HEPA-B YARN UNTRUE - PACQUIAO CAMP

Los Angeles, California, July 25, 1003 By Lito A. Tacujan (Star) "Sheer sabotage." This was the sharp reaction of the Manny Pacquiao camp on allegations his fight was in jeopardy for his contracting hepatitis B.

The title defense against Mexican challenger Emmanuel Lucero is on with US boxing authorities confirming that the lone Filipino champ had passed all physical – from eye exam to blood test.

Pacquiao himself went about the business of tapering off in training as he worked out at the Wild Card Gym unaware of the buzz brought about by inaccurate reports back home.

Shielded by his handlers from distress and distractions in training, Pacquiao did gym work for one and a half hours with American Freddie Roach and personal trainer Buboy Fernandez, going three rounds on the punching mitts and polishing a counterattack on Lucero’s dreaded right overhead shot.

"We repeat there’s nothing to it. Some quarters just want to disrupt our training. Rest assured the fight is on," said business manager Rod Nazario, noting the allegations were fed the media with only three days to go for Pacquiao’s fourth title defense at the Grand Olympic Auditorium.

"Apparently somebody tried to sabotage Manny Pacquiao and we will get to the bottom of this. His fight was never in doubt," said Murad Muihammad, the American promoter who had a six-fight pact with Pacquiao.

Later in the day, Nazario received an advisory from Murad’s New Jersey office ordering Manny to report for the Saturday showdown and submit forms for accreditation for his corner men.

Even boxing websites quickly defused the brewing controversy citing information from the California State Athletic Commission on Pacquiao’s readiness to defend the crown he won from South Africa’s Lehlo Ledwaba in a Las Vegas brawl.

"We have received confirmation from one of our licensed physicians that Manny Pacquiao has completed all the medical requirements," Dean Lohuis, chief inspector for the commission, told fightnews.com.

Main Events, which is staging the bout as an undercard of the Fernando Vargas- Fritz Vanderpool super welterweight rumble, also maintained Pacquiao is ready to go and expects the capacity crowd of 10,000 fans to get behind the fight because of the huge fan base of the two fighters in the West Coast.

"It will be an all-out war," said Carl Moretti, Main Events vice-president for operations.

The Davao-based slugger, with 36-2-1 record ( 28 knockouts) against Lucero’s 21-0-1 ( 12 KOs), remained at 124 pounds but confident he would make the weight limit by skipping dinner Thursday, eight hours before the 2 p.m. weigh-in Friday.

"I don’t see any problem with his weight, he’s a hard worker in the gym," said Roach.

Conceding that Lucero, the WBC Continental Americas champ, is tough and a strong hitter who loves to put the pressure on, Roach said he’s confident Pacquiao could hurdle the guy fighting out of the Bronx, New York.

"It would take more than toughness to beat Manny," he said.

Roach is actually enjoying a great run in the ring lately, having steered British super featherweight champ Alex Arthur to victory over Willie Limond in Glasgow two weeks ago and plotting WBA youth champ Brian Viloria’s one-round demolition of Luis Doria Tuesday night at the Sea Venture Resort in Pismo Beach north of LA.

The controversy on Pacquiao’s health condition came about when he was found with traces of hepatitis B during his first blood test Friday but he took another test Tueday as part of the medical requirements of the commission.

Meanwhile, the Pacquiao-Lucero match will be handled by Jose Cobian of California as the third man on the ring with James Bagshaw of Mexico and Gwen Adair and Max de Luca of California as judges.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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