Category Archives: Manny Pacquiao

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.

Bread and butter, boxing and basketball

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I’ve played basketball with Manny Pacquiao. He’s good. But PBA good? As in ready to compete against Marc Pingris, PJ Simon, Jimmy Alapag and Paul Lee? Ha-ha. It’s like the reverse question: Can Calvin Abueva don boxing gloves and fight in the ring? The answer is Yes. But ready to brawl in an ALA Promotions undercard? Absolutely not.

Same with Pacquiao. He can jump 10.5-feet high, elevate his 141-lb. frame and strut an acrobatic lay-up. In our basketball games back in 2007 when he trained against Marco Antonio Barrera, when he would sprint down the lane, our defense parted like Moses parted the Red Sea. The reason: We didn’t want to harm him. Imagine MP getting injured not inside the 23’ x 23’ ring but on the basketball floor? Kita sad-an sa injury.

That’s what happened in Cebu Coliseum. His Team Pacquiao battled our Sportswriters Association of Cebu. In one moment I’ll forever remember, Manny dribbled the ball as point guard. While moving forward, I flicked the rubber ball for a steal. The ball bounced away from Manny and towards the open court. He sprinted. I sprinted. We both lunged forward, diving on court, eyes fixed on grappling that ball. Imagine if Manny had gotten injured and called off the Barrera multi-million-dollar bout?

In the upcoming PBA season, you’ve read the news: Apart from the 10 existing PBA teams, the league is expanding and will accommodate two more squads. There’s Blackwater Sports and Kia Motors.

The head coach for Kia? The boxer who’ll be fighting this Nov. 23 in Macau. Why, of all people, did Kia ask Manny? At this point in his career when he hasn’t retired yet?

Why not Cebu’s pride, the nation’s most decorated coach who has yet to coach the pro league, Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba?

Why Manny? Publicity. Promotion. To attract fans. This is obvious. And when the PBA Rookie Draft is unveiled next Sunday (Aug. 24), will Manny be selected (out of 95 hopefuls), not just as head coach but also as player, ala today’s version of Robert Jaworski? Yes. Because what Manny wants, Manny gets. “We welcome the application of Congressman Pacquiao,” said PBA commissioner Chito Salud. “We wish him luck. He will go through normal procedure.”

Kia has two picks in the second round of the draft. Will they sign him? Sure. Long ago, he announced that he wanted to be both PBA coach and player. The critics questioned the legality. He’ll get his wish nonetheless.

Quinito Henson has a prediction and I believe it will happen. Quinito wrote this last Friday: “If the plan to stage the PBA’s 40th season-opening doubleheader at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bulacan pushes through on Oct. 19, playing coach Manny Pacquiao will make his debut with Kia against Blackwater in the first game…”

Manny has always been impatient. Whether it’s knocking-out opponents (Ricky Hatton) or doing his multi-tasking extra-curricular activities (remember those days?), he’s always relished juggling multiple jobs. “Basketball is my first love,” said Manny, “but boxing is my bread and butter.”

True. But couldn’t he have waited after his boxing career to shift to basketball? Focus on one target at a time? It’s not as if these world titles fights are tiny goals, right? He’s earning over a billion pesos per bout. But then again, if Manny waits after boxing, that’s nearing 2016 — and won’t he run for Senator? That’s even better. Then, his credentials will read: PBA coach-player. Boxing world champ. Billionaire. Senator.

Will his boxing suffer at this time? He knows that if he loses this November, that’s the end of his boxing career. The wise man that he is, that’s why he chose a nobody in the name of Chris Algieri who, despite his 20-0 record, is unheard-of.

With the PBA, what a team name: Kia Kamao. If my research is correct, “kamao” has two meanings. In Bisaya, it means “skillful;” in Tagalog, it’s “fist.” Exceptional choice of name. The initials are easy to remember (“KK”) plus both meanings describe their coach/player.

Kamao gyud ni si Manny.

Manny Pacquiao beats Timothy badly

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Hambog. If there’s one thing Timothy Bradley displayed two days ago, it’s this: he’s a showman who loves to taunt, mock, jeer. He’s a boast, not a beast. He was more bravado than brave. He made fun of our congressman. Good thing he didn’t get knocked-out like Anderson Silva. Remember UFC’s greatest fighter, who bragged and gloated on the octagon — only to be promptly KO’d by Chris Weidman?

I was hoping Pacquiao would do the same to the grandstanding and show-off Bradley. (Speaking of UFC, last Sunday I mistakenly wrote “Bruce” Buffer instead of Michael Buffer; it just shows the popularity of UFC, pointed out Nick Torres.)

With Pacman, he has redeemed himself. He lives to fight another fight. “This win was important,” Pacquiao said. “I proved that my boxing journey will continue.” He was Manny The Great; though not the spectacular, unrelenting and pitiless Supermanny of five years ago.

Age matters. When you’re 35 and have logged tens of thousands of hours on the gym, punching and being punched, jabbing and receiving those uppercuts, the body, like any organism and machine, wears out.

Manny was fantastic. He wasn’t outstanding. “He was a little bit slower than I’ve seen in the past,” Freddie Roach said.

Part of it is confidence. In that 15-fight winning streak from 2005 to 2011 when he annihilated Oscar and Ricky and Miguel, his belief and sureness were indisputable. His poise, nerve, resoluteness — beyond assurance. I’m unbeatable, Manny declared then.

Prior to two days ago, he had lost two of three. Understandably, his faith and belief weren’t as strong. But now, after this victory, when he claimed vindication for that burglary in Part I when he was robbed by the judges — his morale has risen.

NO KNOCKOUT. We all wanted to see Bradley lying on the floor. It didn’t happen. Manny hasn’t scored a KO win in 4.5 years. The best explanation? From David Kassel of FightHype.com, who wrote yesterday: “Manny is fighting about 4 weight classes above his most dominant weight. Manny Pacquiao has grown into a welterweight, but he could probably still make weight at 130-135 lbs. He is almost always the smaller guy coming into the ring… Pacquiao, unlike Floyd Mayweather, is offensive-minded, which means he is going to take more punishment to make sure he gets his licks in… his body is worn from taking so many punches from guys who come into fights weighing over 160lbs. Pacquiao’s days of spectacular, one-punch knockouts may be over, and we have to be willing to accept that.”

WHO’S NEXT? Obviously, it’s Part V. Like a Rocky Balboa series which extended all the way to Rocky V (with one more added 16 years later), this one, too, will reach Round 5.

MP & JMM. Mexicutioner vs. Dinamita. There’s unsettled business here. You think, after all those sleepless nights he endured reliving the nightmare, that Manny’s not aching to seek revenge?

Interestingly, I dug-up his full name and it’s Juan Manuel Marquez Mendez. Yes, Mendez! That’s my wife’s maiden name. My father-in-law Atty. Jack Mendez, whose mestizo looks might originate from Mexico, probably won’t deny their affinity. But I’m also sure he won’t mind this Mendez being knocked-out!

Why is Part V a certainty (unless Marquez gets shocked by Mike Alvarado)? There’s even a proposed name: Pacquiao-Marquez V: Once and Five All. Because both are Bob Arum’s players. Speaking of Arum, I had the chance in Macau to speak to him and my dad Bunny has a nice photo with him. This guy is indefatigable. Like Jack Mendez, he’s 82 years old! But his rosy cheeks and always-smiling face would tell you he’s much younger. His favorite pair of shoes, as I witnessed in Macau, were New Balance running shoes.

MOMMY D. Everybody’s raving about Mommy Dionisia. It’s obvious where Manny got his spunk and moxie from. Footages of Mommy D. flashing those fingers while holding a prayer pamphlet elicited lots of comments. On stage, when she not only hugged her son but also embraced Bradley — that was unexpected and wonderful. This mom is groovy. Naay karakter.

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Manny’s victory: Not if, but how

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Like you, I believe that Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao will right the wrong that was inflicted in Part I of the Pacquiao-Bradley encounter. In that June 9, 2012 bout, Manny won almost every one of the 12 rounds contested; but he lost with the six eyeballs that mattered most — the judges.

Not today. Not when Manny knows that a loss will send his Hall of Fame career to The End. Not when Freddie Roach himself declared, “This is a must-win situation.”

He’s fought for 21 years. He’s knocked-out 38 opponents including Erik Morales and Jorge Solis and Ricky Hatton. He’s a multi-billionaire who owns mansions from Forbes Park to Los Angeles. He stands only 5 ft. 6 1/2 in. short but his boxing credentials are the tallest in history: the first and only eight-division world champion.

All these don’t matter today. What matters is this: MP needs a victory. A knockout. Why leave the decision to three subjective human beings?

Here’s what I guarantee: We’ll see a more aggressive, attacking, Mike Tyson-like beast inside MGM today — like he was when he won 15 straight from 2005 to 2011. Manny’s reputation is being questioned. “He’s lost his killer instinct.” “Sobra siya ka buotan karon.” “He’s 35 years very, very old.”

