Raymond Garcia watches Manny

Over two weeks ago, we witnessed Rep. Pacquiao’s controversial win against Mr. Marquez. We saw it on TV.

Atty. Raymond Alvin Neri Garcia watched it live. He not only saw the actual scuffle, he also visited the pre-fight festivities at Vegas.

“I was amazed at the number of people attending the weigh-in,” said Atty. Garcia. “Capacity of MGM Grand is 15,000 and about 7,500 attended. I estimate about half were Filipinos. Free entrance.”

The fight itself? “I had to pay $1,300 for a ticket I bought two months before,” he said. “It was worth every penny considering it reached 12 rounds. Once in a lifetime experience which fulfills one item in my bucket-list.”

What made the battle very pro-Marquez was the crowd. “About 70 percent of those who watched were Mexicans. That’s why the punches of Marquez were highlighted; the diehard Mexicans would scream as he’d connect with each punch.. and you could hear the boos and ahhs when Manny was declared the victor.”

Two other highlights in Raymond’s trip. One, his visit to the Wild Card Gym the Tuesday after the fight. He got to interview Freddie Roach. “It was an ‘off night’ for Manny, Roach admitted. In his own words, Roach said: ‘They didn’t do too well.”

One more unforgettable experience: His meeting Mike Tyson. “He was in one of the restaurants at the MGM Hotel. He was having pictures and signing autographs. I queued up for a photo and interviewed him. Said Tyson: ‘Pacqiuao will win big time but as to what round, I can’t tell.’”

Atty. Raymond, now back in Cebu, visited his brother, Dr. Jerald Garcia, in Hawaii. He flew to Las Vegas then drove to California and stayed there for two weeks.

“I was with Mark Dy and his wife Davely,” he said. “Also there was Chris Go, the owner of Prince Warehouse, who is taking his Masters in San Francisco. A lot of Cebuanos toured me around including Ronnie Seno and wife Malu. I stayed with them in L.A. Other Cebuanos included Paul Miaga, dad’s (Alvin Garcia’s) protocol officer when he was mayor, and Jovi Cabigon, dad’s executive assistant.”

CITCI’s aces Ken Salimbangon and Nestor Toledo

There are thousands of tennis fanatics in our island of Cebu. Many watch Djokovic, Roger, Murray and Rafa on TV. Plenty, each morning or evening, step on the clay court to slice backhands, swing volleys and caress drop-shots. A rare few, like Ernie Delco, Marichu San Juan and Atan Guardo, have visited a Grand Slam tournament and seen, in the flesh, Serena and Venus. Many enjoy tennis.

But none compare to Ken Salimbangon and Nestor Toledo. These two are buddies. They’re parents of junior tennis players. They play tennis, too. But their biggest achievement: building a facility that is the first of its kind in our Central Visayas island:

Cebu International Tennis Centre, Inc. That’s the name. It’s located in Consolacion, just meters before the soon-to-rise SM Mall. Nicknamed “CITCI,” what’s in this venue? Eight tennis courts. That’s plenty. While most of our clubs here have one, two or, the most, three rectangles, CITCI boasts of four clay-courts and four hard-courts. This is major, major—times eight—good news for tennis lovers. Because in the past, especially for junior tournaments, while we’ve had to spread the venues to, for example, three locations (Cebu Country Club, Casino Español, and Baseline) just to accommodate the huge turnout of participants, this time, it’s just one site: CITCI.

“This is our dream realized,” said Ken Salimbangon, who plays singles almost each 5:30 A.M. “This is the venue that Cebu has longed for. And this is open for all Cebuanos.” Adds Nestor Toledo, a tennis buff who also runs the 42K: “We have clinics, tournaments and soon, a tennis academy. We’ll train young children and older adults—all types—from beginners to advanced.”

Ken and Nestor used to play at Sancase Tennis Club in Mabolo. Their children used to train at the every-weekend training camp. But when Sancase was closed down, they asked, “Where to?” They searched. After meeting with a group of tennis pros from Hong Kong and requesting for some used balls and racquets, they next met with the officials of the Municipality of Consolacion, led by Mayor Nene Alegado.

