavs has been smooth of late.

The Cavs won their 8th straight yesterday. They now carry a 13-7 record, ranking fourth in the East (against 15 teams). The latest victim? The same battalion who defeated them in their last defeat, the Raptors — a previously 16-5 (scorecard) team that’s No.1 in the Eastern Conference. How big was that? Well, how big was that shot, a looping missile from beyond the 3-point line, with 48 seconds left in the game and the score tied 99-all, LeBron James firing one rocket at the top of the key to rupture the Raptors?

That was big. That was LeBron, the man who grew up in this state as a kid and returned home as an adult to pacify and appease all those whom he crucified when he left. The same 6-foot-8, 250-lb. giant who, after that 3-pointer, said to the crowd, “That’s what I came here for.”

He amassed 35 points in 42 minutes, including a monstrous double-clutch reverse dunk after he stole the ball in the 2nd quarter. The night before: the same royal performance before royalty. With Prince William and his beauteous wife Kate sandwiched between Jay-Z and Beyonce at ringside, LBJ scorched the New Jersey Nets, leading his Cavs to a 110-88 victory.

Now on his 12th NBA season, LeBron is not only experienced as a champion, with his two NBA rings and four MVP crowns, but he’s happiest back home.

“I know what LeBron is here for,” said Cavs coach David Blatt, after the Raptors game. “And I know why he’s here. Because he wants to be. So maybe that effort that you saw and maybe what he laid out there tonight for his team and for his fans sort of speaks to that.”

Thus far in the season’s 20 games — more like a First Quarter report for the Regular Season, which has 82 games — LeBron is averaging (per game) 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

If he’s Batman, his Robin (Kyrie Irving) is doing excellent work, averaging 20.8 PPG. If we add Kevin Love’s 17.4 points per game, these three average 63 points — about 61 percent of Cleveland’s average total (103.5) per outing.

“It’s fun,” said Irving. “It’s fun to be playing the way we’re playing right now, and it’s fun to be part of it.”

Is this a momentum shift? Will this continue until the playoffs? Has this team gelled?

Yes, yes, yes, but, no, let’s not get too cocky in behalf of the Cavs as the NBA season has three more quarters left. And, lest we forget, in this winning streak, they did not face a single Western Conference team; and we know how bombarded that section is with the league’s finest: Golden State, Memphis, Portland, Houston, LA (obviously, not the Lakers), San Antonio and Dallas — seven teams that have better win-loss scorecards than Cleveland.

But, for now, with the King performing in front of the Prince, with Kevin Love saying, “We just have a good energy about us right now,” with eight straight smiles after four straight frowns, Cleveland is happy that their son is back home.

CCM, CCT, TDC and IPTL

CCM. The slots for the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) are filled-up. A total of 1,300 registered for the 42K and 1,400 for the 21K. With the 10K, good news for those interested to join. While the registration has officially closed, there is still an option to join the 10K. During the Race Expo at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu (from January 7 to 9), a booth will be ready to receive onsite registrants. The only thing is, the usual freebies (singlets and finishers shirts) will no longer be available. The onsite registrants will be given Race Numbers (with timing chips) only but these will be offered at a discounted P400/participant. Maximum of 200 slots.

CCT. A week before the Sinulog grand parade is CCM. That’s Jan. 11. The week after the Sinulog party is CCT. That’s on Jan. 25. Spelled in full, that’s the Cebu City Triathlon. Organized by the Cornerstone Group, the same team led by Steve Maniquis and Quinito Moras that brought us San Rem 8080 (a very well-organized triathlon event that I joined last month), this time, we don’t have to travel far as the three-part race is to be held in Cebu City. The distances: 750-meter swim (at the CSCC pool), 20K bike towards the SRP, and a 5K roundabout to Fuente Osmeña. I registered yesterday. Only 500 slots are available and I suggest you enlist today at www.cornerstone8080events.com.

TDC. Last Friday was an ideal day for car racing. Typhoon Ruby had not arrived and the skies the whole day were overcast. By 7 a.m., the Cebu I.T. Park revved with excitement as over two dozen vintage sports cars sat on display. One by one, driver and machine were called onstage as Chris Tio announced, “10, 9, 8…” From Lahug to Ayala Heights to Balamban and down south to Moalboal, these multicolored cars toured the island. They stopped for lunch at McDonald’s. They overtook slow-moving trucks. They braved rain in the mountains and dust in the inner roads to emerge unscathed upon the finish at Chateau de Busay. They traveled over 340 kms. The original plan was to make pit stops in Dumaguete and Bacolod; a Negros/Cebu sojourn in what was labeled as a “historic rally across the Visayas.” But no thanks to the typhoon, the route was shortened but the race continued. Fittingly on this first event, the Tour de Cebu was held within Cebu. I watched video footages from Charlie, my brother, and it was like watching a scintillating videogame car chase. Only, this was real. His orange ’69 BMW was chasing Red Durano’s lime green Porsche 911 SC. Exhilarating. PACE, the organizers, have reason to smile. Their event was an inaugural success and they can’t wait for Dec. 4, 2015 for the 2nd edition. Until then, plenty will have a year to tinker with their vintage toys. To Jay, Kenneth, Yong, Glenn, Harley and the rest of PACE — you’ve started an event that will turn international and become very big for Cebu tourism in the years to come. Congratulations.

IPTL. I missed going to Manila the other weekend to watch the International Premier Tennis League. Organized by Mahesh Bhupathi, the former top-ranked doubles player, this first of its kind team tennis tournament in Asia has gotten good reviews. Andy Murray flew to Manila. So did Gael Monfils and US Open champ Marin Cilic. The star: Maria Sharapova. To the thousands who watched inside the MOA Arena — including plenty from Cebu: Ernie Delco, our Casino Español group, Dr. Ronnie Medalle, Dr. Rhoel Dejaño — it was a rare chance to see these world-caliber netters up close. After Manila, the players flew to Singapore. Now, they’re in New Delhi, India. Next, they’ll move to the UAE. There are plenty of reasons why this format is excellent. It’s non-traditional. There’s shot clock to force the players to speed up. Doubles is highlighted. The veterans (Sampras, Agassi) are mixed with today’s best (Djokovic, Federer).