I saw this with my bare eyes last November. Just 11 rows away from the ring, my seat-mates Bunny (my dad) and Jingo (my SunStar neighbor) couldn’t believe how reluctant Manny was to “go for the kill.” Surely, the nightmare of Juan Manuel Marquez’s punch lingered in his mind. Manny was cautious. He wanted a win — by points. Manny has transformed into a good Christian in the wrong sport of boxing.

Not today. At the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight, Manny will attempt to dispel this notion. He’ll charge. He’ll weave left and right. He’ll pummel that left hook. He’ll poke the boastful Bradley. He’ll jab throwing that right punch. In the end, Pac-Man will weather the Desert Storm.

Boxing is all about Proving. Proving who’s best. Proving whose egotistic words become true. Today, it’s Pacquiao who has more to prove. To us. To Bradley. To himself. To Freddie, who said, “Some people think we are all done and we have to prove that we are not.” To Mommy Dionisia and wife Jinkee, both of whom want him to retire.

WEIGH-IN. Yesterday, I watched footages of the weigh-in. Everybody in the house except for Bradley’s entourage was cheering for Pacquiao. To think that our man is Pinoy fighting an American in the U.S.

I recall the weigh-in of the Pacquiao-Rios fight last November. These weigh-ins start early, at 8 a.m. And it’s rapid-fire fast. The whole event is done in half an hour. One by one in quick succession, the boxers enter the stage, undress, step on that scale and leave. Fast.

Even the main event protagonists don’t linger for long. At yesterday’s weigh-in, when both Manny and Timothy stood side-by-side to flex and reveal their muscles, wow, it was like watching a body-building event. These guys are absolutely ripped! Manny was lean and brawny; Tim’s muscles were sculptured and very defined.

Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley

The excitement of being there at the Weigh-In is indescribable. You’re amongst thousands of screaming Pinoys. Music reverberates. Lights flash and circle the stage. Bruce Buffer’s deep voice echoes. Bob Arum smiles. Then, the Gladiators come face to face, just inches apart, locking eyeball-to-eyeball, playing “psycho” (mental) games.

KNOCKOUT? Today’s fight has the potential to be one of Manny’s greatest ever. If he wins by a spectacular knockout — against an American sporting a 32-0 record — this can rank as not only a “great comeback” but also a vindication. An I-told-you-so and never-count-me-out moment for the humble, Bible-reading Filipino. Bradley has never slept for more than 10 seconds on the Las Vegas canvas. There’s always a first time. Today.

Wakee Salud: ‘Bradley has improved a lot’

pac.penalosa.salud.091024.300wGerry, Manny and Wakee (Photo by Dong Secuya)

I tried calling Gerry Peñalosa yesterday. The ringing tone sounded different, like the call was international. Hours later, I found out why.

“Hi John. Sorry msd ur call. How are you? im here in LA now.”

I wanted to unlock the thoughts of one of Pinoy boxing’s greatest fighters, the man termed by Freddie Roach as “the country’s best ever technical boxer.”

We didn’t talk. Maybe for another column.

I next tried Rex Salud. You know Wakee. He’s Manny Pacquiao’s best friend. They’ve been together since 2005 when, after Manny’s loss to Erik Morales, the Cebuano invited the boxer to Lapu-Lapu City for wild nights of cock-fighting, Casino gambling, drinking, and a myriad of other extra-curriculars.

Like Gerry, the ringback tone sounded international. No response. Minutes later, a message popped, “nasa us na.”

I called. “I’ve been here since March 19,” said Wakee. “I’m now in Los Angeles.”

Each day, he gets to see Manny. “When I arrived, Manny had bouts of colds, coughing and he had a slight fever,” Wakee said. “This week, good that he’s able to recover.”

He explained the brutal practice sessions of Manny, each one lasting up to four hours. “Maayo (Good),” Wakee said, describing the training sessions. “Doble ang (Double the) power compared to the Rios fight.”

Wakee has not missed a live Pacman fight since 2005. That’s nine years ago. Since then, Manny won 15 straight bouts up until June 2012 when he lost to Timothy Bradley. Manny lost again to Juan Manuel Marquez.

15 consecutive wins. Two subsequent losses. A win last November. Every one of those 18 bouts, Wakee Salud was present at Manny’s corner. Including the one to come next Sunday.

Of that Rios fight four months ago in Macau, I spotted Wakee on multiple occasions accompanying Manny and his entourage. An hour before Manny stepped inside the ring, Wakee passed our seating area. We chatted. Forever the optimist, he was confident of MP. Next weekend is no different.

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Doble gyud ang preparation ni Manny,” he said. “All-out siya karon.”

By “all-out,” Wakee means that the Sarangani Congressman is taking zero chances against an opponent who defeated him the last time. “Timothy Bradley has improved a lot,” said Wakee. “He defeated Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez. He’s even better now.”

Bradley sports a spotless record. If he wins next week, that’s 32 straight W’s. “Manny cannot underestimate Bradley,” added Wakee. These are humbling words from the operator of the RWS (Rex Wakee Salud) gym in Labangon — the spot where Manny trained in 2007 for his bout against Marco Antonio Barrera.

I say “humbling” because when I first asked Wakee the same question two years ago prior to Pacquiao-Bradley Part I, he told me: “No chance for Bradley. Easy fight for Manny.”

That was in 2012. Now, it’s different. It’s all-serious. All out. The aim, obviously, is to put to sleep Bradley. “For sure, Manny will go for the knockout,” he said. “That’s the goal. But even if he doesn’t, he will win by decision.”

The question I failed to ask Mr. Salud is this: Granted that Manny wins, that’s well and good. Smiles will be plastered on the faces of the 100 million Filipinos worldwide. A victory parade beside Erap will encircle the streets of Manila.

But, the big, WHAT IF? What if he gets robbed a second time? By the judges? Or simply by a better — and, at the age of 30, a younger — fighter?

What if ang atong manok ma-pildi? Manny’s on a decline, no doubt. He’s lost two of his last three with the lone win coming against a weak Rios.

Let’s see. Let’s not jump to negative possibilities. I guess the answer would be: It depends on how he loses, if ever. If it’s via knockout — which is so unlikely, given Bradley’s record of only 12 KOs in 31 fights — then it’s surely game over for MP.

But we expect a win. We hope for it. We pray to God that His renewed son will be triumphant. For now, it’s just counting down the days. Day 10, 9, 8…

Eight post-fight notes on Pacquiao-Rios

1385273923000-AP-Macau-Boxing-Pacquiao-Rios-001(Photo: Vincent Yu/AP)

Firstly, if you want the best seats in the arena, write for sports. We sat 11 rows from the stage. Had we purchased those tickets, they’d be over $2,000 each. What’s amazing about being inside Ground Zero (the Media/VIP Section) is that there’s free food served: Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Garrett popcorn, sandwiches, Heinekin beer — eat and drink all you can.

TWO, Bob Arum and The Venetian Macao know how to take care of the press. While here covering the event, you get access inside the Media Room. It’s the size of Waterfront’s ballroom with free wi-fi and (again) sandwiches and ice cream. Even more, at the nearby Media Dining Room, it’s another giant ballroom where, for dinner, lunch and breakfast, we partook of salmon, steak, siomai, carved sweet ham, mussels, giant mushrooms…

We queried Dong Secuya, the internet pioneer of Cebu (he built Cebu’s first website in 1995 and runs one of the world’s top boxing sites, Philboxing.com.) We asked Dong if the reception was similar to Las Vegas; he gave a definitive “No.” There, they serve “pica-pica” and drinks. In Macau, it’s eat and drink the best Asian food until you drop.

THREE, Zou Shiming is a giant here. Diminutive at only 112-lbs., he’s the most revered Chinese boxer, a winner of two Olympic gold medals. Inside The Venetian, there’s an entire hall that showcases everything-Zou: photos, paintings, stories. He’s China’s Pacquiao.

FOUR: Wakee Salud is still in Manny’s inner circle. We saw each other here multiple times. “The security is not as tight as in Las Vegas,” Wakee told me two hours before Manny fought. Wakee was headed towards Manny’s locker room and, sure enough, when they emerged from the dugout, Wakee walked behind Chavit Singson.

FIVE, lots from Cebu here: Cebu City mayors (current) Mike Rama and (former) Tommy Osmena. Dr. Tony San Juan. Willy T. Go. Dennis Que. Rep. Samsam Gullas. Naga mayor Val Chiong. Rep. Raul del Mar. Choy Toralba. Atan Guardo, Alan Delantar, Councilor Richie Osmena. Chester Cokaliong with his friends — and many, many more from Cebu. Among the press, there’s Atty. Jingo Quijano, CDN’s sports editor Rick Gabuya, The Freeman’s sports editor Manny Villaruel and my dad Bunny. I counted two boxing judges (Edward Ligas and Salven Lagumbay) and referee (Atty. Danrex Tapdasan) from Cebu.