One first step led to another until Ken and Nestor were able to convince the Consolacion Tennis Club to allow them to help the facility. They refurbished the courts. They convinced Cebu’s top trainers to teach. And, best of all, they partnered with Hong Kong.

OTR stands for On The Rise. It’s a tennis academy famous in HK. OTR – Tennis Asia, led by its three founders—Graeme Foster, Adrian Montesinos and Jason Sankey—forged an agreement with Ken and Nestor. Together, they formed CITCI. Ken and Nestor took care of the court rehabilitation, the local coaches and the recruitment of players. The Hong Kong trio helped with the coaches training, donated balls and rackets, and raised funds for CITCI’s hard courts.

“We’ve sent over 250 rackets,” said Graeme. But much more than that, they raised over P2 million to help fund the blue-green-colored courts in CITCI.

I attended yesterday’s formal launching and the courts were impeccable. They’re neither too fast nor too slow.
PHL No.1 Johnny Arcilla attended. As the guest of honor together with Consolacion Vice Mayor Aurelio Damole, Johnny beat Hong Kong’s Jason Sankey in an exhibition match on Court No. 6.

CITCI is our version of Rizal Memorial in Manila. It’s our one-stop-shop facility where large tournaments can be organized. Training camps? No problem. CITCI’s seven full-time coaches—six of whom have been sent to OTR in Hong Kong for hands-on training—are in “ready, set, serve” mode.

Ken and Nestor have to be applauded. Faced with a problem (Sancase’s demise), they transformed it into an opportunity to realize a dream. Passion. Action. Love for children. Love for tennis. The spirit to pursue one’s dreams. All these Salimbangon and Toledo possess.

To the new Center Court of Cebu found in Consolacion, here’s to many aces, forehand winners, and backhand down-the-line shots. Who knows? A newborn Roger or Rafa might emerge in CITCI.

Categorized as Tennis

Yayoy and the rise of the Cobras

I had a lengthy phone conversation with Cebu City Councilor Raul Alcoseba yesterday. No, our talk did not delve into politics. And, no, I did not ask the three-term councilor if he’s eyeing a congressional seat in two years’ time.

We talked basketball. If you recall, Coach Yayoy joined the CESAFI tournament for the first time. He led the Cobras collegiate team of Southwestern University. In just his first season, he transformed a previously unrecognized SWU team into a title-contender.

What happened this 2011? SWU lost their first two games. At that point, the critics barked on Yayoy and his prediction of the Cobras biting and unleashing venom. Naysayers laughed. But, as each game and week and month progressed, the Cobras turned lethal. They won. At the end of the First Round, they had a positive win-loss record. In the Second Round, they swept the enemies to score 6-0. They beat UC. Then, in a twice-to-beat scenario against UV, they lost the first game. Finally, they rebounded and won the decider in a lopsided (and, yes, controversial) manner.

SWU faced UC in the finals. Again, they were down. Game 1 they lost. Game 2 they lost. Nobody had ever recovered from a 0-2 score-line. But, minute after minute, SWU recovered. They regained their confidence. They won Game 3. They won Game 4.

“This whole season,” said Coach Yayoy, “has been one of downs and ups for Southwestern. We were down in our opening two games. We came back. We were down against UV. We won. We were down 2-0 against UC.”

Win? Did SWU steal that victory, like a Pacquiao over Marquez, in Game 5? No. The fairy-tale ending did not happen. Still, what an amazing, roller-coaster-like, near-championship-victory for the Aznar-owned squad.

“As each game progressed,” said Alcoseba, “more and more fans went to watch SWU. We were not this popular before. Not until this year.”

The reason? “We’re the underdogs,” he said. That’s true. Don’t ordinary followers often gravitate towards cheering for the ones not expected to succeed?

UC is a giant. I’ve coined the nickname for them: University of Champions. They’ve been—and are—winners not only in basketball but everything from athletics to tennis to swimming to name-the-sport-and-UC’s-won-it. One of the Philippines’ largest schools (they’ll soon surpass 50,000 enrollees), UC is a behemoth in sports.