Tour de Cebu: marathon for vintage cars

I asked Dr. Peter Mancao: What passion does driving a vintage car bring? “When you drive these cars you are talking of the bare essentials of motoring,” he answered. “There is no power steering, it’s manual transmission, no a/c, the brakes… hmm, they stop but you have to put a little engine brake here and there and the ride is on the stiff side.. you literally feel the road.”

This weekend, Dr. Mancao will join 25 other vintage car enthusiasts, driving from Cebu to Dumaguete to Bacolod and back, joining what is termed as the country’s first-of-its-kind Mille Miglia-inspired touristic rally: the Tour de Cebu.

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Peter explained that this is not all show-and-drive. “The ERUF is building a training center in Mandaue,” he said. Extra funds generated will be donated to the organization. “ERUF is giving us its full support. One ambulance will be with us for the entire event,” he said, adding that the ERUF team will be on full alert during the Cebu leg.

As for his personal reason for joining, “I’ve crossed out running a marathon in my bucket list. This ranks next to it,” said Cebu’s top heart surgeon, who’ll be motoring his red 1970 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet (convertible). “Everything is stock in the car (not modified),” he added, “and I would be very happy if we can just finish the race!”

I, too, had first-hand experience last week. My brother Charlie, a car enthusiast just like my dad Bunny, lent me his toy for the night. I drove it home. A tear of sweat trickled down my face. The reason: his 1969 BMW 2002 had no aircon, no power steering, one window couldn’t be opened and I had to press hard the brake. Maneuvering and parking required all of my muscular strength. This screaming loud orange BMW (with the occasional fireworks-like blast) will be driven by Charlie as he joins PACE this Friday.

Another participant is Chris Aldeguer. “I have always been a car fanatic since I was 18,” he said. “Which is why being part of this is exciting for me personally.”

Chris explains that this event is rare because it will bring many historical cars in one setting and, he said, “We will get to do what these cars were designed to do in the first place: Be Driven.”

Iconic cars are often displayed in public during a car show. “This time, these will be driven and driven long. Therefore, the limits will be tested for both cars and drivers,” said Chris, a top triathlete whose physical and mental prowess will be tested as he drives the fully-open ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder.

“Any car enthusiast would appreciate the design and engineering of these vintage cars. It will be more exciting for the enthusiast to see them running for 1,000 kms. across the Visayas,” said Chris. “I hope it will be exciting for the 42 towns and the 12 cities that we will be passing through. It works both ways. Historical cars in a rally will be witnessed by the locals and, at the same time, we will be witnessing these beautiful places.”

Prior to the Friday start, the organizers (PACE) have invited two of the country’s foremost automobile enthusiasts to give a lecture on “the wonders of owning, collecting, restoring as well as racing of vintage cars.”

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Andy Sta. Maria and Gonzalo “Nene” Syquia, the founders of the Manila Sports Car Club, will be here to give a talk entitled, “What is the Meaning of Vintage?” It’s by-invitation only on Thursday at The Henry Hotel, and will be followed by the official race briefing.

Now, the question: Where can we see these cars, all 26 of them, prior to the call, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” The flag-off is at 7 a.m. this Friday at the Cebu I.T. Park. The cars are expected to depart at 8:30. “What’s good is that you can go near the cars to have photos taken and you can talk to the drivers,” said Chris. The finish: it’s on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Northwing of SM City Cebu.

Tour de Cebu: a first

webre-1024x775Dr. Peter Mancao, Sophie de los Santos, Kenneth Cobonpue, Mike Jo, Red Durano and Jay Aldeguer (CDN photo/Brian J. Ochoa)

Unlike my dad Bunny and brother Charlie, I’m no car enthusiast. But I know that there are hundreds of automobile aficionados residing in Cebu.

Next weekend, from Dec. 5 to 7, will be a historic moment as 26 car devotees and their vintage cars — those manufactured older than Dec. 31, 1979 — will parade from the starting point at the Cebu I.T. Park; they’ll rev their engines, pump the brakes, and punish that pedal, traveling 1,000 kilometers in three days.

Yes, no misprint there: from Lahug to Toledo to Santander, then staying overnight in Dumaguete; the following morning, they’ll rise and start those half-a-century-old machines again — this time, passing the coastal roads of Negros (Oriental and Occidental) before halting in the City of Smiles for their second night; finally, on Sunday, they’ll trek that last full day, leaving Bacolod to climb Don Salvador Benedicto before descending to San Carlos City, hopping on a ro-ro boat, landing in Toledo City and heading up north to San Remigio before the final assault back to Cebu City.

Exhausted reading the itinerary? I am. Imagine if you’re driving that entire distance. If there’s a marathon on four wheels, this is it: the 1st Tour de Cebu.

Conceptualized by a close group of friends called PACE (Performance and Classics Enthusiasts), they teamed-up with the Manila Sports Car Club to organize this event they term “a historic rally across the Visayas.”

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This isn’t purely for show. Sure, the cars are multi-million show cars and they’ll reserve time when they park their vehicles in Dumaguete, Bacolod and Cebu for displaying their prized possessions, but next weekend is also a race. The term is “Regularity Race” and it’s not a whoever-finishes-first type of contest. Outright speed is unimportant.

“Unlike speed races, regularity events must be completed in a pre-defined time and not in the fastest time possible,” read the media kit. Although most Regularity Events include “penalties” and the winners will be those incurring the lowest penalties, it will be different in the TDC.

Event organizer Sophie De Los Santos explained: “There will be no penalties but will focus only on finishers and that the real important aspect is the passion and camaraderie of all participants all enjoying their historic cars and the scenic spots of the Visayas.”

The participants: PACE: (1) Bobby Aboitiz – ’71 MB 280SL White, #32. (2) Harley Yunam – ’71 Porsche Orange 911, #20. (3) Glenn Soco – ’67 Alfa Romeo Duetto Red, #67. (4) Kenneth Cobonpue – ’61 Jaguar E type Red, #88. (5) Junjun So – ’59 MGA, #39. (6) Mike Jo – ’64 Karmann Ghia Mint Green, #08. (7) Harold Ong – ’73 BMW 2002 Maroon, #07. (8) Jay Aldeguer – ’62 Porsche 356B, #02. (9) Red Durano – ’78 Porsche 911 SC Lime Green, #45. (10) Chris Aldeguer – ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder Silver, #18. (11) Yong Larazzabal – ’65 Shelby Cobra Black, #33. (12) Lui Alvarez – ’72 Porsche 911 Silver, #28. (13) Darren Deen – ’66 Corvette Stingray white, #24. (14) Louie Uy – ’69 Chevy Chevelle Green, #11. (15) Peter Mancao – ’70 VW Red, #53. (16) Erwin Miranda – Ford Mustang Red, #58. (17) Grand Benedicto – ’63 Kougar, #09.

