Manila, August 13, 2003 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson  - Legendary trainer Emanuel Steward described International Boxing Federation (IBF) superbantamweight titlist Manny Pacquiao as "one of the best fighters in the world, pound for pound" in the ultimate compliment after the Filipino recently stopped Emmanuel Lucero of Mexico in Los Angeles, it was disclosed by Jim Brady in the Aug. 1 issue of the weekly London trade newspaper Boxing News.

Steward, 59, knows whereof he speaks. He’s worked the corners of 27 world champions since quitting his job as an electrician at Detroit Edison to train fighters at the Kronk Recreation Center in the poor side of the Michigan city in 1972. Steward is world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis’ trainer. And other world champions whom he has trained include Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya, Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer, Leon Spinks, Aaron Pryor, Jeff Fenech, Gaby Canizales and Julio Cesar Chavez.

Brady quoted Steward in his report on Pacquiao’s third round demolition of Lucero last July 26. The writer said referee Jose Cobian should’ve warned Lucero for repeatedly dipping below Pacquiao’s waist and called the crouching tactic "a stupid strategy."

Brady said the pro-Lucero crowd at the Grand Olympic Auditorium—where no Filipino had ever won in a world title bout—was unusually quiet since the challenger "was embarrassing himself."

But even as Brady lauded Pacquiao’s punching power, he observed the Filipino "wasn’t as sharp as usual" and blamed it on reports that he "has got into bar brawls back home and has become the target of Al Qaeda guerillas."

Brady said Pacquiao was almost kidnapped twice by terrorists. "He has to have bodyguards," noted Brady. "His children also need protection at school. Although Pacquiao is possibly the best fighter to come out of the Philippines since Flash Elorde, he’s risking his life to stay there."

Where Brady got the report that Pacquiao was almost kidnapped is a mystery because it just isn’t true.

Pacquiao himself told The Star last week that Home Box Office (HBO) TV commentator Larry Merchant was worried for his safety in General Santos City. Pacquiao assured Merchant the reports on terrorism in Mindanao are grossly exaggerated and said he’s careful not to venture into dangerous territory. Pacquiao also denied his involvement in a supposed bar brawl shortly before he left for the US to fight Lucero.

As for Lucero, Brady said the Mexican "was ducking so low he was like a blind man trying to find a $50 bill–normally, Lucero is a banger who makes great fights but after winging one good right with about 50 seconds gone, he got so low it was like watching a crab slither along the beach."

Brady said "there was no way Lucero could get leverage but as the Filipino kept firing, all his punches went over him."

He continued: "By the second round, all Lucero was doing was trying to run and heave wild punches but Pacquiao’s radar was starting to find him and he jarred Lucero with a right cross. The champ had missed a lot of leather but a second cross cracked home. Lucero seemed horribly snakebit from the first bell. As Pacquiao’s long shots knocked him back, the challenger tried to go even lower. Yet his wild swings hit nothing but as Lucero was missing so badly, at one point, he looked like a swivel as the half spun around.

"In the third, the champion’s shots got stronger and after the quick-fisted Filipino landed a cracking left cross, Lucero just froze and abruptly turned around and desperately made for the far ropes. He grabbed and lurched crazily but was out on his feet and collapsed. The challenger simply wasn’t in control of his senses."

Pacquiao’s impressive showing gained the thumbs-up from Steward, a three-time Trainer of the Year and two-time Manager of the Year awardee by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Steward compiled a 94-3 amateur record and won the Golden Gloves title as a bantamweight in 1963. He never turned pro and instead trained fighters to achieve success in the ring. Known as the "Wizard of Kronk," Steward produced his first world champion, lightweight Hilmer Kenty, in 1980.

Also a maker of simon-pure champions, Steward guided seven of his pupils to capture local Golden Gloves crowns in 1971. And at the 1984 Olympics, his students Frank Tate and Steve McCrory won gold medals.

In 1997, Steward was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.

Being considered one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters was a surprise for Pacquiao who holds only the IBF recognition in the superbantamweight or 122-pound division. The World Boxing Council (WBC) champion is Oscar Larios of Mexico and the World Boxing Association (WBA) titleholder is Salim Medjkoune of France. The World Boxing Organization (WBO) claimant is Joan Guzman of the Dominican Republic.

Pacquiao’s stock got a big boost from Steward, who was signed to a multi-year contract as a HBO TV boxing analyst last March.

Both Steward and Merchant are captivated by Pacquiao’s charisma and fighting skills. And since they’re HBO’s boxing experts, it appears more offers will come Pacquiao’s way to perform on the cable network. A big money duel with either Paulie Ayala or Marco Antonio Barrera on HBO is in the works even as Filipino promoter Bebot Elorde has offered Pacquiao a P12 Million paycheck to stake his crown against leading available contender Jose Luis Valbuena of Venezuela here in October.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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