SWU? In volleyball and others, yes. But not in CESAFI basketball. Not until this 2011. Back to Game 5: SWU won it…. Almost.

With three minutes left in the season, they led. It evaporated. With Pao’s double three-pointers, it disappeared. “Inexperience,” Yayoy calls it.

Still, the season was a success. “The support of the SWU management was all-out,” said the coach. Specifically, Maris Johana Aznar Holopainen, the chairperson of the Board of Trustees; Annette Alfonso Almario, treasurer; Andrew Aznar, team manager; and, my good friend and an impassioned sportsman, SWU’s athletic director, Ryan Aznar.

One name also emerged in our phone conversation: Michel Lhuillier. Though not an owner of the team, thanks to his over 25 years of close ties with Mr. Alcoseba, M. Lhuillier supported the SWU team in many ways. The uniforms. Extra support when they reached the finals. And, most of all, Michel funded the TV coverage on SkyCable.

“Showing the games on TV was important,” said Alcoseba. “The Cebu Coliseum was over-capacity. More wanted to watch but could not be accommodated. The airing of the games gave plenty the chance to see this season.”

This season, of course, turned out to be one of the 11-year-old CESAFI league’s most enthralling. Both the high school and the collegiate finals reached the precipice—the Game 5 finale.

“Our season is not finished yet,” Alcoseba said. On Nov. 27, both UC and SWU will play in Ormoc. They’ll face the Mindanao and W. Visayas champions, respectively. If both win, they’ll meet again on Nov. 28. The winner? That team will represent Vis-Min in the Phil. Collegiate Champions League in Manila.

Game 6, UC v. SWU? Abangan.

Categorized as Cesafi

Now we know: Pacman is not Superman

(Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Why do we feel so disappointed? First, our expectations were too high. KO by Round 3!!! Not farther than the 6th!! Round 10… the very, very latest!

Everybody anticipated a knockout. The bout wasn’t even about Manny winning or losing—that would have been a stupid question when you pit the world’s No. 1 against a “senior citizen.”

Prior to fight night, Manny was already declared the victor. The only question was, “Which round?” Anything less than a knockout—even a 12th round unanimous decision—would have been labeled a failure. Boy, were we shocked last Sunday!

We have been spoiled by Manny. We have grown accustomed to the machine-gun-like, rapid-fire, all-offensive barrage by MP. We saw how he trounced Oscar. We witnessed his mauling of Hatton. Margarito? Wasn’t his face bloody Mexican red? Same with Diaz? And Barrera? And everybody else since 2008? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

For with Manny, he has set the highest standards of pummeling and hammering and battering enemies. He has spoon-fed us, each time, with Michael Jordan-like performances.

He’s not Michael Jordan. He’s human. He doesn’t fly. He may be SuperManny but he’s no Superman.

Are these absurdly high expectations of Manny justified? Of course. He’s Ring Magazine’s P4P best. He’s the 10:1 favorite. He earns P1,300,000,000 per bout! You don’t pay someone that much gold without expecting the most golden of performances. And hasn’t Manny wowed us for over three years? Last weekend was his 15th straight win. Think about that. 15-0. That’s unheard of in this one-on-one, all-contact sport like boxing. You win some, lose some. Not Pacman. He wins and never loses.

He should have against Marquez. Conduct a survey among friends or boxing experts and the conclusion is similar: the judges were cross-eyed. Were they viewing a different game? Wasn’t it obvious?

This is what’s unique about boxing. I’ve said it before and I’ll print it again: Boxing is subjective. (The Olympics is worse; remember Onyok?) What my two eyes see is different from what you see… is different from what the front-row judges see.

But what we clearly saw was a different, almost-lousy Pacquiao. Here’s an interesting revelation: I don’t recall, even once, Manny connecting on a solid, powerful punch. Not once. For sure we’ll watch the replay but, based on recollection, there was not even one shot that staggered and wobbled Marquez. Right? Unbelievable. So un-Manny.