MSCC (Manila Sports Car Club): (18) Jorge See – ’63 Jaguar XKE Red, #63. (19) Dodo Macapagal – ’68 Mbenz 280 SL White, #23. (20) Dominique Ochoa – ’69 MGB White, #25. (21) Adolfo Sy – ’66  Shelby GT350 White, #21. (22) Mike Aguilar – Porsche 356 Dark Cream, #65. (23) Oscar Medalla/Joe Lao – ’65 Corvette Blue, #28.

GUESTS: (24) Charlie Pages – ’69 BMW 2002 Orange, #69. (25) Julio Mapa, Jr. – ‘72 Datsun 240Z Yellow, #77. (26) Matteo Guidicelli – ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder Cream.

Are all expected to complete the adventure, driving over five hours and 300 kms. each day? That’s the wish — but that might be unrealistic. A couple of cars are nearly “senior citizens” (60 years old). Most have logged tens of thousands of miles; many have been parked in garages, sitting idle, asleep for years only to be reawakened.

For Manny, no KO is OK

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In a sports-loaded weekend that included LeBron and the Cavs losing their fourth straight, Roger and Stan winning for Switzerland their first Davis Cup trophy, Lewis Hamilton subduing his teammate Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi for the F1 title — the highlight was Manny Pacquiao’s impressive victory over Chris Algieri.

Lopsided? No contest? Walay bout? Not in the same league? Check, check, check, check. All of the above.

But first, Mommy Dionisia. What a character. It’s obvious that the strong persona of Manny came from his mom. What an actress, a stage mom, a prayerful warrior, a newly-in-love woman this lady. Her falling to her knees. Her holding the rosary and blessing a reluctant Manny. She’s as much of a star as her son — in fact, she elicited the loudest cheers when the cameras focused on her. Amazing, remarkable Mommy D.

Chris Algieri? All the ladies in attendance swooned over his good looks. “Pildi si Manny!” the shouts were heard, “Sa pa-gwapohay.” They also commented on the man who stood beside Algieri before the bout’s start. Was that his handsome brother? Well, as it turned out and as everyone predicted, Algieri was just that: all good looks but a mediocre boxer.

MP and CA are not in the same category. One has 60-plus bouts fighting the greatest welterweights of all time; the other is a Big Apple native whose 20 wins came against unknowns.

It showed last Sunday. Alan Choachuy commented: “Algieri better join the Cebu Marathon!” I agree. We’ll ask Rio de la Cruz to give him a complimentary 21K slot. He ran in circles around the square ring. Dr. Ronnie Medalle gave our group (in Ray and Letty Patuasi’s house that included Dr. Grace and Bryan Borja, Atty. Jephte and Sandra Romea, Dr. Ron and Raycia Eullaran) a wise suggestion: Can’t they make the ring much smaller so there’s no escape and no running around?

This was Algieri’s only strategy. Had he engaged, faced the Pinoy squarely, stood his ground and not sidestepped — the fight would have been over in 19 minutes. He did what he had to do and he survived. That was his goal, to last the full 36-minutes distance.

Four times he fell to the floor (plus two more times when he slipped). He stood up, green eyes dazed, lanky legs wobbly, mind vacillating and arms wavering, the tussle in his shoes tired from all the flip-flop — but he fought on. We also have to give him applause. He’s tough. In that Round 9 when he tumbled (I’ve never seen that before!), many a fighter would have folded. They’d have quit. But not the 30-year-old. The following round, his legs sprung to action, his arms active. He was alive. He “won” by simply being able to stand up at fight’s end.

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With Pacquiao, the “disappointment” was the lack of a defining knockout. He tried. And this was a much more aggressive Manny than we’ve seen in his last few contests. Freddie Roach wanted that KO and he broadcasted it. But what to do onstage when your partner won’t dance? “It takes two to tango,” says the line. In boxing, unless the victim wants to be subdued, there’s little you can do if he dances solo.

Here’s the question: Did the God-fearing and now-free-from-vices Manny P. relax in Round 12, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to floor Algieri anyway, and just coast through the final three minutes to pocket his $25 million?

“That was a Christian demonstration and a humane type of boxing,” reported Mayor Michael Rama minutes after the unanimous proclamation. “Manny is a good man. Boxing is not about butchering people.”

With that charismatic smile that Manny flashed and that friendly touch-of-gloves that he invoked upon Algieri prior to R12’s start, yes, I agree, Manny is not the Manny of the 2007 to 2010 era when he would destroy and maim the tomato-faced gladiator fronting him. He’s more compassionate and knows that boxing is savage and it’s man hurting man. He aims to win, gets the win — never mind if there’s no KO — and climbs the ring corner to raise his arms in thanksgiving to the Macau fans and to Almighty God.

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Can SuperManny still score a knockout?

What we love about Manny Pacquiao is his knockout power. Who’ll forget his perfect stab on Ricky Hatton’s cheek in Round 2? Or the forward-lunging attacks on Erik Morales? Or, with blood smearing his baldhead, the Miguel Cotto stoppage in R12?

In Manny’s pro career spanning 63 fights, of the 56 times that he’s triumphed, he won via KO on 38 occasions (versus only 18 by decision). That’s a high 68 percent. In the three times that my very own eyes have watched him, my most memorable sight was when he floored Fahsan Por Thawatchai with a left hook that saw the Thai fly in Manila. In boxing formulations, the equation is simple: MP = KO.

But there’s a problem: That was then. The last time Pacquiao knocked cold an opponent was Cotto five Novembers ago. Correction! The last time Pacquiao was involved in a knockout was when HE was KO’d – by J. M. Marquez two years ago.

That’s the past. Today is 11-23-14, a brand new morning. Will the Gen. Santos City native return to his former self against the New Yorker today? We all wish. But his past fights explain a weakening and he’s-getting-old Congressman. Since that TKO over Cotto in Nov. of 2009, Manny fought eight more times – winning six and losing twice. What’s troubling is that none of those six wins came via KO; each was an “MD” or a “UD.”

