Manila, August 15, 2003 (STAR) By Joaquin M. Henson  - Movie actor Sylvester Stallone has joined International Boxing Federation (IBF) superbantamweight champion Manny Pacquiao’s growing list of Stateside believers. The muscular star of the popular "Rocky" and "Rambo" series witnessed Pacquiao’s third round demolition of challenger Emmanuel Lucero at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles recently.

"Cheered on by actor and fan Sylvester Stallone, Pacquiao earned a career-best $180,000 for destroying Lucero who was paid $50,000," wrote Jim Brady in the London weekly Boxing News.

Pacquiao told The STAR recently that Stallone and his brother Frank are regulars at trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym on the second floor of a Vine Street strip mall in Hollywood. The Stallones don’t spar, said Pacquiao. They drop in to work out – lifting weights, shadow boxing, punching the bag, and doing exercises.

Other celebrities who patronize Roach’s sweat shop include Sharon Stone, Angelina Jolie, Wesley Snipes, Denzel Washington and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

It was at the Wild Card Gym where Stallone met Pacquiao and they’ve been buddies since.

While Pacquiao was in his dressing room waiting for the call to climb the ring for Lucero, Stallone dropped by.

"Sabi niya sa akin, good luck at patulugin ko raw si Lucero," related Pacquiao. ‘Sabi ko sa kaniya, no problem."

After the fight, Pacquiao reached out to Stallone – sitting at ringside – and shook his hand on the way to the showers.

"Iba raw akong makisama sa mga fans," continued Pacquiao. "Hindi raw ako kagaya ng iba na pagkatapos manalo sa laban, kinalimutan na ang mga sumuporta sa kaniya. Okay si Stallone. Maliit lang siya. Matangkad pa nga ako. Gumagamit lang ng mataas na takong sa sapatos kaya parang malaki siya."

The Wild Card Gym is a haven for housewives, entertainers, models, blue-collar warriors, baby boomers and celebrities trying to lose weight or tone up. Nobody goes to the gym without an attitude. The sayings scribbled on posters all over the Wild Card walls reflect the work ethic in the gym–"Only The Strong Survive," "It Ain’t Easy," "To Perform Like A Champion, You Must Train Like One" and "You Gotta Have Balls To Conquer The World."

The gym is equipped with a large ring, several bags and more than enough exercise space.

"Everybody here is so positive and they really make you feel like you’re worth something," said regular customer Diane Dominic who lost 10 pounds in six weeks at the gym after giving birth to her second child, in The Ring Magazine (Jan. 2003). "If you go to other more expensive gyms, you’re nothing but a number. Here, the trainers take their time. They genuinely seem more interested in showing people how to be dedicated than they are in making money. And where else can people like me train alongside Michael Moorer and James Toney without feeling uncomfortable?"

Licensed pros pay $25 a month for the use of the gym. All others pay $50 a month or $5 a day. Tips to trainers are, of course, encouraged.

Pacquiao’s personal trainer and buddy Buboy Fernandez, who accompanied the champion to Los Angeles, made some extra cash working with customers at the Wild Card Gym. Roach passed on some customers for Fernandez to take care of during slack time. Fernandez said he charged $5 per round with the punch mitts.

Regarding his purse for the Lucero fight, Pacquiao confirmed it was $180,000. He said his business manager Rod Nazario split up the money to cover for those who participate in the spoils like registered manager Marty Elorde (30 percent) and Roach (10 percent).Pacquiao said he doesn’t know how Nazario cuts it up and couldn’t care less for as long as his take-home share is at least 50 percent of the pie. After all, he does all the work in the ring, added Pacquiao.

One thing on Pacquiao’s mind is a new car. He said he deserves a bit of luxury after making the fourth successful defense of the IBF crown. Pacquiao’s got his eyes on a Ford Expedition.

Before he left for General Santos to reunite with relatives last week, Pacquiao went to the Ford showroom in Libis to check out the latest Expedition models. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford gives Pacquiao a free Expedition in exchange for his endorsement that the vehicle is a knockout. Pacquiao happens to be the hottest endorser in sports today.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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