But, you know what? If you think back on his Mosley bout last May, didn’t we witness traces of the same? Manny then wasn’t impressive. Sure, Mosley backpedaled and ran the 42K inside the ring. But Manny was not the same aggressor as before. He did not assault and bombard Mosley.

Same with two days ago. He did not besiege J-M-M like he did Miguel Cotto. He did not jump and pounce on him. Yes, he bobbed left and right. Manny The Gladiator was left sitting in his Batasang Pambansa office. Instead, he was Manny The Tentative.

FLOYD. Which brings us to Mr. Mayweather. Is there a person who laughed and celebrated more than Floyd? The way he mauled Marquez in their September 2009 clash versus last weekend… you’d think Manny is no match against Money.

True. In fact, with that subpar showing, I’d declare that the No.1 pound-for-pound title be switched places… from Manny to Money. At least, for now.

Not that I like Mayweather. Everybody detests him. But against the same Mexican in the same weight, the American beats the Filipino. So, you can imagine the even-more-bloated ego of the already-egomaniac Floyd. Which brings us to a point that has circulated the rumor circles: Now that Floyd The Counterpuncher thinks he can easily beat Manny, will he say yes to May 2012?

Yes. And what a finale that would be for Pacquiao. Erasing the doubts of his loyalists, he reemerges for one final duel and silences the loudmouth. Then he retires. That will be a Michael Jordan moment.

Samsam: the same Gullas as Eddie, Dodong

Few Cebuanos possess the combination of humility, riches, stature, and longevity as the Gullas brothers, Eduardo and Jose “Dodong.”

One such successor is Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the son of Didi and grandson of Rep. Eddie.

For the past three years, he’s been the team manager of the family-owned University of the Visayas basketball teams. His UV collegiate squad? Shocking to many, they lost. It was the second straight year that the 9-time CESAFI champions were defeated. The start of the end of the UV dynasty? Not so fast. Because in the high school division, the Baby Lancers emerged victorious, besting Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu in their Game 5 clash last Wednesday, 85-82.

Of that come-from-behind win, Samsam said: “I have to admit, when Sing hit three 3 pointers to end the 3rd quarter to make the Ateneo lead at 10, I wanted to get out of the coliseum. That is why I’m so proud of my boys. They persevered and truly showed what a Visayanian is all about. We fight when the odds are greatest, and when their team manager started to quit, the Baby Lancers didn’t. When I thought it was all over, they showed poise. Truly one of the best feelings in the world. It also helps that this is the first high school championship under my watch.”

UV was not expected to win the gold. Ateneo and CEC were the favorites. “We came in as the underdogs which makes this championship sweeter,” said Samsam. “Just like my Papa Eddie, I always root for the underdog. So to see the Baby Lancers overcome all the odds, makes this the best championship I’ve been a part of, including the college level.”

As to his UV college team, who was criticized when, in their last game against SWU, the players resorted to dirty tactics, Samsam exhibits the trademark Gullas humility: “For the record, I am not proud of what they did. It was uncalled for and it is not the morals, values and principles we teach our students at UV. The game against SWU must be the lowest point since I took over as team manager; that is why we suspended our players and in behalf of the university we are very sorry to everyone. As happy as I am for the success for our high school team, this cannot overshadow what happened. That is how much we regret what happened.”

Basketball dribbles like the heartbeat of the 26-year-old Gullas. He plays almost daily, practicing with his varsity teams (“pugong sa edad,” he says). He counts on James Yap and Mark Caquiao as his PBA idols. NBA? Kobe B.

But they pale in comparison to his true idol, the man we simply call “Eddiegul.”

“I’ve been with Papa Eddie since I was three months old,” he said. “Ever since, I have been living with the best role model I could hope for. But as much as I try to be like him, that’s impossible. Papa Eddie is the most amazing and remarkable guy I know; he’s incomparable. He’s the type of guy that comes every 1000 years. Even with all he has accomplished, he still is the most humble guy I know. That’s one in a million nowadays. He’s my idol, my mentor, my life, my inspiration, my grandfather and my everything all rolled into one.”