Will today be different? One person is confident and it’s Manny’s confidant. “He showed signs of greatness in training. He was knocking sparring partners down,” said Freddie Roach, who knows his student more than any other. “It’s not enough to win nowadays. You have to win impressively, and knockouts are impressive. I love knockouts.”

Who doesn’t? The top reason why we follow boxing is not simply to endure 36 minutes of jabs, pokes, head butts and chest-to-chest sweaty hugs. We all await that knockout. That single moment perfected in time when the fist collides with the face.

Boxing would be boring without that KO. It’s more than baseball’s homerun; more than a Dwight Howard slam dunk; it’s like a football goal, waiting patiently for 90 minutes before that kick or header greets the net – but boxing’s knockout is even more thrilling.

Does Pacquiao still possess that SuperManny force? Can his present fists replicate his past feats?

First, let’s remember his age. Though Manny’s not Bernard Hopkins-old (who’ll turn 50 this Jan.), our fellow Pinoy is no longer youthful. This Dec. 17, he’ll turn 36. Considering that he started this warfare state in his teens, that’s over two decades of battered bodies and bloodied fists.

Two: he’s moved up in weight. Said Roach: “He has only knocked out two welterweights (Cotto and a weight-drained De La Hoya) since we’ve moved up in weight for the big fights. All those other big knockouts were in smaller divisions.”

His point? The bigger the man you’re facing, the more daunting the task of putting him to sleep. A recent example was Nonito Donaire, dominant in his previous category but outclassed by the larger Nicholas Walters. If Manny wins today, Team Pacquiao is signaling a return to lighter weight divisions.

“The real question is, how do I feel and how do I perform when I return to those lower weights?” said Pacquiao. “I could be faster than when I fought at welterweight and (junior middleweight), and if my power remains the same, I may be able to score more knockouts at lower weights. I weighed 138 when I knocked out Ricky Hatton, 142 when I stopped Oscar De La Hoya and 144 when I scored a TKO of Miguel Cotto. Many people consider those fights some of my best, so why not go back down if that is where the bigger and better fights are going to be fought?”

That’s next year. Today, the strategy is to go for the jugular. “This is what I’m going to do to this kid (Algieri),” Manny told Roach. “I’m going to knock him out early.”

Roach agrees. “Manny is an eight-division champion with speed and power. When he hurts a guy, he knows what to do. Chris Algieri is not fighting Ruslan (Provodnikov). This is not a ‘Rocky’ movie. It might be one round.”

Let’s see the boast.

Zonta says No

Malu Mendez, my well-loved and eternally generous mother-in-law, won’t run this Sunday but she’s advocating that we all do. She’s part of the Zonta Club and it’s the “Zonta Says No” race at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu.

Organized by the all-women group, the goal is to say no to violence against women, girls and children. This Sunday’s run offers three categories: 3K, 5K and 10K.

Zonta president Nellie Chiu said in a recent press conference (story written by Richiel Chavez): “We want to promote our advocacy through the run. The orange color will represent the support for women and children who experience violence. The more runners we have, the more mileage we can get for this advocacy.”

The funds generated from the run will be used for the future construction of the Zonta Center, a venue that will offer victims multiple support services.

Say “Yes” by joining the run and help Zonta say “No” to violence against women.

101 hours of footall

If it sounds absurd to play nonstop football for 101 hours — that’s four days/nights straight plus five hours — it’s because, well, it is ridiculous. But, as the saying goes, “Just because something is unbelievable it does not mean you shouldn’t believe it.”

Well, you better believe it. It’s happening from Dec. 2 to 6 at the San Roque Football Field in the city led by Mayor Jonas Cortes. And it’s another Guinness World Record attempt. (Pretty soon, Cebu will amass a world record for having the most number of sports-related world records!)

Jaq Siwala is one of the lead organizers of this herculean task. We met two afternoons ago at the office and if the prospect of two teams, manned by a total of 18 players each, playing for 6,060 consecutive minutes is crazy — it is. It’s also for a wonderful cause because the proceeds will benefit children with congenital heart diseases, through the NGO called Let It Echo.

As the countdown nears for Dec. 2, we ask the Cebuano public to support this project — through donations, word-of-mouth publicity, and to visit and cheer-on these indefatigable players.

SRP: Sports Recreational Park

Can we rename the “SRP” to “Sports & Recreational Park?” Why not? The South Road Properties is 330-hectares large that’s intended for commercial, industrial, tourism and recreational pursuits — and why not include sports in the equation?

Michael Lopez Rama called me late last week and we had a spirited discussion on the SRP. A lifelong athlete who dabbled into basketball and who continues to shoot 3-pointers like Stephen Curry, the Cebu City mayor is pro-sports. You can ask Ed Hayco about this. You will even see him running (not just for public office) on the road.

With the proposal of Cebu City Councilors Mary Ann de los Santos, Jun Gabuya and Hanz Abella to allocate huge tracts of land for sports — the mayor is not opposed to that. He welcomes it. In fact, since he took office, he has been suggesting this to the community.

The questions are: How big will the space be for sports? Who will fund it? Where at the SRP will it be? Can a viable transport system be planned to include the influx of athletes and spectators — granted Cebu hosts major athletic events?

To me, this lot should not house the Indoor Sports Arena. If this were government-initiated, it would be too costly. It has to be private sector-led. The best group? SM. I’ve been inside the MOA Arena in Manila and it’s a structure to be proud of. I hope Marissa Fernan can help convince Hans Sy to build this. To house NBA exhibition games, Taylor Swift concerts and more, this will be the go-to Vis-Min coliseum (to replace the derelict Cebu Coliseum).

The open air SRP Sports Park — the mayor is eyeing an initial three to five hectares — can be a wide expanse littered with football fields, a track oval, tennis rectangles, a baseball diamond, archery fields, multi-purpose courts and more.

Let’s get this approved!

Donnie Nietes is the pride of the Pinoys

An overflow crowd flocked to the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino last weekend. Each “Pinoy Pride” series of ALA Promotions always elicits a jampacked audience — but last Saturday teemed with even more fans and excitement. It was hot. Seated up on-stage, I saw ALA — Tony Aldeguer — fanning himself. The reason: Cebuanos overheated and swarmed the ballroom to witness Donnie Nietes win his 10th straight against a Mexican. Ahas, the slithery-snake-of-a-champion, was to reward the spectators with Historic Win No. 34.