SIX: To the younger ones who watched fight, you must have noticed Manny’s entrance song. It wasn’t his personal hit or one from a Pinoy artist but Katy Perry’s song “Roar.” Part of the lyrics go: “You held me down, but I got up; Already brushing off the dust; You hear my voice, you hear that sound; Like thunder gonna shake the ground; You held me down, but I got up; Get ready cause I’ve had enough; I see it all, I see it now… I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire; Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar…”

SEVEN: This was “Lutong Macau.” No, it doesn’t mean that this fight was fixed or rigged. It means that “gi luto ug gi-kaon si Rios.” In our talks here, here’s the consensus: 1) Rios was ideal for Manny at this point because he was easy. He’s slow, lacks power, doesn’t have top-level pedigree. 2) Manny needed this (“stepping stone”) win. Badly. 3) MP was cautious. It’s obvious the memory of that Marquez KO still lingers. Last Sunday while he was clearly leading, why take unnecessary risks? 4) There will be more MP fights in Macau. Why? Because of the overflowing Pinoy crowd. On one elevator ride, a companion of Manny from GenSan confided that Manny flew in 500 people from Gensan!

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EIGHT: You and I saw what we’ve long known: Manny no longer wears the rosary and he doesn’t make the sign of the cross. I’m a devout Catholic and I don’t want to meddle into a debate on this sensitive topic other than to say that, no doubt and confirmed by everybody, he’s a reformed and honest-to-goodness Christian. As I listened for myself in the exclusive press conference, he repeatedly thanked God above all. “This is not about me,” he said. “I’m just a boxer. This is my job. All glory to God.” Amen.

No Boom! as Bam Bam turns punching bag

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MACAU — Seated on Row 11 or about 50 feet away, our eyes witnessed what the entire world witnessed: Manny Pacquiao’s mission was not to win by knockout but simply to win. After two losses with the last one coming via a nightmarish KO, he didn’t have to kill Brandon Rios; he simply had to kill him softly.

“I backed-off a little bit,” Manny admitted, referring to that 12th round when he could have attacked for a Ricky Hatton-like demolition job. But, no; he was cautious. “I don’t want to be careless. I had to be careful.” These were his exact words when we listened to him in person during the post-fight interview at The Venetian Ballroom. “Boxing,” he added, “is not about killing each other.”

God-fearing. Reformed. Away from his old and evil ways. Compassionate and now a truthful family man and renewed Christian, Manny is the same devastating Mike Tyson-type aggressor but no longer the heartless and savage animal who bloodied Cotto and brutalized Margarito.

COTAI ARENA. Yesterday, we arrived inside the Cotai Arena at 8 a.m. to listen to the ring announcer mention the name “Harmonito de la Torre.” Hailing from Gen. Santos City, we spent time with our fellow Pinoy last Sunday. During our buffet lunch together (less than 24 hours prior to his fight), Harmonito was so confident that he gobbled-up a plateful of food, including chocolate cate. No worries; yesterday, he feasted on opponent Jason Butar-Butar in impressive fashion.

From 8 a.m. until nearly 2 p.m., we took our positions inside the Cotai Arena. There were a total of nine undercard bouts; apart from De La Torre, the super welterweight victory also went to another Pinoy, Dan Nazareno.

One more impressive fighter was Rex Tso. He’s the top boxer of Hong Kong and he’s managed/trained by Aljoe Jaro (who hails from, as his family name explains, Jaro in Iloilo). Aljoe’s assistant is also Bisaya, the former boxer Dong Mahinay.

What’s the experience like being part of the biggest boxing event of Asia? It’s loud. It’s Las Vegas implanted in Macau. It’s theatrical. It’s entertainment.

Prior to Manny and Bam-Bam climbing the ring, lots of action (possibly not broadcasted on TV) was shown, including the Cotai dancers, about a dozen of them clad in sexy red and blue two-piece outfits (and wearing boxing gloves), dancing The Harlem Shake.

Erap danced, too. Ha-ha. Not, not on stage. But, from where we sat, I saw him enter the VIP entrance where he was escorted to the front pew. David Beckham, as you saw on TV, watched the bout. While Paris Hilton and Apl.de.Ap collected plenty of applause when Michael Buffer mentioned their names, it was Beckham who drew an almost Pacquiao-like praise. This is how much China loves football. (Here in The Venetian, there’s a giant store of Beckham’s former team, Manchester United.)

dad jingoBunny Pages and Jingo Quijano

CROWD. The spectators inside the coliseum — plenty of Filipinos and many hailing from Hong Kong and mainland China — were 90+ percent pro-Manny. Each time the giant LED screens flashed Rios’ face, the crowd booed. When Manny was shown — often flashing his charismatic smile — we shouted the opposite: MAN-NY! MAN-NY! MANY-NY!

This chant was repeated in each round. When the Filipino congressman would pummel the American boxer, we’d echo his first name. I’ve watched a few grand sporting moments — the Beijing Olympics and US Open tennis, to name two — but nothing compares to the electrifying atmosphere that we experienced yesterday noon. It’s because Manny, like us, is Pinoy. It’s because we’re in this continent/venue surrounded by fellow Asians. It’s because he could be a “tsamba” (Marquez-like) punch away from retiring. It’s hard to print on paper but the energy and hearts of the Filipino majority (among the 13,200 in attendance) seemed to empower Manny and overpower Brandon.

Overpowered? Absolutely. Rios was a mismatch. The only time he scored punches was when they clinched and he repeatedly (and in an almost-cheating way) punched away. Other than that, he wasn’t Bam Bam — he was a (Punching) Bag Bag.

Weighing in on the weigh-in

MACAU — Michael Buffer kept on repeating the words: “This is the biggest boxing event EVER here on the Asian continent!”

Starring the greatest martial artist since Bruce Lee — Manny Pacquiao — here in Asia’s Las Vegas, it can’t get any bigger than this. Roy Jones, Jr. Bob Arum. Larry Merchant. The entire HBO Boxing entourage. The world’s boxing media. They’re all here. Live. To cover what promises to be a blockbuster of a Sunday.

Yesterday morning at 7:30, the preeminent Emcee of Boxing (Buffer) welcomed the Cotai Arena crowd in The Venetian as lights circled the darkened stadium. Getting a first look inside the coliseum, the Cotai Arena is first-class; each seat is cushioned and this 15,000-seater complex, though huge, is not as large as, say, the Araneta Coliseum.

The Official Weigh-in happened fast. One boxer after another was called. Trainers jumped onstage. Bob Arum walked calmly. My father, Bunny, and I were seated at the left wing, about 50 feet away. We were stationed two rows in front of Bobby Pacquiao and right beside the opening where the boxers would emerge. Covered by a tall black curtain, we could see a glimpse of The Square: the boxing ring that will take centerstage today.

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Before Pacman stepped out to public view, we saw him emerging from the dugout. Buboy & Bodyguards swamped MP. On stage was fellow Cebuano Salven Lagumbay, wearing a black suit with the WBO logo. Salven would jointly hold a shirt with Manny for the TV to broadcast, promoting their project to help victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

I’m not sure if you heard it on TV but Brandon Rios was jeered. The Filipino contingent here is in full strength. BOOO! BOOO! This chant against Rios reverberated throughout the stadium. As Macau is just nearby, this was a thunderous precedent of what was to come today: thousands of Pinoys are here, all throats ready for the scream.

A funny chant? CHAVIT! CHAVIT! As if to mock Manny’s buddy who never fails to step right behind/beside him to get the best TV footage, Chavit Singson transforms into Manny’s magnet when onstage. The crowd echoed his name and we all laughed. Politico gyud.

PARA SA TACLOBAN! one man screamed. Amidst the loud booming music (which included one inspiring and goosebumps-inducing Pinoy song), a Filipino shouted to catch Pacman’s attention. He didn’t hear the chant but he looked our way when the Philippine flag was waved.

A few meters beside us was the temporary stage built for the HBO newscasters. These men we see on TV (Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, Merchant) were doing commentary. One guest they invited was familiar: Dyan Castillejo. On worldwide TV, she talked about her fellow Pinoy. An amusing story: while preparing for Dyan to be interviewed, she was briefed by the HBO staff — including giving her specific advice on how to properly hold the microphone (she was holding it too high); my dad and I smiled because our veteran newscaster was still being given tips — but, of course, this was HBO.

No firewords erupted yesterday. No punches. No pre-fight The Clash (Roach and Ariza). It was all formal and quick. Too fast that, by 7:50, Manny and Brandon were finished. They lingered for a few more interviews before exiting by 8. In 30 minutes, zoom, the much-hyped affair was done.

NOTES. Quinito Henson, in our talk after, said that “parang piga si” Rios. He meant to say that he looked too dehydrated. Quinito said that Rios gulped two Gatorades right after stepping the scales. This is bad. Rios might reach 160 when he enters the ring today. As for Manny’s 145 lbs. weight yesterday, it was ideal. He didn’t have to starve.

“Grabe ang ka-on ni Manny last night,” said Rep. Samsam Gullas, whom we also saw. Together with three of his mayors, Samsam visited Manny’s suite in The Venetian the other night at 8:30.

FIGHT. Interviewing dozens of experts here, if Rios continues his usual stance of going forward, playing offense, and not offering much defense, this clash will be highly-exciting — and very quick, possibly ending before Rd. 7.

