Los Angeles, California, July 23, 2003 By Lito A. Tacujan (Star) Two hours after completing sparring sessions and tapering off from heavy training, Filipino champ Manny Pacquiao feasted on Filipino food Monday and was mildy admonished by the man who has charted his career to where it is now at present — at megabuck peak.

"We’re still two pounds off, " said business manager Rod Nazario.

"No, no, we’re two and half pounds off," said Pacquiao, the IBF super bantamweight titlist.

Five days before his expected brawl with dangerous Emmanuel Lucero Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the historic Grand Olympic Stadium, the hard-hitting Filipino is the least worried over his weight – 124.5 pounds, 2.5 pounds off the 122-pound limit and, in fact, exuded confidence in probably the toughest of his four title defenses.

How confident is the guy?

He likened his buildup and weight-watch to a game of billiards, the current diversion from the rigors of prizefight: "Parang bilyar, alam mo kung saan titigil ang pato, preparasyon ba. (It’s like billiards, you know where the cue ball would stop. It’s mere preparation)," he said.

His entourage, including wife Jinky, who arrived Friday, hied off to the Isla, at the Eagle Rock, an LA suburb, after Pacquiao’s three-hour session with American trainer Freddy Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood and Vine.

The Filipino champ had completed his heavy workout for the Lucero fight after going through weeks of serious training in Manila and at the famous gym under the watchful eye of Roach and his bevy of assistants led by brother Pepper.

"Punung-puno na maski bukas na ang laban," said Nazario.

Aware of the snag in their pre-fight plans brought about by the delay of the travel documents of Filipino trainer Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao stepped up his regimen at the Wild Card, at one stretch doing four three-minute sparring rounds with two Japanese and one Mexican, doing 45-minute roadwork at the crack of dawn and working on the mitts and speedball and jumping ropes plus calisthenics wearing a thermal suit.

They now have a working knowledge on the kind of style of the Mexican challenger, named Carnecero (The Butcher) after watching fight tapes of his three bouts, including those against Angel Chacon and Frankie Archuleta.

Lucero, the WBC Continental Americas champ, showed heart and recuperative powers in his brutal encounter against Archuleta as he went down two times before outpointing his rival who also hit the deck three times.

"I doubt if Lucero will mix it up even if he’s a hard hitter. He knows Manny is stronger and hits harder," said Nazario.

"Magandang laban," said Pacquiao, 24, with a record of 26-2-1 (27 KOs) against the Bronx, New York-raised Lucero’s 21-0-1 (12 KOs).

He expects the challenger to bore in on the attack and hammer away and plans to defuse or slow down the siege by beating the Mexican to the punch with a lot of jabs. "Uunahan natin ng jab, jab, jab, pero huwag lang flat-footed. Kailangan magalaw, in and out, in and out ang laban," he said.

Pacquiao is to get $180,000 for the fourth defense of the crown he won in June 2001 in Las Vegas via a sixth-round demolition of South African Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. Their fight is the Main Events-HBO card headlined by Fernando Vargas.

FIGHT NOTES: IBF super featherweight champ Carlos "Pamoso" Hernandez is a fixture at the Wild Card Gym, banging away at the heavy bag for his forthcoming fight in October....RP boxing’s triumvirate of Nazario, Lito Mondejar and Moy Lainez is looking after the needs of Pacquiao and his party... Lawyer-newsman Pex Aves, a boxing man himself in the Visayas before migrating and RP tourism office deputy director Manny Ilagan feted the champ’s group to a lunch buffet at Isla... They are to call on RP consul general Mariciano Faynor Tuesday... Also in town are Nazario’s sons Dody and Boying and business partner Gerry Garcia, a former promoter now into TV boxing production... The Pacquiao- Lucero fight will be beamed live over Channel 9, 12-2 p.m. Sunday under Viva-Vintage. Pacquiao’s wife Jinky said they are booked July 29 for home since they have been missing their sons Emmanuel, Jr., and Michael Stephen.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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