Judging from their physiques alone (as they entered the ring), it was obvious who was the world champ. Carlos Velarde, youthful at 24 and carrying both a boyish grin and some unneeded fat plastered around his body — he was a neophyte. Skills-wise, the Mexican was shoddy; his strategy was to hug and embrace.

The ending was anti-climactic. The crowd longed for a flurry of uppercuts punctuated by a falling Velarde. But a knockout wasn’t meant to be. In the end, Velarde was “saved” by the accidental head-butt. With his face bloodied, it was the perfect excuse for him to quit.

RECORD. Ronnie Nathanielsz best explains Donnie’s win in his Philboxing.com article: “With the win Nietes reached a high-water-mark in his career by remaining undefeated for 7 years, 1 month and 15 days as he chases the record of 7 years and 3 months established by the great Hall-of-Famer, the late Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde who reigned as world junior lightweight champion for seven years and three months… This means that the 32 year old Nietes will surpass the longtime record of Elorde on January 1, 2015 which will significantly be on the eve of Elorde’s death in the early hours of January 2 signifying that from the ashes of one all-time Filipino great another champion in Nietes, arises.”

MILAN. I’m not sure why but Milan Melindo looked unimpressive. Yes, his diminutive opponent clearly lost the bout but Milan’s victory did not excite the crowd. Several moments during the 12-round encounter, you could hear awkward silence. Were some starting to fall asleep? The firepower and attack-mode were absent. Michael Rama, when I sat with the mayor at the lobby minutes after the event, was shaking his head at his wobbly performance.

CROWD. It’s hard to please the Cebuanos! This was the conclusion arrived at by my seat-mate, Atty. Jingo Quijano. After we witnessed two prolonged battles lasting a dozen rounds each between Pagara-Hilares and Melindo-Suarez, the audience felt bored. They wanted a knockout. You could hear their “disappointment” at Pagara and Melindo, despite the wins. But here’s the funny point: the crowd complains when a visitor gets KO’d in the early rounds — saying that the ALA officials always bring lousy boxers. But they also complain when the bouts are long.

VERBAL CONFRONTATION. An interesting occurrence happened after the Melindo bout. The manager of the Mexican boxers confronted ALA Promotions CEO Michael P. Aldeguer. He complained. A large, mestizo man wearing the Mexican red jacket, it looked like he was ready for a brawl — against Michael. He signaled with his fingers the number “2.” I wasn’t sure what he was saying, if it was “Your (ALA) boxer won only two rounds!” or if it was “You stole two victories from us!” But his voice grew louder until the security personnel intervened. Michael, always sporting a cool demeanor, shrugged off the outburst. But the man kept on shouting. MPA approached to pacify him but he wanted none of it. Finally, the hot-tempered Mexican was moved aside and the tension was diffused. Imagine if he pushed or threw a punch.

PACQUIAO. After Nietes, it’s now the turn of an even more illustrious Pinoy boxer to do his part: win this Sunday. Back-to-back weekends of boxing. To the fan of this sport of jabs and uppercuts, it’s a treat. After Manny’s expected win, here’s hoping for that eventual Manny-Money mega-fight.

History will be made this Saturday

In boxing, everybody says they’ll knockout their opponent. Right? Haven’t you noticed this? Fighters brag and showboat. “I am prepared to give a knockout,” said the visitor. But, as we know and unless there’s a draw, at fight’s end there’ll only be one winner.

Donnie Nietes will be the lone man standing inside the stage this weekend, raising his Murcia-bred arms towards the Waterfront Hotel ceiling, blood dripping, sweat raining, applause from his fellow Cebuanos deafening the ballroom.

His opponent: A Mexican named Velarde but not first-named Mike. He’s Carlos and his 26-wins, 3-loss record will become four defeats before midnight. I’m not saying that Nietes is invincible. Unlike basketball that requires 48 minutes or volleyball where each set must reach 25 points, boxing is spine-chilling: You may dominate the entire fight but, in one careless moment, that incoming stab can plunk you to sleep. Remember Marquez’s wallop on Manny?

Let’s wish this doesn’t happen to Ahas. Having witnessed numerous Nietes fights, I think the 32-year-old is too crafty and too clever to be careless — and thus, we anticipate that he’ll break the nearly-half-a-century-old record of Flash Elorde as the longest-reigning Filipino world champ.

(Read the two articles I wrote about Donnie last April 24 and April 28.)

unnamedWith the world champ

My hope this Saturday — in a night loaded with A-list boxers from ALA Promotions that includes AJ Banal, Albert Pagara, Milan Melindo and Mark Magsayo — is this: That Carlos Velarde put up a tough stand. We’ve witnessed many Waterfront Hotel sorties that finish in a few seconds. We want a quarrel, an altercation, a pummel-versus-jab encounter, a clash and scuffle — with Nietes smiling in the end.

PCCL in Cebu

For basketball fans, this is riveting: the National Collegiate Championship — right here in the Queen City of the South.

Eight teams will compete: From Manila, there’s DLSU, FEU, San Beda, Arellano and National University; from Cebu, there are three: UV, SWU and USC.

The Cebu leg will last for five days. Each afternoon starting today until Monday, there will be games at the Cebu Coliseum. The action moves to Manila on Nov. 21 until the championships are played on Nov. 27 at the Ynares Gym. ABS-CBN Sports+Action will air the games live.

Today’s first game between La Salle and SWU will be exciting because this was the same match-up that played in the finals last year. Plus, there’s Ben Mbala, previously under Coach Yayoy Alcoseba but now playing for the green squad.

“Organizing PCCL chairman Rey Gamboa said the Elite Eight will be a first in the league’s 12 years of existence,” wrote Joey Villar in the piece, “Best college teams collide in 2014 PCCL,” for The Phil. Star. “‘This is historic for collegiate basketball in Cebu because the best of Metro Manila will play the best in the South,’ said Gamboa.”

PCCL live. That’s today until Monday, Cebu Coliseum.

CCM registration

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.43.32 AM

The 2015 Cebu Marathon is this January 11. That’s 58 days from now. Three categories are being offered to all: 10-K, 21-K, and 42-K. While the registration has been on-going for over a month, the Early Bird discounted rate will expire soon. So far, there are nearly 800 runners booked for the full marathon and about 700 for the half-marathon.