Forget Pacquiao-Rios, it’s Roach vs. Ariza/Garcia

It wasn’t a stunt. It wasn’t staged. This was not something scripted or planned. It wasn’t part of Bob Arum’s official schedule for The Clash in Cotai.

At 11 a.m. yesterday, when Freddie Roach entered The Venetian gym ready for his team’s workout, he was told to get out. Furious at such a rebuke, Roach fired the opening salvo. He called Robert Garcia, the trainer of Bam Bam Rios, “You piece of s***!” Shocked at the tirade, Garcia returned verbal fire. Watching from behind, Alex Ariza joined the scuffle. He screamed at Roach, “Get the f*** out of here!”

“Throw me out! Throw me out! Make me leave! Make me leave!” the Wild Card gym owner replied. That’s when Ariza, who was Pacquiao’s conditioning guru for five years until he was fired and he transferred to the enemy’s camp, did the crazy move: He mocked Roach’s Parkinsons illness by stuttering. Insulted, Roach moved forward. Ariza threw a flying kick that slammed Roach’s chest. F-words were thrown. In the extra heat of the moment, Roach fired another barrage of words, this time, racist: “You Mexican motherf***er!”

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Manny Pacquiao, Alex Ariza

Back then…

The whole episode lasted only 69 seconds but it was horrible. Parkinsons Disease mockery. Racism. Shoving. A high-flying kick. And the most F-words you’ll hear in a single minute. I’m not sure if I’ve witnessed such animosity in any of Pacquiao’s previous fights. This started when Rios and Garcia posted a video mocking Roach with his disease. While Rios later deleted the video and apologized, the wound inside Roach’s heart never healed. This “pre-fight” was exacerbated by Alex Ariza’s departure. MP’s strength coach since 2008, Ariza boosted the Pinoy’s muscles as he moved up in weight classes, en route demolishing Hatton, De La Hoya, Cotto and Margarito. For five years, Ariza was beside Manny. Until he was fired last August. Quickly, he transfered to the Rios camp — thus intensifying the Roach-Ariza dispute.

Then yesterday happened. It was an altercation (an “Undercard” fight) waiting to happen — exactly 97 hours before Manny and Brandon step inside The Venetian for the Main Event.

Oddly, while the supporting actors have been brawling, the main Hollywood stars are friendly. I watched the HBO Face Off by Max Kellerman (it’s a 13-minute YouTube video you must see) and it’s interesting: These two guys like each other. Seated just three feet from each other’s noses, they smiled, laughed and complimented the other. Rios is forever saying the f*** word — that’s his normal talk; but there was no hatred or outrage towards Manny. None. A big part of this has got to do with the Sarangani congressman. Rep. Pacquiao is just a super nice guy. He is. Though his profession bloodies cheeks and slams ribs and deforms faces — deep inside, Manny is a good person who wants to do no harm. Rios knows this. That’s why he reciprocates by mirroring Manny’s good nature. In the HBO one-on-one, Manny’s goodness is further exemplified because he mentioned “God” so many times. Manny has changed. It is as clear as the full moon of the past couple of nights. He has become good because of his newfound faith. This is good. But whether this has softened The Boxer — whose job is to maim and destroy, contrary to God’s commands — will be a question mark.

As good as Manny is as a human being, the same nice-guy sentiment can’t be applied to Roach-Garcia-Ariza. Their incident has further whetted the public’s appetite. It’s like an appetizer. It prepares the diners (us) for the main meal. Not staged nor produced by HBO 24/7, it raises the heat (“inot ulo” kung Bisaya pa) level, all in fiery anticipation of this Sunday.

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QUOTE. From Robert Garcia: “Twice during the two episodes of ‘24/7’ I’ve heard Freddie Roach say he will ask Manny Pacquiao to retire if he loses to Brandon Rios. Well, Freddie had better buy that gold watch for Manny because the retirement party begins on Saturday night. I guarantee you this will be the last time you ever see Manny Pacquiao on an HBO Pay-Per-View.”

Odds are, Macau will be a jackpot

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This Sunday will be the third time I’ll watch Emmanuel D. Pacquiao live.

The first was nine years ago. It was an open air bout at The Fort in Taguig. Diana Zubiri and Juliana Palermo paraded on stage as ring card girls. On that December 2004 evening, Pacman unleashed a ferocious left hook that smashed Fahsan Por Thawatchai’s ribs so hard that the Thai flew on Manila airspace. Fearless, hard-charging, incredibly confident and en route to superstardom — that was Pacquiao then at 26.

The second time I saw him was upclose — literally, as I sat 10 rows away from the stage, beside Ralph Recto and Ai-Ai de las Alas. That was inside the Araneta Coliseum. Against Oscar Larios in 2006, our Pambansang Kamao was stellar but less impressive. He didn’t hammer the Mexican as hard. Nor did he put him to bed in Quezon City. The fight lasted 12 full rounds and, in the early part, Larios even staggered the usually-unshakable Gen. Santos City native, scaring us all.

Those two contests were fought on home soil. Since then, Pacquiao has fought exclusively in the Land of Barack Obama. Of his last 12 bouts, 10 of them have been in the “Sin City” where gambling collects money 24/7. Las Vegas has been Pacquiao’s home; a place of refuge where he puts opponents to sleep.

This weekend, for the first time, Manny will do battle in China. At 1.36 billion, it’s the world’s most populated nation, dwarfing its nemesis, the United States of America, by a billion residents. China is huge. In land area. In population. In economics.

Add boxing to the list. This weekend, China will be huge — in this sport of Muhammad Ali. It’s like China’s “We’ve finally arrived!” party.

MONTE CARLO OF THE ORIENT. We know Macau to be a gambling den. It’s lured high-rollers since the 1850s. But it’s only been since 2002 when the monopoly was shattered and Macau opened its doors to the entry of U.S.-based giants like Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands.

Speaking of entertainment, while plenty of gigs have been hosted by Macau — concerts (Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga), tennis matches (Agassi vs. Sampras), NBA exhibition games (prior to the 2008 Beijing Games, my brother Charlie watched the U.S. Dream Team there) — it won’t be until this weekend that a blockbuster boxing fight will transpire.

I’m sure Brandon Rios is excited. He should be. Arriving Wednesday last week in Macau, the Texas-born resident of California made sure to be jet lag-free by this weekend. He’s early. (The extra hours in Macau will give him more sightseeing time as he won’t have that luxury this Sunday if he gets pulverized.)

As for our same-blooded Pinoy, he arrived late yesterday afternoon in Macau; by private plane, of course. (Guaranteed $18 million, what’s the tiny cost of a 2.5 hour flight?)

MEDIA SCHEDULE. Sharing with you the Media Itinerary sent to us via email, tonight at The Venetian will be the official Grand Arrivals of Rios and Pacquiao. This will mark their official grand entrances; Rios entering 9 tonight while Pacquiao follows 30 minutes later.

Tomorrow, the festivities heat up. At 12 noon, it gets interesting. It’s labeled the “Zou Shi Ming Comic Exhibition Opening Ceremony.”

Who’s Zou Shi Ming? He’s China’s most successful amateur boxer ever, having won three world titles and two Olympic gold medals in the ‘08 and ‘12 Games. He’s scheduled to fight in the undercard this Sunday together with four other Chinese boxers. (Glad to report that Cebu’s very own boxing judge Salven Lagumbay will be judging the Zou Shi Ming – Juan Tozcano undercard.)

Also tomorrow is the Public Undercard Workout from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Then, scheduled at 9:30 p.m., it’s the Main Event Press Conference featuring Bob Arum and his two gladiators…

Only five mornings remain. The clock ticks and the slot machines ring in Asia’s Las Vegas. Like you, I can’t wait.

c100cf7d13f89ca5573348e15e62cfd7(Photo by Edward Wong)

MP: Macau Panalo?

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(Photos by Chris Farina/Top Rank)

I’m excited. Three Sunday mornings from today, I hope to be inside CotaiArena of The Venetian Macao wearing two sets of hats: One is of a neutral, unbiased, scribble-what-I-see journalist covering Asia’s biggest boxing Sunday; the other is of a Filipino, just like you and our 90 million other kababayans, heart-pounding and forever prayerful that our fellow Pinoy will emerge with both arms pointed to the sky, thankful to God for a victory that’s taken 24 months long.

Yes, it’s been too long — two long years — since Manny Pacquiao savored victory. That was against Juan Manuel Marquez. Since that Nov. 12, 2011 moment, he’s lost and lost. Against Timothy Bradley. And, in their 4th installment, against J.M. Marquez.

When Pacquiao climbs the ring this Nov. 24 against Brandon Rios, it will be nearly one full year since he last fought — and that last memory, of him lying as if lifeless on the floor, was nightmarish.

I hate saying this but this might be Manny’s last fight. Boxing is as unpredictable as an aftershock. Unlike Macau’s casino owners — who, at the end of each month, are always guaranteed millions — boxing offers no guarantees. There’s extra pressure for Manny in this fight. It’s a must-win. Even Freddie Roach said so himself: a third straight defeat will put an end to the eight-division-titlist’s career.

