Los Angeles, California, July 28, 2003 By Lito A. Tacujan (Star) IBF super bantamweight champion Manny Pacquiao thundered home a brutal left uppercut 48 seconds in the third round and stopped challenger Emmanuel Lucero of Mexico in their title clash Saturday (Sunday in Manila) before a crowd of 8,000 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium here.

Patience paid off as he showed the game contender that he could not forever bob, hide and cower from the power of the lone Filipino world champion.

Pacquiao simply waited for the unorthodox defense put up by the Mexican to unravel and when it did he promptly unleashed a searing left hand that put an end to whatever dream of an upset Lucero had and silenced the crowd.

The blow ratcheted Lucero’s head upward with the impact carrying him to a half-pivot away from Pacquiao and then he tottered and shook like a leaf at the ropes.

Referee Joe Cobian quickly stepped in to save Lucero from further damage and ended the fight via a technical knockout.

Then Pacquiao roared in pure joy and jumped into the arms of his handlers as another member waved a huge Philippine flag, then pandemonium broke loose, more supporters jumped into the ring and formed a happy cluster with the champ and his wife Jinky.

For a moment at least, that scene easily eased some of the anxiety of a nation gripped in a military coup attempt back home. It was, indeed, a feel-good piece of a Filipino feat that unfolded before millions of fans via television.

"Mabuhay, mabuhay!," said a handful of Pacquiao supporters on their way out of the venue and into the dressing room for more celebrations erupted.

" I leaned back and then ‘Boom!’", was how Pacquiao described the killer blow." Malakas talaga ang tinapon ko, hindi ko na tinimpla."

That improved his ring record to 37-2-1 (29 knockouts) as he finally slew the ghost of a jinx suffered by the Filipinos with heartbreaking defeats in the old venue since 1933. It was also the fourth successful defense of the IBF crown he wrested by destroying South African Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001 in Las Vegas as a substitute challenger and his sixth straight stoppage within six rounds in his last six outings.

Lucero was slapped his first loss in 23 fights.

And it came in the aftermath of a controversial blood testing case, the talks of the man having hepatitis B virus that led to allegations that there were parties out to sabotage his training at the Wild Card Gym.

But for the first three minutes of the first round, Pacquiao found an entirely different rival with a puzzling defense as Lucero tried to exploit his lack of height against Pacquiao, a head taller.

"He was fighting way low, bending low to his knees and it’s impossible to hit him but he can’t stay that way long, he has to come out and fight. It’s just a matter of time, he didn’t have to adjust," said American trainer Freddie Roach who has been enjoying a streak of big wins including the 59-second victory of WBC youth champ Brian Viloria last week.

The General Santos slugger stuck to his battle plan by spearing right jabs and mixing it with straights but missing wildy with his uppercuts as Lucero bent low in defense.Towards the end of the round, the challenger tagged Pacquiao with a hard left hook and the Pinoy champ countered with a left straight.

Pacquiao kept the pressure on Lucero right off the second round with three rapid jabs, the challenger missed with a right hand and had a glancing right on Pacquiao’s face, then the champion worked on the side of Lucero with telling body blows.

The Mexican countered with two quick left-right combinations and Pacquiao closed the round with three quick blows.

The Filipino titlist continued leading with jabs in the third round as the Bronx, New York resident missed with two right hands and an overhead right before Pacquiao seized an opening as Lucero missed with another right to unload that lethal left uppercut. He didn’t have to reload and hammer away as the referee mercifully stopped the fight.

"I could have given you a good fight if I had stayed long," Lucero, who went to the Filipino’s dressing room to congratulate the champ, said in jest." It’s a very good fight. Either I caught you or you caught me. I told my people that either I get him or he gets me. That’s how it is."

However his trainer, Dominican Republic’s Fermin Sencion wouldn’t concede defeat that easy. He said the referee could not have stopped the fight that soon since they could have worked hard on Pacquiao’s body to slow down the champ.

"He’s a very experienced champion but I wonder why the referee stopped it too soon. We could have worked on the body and it could be a different story in the late rounds. But Pacquiao is a great champ," he said.

Who’s next for the Filipino titleholder? Pacquiao said he would rather fight Pauli Ayala in a championship or go all the way to 126-pound limit to clash with Marco Antonio Barrera.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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