Good news: I just got word from Rio de la Cruz and Franco Bambico that the Early Bird registration has been extended for a few days. The original schedule (to expire this Saturday, Nov. 15) has been moved to Nov. 20.

The discounted rates: P900 for the 10k, P1,100 for the 21k, and P1,400 for the marathon. I repeat: these fees will remain as they are only until next Thursday, Nov. 20.

What’s included with these fees? First, the opportunity to join one of Cebu’s top sporting events, held during the Sinulog. The freebies: a singlet (with your personalized name), a finisher’s shirt, a race bib with timing chip, and finisher’s medals for the two longer distances.

How to register? Visit the website (www.cebumarathon.com) or visit the CCM booth at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu. Register now.

8080 Triathlon in San Remigio

Abby Ponce wrote in her Facebook page yesterday: “What better way to cap off my initial year as a triathlete than do it the 8080 way? San Rem 8080 was way better than the Bogo edition with closed roads, a very challenging tough swim course (all of us underestimated this – it was not shallow at all and was ‘bawd’ and my Garmin measured it at 2.35k!!) not to mention that killer 65k bike route. In the end, it was my background as a runner that saved the day for me. Congratulations Cornerstone, that was a well organized race, marshals who stayed with us to the end, townspeople who bathed us with water plus that nice loot bag (yey! bike cover!/two finishers shirts/vmv products/unbamboo medals-shhh lupig sunrise events).”

I agree with Abby. It was well-organized. Kudos to Steve and Maricel Maniquis, Quinito Moras, Joel Juarez, Mayor Mariano Martinez and the hundreds of volunteers and officials who helped organize last Saturday’s “8080 Triathlon” event in San Remigio.

The morning began with a prayer. It was the first year anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda that ravaged many areas, including San Rem.

The race proper? Roads were cleared for the cyclists. The pristine waters were rid of sea urchin. In every kilometer of the Run, there was a hydration station complete with Gatorade, Nips chocolates and medical personnel. The celebration? It started at 4 p.m. when live DJs played nonstop and bands strummed their guitars for the party. Food and San Mig Light overflowed.

Cornerstone Group, the organizers, promised an “easy swim.” And though the water wasn’t shallow, safety was paramount. Boats and bancas surrounded us. A rope with buoys lined the middle. Best of all — and I think this is a first in Philippine triathlon — a neon-colored string was embedded on the sea bottom. It was the perfect guide to follow — so you’ll swim a straight path. Well done, Niño Abarquez.

For me, joining my first full Tri’ race, the swim had always been scariest. Staying all the way back at the start to avoid the early commotion, I got stuck with plenty blocking the way. It was a “washing machine” and the first 10 minutes was a struggle. And the swim was 1.8 kms. far! Thankfully, the 200 or so traithletes spread out. Eventually, I relaxed and enjoyed the water.

The bike ride was bad and good. First, it was hot. This event could have been renamed “Sun” Rem because of the sun. We started the race at 12:30 p.m. and the sky was cloudless. My 8080 distance meant two loops of 32.5 kms. for a total of 65K. Unlike Cebu City’s flat roads, in San Remigio it was up-and-down rolling terrain. But what a sight to see long stretches of cemented road with no cars. (Though several accidents still happened in the bike portion.)

After endless minutes of pedaling, I entered the transition area with many participants already finished! Those joining “4040” (900-meter swim, 32.5K bike, and 7K run) were done. While they were relaxing, we still had to complete a 14K run.

I had cramps starting the first kilometer of the run. With hardly any practice of what they call “brick” (transition), I suffered leg pain after that swim-to-run transition. The cramps continued in the first 7K loop.

During the run, children lined-up the inner roads to high-five the runners. What’s different about this race is the schedule. Instead of starting early and finishing the run at noon, this time it’s inverted: you start at noon and end with the comfortable late-afternoon shade.

Dr. Ron Eullaran completed his first triathlon (4040) event. Same with Rhoanne Salimbangon, accompanied by her husband (and two-time IM70.3 finisher) Ken. Cebu City Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos completed the 8080, sprinting towards the end in applause. At the finish, after you cross that line, a bottle of water and a can of beer is handed to you. It’s time to drink and rejoice after the pain — especially for many of us first-timers who Tri’d our best.

One expert on Formula One

Justin Alfafara is a lifelong F1 fanatic. “My life and work schedule revolve around the F1 weekend calendar,” he told me. “I’ve probably missed watching only 9 races the past 10 years.” Last Sept. and together with friends Francesca Arambulo, Anton Villacin, Jude Flores, Chomeng Marquez, Jenina Jordana Marquez, Clyde Cogal, Casey Siao and John Ngo, he flew to watch his third straight Singapore GP. Here’s Justin’s expert commentary:

SINGAPORE: “The experience was different from the previous races because of the new engine regulations. This year, we saw a dramatic decrease in the noise reduction produced by the engines (which are now called Power Units because of the hybrid technology). This was due to a reduction in engine size from V8 to V6 with twin turbo and electric motor powered by E.R.S. The sound produced was very subdued. We can hear the turbo blow off and the screeching of the tires. We could have a conversation with each other and there was no need for ear plugs.”

REVIEWS THIS YEAR: “It’s safe to say probably half of the drivers embrace the new regulations and development in technology. However, fans and critics all long for the old sound of the V10 and V8 era engines. Most drivers don’t like the ‘long life’ engine rule which sees them having to manage only 5 power units for the season; a few years ago, they would have a brand new engine every race. Instead of racing on the edge, drivers are now forced take it down a few notches in order to manage their tires, fuel, engine and gearboxes. The playing field has leveled out due to the restrictions. Now, the smaller teams have a fighting chance against the legendary giants, but at the same time limiting the capabilities of the drivers because they have to nurse their cars for them to last an entire race. I believe this goes against F1 being ‘The Pinnacle of Motorsport.’”

VETTEL: “Seb has been dominant the past few years mainly because of the car that Adrian Newey developed under those regulations. However, with the change this year, the engine supplier of Red Bull Racing (Renault) was caught unprepared. Same with Ferrari, who are underperforming in spite of their superstar all-world champion drivers. Not only has Vettel been dealt with an inferior engine, but he has also been outperformed by his younger teammate Daniel Ricciardo.”