MP. Will this stand for… Macau Pildi? We hope not. We pray that MP will collect his 55th win.

Together with my compatriot on this page — Atty. Froilan “Jingo” Quijano — I’ll be in Macau to witness live the battle.

What’s unique about this world championshp fight is that it’s not in the U.S. It’s always been in Las Vegas. The mega-casinos are there. Bettors proliferate and money exchanges hands as quick as Manny’s hands.

Macau is the Las Vegas of the Far East. The only venue allowed by China to exist as a gambling haven, Macau is actally much, much richer than Vegas; it generates five times the gambling revenue. Last year, Macau’s gaming receipts exceeded $38 billion. Shockingly-huge but maybe not that shocking: Let’s not forget that China has a population of 1.35 billion.

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There are 40 casinos at work 24/7 in Macau. For a tiny Chinese peninsula that has an area of only 30 sq. kms., that’s plenty of slot machines. And you want to know how much the Chinese spend when they visit Macau? On average, those who trek to Las Vegas spend $156 per person on gambling; in Macau… it’s $1,354.

The biggest question in gambling is this: Come Nov. 24, what type of Manny Pacquiao will we see? He hasn’t fought in a year. He’s lost back-to-back. Will he be less aggressive? More cautious? Will the Mike Tyson-like, always-combative Pacman be timid? Has he lost his super-powers?

Manny is turning 35 years old on Dec. 17. Professionally, he’s fought 61 times. Speaking of (old) age, if there’s one person Manny should emulate it’s Money. The undefeated Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is the undisputed fittest athlete on earth. Remember his bout against Saul Alvarez, when he toyed with the Mexican and improved his number to 45-0? Mayweather is older — he’ll turn 37 this February — but he’s still bouncing like a teenager.

Rios is seven years Pacquiao’s junior. I hope this age difference becomes a plus for the Pinoy — the added years of experience — and not be a liability because of the “bug-bug” (too beat-up of a fighter) syndrome.

As to Manny’s preparation, Freddie Roach is still the “coach” but what’s new is the absence of Alex Ariza, who handled his conditioning for many, many fights. Also, the main difference, they won’t be headed to Los Angeles. While Manny’s previous camps included must-training sessions at the Wild Card Gym, this time, it’s just in Gen. Santos City. This is new. It’s a plus because he’ll see Jinkee nightly but it might be a minus because, well, it’s not the familiar setting of Wild Card Gym.

For now, it’s 21 days and counting… Excited about Macau? You bet.

What if Pacman loses this November 24?

Good-bye. The simple truth is, if Manny Pacquiao gets defeated a third straight time (in his upcoming bout in Macau), that’s it. He stops. He retires forever from boxing.

Two weeks ago, our group of sportswriters met for lunch. Among the many stories that we exchanged was talk of Sarangani’s congressman.

“Rios (Manny’s opponent) is young and he’s very, very hungry,” said one colleague. “Compared to Manny who’s getting older and getting farther and farther away from boxing.”

My friend’s conclusion? “I think Manny will lose.”

Ouch. All things — the good, included — come to an end.

I recall our family’s insightful conversation one evening with Wally Liu, the owner of Primary Structures and one of our island’s most respected businessmen. Wally was telling us stories of business. Any business, he said, will always have a start and an end. Businesses, no matter how strong and mighty, will have it’s ending.

If Wally speaks of business, that applies even more to sports — where the body gets punched, the skin gets wrinkled.

Pacquiao is 34 years old. He’s not thirty four years young. Brandon Rios is young at 27.

Look at what happened to Anderson Silva. “The Boast” is 38 years old. And did you notice the “Anderson Knows” shirt that he boastfully wore upon entry to the octagon? I hope Manny knows that those “Nike knows” shirts are dimalas.

Manny used to be the “Pound-for-Pound No.1 in the world.” Today, he’s the “Pound-for-Pound No.1 in GenSan.”

Pacman better shape-up. Literally and figuratively. His last climb on the ring was in December 8, 2012. And we know his last memory of that bout. Or shall I say, given his temporary loss of consciousness upon the face-first fall, he’ll have remembered it from watching the DVD.

It will be more than 11.5 months (exactly 350 days) in between that Juan Manuel Marquez knockout and the Brandos Rios bout. That’s a long, long, long, long time. I scoured through Pacman’s previous encounters and he’s never had a gap this long. Ever. (Consider that, in his first year in boxing, he fought 10 fights in 1995.)

And it’s not like he’s been training this entire 2013. He’s busy. Manny is forever busy. Busy with all things except boxing. Busy as a father to Jimuel, Michael, Princess and Queenie; busy as a (now) faithful husband to Maria Geraldine Jamora; busy as Mindanao’s most famous solon; busy shooting basketball free-throws; busy as a God-loving and Bible-reading Christian.

Of the latter, this is, obviously, very, very good. Manny, as all reports have indicated, has renounced his sinful ways and become an honest, good boy. This is good. And bad. Because as good as this is when it involves his entire life and his relationships with Jinkee and his family, this hasn’t been all-too-good with boxing.

I’m no boxer but the mentality is to kill. It’s a savage, cruel, I-will-make-you-bleed sport.

I repeat: Manny’s becoming “good” is good. But has it softened his killer instinct? Has it mellowed his aggressiveness? Has he realized the whole meaning of life — that it’s not all about beating-up people?

I don’t know the answer. But it’s very possible that all these factors — Manny’s age, his long-standing myriad of activities that only Superman can follow, his newfound heart and surrender to God — that all these may have transformed him into a good guy/lousy boxer.

With his coming Nov. 24 bout: I hope Manny wins. Who Filipino doesn’t? I hope he wins and retires.Knowing him and Mayweather, they might be texting each other for a mega-bout in 2014.

But I hope he retires. He has nothing to prove. He is already the greatest Filipino athlete ever — and one of the greatest Pinoys in history. Fifty years from now, when Jose Rizal and Ninoy Aquino and Carlos P. Romulo will be discussed in the history books of our great-grandchildren, “Manny Pacquiao” will be one of those names. From kargador to the most famous Filipino ever, what a life. It’s time to stop the joyride. Time to gamble and win — then stop — in Macao.

Should Manny have accepted Money’s $40 million?

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Multiplied by the exchange rate (rounded off) of P40 = $1, the amount of $40 million translates to P1,600,000,000. Yes. No typo-error there. That’s “16” plus eight zeros.

If you encashed that amount in 20 peso bills, it would fill a 20-foot container van. That amount can buy one person (I computed this) 688 Ford Fiesta 1.6L Trend 6PS vehicles plus 37,000 iPad Minis plus a whopping 7.2 million meals of ChickenJoy!

Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who’s fighting Robert Guerrero this morning, said these words in a recent ESPN interview:

“I say this: I called Manny Pacquiao, myself, on the phone, and offered him $40 million. This was before the Marquez fight. Offered him $40 million. I told him I would wire (him) $20 million within 48 hours. He told me, I want 50-50, and got off the phone. I’m not scared of no fighter, and I feel that, where was this guy when I was dominating the sport of boxing in ’98, in ’99, in ’96. This guy was never heard of. This guy just popped out of nowhere, walking through the biggest and the strongest fighters? And this guy come from 105? Are you serious? Once again, I never said he took anything. All I said is I want to be on an even playing field.”

Mayweather is a loudmouth. He blabbers. He talks as fast as his rapid-fire punches. Should we believe the man nicknamed “Money” when he talks about money?

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In this case, yes. When analysts estimated that a Pacman-Mayweather fight could have fetched each man $50 million, then his $40 million offer is possibly true.

Did Pacquiao make the mistake of not accepting Mayweather’s offer?     Definitely.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” David Beckham once said. True. Because… What if Pacquiao accepted the P1.6 billion offer then went on to humiliate the previously-undefeated American? Then he retires. Perfect.

Instead, MP rejects Money’s money offer, fights Marquez a fourth time, falls to the canvas and doesn’t wake up for minutes; he then takes a super-extended-leave of absence from December until today.

Now, that’s all past. Pacman wants to completely erase the memory of that Marquez daytime-nightmare. “Let go of yesterday,” Joel Osteen preaches.

Still, the questions remain: Will Pacman fully recover? Can he regain his old self, when he was at his peak during the fights with De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto? He’s now 34 years old—surely, he’s on the physical decline, right? (Consider this: Boom-Boom Bautista, who reportedly quit boxing, is only 26; yet, let’s also consider that Mayweather is 36 and Marquez will turn 40 this August; plus, Bob Arum is 81!).

MARQUEZ. More on Juan Manuel: it’s obvious that the Mexican has the upperhand in the negotiations. Offered $13 million to fight Manny, he spurns the temptation.

For vindication purposes, Manny needs Juan Manuel. Will this MP-JMM Part 5 happen next year, after they win their respective bouts this 2013?

Maybe. Maybe not. But for now, Marquez is playing hard-to-get. He believes he won their first three fights. He also wants to preserve the memory of December 8, 2012. He doesn’t want to give Pacquiao the satisfaction of revenge. He wants our last remembrance to be of him climbing the corner ring with arms pointed in victory while his Filipino rival was slumbed asleep on the Las Vegas floor.