Does his grandpa teach him basketball tips? “Papa Eddie is old school. He hates the isolation and one-on-one plays that NBA and PBA teams run today. So every time ‘mag binuhaya ko,’ he always tells me, ‘The ring is not your teammate Sam, why do you keep on passing to him?’ Papa Eddie always calls me a ‘points guard,’ not a point guard. So if ever there’s something he tells me to do more often, it’s pass the ball. Haha.”

As to UV college and their quest to reclaim from UC the trophy? “It’s all about recruitment, recruitment, recruitment,” he said. They need to tap more contacts in Mindanao and Luzon. “The good thing is, after everything that has happened this year, the UV administration has given their full support. I believe we will have a good year coming. Let me correct that, I know we have a good year ahead of us!”

Finally, with my last query… Samsam’s reply: “Pacquiao in less than 3 rounds.”

Categorized as Cesafi

Pacquiao loses; UC is the Univ. of Champions

No, the above-mentioned title is not a premonition of this Sunday morning’s bout. It’s about a Mr. Pacquiao who, despite being the best, came up short.

The game transpired two nights ago. It was the finale Game 5 between the Southwestern University and the University of Cebu. The title: collegiate men’s basketball champion of the CESAFI.

Pacquiao, first-named Rene, was the top-scorer of the SWU Cobras. He contributed 19 points. In the previous Game 4, he again scored the most: 15.

Last Tuesday night at the Cebu Coliseum, with 150 seconds left in the ballgame, Pacquiao drilled a long jump shot to even the score, 54-all. But while the SWU fans screamed and fist-pumped, that was to be their team’s last point of the year 2011.

Edward Pao, in a sideways, awkward jumping position, hurled the leather ball from beyond the 3-point line and, swoosh, it mercilessly entered. Score: 57-54. Ball possessions exchanged and, in the end, UC were declared the 2011 champions. The final tally: 60-54.

Painful. I watched the Cobra fans shout their loudest. Though UC is owned by Atty. Gus Go who, in turn, owns Cebu Coliseum, the spectators cheered louder for SWU. Maybe because they were the underdogs and nobody expected them to be near victory.

SWU was so near victory. With 3:49 left in the game, they led 51-47. With less than three minutes to go, the Cobras led, 52-49. Yes! With less than 180 seconds remaining in the entire CESAFI season, SWU led by three….

But, never mind the lead. Never mind the loud cheering… “LET’S GO COBRAS, LET’S GO!” “D-FENSE!” “GO, PACQUIAO!” (One placard even read: “Pacquiao: Pang Las Vegas ang move mo!”)

With each tick of the clock moving closer to an SWU win, my thoughts returned to last year. Remember the improbable victory of Cebu Eastern College? When CEC was beaten by over 100 points in the previous season and returned to win the 2010 title?

I thought SWU would achieve the same. Never-before-winners until the entry of Cebu’s best ever, Coach Yayoy A.—and down 0-2 to the defending champions—was this going to be another Yahoo! moment for Cebu basketball?

In the end, it wasn’t to be. As Councilor Alcoseba relayed to me in our talk last week, his team’s problem was this: they could not finish off the lead. Sadly, he was proven right again. The veterans won. In the end, the Cobras could not unleash their venom.

Junemar Fajardo, whom I saw held scoreless in the 3rd quarter, scored 12 points (of his total 23) in the 4th quarter.

But it was Edward Pao’s two 3-pointers in the last minutes that provided the season-ending heroics.

Coach Yayoy Alcoseba, whom I saw after the game when he climbed the stairs heading towards their dugout, was mad. He and his team were so close… yet lost the grip in the final seconds. “I told them to guard Pao!” he said. “I told them to forget Fajardo in the end… to guard Pao and not let him shoot!” His boys did not follow. UC wins.

The crowd? Unbelievable. I’ve never seen a more boisterous and tighter-packed Cebu Coliseum.

Mayor Mike Rama—unknowingly and without malice, wore yellow, the color of the eventual winning team—was seated at ringside. But, on plenty of occasions, the mayor stood up, walked to the crowd, requested them to push back. He took the microphone once and mandated: If the overflowing crowd does not clear the sidelines, the game will stop.

