MANILA, May 20, 2004
By Dante Navarro  -  With WBA/IBF featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez expected to shun any offer for a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, the consensus people’s champion will have to look for a worthy opponent when he resumes his bid for boxing glory sometime in September.

Team Pacquiao official Moy Lainez yesterday confirmed that HBO has given a September date for Pacquiao’s next fight after his classic clash with Marquez last May 8 which ended in a controversial split draw at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But the venue and the opponent will still have to be determined in a meeting between Pacquiao’s US promoter Murad Muhammad and the HBO officials next week.

Actually, Murad, according to Lainez, is interested in holding Pacquiao’s next fight here in Manila with HBO reportedly willing to take care of the prize money, the biggest problem hounding local promoters in staging the Filipino champion’s fight here.

Murad is hoping to come up with a Marquez rematch or another Thrilla in Manila classic that could approximate the epic Ali-Frazier battle in terms of magnitude and impact. In fact, it was Muhammad Ali himself who said he would be more than willing to lend the Thrilla in Manila title for Pacquiao, whom he thought had won over Marquez.

But Lainez believes Marquez would duck another confrontation with the Filipino boxing hero, saying: "Bugbog-sarado kasi ang inabot niya at salanta ang mukha, so I don’t think he would go for a rematch with Pacquiao."

Besides, Lainez added, Marquez is set to defend his IBF title against Orlando Salido next month although he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the fight would be rescheduled since the Mexican champion would need more time to recover from the damage inflicted by Pacquiao.

With Marquez virtually out of the equation, at least three names have been mentioned as Pacquiao’s next possible opponent — Oscar Larios, the reigning WBC super bantamweight champion who boasts of 50-3-1 record with 35 KOs; Korean WBC featherweight champion In-jin Chi (28-2-1 with 17 KOs); and Scott Harrison, the European WBO featherweight king with 21-2-1 record with 11 KOs.

HBO is actually keen on pursuing a possible Pacquiao rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera, the Mexican legend whom the left-handed General Santos native destroyed with a convincing 11th round TKO at the Alamodome last year. But Barrera is also scheduled to fight Paulie Ayala on June 19 as part of his comeback bid.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao will hold a fans’ day on Monday at the Wild Card gym at No. 27 Presidents Ave. in BF Homes, Parañaque.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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