PACMAN. As for the Congressman from Sarangani, it looks like the date is set. “He’s (Pacquiao) fighting Nov. 23rd, that’s the date in the United States; Nov. 24th, that’s the date in Macau. He’s gonna fight in Macau, at the Venetian Cotai Arena,” Bob Arum said. Who’s the enemy? “It’s Rios or Alvarado,” Arum added.

MONEY. With today’s fight against The Ghost, expect the same: a 44-0 scorecard for Floyd. It’s his first time to step on the stage after a two-month-long prison sentence. Facing an opponent who was a perennial 126-pounder and fighting only his third fight in the 147-lbs. division, Floyd is expected to easily win. And he will.

FINALLY. Said Bil Keane: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

Wakee to Manny: Don’t fight Marquez next

Of the many advisers of Emmanuel Pacquiao — from pastors to Chavit S. to his fellow congressmen to Mr. Arum — one of his closest buddies is Cebu-based businessman Rex “Wakee” Salud.

Wakee and Manny have been inseparable since 2005, right after MP’s loss to Erik Morales, when the boxing promoter invited the boxing fighter to Lapu-Lapu City.

After a wild ride of wild nights at the Casino gambling, of cock-fighting, of drinking, of many more exploits too salacious to print here — their friendship lasted seven years, 15 consecutive victories and, sadly, in the last two fights, back-to-back losses. In all these years and Las Vegas encounters, who friend watched from his corner every single time? RWS.

Wakee and I spoke yesterday. He had just arrived from the States, landing two days ago in Manila, a day ahead of Pacman. Where exactly did you sit and what did your eyes see in that 6th round ending? I queried.

“I sat behind Jinkee,” said Wakee. “I sat sa kilid (at the side). When it was nearing the final bell of that 6th round, I didn’t have a clear sight. The referee was covering Manny. I knew that Manny was going for the kill. He wanted to finish Marquez in that round. Then, all of a sudden, si Manny man ang natumba (it was Manny who fell).”

Everybody was shocked. If we, TV-goers, were stunned – can you imagine the hysteria and breakdown inside the MGM Grand, especially of Wakee, who sat just meters away from the fallen hero? The quick reaction, of course, was to storm the stage. “We wanted to go inside the ring but were not allowed,” he said.

“Sugat gyud (It was straight and head-on),” Wakee said. “It was a blind punch” that caught the overconfident and impatient Manny.

After the fight, as the hysteria had settled, Wakee wanted to accompany Manny to the hospital. But when he stepped inside the dressing room, they had left for the hospital tests. “So far, the check up was good,” he said. “But it’s best to have a more extensive check here. Just to be sure.”

SHOCK. Jinkee cried. The whole family cried. Everybody in Pacquiao’s Las Vegas entourage was in disbelief. “But when I went inside the suite room of Manny around 1 or 2 A.M., OK na sila. Nag-comedya na gani. (They were OK and were telling jokes.)”

This is boxing, said Wakee. Anything can happen. And Manny has accepted defeat.

I asked Wakee if he felt a premonition, a bad feeling, a sense that something harrowing was about to happen on December 8, 2012. “Wala gyud (None at all),” he said. The MP camp was very confident. (Overly-confident?) “We were relaxed and sige-comedya. In the locker room, I was with Steven Seagal. Later, I got the chance to meet the presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”

But, commenting on Pacman’s preparations, Wakee said that while the training in the States went “very well,” he said the preparations in the Philippines was not. Too many distractions again, he said.

ADVICE. Suggestions for his best friend? First, Wakee believes that Manny should fight again. He shouldn’t retire. Not yet. But – and here’s an important request — he’s pleading that, next year, when Manny fights, that he focus entirely on boxing.

First, he should have a thorough rest. And, when training arrives, to focus only on boxing. “His mind is into politics, is into religion, he’s accommodating too many friends — he has to focus,” said Wakee.

And, finally, the most important recommendation from RWS – one that, given the Typhoon Pablo-like disaster that befell Pacman, makes a lot of good sense:

“For me, it’s not wise to fight Marquez right away,” said Wakee. “Ayaw ibigla. Don’t rush. Fight another opponent first. Have one tune-up fight. Then, observe. This will give Manny confidence before facing Marquez in No. 5.”

Will Sunday be Pacman’s last fight?

Manny Pacquiao will turn 34 years old in 11 days. In boxing age, he’s a “Senior Citizen.” This Dec. 8 will be Manny’s 61st boxing fight. That’s what the official record states. But when you count all those side-street, pustahan-type small bouts, he must have boxed 1,001 times.

Training? Twice, I watched him inside Wakee Salud’s gym in Labangon. He skip-roped. He rocked his back up and down doing sit-ups. In sparring, he deliberately raised his arms so that the sparring partner can pound — and strengthen — his abdomen.

If Pacquiao were a car, he’d be a Porsche 911. Speedy. Muscular. Low-flying. Packing an engine whose oomph can top 450 horsepower. But, as furious and fast as this Porsche is, it’s not the 2012 “911 Turbo” series; it’s the vintage 2001 model. It’s not brand-new. And, like Pacman, though it’s still power-packed and fast, it’s getting old.

Manny is getting old. We saw it against Mosley, Marquez, Bradley. He’s sluggish — nowhere near the peak days when he bloodied De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto.

“Pacquaio should retire after this fight,” said Monico Puentevella, the former Phil. Olympic Committee Chairman (he lost last week in the POC elections to Tom Carrasco).

“I believe Manny will win this Sunday. But, after that, what’s next? He should only fight one more time if it’s Mayweather. But if not, then he should retire.”

Monico, who is running for mayor of “The City of Smiles,” is one of Manny’s closest friends. Almost every fight of Pacquiao the past six years, Puentevella has flown to the U.S. to watch. The only time he missed the live watch? “Against Bradley last June, I wasn’t there,” he said. And we know what happened, right? Manny lost.

This Sunday? “I can’t make it again,” said Monico. Oh no, I told him yesterday. What if Manny loses again — you’ll be the jinx? He laughed. “I’m calling Manny later today (that’s yesterday),” he said. Pasyensya na (So sorry), he’ll tell him. He had to stay home in Bacolod and be here during Typhoon Pablo.

Monico made a prediction. With Manny nearing 34 and Marquez turning 40 next year, there won’t be any knock-outs this weekend. No KOs. I agree. Plus, weren’t Pacquiao’s last five fights all 12-rounders?

“If Manny wins against Marquez, the problem is the same one we’ve had: what if Mayweather won’t fight him? Who’s next?” The answer: Nobody.

“That’s why, after this fight, I’ll sit down with Manny and advise him to quit. Quit to preserve your dignity, record and supremacy. Quit while you’re ahead. There’s no more use fighting.”

Monico recalled the harrowing experience of Z Gorres. “One punch is all it takes to put a boxer in that wheelchair for life,” Monico said. “Damo ka naman kwarta (You have plenty of money). You’ll only hurt yourself.”

This means that — granted the Sarangani congressman will listen to the former Bacolod representative — that this Sunday may be the final “Las Vegas” curtain moment of MP.

I know we don’t think about it. Manny’s fought world title bouts twice or thrice every single year since he burst into the boxing world in 2003 (against Barrera) — that we don’t contemplate his retirement. But it’s coming. Soon.

“The only complication is if Manny loses to Marquez,” said Monico. “And you know who would be so happy? Bob Arum. He wants that Game 5. We know Arum doesn’t have anybody else to fight Manny, so he’d prefer a loss now and a Game 5 next year. But everybody’s tired of Pacquiao-Marquez.”

Monico knows and loves boxing. “My goal is to build the best boxing gym in the Philippines,” he told me. “If elected mayor, I’ll rebuild the old basketball gym at the Bay Center, fronting the Plaza, and will convert it into a world-class facility. We’ll hire a Cuban coach and to bring boxers from nearby Cadiz, Bago, Manapla and Himamaylan. Then we’ll revive what Bidoy Aldeguer and I used to do… bring boxers to Cebu and bring yours over to Bacolod.”

Monico’s analysis on Manny? It makes sense. Win on Sunday then convince Mayweather. If he won’t dance, forget it. You’ve got the billions to buy a brand-new Porsche 911.

Pacman-Marquez 4: Who’s interested?

PUERTO PRINCESA–It’s our first time in Palawan, the home of the longest navigable underground river in the world. We arrived last Friday. While Typhoon Ofel left Cebu and it was sunny in Mactan, the skies darkened upon arrival in Puerto Princesa. It rained the entire Friday. Yesterday was the opposite: clear blue skies engulfed this island of blue seas.

I’m accompanied by three girls — Jasmin, our daughter Jana, and top junior netter Sally Mae “Em-Em” Siso. We’re here for the national championships of the Palawan Pawnshop Junior Tennis — a Group 2 major event that has brought together 220 entries from all over the archipelago.

Last Friday, we had dinner at La Terrasse with Roland So. No, he’s not the husband of Michelle — he’s the former No. 1 player who’s also here as a tennis parent. With his wife Tina, he brought along three of their six children: Camille, Mia and Mariel.