VIP section spectators all stood up. Yellow and red long balloons danced. Drums shook the derelict stadium. The atmosphere was tense and electrifying; the crowd engulfed the rectangle floor. On a few occasions, the free-throw shooter was requested to pause because fans overcrowded and climbed the back of the goal post. It shook the ring.

UC? While I nicknamed UV, during their 9-year reign, as the University of Victory, it’s time to entitle UC, whose giant population exceeds 44,000, as the University of Champions.

SWU? Sayang. Winners. Unta.

Pacquiao? Don’t worry. He’ll win this Sunday.

Categorized as Cesafi

Live at the Hoops Dome: Petron v. Alaska

Never mind the torrential rain and the bumper-to-bumper traffic last Saturday night heading towards the old Mactan Bridge, I traversed the main island and hopped towards Lapu-Lapu City.

The destination? Hoops Dome. The occasion? “Fuel” against “Milk” when the Petron Turbo Blaze Boosters faced the Alaska Aces.

Entering the 8,000-seater Hoops Dome right before the end of the First Quarter, the entire arena was filled. It was bumper-to-bumper seating. The fully-air-conditioned stadium was cool and warm. It wasn’t Cebu Coliseum-warm; yet, because of the jampacked setting, it wasn’t as cold as the SM Cinemas.

Alaska and Petron are two of the league’s most famous teams. The 25-year-old squad named Alaska, owned by the Uytengsus of Cebu, is the owner of 13 PBA championships—including a rare 1996 Grand Slam. Recently, the Aces were made famous by the abrupt departure of Coach Tim Cone, who’s led his men for the last 22 years (he still had years left in his contract before he moved to B-Meg Llamados). Shocking? Absolutely.

Petron? They’re the reigning champs. In the last conference, they were underdogs against Talk ‘N Text. Aiming for a Grand Slam, TNT was denied the feat by Petron and Coach Ato Agustin.

Last Saturday, what made the battle a must-watch was because this was a bearing game. Unlike previous exhibitions, when players wouldn’t jump their highest, this time, it was for real. Petron was on a three-game losing streak; Alaska lost five of their first six games. A Cebu victory was all-important.

What happened? Arwind Santos of Petron was unstoppable. The Mark Magsumbol lookalike reaffirmed his MVP status; he’s lanky, quick, confident, well-rounded. I call him Spiderman. He pivots. He blocks shots. He fires the bulls-eye on that three-pointer. He’s the best man on the parquet floor.

I liked LA Tenorio of Alaska. Diminutive at 5-foot-8 (compared to the 6’8” Jay-R Reyes), he would sprint from baseline to baseline looking like Ronnie Magsanoc. My only complaint? He’s not offensive. Not until the last few minutes did he shoot. Yes, a point guard’s first role is to pass—but when you’re a spitfire like LA, you’ve got to contribute.

By half-time, Alaska led, 44-43. Yes. I hoped they’d win. But, it wasn’t to be. The entire second half was Petron’s.

Joseph Yeo scored 27 points. Like Tenorio, he’s from La Salle. Eric Salamat, a hero of Ateneo, played for Alaska.

The problem with Alaska is this: nobody wants to shoot. When they neared 80-82 with less than two minutes to play, nobody wanted the ball. Lack of confidence—that’s it. It was unlike Petron who had too many options: Yeo, Santos, Miranda, Ildefonso, Cabagnot.

Alaska? Sonny Thoss was productive during the first half. Tall at 6-foot-7 (I thought he was Greg Slaughter, with the same looks, build, moves), he could have been their superstar. Could have been… because he faded. While he top-scored with 19, he could have exceeded 30.

Highlights? The one that excites the crowd most comes in-between plays. It’s the teasers. One is when a gift item is hurled towards the crowd via a slingshot. The spectators go on a frenzy. Another was a man who was blindfolded and given a ball to shoot. As expected, he missed and missed as Cebuanos laughed and laughed. One more was when two men played tug-of-war. Each was given a ball and, opposite each other, they’d push forward, trying to draw closer to their goal so they can shoot. It was fun.

