KOREAN  FOE  AN  OPTION  FOR  MANNY

MANILA, May 13, 2004
 
(STAR)
By Joaquin Henson  -  Uncrowned world featherweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao arrives this morning from Las Vegas where he battled Juan Manuel Marquez to a split 12-round draw last weekend.

Pacquiao would’ve come home with the World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) belts but novice judge Burt Clements–who scored it 113-all–goofed in shortchanging the Filipino by a point. Clements later admitted his mistake but the confession is not a justifiable reason to reverse the decision.

Pacquiao’s business manager Rod Nazario said he will never agree to a rematch if Bob Arum is the promoter. He insinuated that Arum, who is Marquez’ manager, used his influence on referee Joe Cortez and two of the three judges to protect the Mexican.

Cortez never deducted a point from Marquez despite at least four warnings for low blows. And judge Guy Jutras, 71, saw it 115-110 for Marquez, awarding 10 of the last 11 rounds to the bloodied Mexican who was decked thrice in the first stanza.

Nazario said Pacquiao will fight again in October against a still unnamed opponent.

Marquez will likely avoid facing Pacquiao in a rematch. He fought his best but couldn’t beat Pacquiao. In contrast, Pacquiao managed a draw even if his left hand swelled starting the second round and his left big toe was blistered. Pacquiao’s vaunted power in his left hand diminished as the fight progressed and Marquez finished the bout on his feet. It is doubtful if Marquez will survive Pacquiao at full strength.

Since Marquez holds both the WBA and IBF titles, Pacquiao’s remaining option is to shoot for the World Boxing Council (WBC) version. Wearing a belt is essential to enhance Pacquiao’s marketability as a marquee attraction.

Korean slugger In Jin Chi is the WBC featherweight titleholder. He stopped Michael Brodie in the seventh round to capture the vacant throne in Manchester last April. Chi’s manager is Ku Sung Lee, a frequent Manila visitor and close friend of former WBC secretary-general Rudy Salud. Lee also managed In Joo Cho who beat Gerry Peñalosa twice in WBC superflyweight title bouts in 1998 and 2000.

Early this year, Pacquiao was rated No. 3 by the WBC and designated the mandatory challenger of the Chi-Brodie winner. It was Salud who persuaded WBC president Jose Sulaiman to accommodate Pacquiao after knocking out Marco Antonio Barrera.

But when Pacquiao signed to face Marquez for the IBF and WBA titles, Sulaiman struck the Filipino out of the WBC ratings.

It will take a lot of convincing for Sulaiman to reinstate Pacquiao as Chi’s mandatory challenger.

Chi will be an easier opponent for Pacquiao than Marquez. The Korean is a brawler like Pacquiao. He’s a standing target. Chi hardly moves his feet in the ring.

The Korean, however, is as tough as nails. In 2001, he went the distance in losing a decision to Erik Morales in a WBC featherweight title match in Los Angeles. Chi had Morales on the verge of collapse at least twice during the brutal contest. Morales wound up with a severely swollen left eye, a cut over the eye and bruises all over his face.

Chi’s record is 28-2-1, with 17 KOs.

Like Marquez, Chi has never lost to a Filipino, is 30 years old, stands 5-7, has never been knocked out and was beaten in his pro debut. But the similarities end there. Their styles are as different as night and day.

Chi’s Filipino victims are Samuel Duran, Dino Olivetti, Baby Lorona (who also lost to Marquez), Andy Alagenio, Teofilo Tunacao, Sammy Sordilla, Joe Escriber, Eddy Penaso, Ric Ramirez, Jess Maca (twice) and Ronnie Belaro.

"Chi is an iron man," wrote Tony Connolly in Boxing News. "He took the best brilliant Erik Morales had to offer. He is so tough. He fought Brodie with coolness and a certain disdain for his power, often dropping his hands to rest them and to taunt his man."

The problem is a Pacquiao-Chi fight will not be a hot ticket in the US since they’re both Asians. So for the bout to materialize, it must be promoted either in the Philippines or Korea. That will mean an investment of at least $1 Million. It may be worth the cost because a victory will legitimize Pacquiao’s claim to a world featherweight crown.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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