Perfectly-timed during the semestral break, we’re here not just for tennis but also to visit some of the country’s most famous tourist spots: the underground river, the fireflies sanctuary, Honda Bay, the crocodile farm… (Since we’re stuck in Puerto P., we can’t visit the other prominent yet faraway sites: Coron, El Nido, Tubbataha Reef.)

We’re most excited, of course, with trekking the 8.2-km. underground river that is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as (thanks to the online votes of the internet-savvy Pinoys) one of the world’s “New 7 Wonders of Nature.”

A bit of scary news, though. Upon arrival here, we were told of a disease. The name: “Come-back, come-back!”

UFC. I got plenty of feedback from last Thursday’s “UFC beats boxing” column and I’d like to share one, coming from a former Class-A tennis player and golfer.

Nick Torres said: “Hi John! AMEN to your column today! I’ve been trying to educate Bidoy (Aldeguer) about the UFC because he’s puzzled why it’s so popular. I told him everything you wrote plus the genuine respect 99% of the fighters have for each other plus the ‘Countdown’ and ‘Ultimate Fighter’ series, etc. I’m sure you know at least 30 UFC fighters on sight and know their backgrounds, fighting style, and always have a sentimental favorite for every single fight, right? You can’t say the same for boxing unless your family name is Aldeguer, Villamor, Gorres, etc.”

PACMAN. This is hard to believe. And it’s a sign. Manny Pacquiao, with just six weeks to go before his Dec. 8 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, is absent. He’s not found in the news. There’s Donaire. There’s ALA. But there’s hardly any Pacman. This is surprising. Maybe the public is bored and weary of his 4th encounter vs. Marquez? Whatever the cause, the buzz surrounding Pacman is no longer the same. My advice for our modern-day hero? Pummel the Mexican, knock-him-out and then, before a worldwide audience, announce your retirement. Pacman’s skills, as we’ve witnessed in the past few fights, is waning. It’s time to end the career of the greatest Pinoy athlete ever.

LATE ARRIVAL. It was a long and tiresome trip for Team Visayas. En route to the 4th National Milo Little Olympics, the delegation’s departure from Cebu got delayed by one day. They arrived in Manila on Oct. 19 (Friday) and had to be ferried straight to the Marikina Sports Park for the Opening Ceremony. They finally landed at the Robinsdale Hotel, all tired and travel-weary, past 9 P.M. – with games scheduled early the next day. That was the delay going to Manila.

Coming home was even worse. After the Milo Olympics finished last Sunday, the Visayas Team was supposed to leave Manila last Monday. Instead — no thanks to Typhoon Ofel — they left four days later, sleeping in the boat as it got stuck in the pier. They finally arrived in Cebu only yesterday noon!

CEBU MARATHON. The online registration of the event slated this January 13, 2013 is now on-going. Register now… www.cebumarathon.com

In today’s fight, UFC beats boxing

Jasmin hates it! Blood gushes out. Elbows strike. Bones crack. Arms strangle the neck. Faces turn tomato-red. Kicks fly and snap the jaw. Shoulders get dislocated.

For my wife – whose business, the 47-year-old Centurion Security Agency, involves guns and strong men — the UFC is all-too-bloody. What Jasmin despises the most? “When they’re on the floor, hugging each other!” she says. “Not a pretty sight… watching two men embrace!”

Ha-ha-ha. But I enjoy the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Every time it’s broadcasted on SkyCable, I get stuck. It wasn’t always this way. Though I’ve been a boxing fan ever since the days of Hagler, Leonard and Duran, when I started watching mixed martial arts (MMA) on Balls TV a few years ago, I’d cringe. It was animalistic. Barbarous. My thinking: They’re going to kill each other! Someday, sometime, someone’s going to die from this sport! But, as Balls TV showed more coverage and as I watched St-Pierre and Silva and Machida and Jon “Bones” Jones, I watched more and more.

Jones

UFC is fantastic. It’s fast. It’s not as boring as the patsy jabs and uppercuts of boxing — there are dozens of styles ranging from muay-thai to jiu-jitsu to karate. And, while I used to think that MMA was much, much more violent than boxing, the opposite may be true: because the fight gets stopped quickly, the damage caused on one’s brain, for example, (after repeated pounding) is less.

For the first time — last January in URCC Cebu 7: Bakbakan Na! — I watched an MMA fight live. It was at the CICC. In an article I wrote days after, I commented: “With its ruthlessness and savagery, it makes boxing look like a ballet recital… boxing is noisy and full of energy—but you ought to see the URCC… It’s today’s Gladiator. Heavy metal music blasts off the speakers. A live band head-bangs. Everybody.. drinks beer… the spectators… they’re younger, wilder, louder and more sadistic than the ALA Boxing audience.”

My verdict? Excluding, of course, Manny Pacquiao and our Cebuano boxers from ALA, I choose to watch UFC over boxing. There’s a major fight almost each week. Last week it was Silva vs. Bonnar; a few weeks later it’s St-Pierre inside the Octagon and, weeks after, there’s Henderson-Diaz and, next, Dos Santos – Velasquez.

UFC is easy to follow. After UFC 218, there’s 219… and so forth. There are no WBOs or WBCs or IBF or WBA. There’s no confusion. Light heavyweight champion? There’s only one: Jon Jones. Middleweight champ? Anderson Silva. Welterweight? Georges St-Pierre, the friend of Pacman who also trained under Freddie Roach.

GSP

Boxing? Too many names, too many divisions, too many champions. Don’t you get confused? (Back to that trio of Jones-Silva-St-Pierre, imagine if they all somewhat met in the middle and fought? Jones against Silva or Silva-St-Pierre… that would be the greatest fight in UFC history.)

Money. That’s another reason why UFC beats boxing. Though they’re as famous as their boxing counterparts, the UFC fighters earn only hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to the tens of millions by Mayweather, Pacman, etc. This thirst-for-money issue is why Money will not fight Manny. Mayweather is demanding $50 million plus-plus for one fight. Crazy.

With UFC, maybe because Dana White, the owner, has complete control over his fighters, he’s able to dictate who fights who. There are no I-won’t-fight-you-unless-I-earn-$20 million issues. It’s always “Bakbakan Na!”

Lastly, the undercards. In boxing, the undercards in Las Vegas world title fights are lousy. Everybody is focused on just the Main Event. Haven’t you noticed the empty seats in MGM Grand just 60 minutes before a Pacman fight? Nobody wants to watch the nobodies. Not in UFC where almost every undercard fight is thrilling.

My point: Boxing has to innovate. It’s the turntable (plaka) in the era of iTunes, the Hallmark cards in this age of Facebook; it’s Barry Manilow versus today’s Pit Bull.

Can AJ Banal do a Pacman in Manila?

Of the hundreds of sporting events that I’ve witnessed in my life, the date “December 2004” stands out as unforgettable. It was a fight between a Thai and a Pinoy.

Eight years ago, Manny Pacquiao, then a rising star — but nowhere near his worldwide celebrity/billionaire status of today — fought a Thai named Fahsan 3K Battery. The venue was The Fort. It was open-air. Jinkee was seated behind us. With one punch, Pacquiao damaged the abdomen of 3K Battery. The Thai flew on-air in Taguig.

This Sunday, a similar occurrence will unfold. It’s in Manila. It’s a world title bout. It’s a Pinoy vs. a Thai. Can Alex John Banal duplicate Manny’s feat?

“Pungluang Sorsingyu is a very strong and experienced fighter. He only has one defeat in 43 fights and has a high 62.79 knock-out percentage. That says a lot about his strength. Also, based on his previous fights, he can take a punch.”

Those words were uttered by Michael Aldeguer, the president of ALA Promotions, who spent millions and took months to organize this event.

“This is ALA Promotions’ biggest promotion this year,” added Aldeguer. One of the reasons why this is huge is because six different nationalities are coming to fight. Usually, it’s just the Mexicans. This time, it’s six nations represented. No wonder the event is called Pinoy Pride XVII – Philippines vs. The World.

“This is also a triple championship event with Banal and Sorsingyu for the WBO World bantamweight Championship and Boom Boom and Jason Pagara’s WBO International championships for the Featherweight and Light Welterweight divisions, respectively. Lastly, this will be the inaugural boxing event at the state-of-the-art SM Mall Of Asia Arena and it will be a world championship event at that.”

True. While Ateneo beat UST in SM’s MOA Arena and Lady Gaga had performed there, there had been no boxing spectacle. This Sunday will change that.

There’s a good chance I’ll watch the fight “live” this Sunday. I’m excited to visit the MOA Arena. Some friends commented that it’s nothing special. The workmanship, they said, was unlike the reported “NBA-like standards.” But others say otherwise.

“The SM MOA ARENA definitely is world-class,” Aldeguer said. “It is set-up like the Staples Center in LA and everything is electronic. It seats about 16,000 and a 20,000 capacity SRO. It has concessionaire booths all over and the seats are comfortable. Parking is not a problem; there’s an adjacent building connected by a bridge to the ARENA. World-class.”

Well, there you have it. I’ll submit my actual inspection after this weekend.

