PAC-MANIA

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao welcomes President Arroyo at NAIA from her UN trip. Photo by STAR]

LOS ANGELES, September 20, 2005 (STAR) THE SCORE By Jannelle So - Manny Pacquiao is already back in Manila; but over here, his Filipino-American fans still can’t get over the "PacMania" he left after delivering a sixth-round knockout in his match against Mexican Hector Velazquez.

After a slow first round which was so unlike the southpaw known for his aggressive start, the 26-year-old Pacquiao came back in the second round and never looked back, eventually stopping his opponent with his deadly combinations as he cornered the 30-year-old world champion. The story is told over and over. And people never seem to get tired.

Judges Alejandro Rochin, Steve English and Marty Sammon all gave a 9-10 score in favor of Velazquez in the first round as the older fighter threw and landed more punches after the first three minutes of play. But that was the only round he dominated. Rounds 2-5 were Pacquiao’s. And during the sixth, Pacman’s powerful left and deadly combination punches beat the fire out of Velazquez. By then, the Filipinos who made up about 40 percent of the crowd at the Staples Center, had sprung to their feet in awe of what they were witnessing. Pacquiao then cornered his opponent and, in dramatic fashion only seen in Filipino action movies, let loose a barrage of blows that eventually knocked down the slugger from Tijuana.

Hispanic fans came in droves, carrying and waving their flags. Typically cocky, they shouted insults and sneered at the Filipino fans that were vindicated by that night’s three knockout victories by Paquiao, Rey Bautista and Brian Viloria.

PacMan, of course, was the biggest winner as, in front of the 10, 584 fans who came out to watch the boxing extravaganza, he accomplished what he set out to do.

"I want to show the world that I’m still the ‘King of the Ring.’ I’m still a champion," the People’s Champ said in an interview after the WBC International Super Featherweight Championship.

Boxing is a man’s sport; and egos were definitely crushed, especially those of the Mexicans’ whose fighters all lost. Some said in jest they lost to Coach Freddie Roach who trained the boxers who beat all of them — Pacquiao who knocked out Velazquez, Brian Viloria who also knocked out Eric Ortiz and even Armenian Vanes Martirosyan who beat Mexican Gerard Prieto.

"We had to close the gym. It’s either we go away to a camp or close the gym. But I got a lot of fighters on the show, that I would have had to take about 20 fighters and sparring partners to the camp and it just wasn’t feasible to do that at this time. And so I closed the gym and when I say nobody can go inside, nobody can go. Even if my mother came, she would have gotten thrown out, too," Roach said about the strategy he used to train his fighters. And it worked, even for Pacquiao who was beset by distractions when he fought Erik "El Terible" Morales early this year.

This time around, Pacquiao had to discipline himself. One thing he added to his training was reading a book — "Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren.

"Marami akong natututunan tungkol sa buhay natin dito sa mundo. Kung ano’ng dapat na gagawin mo para masaya ang Panginoon sa iyo. Kung ano’ng dapat na iwasan natin na mga gawain na hindi gusto ng Panginoon. Kakaumpisa ko pa lang pero marami na akong natututunan sa binabasa ko," Pacquiao said about this added mental conditioning he used for his Sept. 10 fight.

"It kept him focused on the fight. Instead of staying up, watching TV, instead of playing cards with his friends, he’s in his room by himself, and that’s good for him," said Joe Ramos, Pacquiao’s adviser in the US.

There’s no word yet if he’s going to continue reading the book now that he already won the fight and will certainly be in the party mood. But one thing’s for sure, he won’t be getting a whole lot of rest even after the fight since he is scheduled to do a lot "out-of-the-ring-activities" including singing a duet with popular American recording artist Black Eyed Peas when he comes back to the States next month for the fight of his brother, Bobby.

The song "Champion" was written by Black Eyed Peas’ Filipino member, Apl de Ap who popularized "The Apl Song." According to Ramos, he had already recorded the first verse of the song. It was remixed and played at the Staples Center on Sept. 10. Unfortunately, that version which Pacquiao marched to on his way to the ring will not be released to the public. But the whole song will be part of their next album. They’re just waiting for Pacquiao to record the second verse.

Meanwhile, despite contrasting results (Erik Morales lost to Zahir Raheem in a decision) the Morales-Pacquiao rematch is scheduled Jan. 21, 2006 in Las Vegas.

"I don’t care if he lost. He was a man in giving me a rematch, I want to be a man in giving him a rematch," Pacquiao said in his dressing room after watching Morales’ loss to Raheem.

According to Roach, they will be going to camp for Pacquiao’s training which will be scheduled for two months in Manila and a total of eight months in all.

* * * To reach this writer, log on to www.jannelleso.net.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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