HAMILTON V. ROSBERG: “They started out as good friends but the intensity of competition and that hunger for the world title has brought out their true colors. Friendship comes 2nd to being world champion. I think at this point, Mercedes will choose to back one driver and that’s Hamilton; but Rosberg will put up an intense fight.”

GOOD SEASON? “For the fans… Hmmm… personally, there is a lack of excitement because of the quieter cars and the drivers tiptoeing just to finish a race. Not to mention the dominance of Mercedes; it’s a tad bit boring knowing who will win every time; but racing for 3rd place and below seems to be better with a lot of bold overtakes and gut-wrenching moves. Surprise? The rookies are all outperforming their veteran team mates.”

2015: “Next year we will see how good Vettel is when he moves to Ferrari. There are rumors that they will introduce the 3-cars-per-team configuration as there are two teams that are already bankrupt, and three more that are struggling financially. There’s a need for 22 cars on the grid and without those teams, they might have to introduce the 3 car configuration. There are also rumors that there might be some changes to the look of the F1 car by adding safety features due to the accident of Jules Bianchi. There is even talk about a closed canopy, but I doubt that would happen. The return of the legendary Honda-McLaren tie-up. Honda will rejoin F1 with their iconic partner, McLaren. Everyone is excited to see if they can revive their glory days. With Vettel to Ferrari, nobody knows where Fernando Alonso will end up. Some say McLaren, some say he will take a sabbatical from the sport and race in Le Mans.”

Samsam in the land of Uncle Sam

First District Representative Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, Jr. is now in the U.S. There for a short break to visit family and friends, the 29-year-old congressman is excited for the twin events that will happen next week.

On November 11, he’s watching the game between the Golden State Warriors and the reigning NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs. This will be at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Two nights after (Thursday next week), he’ll return to the same stadium where the Warriors will face the New Jersey Nets. I’ll get the first-hand experiences of Samsam after next week but, before that, I asked him to comment on the current NBA season.

“Overall, it is just GOOD to have high quality basketball back,” said the team manager of the University of the Visayas basketball squad.

Exciting NBA teams? Now that he’s in San Francisco, he talked about the Warriors: “New coach, new system; it showed in the first three games.” GSW is 3-0. In the Western Conference, they trail the Houston Rockets (5-0) and Memphis Grizzlies (4-0) as the only teams to sport undefeated streaks. In the East, only one team has not lost a game — and they’re playing without LeBron James. That’s the Miami Heat at 3-0.

“I like the Hornets. Bringing the name back was a great idea,” said Gullas, of this team that was previously named Bobcats. “Plus, having Michael Jordan sit on the end of the bench makes you think… Will he enter the game with 3 seconds left?”

On LeBron rejoining his former team, “It’s great to see him back home,” he said. “It’s what I thought he would do. It was the right decision.”

I next queried about the worst-performing team in the league today (0-5); a team name that is synonymous with championships and is one of the most recognizable sporting brands in the world: the Los Angeles Lakers.

“When the Lakers signed Kobe to a 2-year, $40-million plus contract, that was the beginning of the END,” said Gullas. “On the Lakers part, was it a decision to win more championships or just to get fans in Staples because of Kobe’s presence? Kobe is Kobe. Some people hate him and others praise him but he himself should have known, his contract won’t bring anyone to LA. He could have followed what Dirk did. Taking less money so they could sign Parsons.”

How about the rumor that’s circulating in the internet, of Kobe Bryant, all of 36 years very old and having stayed with the L.A. Lakers his entire career since 1996 — the gossipmongers whisper that he’ll move east to New York?

“It would be nice to shake up the East even more,” said Gullas. “Question: Will the Knicks have to trade their First Five minus Melo (Carmelo Anthony) to get Kobe? This is a rumor but I strongly believe that the Zen Master has called the Lakers about this.”

This story has inflamed excitement because of these possibilities: uniting Melo and Kobe in one doubles team plus reuniting the trio of Kobe, Derek Fisher (Knicks head coach) and Phil Jackson (Knicks president) in the Big Apple.

Gullas cites one player among the league’s hundreds. “People hate him for his aggressive style of play but I have always loved Russell Westbrook’s game. Saddened with his injury but I really thought he’d be an MVP candidate this year. By the end of the year, he’d replace Curry and Paul as the best point guard in the NBA.”

As to the top contenders, Samsam likes the Cavs/Bulls and “maybe even the Heat” for the East. As to the West, he picks Houston, Thunder, Dallas, Clippers, Memphis and, maybe he’s biased because he’s in San Francisco now and will watch their games next week, “the Warriors will be in the 2nd round or even finalists.”

The Spurs? “Always!” Final prediction: Warriors/Thunder/Spurs VS Cavs for the 2015 NBA championship.

Vic, Duke and 50,000 others run New York

Dr. Vicente Verallo and I spoke yesterday. It was 12:02 p.m. (noon) here. In New York City, where Dr. Vic was at, it was 11 at night. Thanks to Viber, we chatted for 14 minutes.

Together with over 50,000 others, our top dermatologist ran the world’s largest 42K race last Sunday. “It was cold!” said Vic. The morning started at 4 degrees Celsius and, though it warmed when the sun rose and Vic’s group started at 10:55 a.m., there was one factor that made it chilly. “The winds were strong,” said Vic. When he climbed the Verrazano Bridge (which I kidded him can now be called “Verallo Bridge”), it was strongest. “It was running at 45 miles per hour, which made running difficult especially when crossing the bridge especially if one is running with a cheap, loose jacket intended to be thrown away.”

Ever the joker in our running group, Vic added: “I could not, however, throw it away since Verallo is a true-blooded Filipino who could not stand the cold.” Four layers of clothing, plus a hoodie and gloves, enveloped Vic.

How does this compare, I asked, with the 12 other marathons that he’s completed? The crowd was plenty and they cheered plenty, said Vic. Close to two million New Yorkers flood the streets to motivate the runners. “You will never find this kind of crowd support elsewhere,” said Jane-Jane Ong, who, together with her siblings Andrew and Nica, ran NYC in 2010. “People line up the whole route (except for the 5 bridges) calling out your name and cheering you on and pushing you every step of the way until the finish line.”

usa-newyork-marathon(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Dr. Verallo noticed one item. “Security was very tight,” he added. Dogs sniffed all belongings and, when the participants rode the ferry towards the start (in Staten Island), every bag was checked. “We were not allowed to bring any back packs,” he said. “Only the transparent plastic bags given to us.” Even family members were not spared. Given what happened to Boston last year, the well-wishers at the finish line had to wait at a distance. “In Central Park, where we finished, there was a ‘Family Reunion’ area that was far.”