Back to AJ’s opponent, Sorsingyu’s credentials are impressive. He won 42 times and lost only once. He’s knocked out his enemies on 27 occasions. Against Filipinos, he’s won 14 times. Will AJ be next? (Fahsan 3K Battery actually defeated 22 Pinoys prior to facing Pacquiao.)

Not so fast, says Aldeguer. “AJ is very well prepared for this world championship,” said Michael. “He has been training since early this year and has fought last July to keep of the ring rust as his fight before that ended quickly in the very first round against the Mexican Hidalgo. For his training, the whole team has been very focused on all aspects like the strength and conditioning, skills training, the nutrition side of things… We can say he is very prepared.”

Banal is not the only mega-fight. Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista also plays a starring role.

“For Boom Boom, Daniel Ruiz is a very tough and hard punching fighter,” said Aldeguer. “A fighter who can apply pressure and packs a lot of power with 19 KO’s on his resume. As for Jason Pagara, he will be facing an undefeated fighter from Barbados Miguel Antoine and any undefeated fighter cannot be taken lightly. These opponents, like Boom Boom and Jason, have likewise been training hard for these championship fights as these are quick tickets for either fighters to improve their world rankings, possibly in the top 5 of their respective divisions.”

This Sunday in Manila, it’s “Go, Cebu!”

Can Durant and Westbrook do a Bradley?

Don’t believe Bob Arum. Not when he says that his first preference is Pacquiao vs. Marquez Part 4. That’s absurd. There’s unfinished and unsettled Las Vegas business. We want a rematch. Didn’t a huge majority conclude, non-Filipinos included, that our Pinoy won? This controversy has to be settled. Not in the trial court. And, hopefully, not again using the judges’ ball pens.

But why, I ask, isn’t Bob Arum trumpeting a Part 2? Five letters: Money. If Timothy Bradley’s ego bloats and he asks for $15.5 million, for example, then that’s bloated. Arum wants to temper Bradley’s excitement. Its called negotiating tactics. Publicly, he’s saying, “Part 2 is not guaranteed!” but, I’m sure, in talks with the congressman’s camp, that’s the goal.

Don’t you think Manny The Renewed Christian wants justice? And so, in the end of all this posturing, let’s expect another Pacquiao-Bradley (or shall it now be “Bradley-Pacquiao?”). Also, don’t be surprised if my earlier prediction holds true: This November will be Manny’s last hurrah. His legs will turn 34 on December 17 and, having been adjudged as the world’s 2nd highest sports money-earner in 2011 (beating the recently-beaten Tiger Woods), he has more than enough billions to buy Sarangani Bay.

The 3 Rs to watch: Rematch. Revenge. Retire.

MIAMI. It’s been nine long years. Each NBA season, the league’s best ballplayer has dreamed of winning the prize.

LeBron James has everything in life: Three times, “Mr. Basketball” in high school in Ohio. The 1st Round overall NBA pick. Rookie of the Year honors. Three-time MVP awardee. He has two young boys: LeBron James, Jr, age 7, and Bryce Maximus, 5 years old. Endorsements with McDonald’s, Sprite, Nike. He has everything but—

Will it all change tomorrow? Will June 21, 2012 (U.S. time) be that day when the planets (aka “floating balls in space”) realign? When the long-named King will be crowned with a Ring? Yes. Yes. Yes.

In tomorrow’s Game 5, expect thunder and fire to collide. Who’ll win? Abangan. But this one’s for sure: Tomorrow will be the most anticipated game of the abbreviated season.

For one, the Heat will do all they can to burn, sizzle and cook the Thunder. If Miami loses, the momentum shifts. If they lose, they travel. They get to board that plane with all their XL-size baggage. They don’t want that. They want to stay home. To celebrate on their turf. And where better to party than with the presence of your family, right? But for Oklahoma, it’s a near-death experience. And we know what happens when one is near-dying; that ER-bound individual will be extra motivated to stay alive.

Will OKC stay alive? No. Also, like most I’ve talked to, I want Miami to win. LeBron deserves the gold. Plus, isn’t there a Filipino mentor there whom we want to smile his winning smile? One who’s been subjected to unimaginable pressure, especially last season? Go, Erik!

But, like what we’ve seen with Pacquiao, anything can happen on the ring or the parquet floor. An Oklahoma Game 5 win will change everything. For OKC, it’s these famous words: One. Game. At. A. Time.

IRONMAN 70.3. Only 44 days are left before the grandest sporting event this 2012 starts at the Shangri-La in Mactan.

This fight between Camsur and Cebu? On who has the largest number of tourists? Wait for the figures after this year and, no doubt, a substantial drop awaits Camsur. Why? Because the Ironman 70.3 in Camarines Sur—there from 2009 to 2011—was their Super Bowl/Wimbledon/World Cup of an event. It was their No.1 crowd-drawer. Was.

Because Cebu—thanks to Mactan’s open-sea beachfront and our abundance of hotels and our international MCIAA and our central/tourist-friendly setting—has snatched the Ironman from Camsur.

XTERRA in Liloan, Ironman 70.3 in Lapu-Lapu City. These are two of the most sought-after triathlon events in our archipelago. No wonder hundreds of runners have been pedaling bikes; swimmers now strut running shoes; bikers don Speedo trunks. Everybody’s Tri’ing.

Revenge then retire

Call me anti-Filipino or a non-boxing expert, but what my eyes witnessed last Sunday was the opposite of what the majority saw: I thought Manny lost.

The key moment was the 12th round. And the 11th. The 10th. Sadly, and inexplicably, like LeBron James when the 4th quarter of the NBA Final arrives, Pacman does the same: seeing the finish line in those last three rounds, he flees.

In the scorecards of all three judges, Manny lost that all-crucial final round. (Even Jerry Roth, the lone judge who scored the bout in Manny’s favor, gave Timothy Bradley the nod from Rounds 10 to 12.)

Back to the 12th round, had Manny won those final 180 seconds—by striking, by attacking, by bombarding the American with that German-like blitzkrieg attack of Pinoy punches, then the decision would have been reversed. Duane Ford and CJ Ross would have totaled 114-114 and Pacman would have won.

But, no. When it was time to unleash the storm of bullets off his red gloves, Manny did not. It was Bradley who looked revitalized. Manny should know better. Why leave the decision in the trickle minds of the judges? Why not go ferocious, animalistic, merciless, like we’ve seen him against Cotto, Margarito and De La Hoya?

Michael Aldeguer said it best: “Manny lost the last two rounds which sometimes could sway the judges. As I always believe, the last two rounds are the most important.”

Like any movie or book or concert, we know what part is most significant: The Ending. And, in this ending, Manny failed. And while we can argue forever about the outcome, this conclusion we all agree on: Manny has lost his power. He’s no longer the same man who bloodied David Diaz, who laid to bed Ricky Hatton, who transformed Joshua Clottey into a coward. Pacman has fought 60 times and, if we add all his years of brutal hand-to-hand exchanges from the teenage years to today, then it’s two decades of relentless combat.

The pattern is obvious. Wasn’t Manny unimpressive in his previous fight against Juan Manuel Marquez? (“Now we know how the Mexicans feel!” said Jack Jakosalem.) Against Shane Mosley, he, too, was unremarkable.

JIMMY LAO. I watched the fight inside the multi-million peso home theater (possibly the best home theater in the entire island) of Jimmy Lao, my fellow Rotarian from the Rotary Club of Cebu West. Inside the dark room with dozens of La-Z-Boy reclining chairs, our companions from Singapore (RC of Singapore West) joined us. Unlike the previous Pacman fights when shouting and cheering would energize us, this time, like a bad foretelling, the mood was subdued.

I was seated beside Romy Dy Pico. “Congressman,” we call him, Romy was in Las Vegas last November when Pacquiao beat Marquez. “The booing was so loud by the Mexicans when Marquez lost,” said Romy.

Conspiracy theories? Dr. Ronnie Medalle and our Rotary Past District Governor Ray Patuasi think so. They believe that Pacman is looking long-term and this loss his part of a grander scheme.

“No follow-up!” said Dr. Nonito Narvasa. Unlike the Manny-of-Old who’d tirelessly go for the kill when the opponent is weakening, this time he was passive.

COINCIDENCE? As pointed out by Quinito Henson in yesterday’s Philippine Star, here’s an interesting occurrence: Manny lost to Medgeon 3-K Battery of Thailand in 1999 after he won 15 straight wins. In 2005, he lost to Erik Morales after winning another 15 straight. And now… after winning 15 straight, he loses.

FINISH. To me, this defeat of Pacquiao is ultimately good for his career. (He’s still expected to earn, including PPV receipts, over $30 million! If that’s not good…)

Nobody wants Manny to fight three more times. He’s already on the all-time greatest list. He’s earned billions. He’s a congressman. He’ll turn 34 this December.

What’s the best scenario? Pacman secures a rematch in November and KOs the American. Manny retires with a win, his place in the greatest-of-all-time secure. Now that—and not a 12th round retreat—brings a Happy Ending to this real-life Manny Pacquiao movie.