LAS VEGAS, May 7, 2004
By Lito A.Tacujan  —  He looked more like a Latino pop idol in all-black sweat suit than the man they call ‘Dinamita’ for the firebombs exploding from his fists.

That was the impression world champion Juan Manuel Marquez gave to Manila media men in a chance meeting on the cavernous gambling hall of the MGM Grand Hotel Wednesday night.

The good-looking 30-year-old Mexican champ readily declared he’s all set for the defense of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight belts Saturday night (Sunday in Manila) against consensus titlist Manny Pacquiao.

"Mucho rounds," he said smiling some two hours after putting the lid on three months of intensive training with his final workout.

But behind the smile and the boyish facade lies a man aching for recognition and respect only a victory over the charismatic Filipino people’s champ would give.

And he vowed to give Pacquiao a ‘rude awakening’ for all the esteem and adoration bestowed on the Filipino following his tremendous win over Mexican legend Marco Antonio last November in San Antonio.

The rounds he said numerous were the sparring ones he had numbering 80 against six partners during his high altitude buildup for this fight that has all the trimmings of a fight of the year written all over it.

Pacquiao himself had gone 135 rounds in six weeks of training in Los Angeles even as he also capped his final workout at oven-hot IBA gym at the outskirt of the city.

Both the Filipino and the Mexican rode the scales at 125 pounds two days before the official weigh-in for the 126-pound featherweight matchup, attributing it to the searing heat that has enveloped this desert capital the past three days.

"Sobrang init pero okay lang dahil maganda ang kundisyon," said Pacquiao.

American trainer Freddie Roach said the Filipino’s form is just right because "it was simply too hot out there. There’ll be no problem, we can relax, let him walk and jog a little tomorrow and shadow box in his room. He’ll be ready and don’t be surprised if the fight ends early, like in the second round."

Marquez trainer, the legendary Ignacio " Nacho" Beristain, wouldn’t make any prediction for his fighter, considered technically superior with an excellent counter-punching style, and stressed Marquez is the champion with two belts.

"No prediction because what’s the use of climbing the ring if we could predict the outcome of the fight.

Manny is a great fighter but my boy is the champ and we are in the best condition for this bout," said Beristain.

Figures on the betting boards of the race/sportsbook section of MGM have escalated somewhat the day Marquez arrived in Las Vegas Tuesday with the Mexican champ given a plus 150 (paying $150 for every $100 bet) from plus 145 and Pacquiao minus 170 (paying $100 for every $170 bet) from an opening 150.

Murad Muhammad, whose M&M Sport is co-promoting the scheduled 12-round bout together with Top Rank and HBO, said the odds now stand at 7-5 for Pacquiao.

It will be a classic encounter between the Filipino idol, who started out as a talented flyweight and whose non-stop marauding style was unravelled in all its ferocity before a global TV audience in his 11th destruction of Barrera, and the stylish champ, a natural featherweight and a complete fighter who felt universal recognition is long due him.

"They’re going to find out that fighting me is not the same as fighting Barrera. They’re in for a rude awakening," Marquez told posted for the fight.

The 25-year-old Pacquiao has stopped 12 of his last 13 opponents in a 38-2-1 (29 KOs) record while Marquez had won 11 of his last 13 fights inside the distance in 42-2 (33 KOs).

In the supporting bout, Miguel Cotto, the top-ranked 140-pound contender, will meet Lovermore N’Dou for the WBC international super lightweight championship.

Cotto, a Puerto Rican, is 19-0 with 16 knockouts, and is ranked No. 4 by the IBF and No. 6 by the WBC while N’Dou, called the "Black Panther," is from Sydney, Australia via Transvaal, South Africa and has a record of 38-6-1 with 24 KOs. He is ranked No. 6 by the IBF and No. 10 by the WBC.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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