Manila, August 1, 2003 By Lito A. Tacujan (STAR) International Boxing Federation (IBF) super bantamweight champion Manny Pacquiao arrived late Wednesday night to an adoring nation following his successful defense over an outclassed Mexican challenger at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Stepping out of the passenger tube at the old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the lone reigning Filipino world champion proudly showed airport fans, who braved the late hours, and a horde of media personnel the IBF belt he had kept for the fourth time with a third round demolition of Mexican Emmanuel Lucero in the downtown LA venue.

The 24-year-old Davao-based fighter reiterated he was offering his victory to God, the nation, President Arroyo, boxing fans and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.

Pacquiao is scheduled to call on the President at 1:30 p.m. today and will be feted with cocktails by the Viva Sports which televised the event at the height of the failed military coup Saturday.

The President herself gave the Filipino champion a rare mention in her State of the Nation address before the joint session of Congress Monday.

"Isang malaking karangalan po para sa akin ang mabanggit sa kanyang SONA," Pacquiao said of the President’s SONA reference to his exploits upon his arrival together with wife Jinky and his entourage of trainer Buboy Fernandez and boxing officials Moy Lainez, Gerry Garcia and Lito Mondejar.

Later, he and his entourage took a dinner at a popular restaurant along Roxas Boulevard and were likewise mobbed by fans and late diners.

With his decisive win over the Bronx, New York-based Lucero before a sellout crowd of 8,000, there’s now a clamor for a megabuck clash with probably four-time world champion Marco Antonio Barrera in a featherweight contest this November.

A mandatory defense within 90 days against No. 3 IBF challenger Jose Luis Valbuena or a showdown with the talented Paulie Ayala, known as the People’s Champ, is also in the agenda of Team Pacquiao.

"We are also looking at a unification fight with WBC (World Boxing Council) superbantamweight king Oscar Larios. Anything is possible now after that big win over Lucero," said Lainez.

In fact, Pacquiao’s business manager Rod Nazario stayed behind in the United States to pursue talks with American promoter Murad Mohammed and the HBO boxing brass.

The Filipino southpaw stopped the Mexican with a vicious left in 48 seconds of the third round.

"Medyo hindi naman ako nahirapan dahil parang napadali ang laban," he said.

Pacquiao had completely dominated the fight, landing 56 of 147 punches against Lucero’s only 13 of 99 blows.

The IBF titlist had 40 power shots against Lucero’s 10 and made 19 jabs per round, according to — With report from Rudy Santos

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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