The only “dark” episode happened with 7:46 left in the 4th quarter. That’s when, amidst the blazing lights and reverberating music, all of a sudden… there was a blackout. It lasted about five minutes. Boos filled the dome. Cellphone lights flickered. This was, of course, a live TV5 telecast game. Oh no, we gasped. “There was a trip-off because of the additional ceiling lights,” Councilor Harry Radaza later explained. Nothing to worry, the lights switched on but not before a fan shouted, “Gituyo sa Alaska kay pildi na sila!” With the game on, Petron cruised to milk Alaska, 86-80.

Categorized as PBA

Before Floyd, Manny will destroy J. Manuel

Seven mornings from today, traffic will halt. TV sets will be switched to full volume. Church masses at 11 A.M. will suffer few attendees. The crime rate? Down to zero. Movie theaters, previously empty before noon, will suffocate with viewers. The booze, San Mig Light, will ooze. Pigs will be slaughtered by the tens of thousands as lechon sales hit record numbers. Pinoys in America, many of them our cousins, will bond, laugh and congregate in reunions.

Hotels and bars will plant large screens and be smothered by spectators. Paris Hilton will watch. So will LeBron and Kobe. Surely, the Boston Celtics team, all friends of his and now in one-season-retirement, will cheer-on their Far East friend. Barack Obama, whose photo at the White House with Jinkee we’re still awaiting to see, might watch. He said so when the Os and the Ps met at the Oval Office.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? Of course. Only this time, he’ll salivate at the thought that, yes, had he agreed, it could have been him in Vegas facing our Manny.

Is it true? The May 5 date—the birthday of Salven Lagumbay—proposed by Mayweather as his fight night with Pacquiao? Ha-ha. We’ve heard this before. Loud mouth talks fast, dirty, nonsense. True. His mouth fires as fast as his fists. Do we believe his newest concoction?

No. It’s a way to steal some attention from Nov. 12, 2011. You know how Floyd covets adulation. When he’s not on the ring, he’ll create noise and uproar to channel the spotlight on him.

“Same old bull…” Bob Arum said. “The way they are going about it seems like a bizarre way to go about it. If you want to put it together, you meet, you talk. You don’t just come out and say, ‘The fight is May 5 at the MGM.’ What kind of negotiation is that? So I don’t take what they said seriously.”

Seriously, Floyd’s a joke. How about the suggestion of joker Jimmy Kimmel, whose “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show Mr. Pacquiao has visited, like a habit, in his last five pre-fight encounters? His proposal: Winner take all.

When asked if this was feasible, Manny answered, “I don’t think he will do it.”

What about you? Kimmel asked.

“Of course,” Manny said.

Fabulous idea, winner-take-all. That will add to the suspense and hype. Imagine our scare? And the anxiety of Floyd? The champ wins $75,000,000 and the loser… 0… 0… 0.

That might be a first. And won’t this gravitate this contest to the Greatest Ever of Sporting Events… besting “Thrilla In Manila?”

But first, before any thoughts of the 5/5/2012 extravaganza, the focus is on next Sunday. If you recall, Pacman will be aiming for his 15th straight victory. His overall record is 53 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses. The last time he lost was in March 2005 against his fellow SMB endorser, Erik Morales.

Against Juan Manuel Marquez in their Trilogy next weekend, everybody assumes a Pacquaio victory. This is the burden of the champ. A victory by Marquez is implausible. Have you heard of anyone, apart from the Mexican’s camp, suggesting that the 38-year-old will win? Nada.

“You could see fire in his eyes,” reported Manny’s coach of 11 years, Freddie Roach. How motivated is Manny? A first in all his training camps, he’s only had a day off to rest two times. Yes. In eight weeks of brutal punishment, Roach reports that his man has rested only two days.

