MANILA, February 3, 2006
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Manny Pacquiao’s manager Shelly Finkel said yesterday a rubber match or a tiebreaker between the Filipino and Erik Morales would be "huge" because the fighters are national heroes with a lot of pride at stake.

Although Pacquiao scored a convincing 10th round stoppage in their rematch last Jan. 21, he only evened the count with Morales who won the first encounter via a unanimous decision. A third bout will be a fitting climax to the trilogy.

Finkel told The Star in an e-mail from New York that Pacquiao’s win was "one of my greatest victories ever" and "ranks right up there with (Evander) Holyfield beating (James) Douglas for the heavyweight championship of the world."

Finkel noted that the major improvements he observed in Pacquiao’s performance were "attacking the body, giving angles and using his jab."

Morales slowly wilted under Pacquiao’s two-fisted body assault and his defense eventually opened up. Pacquiao repeatedly fired the right jab to set up his killer left straight but also used the right hook to hurt Morales. On defense, Pacquiao took away Morales’ angles by spinning away from his counter right straight after landing combinations.

In the first fight, Pacquiao never got to unravel the tactics he practiced with trainer Freddie Roach in the gym because of the sense of urgency brought about by the ugly cut over the right eyebrow he suffered from a headbutt in the fifth round. Pacquiao was also distracted by management problems and couldn’t use the gloves of his choice.

Things were different in the rematch as Pacquiao used the Reyes gloves he prefers and was comfortable dealing with his new management team led by Finkel.

Finkel said Pacquiao could eventually invade the lightweight division but at the moment, he should continue fighting in the superfeatherweight class with a limit of 130 pounds. Pacquiao turned pro in 1995 weighing 106 pounds and slowly bulked up to flyweight at 112 pounds to superbantamweight at 122 to featherweight at 126 and finally to superfeatherweight or junior lightweight at 130.

Asked what his impressions were of the Filipino support for Pacquiao in Las Vegas, Finkel said it was "incredible."

Finkel said he never doubted a Pacquiao victory although he admitted he was worried up to the sixth round "because he wasn’t doing what he practiced until then."

The three judges–Paul Smith, Dave Moretti and Jerry Roth–concurred with Finkel as their scorecards showed Morales ahead on points after five rounds.

Finkel said the keys to Pacquiao’s victory were conditioning, relaxing and following his gameplan. That Pacquiao had no distractions before the fight and committed himself to rigid preparation contributed to his mental and physical strength.

Finkel said the gloves were also a factor. Pacquiao wore the Mexican-made Cleto Reyes gloves while Morales, the Japanese-made Winning gloves. "The gloves helped Manny punch as Erik’s gloves helped him protect his hands," noted Finkel.

Because the Winning gloves are more padded around the knuckles, Morales has more protection for his brittle hands. The Reyes gloves are less padded around the knuckles, giving more impact to a punch.

With Pacquiao’s win, Finkel said he would now rank him No. 3 among the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters today behind only Floyd Mayweather and Winky Wright.

At the post-fight press conference in Las Vegas, Finkel hailed Pacquiao as "a special human being" and lauded his feat of being the first ever to stop a legend like Morales. He said Pacquiao’s right hand and body shots did it. Finkel said he noticed Morales began to sag in the sixth round and that was the turning point of the fight.

For his part, Roach said "revenge is sweet" and praised both fighters who "went to war." He said Pacquiao is like the son he never had. "I’m very proud of him but he still has to work on his defense," said Roach.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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