MANILA, December 22, 2003  (BULLETIN) By Dennis Principe - MILLION-DOLLAR MAN

MANNY PACQUIAO is set to ink a deal that will give him a chance to earn a cool $1 million, not to mention a stab at boxing history.

The Filipino boxing hero confirmed on Saturday that his handlers are close to sealing a deal that would have him challenging World Boxing Association/ International Boxing Federation featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez for a guaranteed purse of $1-M.

The universally recognized world featherweight king got the offer from the Mexican champ’s camp right on his 25th birthday last Dec. 17, which he celebrated in his native General Santos City.

He and his handlers may have liked the ring of ‘$1-M’ so much they are now set to fly to the US on Dec. 26 to sign the fight contract.

“Focus ako kay Marquez kasi siya ang may pinakamalaking offer ngayon. $1-million ang offer nila kaya magpipirmahan na lang kami,” said Pacquiao on Saturday while watching younger brother Bobby’s defense of his Philippine junior lightweight title in Subic.

Pacquiao’s widely acclaimed win over Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera gave him superstar status in the fight game, but it is the fight against Marquez that could put him in the record books as the first Filipino pug – and first Asian for that matter — to win world titles in three weight divisions.

Aside from that, the purse will go down as the single biggest payday a Filipino athlete will receive for one match.

Before annexing the IBF super-bantamweight crown, Pacquiao reigned as WBC flyweight champion after crushing Thai Chatchai Sasakul in the eighth round on Dec. 4, 1998 in Bangkok.

Although Marquez is nowhere near the class of Barrera, Pacquiao isn’t about to take the Mexican lightly once the 12-round bout tentatively pencilled for March pushes through.

“Mahirap magkumpiyansa kahit na sinasabi na mas madaling kalaban si Marquez kaysa kay Barrera,” said Pacquiao. “Basta ibigay ko pa din ang lahat sa preparations ko para sigurado.”

Marquez is a wily 30-year-old veteran whose explosive record of 42-2, 33 via knockout earned for him the moniker ‘Dinamita.’ He is ranked second to Pacquiao by fight experts in the featherweight class.

The Mexico City-born Marquez won the IBF belt by stopping compatriot and five-time world champion Manuel Medina in the seventh round last February in Las Vegas.

He added the WBA tiara to his collection when he scored a seventh-round TKO over American Derrick Gainer on Nov. 1, 2003 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The offer was forward to Pacquiao’s camp by Top Rank, an outfit headed by Bob Arum regarded as the second biggest in the world after Don King’s, and coursed through the M&M Promotions of Murad Muhammad, which handles the Filipino’s affairs in the US.

The camp of the Filipino champion is also considering a television proposal from cable TV giant HBO which has reportedly dangled a juicy six-fight, $25-M deal.

Pacquiao is currently tied up with M&M Promotions on a two-and-a-half year promotional contract worth $2.65-M.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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