Overtraining? Peaking too soon? And no controversies! Nah. It reminds me of the late Steve Jobs’ commencement address in Stanford. His main theme: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” Pacquiao has forever stayed hungry (and, yes, foolish). His “Congressman” title did not force him to relax on the boxing mitts. His P388 million home in Forbes Park was left unused because he had to train in Baguio and L.A.

Roach adds that he’s never seen Manny train like this before. (Yes, we do hear this in every pre-fight.) “Not even when he was preparing to fight Oscar de la Hoya,” confided the 51-year-old Roach.   All this translates to a quick, lopsided, one-dimensional, as-usual, yes-we’ve-seen-this-before victory by our Pinoy. I can’t wait… For the lechon.

Weep? No, says Yayoy, as UC attempts a sweep

Never before in the 10-year-old history of the Cebu Schools Association Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI) has a team come from 0-2 down in the finals to win. Not in 2001 when the league started. Not last year when the University of Cebu (UC) won the basketball collegiate crown for the first time. Not when UV — the University of the Visayas — won for the first nine seasons of the CESAFI.

Yayoy Alcoseba will change history beginning today.

“One game at a time,” said Alcoseba. “Before we can think of a full comeback, we’ll have to win today. That’s our goal. We can only think about winning a second and a third game if we win today.”

Raul Alcoseba is not acknowledged as the most successful coach — possibly of any sport ever in Cebu — for nothing. He’s won for M. Lhuillier a thousand times. He’s won for Balls. For Cebu Doctors a long while back. For ML Kwarta Padala. For many more teams and schools in the past decades.

Can Yayoy do it again with Southwestern University? Today? Win Game 3 against the behemoth named June Mar Fajardo? And win again in Game 4? Then once more in Game 5? This is impossible. It seems inconceivable. But the most trusted man of Michel Lhuillier has always been challenged by the most challenging of events.

Today’s Game 3 is such a challenge. “In the first two games of the finals,” Yayoy said, “we almost won. In Game 1, we had a chance. In Game 2, we had another chance but lost in overtime.”

That’s true. It’s not like SWU has been clobbered by UC. In last Monday’s Game 2, they should have won. With 160 seconds left in the ballgame, his SWU Cobras led the Webmasters, 73-70. They had ball possession. A two-pointer would have given them an insurmountable five-point advantage.

But, no. They made mistake after mistake. Justin Aboude was called for traveling. In their next possession, they were called for a 24-second violation. Inexperience. That’s what Yayoy calls it.

“UC has been in the finals three straight years,” he said. “In their first finals, they lost to UV. Last year, they won it. This season, they’re in the finals again. It shows. They have composure in the end.”

SWU has to play like they’ve got no tomorrow. Which is true. If, tonight at 6:45, when the two teams clash at the Cebu Coliseum, SWU once more loses, that’s it. There’s no tomorrow. They have to give it everything they’ve got — plus, plus.

“It’s the first time our players are in the finals,” said Yayoy. “We’ve had chances. We just can’t close out the games.”

Fajardo? The nearly-seven-foot-tall center who will surely be in the PBA soon?

“We cannot stop Fajardo,” he said. “What we need to do is to stop the three guards of UC. In Game 2, each of the three guards scored double-figures. We can’t win if that happens again. We have to stop that.”

The Cebu City Councilor, who’s been coaching the M. Lhuillier team for 25 years now, has never been 0-2 down. In fact, quite interesting to report it, the veteran coach has never, ever before been part of a three-out-of-five series.

“The CESAFI series is unique,” Yayoy said. “If you study the other leagues, they’re all either a two-out-of-three or a best-of-seven series. The NBA and the PBA are best-of-seven; the UAAP, NCAA and Liga are all best-of-three. It’s only the CESAFI that’s best-of-five.”

So, Yayoy has never been in this situation before. Never been 0-2 down. Never been with a youthful team in a three-out-of-five scenario.

Maybe, just maybe, if his Cobras win tonight… and, miraculously, again the next game… they might win it all. Won’t that be for the storybooks? Like CEC’s fairytale championship win last season? Amazing, if it happens.

But for Mr. Fajardo and his Team UC, that will be a tall, tall, giant, giant order.