During the race, Dr. Susan Verallo, Vic’s wife, was able to follow her husband’s pace. “The nice thing is there is an app which you can download for free,” said Vic. “With it, one can track us down during the whole course. Susan didn’t have a problem locating me. She could see how fast, or most of the time, how SLOW I was progressing. The whole course must have wifi signal!”

Dr. Verallo timed a very respectable 4 hours and 48 minutes. The sad part? “After running for 26 miles, Susan and I had to walk another three kilometers to the hotel!”

He was happiest about what transpired the night before. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, doctors Vic and Susan heard anticipated mass. At the end, the Monsignor called all the runners up front. “Usually, there would just be a handful,” he said, “but yesterday, we filled up the whole front portion, all of us runners, and we were blessed and sprinkled with holy water.”

DUKE FRASCO. The mayor from Liloan, Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco, also completed the NYC Marathon — his first 42-K. I received this email from the Liloan mayor:

“Hi John! It was extremely cold and windy! The wind made it even colder! In short, an amazing experience! My 21k was just a little over 2hrs so I was making good time. It wasn’t until mile 20 that my legs started to cramp up and it was like that until the finish! I finished with a time of 4:38:35 – pretty good for my first marathon ever and since my target was 4:50-4:55. The crowd was incredible all the way from Brooklyn to Central Park! The 45min walk in the cold after the finish wasn’t very nice – but, was just extremely happy that I did it and to represent Liloan, Cebu, and the Philippines. I ran from the start with a Philippine flag tucked in my shorts! I pulled it out and raised it for everyone to see in the last 100meters all the way to the finish! If I had a picture, I would hashtag it with #FilinoPride! Hehe.”

Checking the official website, a total of 138 Filipinos finished. The fastest, with a 2:55 time, was Felipe Sajulga III.

WOZNIACKI. Speaking of celebrities, the focus was on former No. 1 tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki.

Usually, marathon preparation includes long runs that stretch from 25-K to 32-K. But the Danish netter had no time to train long-distance. The other weekend, I saw her with my own eyes, playing a semi-final match at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Leading 5-4 in the third set against Serena Williams, she served for the match — only to lose. She was busy smashing balls instead of road-running and had not run more than a 21-K. Worse, she joined a Halloween party a few nights (or mornings, as she went home 4 a.m.) before race day.

No training and no sleep? No problem. She clocked a speedy 3:26! Even riding his golf cart, I bet Rory can’t run that fast.

woz3s-1-web(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)

The Homecoming King

Have you seen the Nike advertisement? It’s called “Together” and it aired the day when LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers played their first game this season. I won’t spoil the contents of this awe-inspiring black-and-white video but please, even if you’re a Kobe fan and you wear Adidas, watch it on YouTube.

Patience. That’s the key word for the Cavs. The hype of their inaugural Quicken Loans Arena game against the New York Knicks was too much to bear. Even for the Human Superman.

Remember when LeBron moved to the Miami Heat in 2010 and they were “assured” of an NBA crown in their first season, after teaming-up with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade? That team amassed a miserable 9-8 win-loss start. That’s as poor — considering the hype — a beginning as was expected.

With last Thursday’s opener, LeBron added to the frenzy when he declared the game, “Probably one of the biggest sporting events ever.” He was exaggerating. Obviously, this was nowhere near the Olympics Opening or Game 7 of a Lakers-Boston final or the possible Pacman-Money fight.

Over-emotional and over-excited, the Cavs lost to the Knicks, 95-90. But more than the defeat (it’s just one game out of the 82 that they’ll play in regular season; 41 each at home and away), that first game loss was awkward and difficult.

lebron-james-nba-new-york-knicks-cleveland-cavaliers2-850x560(David Richard/USA TODAY Sports)

I like what Cavs coach David Blatt said right after the disaster when he was asked if it was like a kick in the stomach. He said: “It was for me, for everybody — and that could be a good thing for all of us.”

For LeBron himself, an analyst dubbed that Game 1 as his “4th-worst home game ever,” counting the 507 home games that he’s played. His distasteful numbers included missing his first 8-of-9 shots; he had a total 5-for-15 shooting and committed eight turnovers.

The good news? He has nowhere to go but better. “It was one game,” said LeBron. “We have to learn from this. It’s great to have a game like this, especially this early on.”

Twenty four hours later when they landed in Chicago to play their upcoming Eastern Conference Finals rivals, the nightmare was erased; this time, with all the hysteria out of the way, LeBron played like the 4-time MVP that he is, scoring 36 points, including their first eight in OT.

Next up: a West Coast sojourn, starting with the Portland Trail Blazers this Wednesday morning (Phil. time).

What’s clear with this move by LeBron called “Decision 2.0” is this: it’s personal. More than the money and championships, he wanted to give back to the community that helped him grow. He hurt his fellow Ohio residents with the Miami transfer and, the good hearted man that he is, he wanted to make amends. “The roads, the buildings, the people,” said LeBron, “they helped raised me.”

In a USA Today Sports article entitled, “LeBron James’ homecoming bigger than basketball,” ace writer Nancy Armour narrates:

“Every athlete has a story of a community that helped him or her along the way, and every city has a favored athlete it considers one of its own. For James and northeast Ohio, however, it’s one in the same, the two as tightly intertwined as family.

“The people of Akron and Cleveland have been in the bleachers since James was not much older than his own sons are now, watching with pride as he grew and developed the skills that have made him one of the greatest players of all time. In return, they gave shelter and support to the boy with the young, single mother, making sure he never went astray and, as the spotlight grew, protecting him from those who didn’t have his best interests at heart.”

That’s why LeBron returned. To pay back. To say thanks. Strong-willed and bull-headed, LeBron is, at the same time, an emotional being who cares for and sympathizes with his neighbors.

Here’s my conclusion: This one is for keeps. I can’t imagine LeBron having to move out again and leave home. This is it. He’s here to stay. And the Clevelanders can’t be happier welcoming home their own son — even if he messes up in that first game.