LAST CHAPTER OF TRILOGY:  PACQUIAO, MORALES IN TOP SHAPE, SEE VICTORY

LAS VEGAS,
NOVEMBER 18, 2006
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Without really trying, Erik Morales threw his weight around Thursday’s press conference.

At the packed Cox Concourse of the Thomas and Mack Center here, the crafty Mexican boxer simply refused to let a weighty issue die down.

"Three months ago a lot of people didn’t believe that I’d make the weight, especially Freddie Roach (Manny Pacquiao’s trainer). All he kept talking about was my weight, my weight, my weight," he said through Top Rank’s Ricardo Jimenez.

Roach, who’s gotten into a word war with Morales in the months, weeks and days leading to this fight, sat just a few chairs from Morales. He rubbed his neck as the Mexican spoke.

"So, I think it’s easier to talk than to act," added Morales.

His left hand motioning toward Roach, Morales reminded everybody present that Bobby Pacquiao, younger brother of Manny and another Roach protégé, failed to make the weight Wednesday for a fight against another Mexican, Hector Velasquez.

"Yesterday one of his fighters failed to make the weight," said Morales, adding that Roach, instead of thinking about his (Morales’) weight, should think of the weight of his boxers.

Then Morales, before turning over the microphone to Bob Arum, declared that he’s going to win his bout against Manny Pacquiao on Saturday (Sunday noon in Manila) at the Thomas and Mack Center.

"I’m going to win on Saturday. And there are two reasons why. First, it’s for the people who want me to win, and second, it’s for the people who don’t want me to win," he said.

Pacquiao, from his chair, briefly stared at Morales then faced the audience.

"There’s been a lot of speculation about his weight. Now there’s no more speculation. He’s right here. He’s in great shape and on Saturday he’s going to win the fight," said Fernando Beltran, Morales’ manager.

A few ticks later, it was Pacquiao’s turn to speak.

He was at his usual self - cool, calm and collected.

"I’m not the type of boxer who would say anything bad about my opponent. Erik Morales is in good condition and I know he will make the weight. I just want to have a good fight and make people happy," said Pacquiao.

The Filipino ring icon remained the solid favorite, going -270 that a $270 bet for Pacquiao would only win a hundred bucks. Morales is at +230, a $100 wager winning $230.

The official weigh-in is scheduled Friday at the same Thomas and Mack Center. The weight issue will have to come to an end the moment the two boxers are weighed.

Morales, reportedly at 165 four months ago, agreed to a fight contract that he’d pay Pacquiao $500,000 for every excess pound. Thin but not haggard, he looked even more dangerous each time he smiled during the press conference.

"I agree that it’s not about the weight but the heart.

And I agree that Erik Morales will be at his best. But it won’t be enough," said Pacquiao’s manager, Shelly Finkel.

Roach just spoke for a minute.

"I don’t have much to say except that Manny has been in the best training camp of his career and he’s in the best shape of his life," he said.

Fight analysis: The S-factors of consequence By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star 11/18/2006

LAS VEGAS - Manny Pacquiao is a solid 3-1 favorite to beat Erik Morales in their epic 12-round showdown at the Thomas and Mack Center here tonight (tomorrow morning, Manila). The climax to the trilogy is billed the "Grand Finale" because the consensus is the rubber match will end conclusively.

Pacquiao’s manager Shelly Finkel predicted the Filipino will knock out Morales after the fourth round.

Former World Boxing Council secretary-general Rudy Salud agreed but warned Pacquiao not to take Morales lightly, particularly in the first few rounds where the Mexican is expected to be at full strength.

Salud said Morales will weaken as the fight progresses because of the draining effects of a four-month weight reduction program. With the dimunition of Morales’ power, he will be easy prey for Pacquiao.

International matchmaker Jun Sarreal said age has caught up with Morales who at 30, has figured in 20 world title bouts and 52 fights in a 13-year career. In contrast, Pacquiao is a relatively fresh 27 with nine world title bouts and 47 fights in an 11-year career.

Morales’ body has gone through a lot more wear and tear than Pacquiao’s.

"Morales has reached his peak," said Sarreal. "If he slugs it out with Manny, he’ll get knocked out because I don’t think he can take his power. Morales will try to make it go 12 rounds. He’ll take his chances with the judges. It’s possible he will hit and run to avoid fighting Manny head-on."

In analyzing the fight, experts are zeroing in on five S-factors of consequence that could determine the outcome - strength, speed, stamina, style and strategy.

• Strength. Pacquiao has metamorphosed into a natural superfeatherweight. He is comfortable at 130 pounds and his power is intact at that level. Morales has outgrown the division and is now a natural lightweight (135 pounds) or even superlightweight (140). But he’s scaling down to 130 for the opportunity to pocket a huge purse - probably, his last big payday - and exact revenge on Pacquiao. Morales has felt the fury of Pacquiao’s fists in losing by knockout last January. Pacquiao has never been floored by the Mexican. Edge: Pacquiao.

• Speed. There is no faster superfeatherweight in the world today than Pacquiao who has blinding handspeed. He can unleash combinations in a snap. His offense is smothering and devastating, leaving opponents no chance to recover. Morales isn’t as quick in throwing or parrying punches. Pacquiao is also quicker on his feet. Edge: Pacquiao.

• Stamina. Morales trained four months for the rubber match - two at the Velocity Sports Performance Gym in Los Angeles and two at the high-altitude Otomi Mountains of Mexico. He weighed 142 pounds a month ago and 136 a week ago. If his base weight was 165 as is suspected, trimming down to 130 will leave Morales with little energy to survive four rounds. Pacquiao has been logging kilometers since August and nobody outpaces him in early morning jogs at Griffith Park. Edge: Pacquiao.

• Style. Morales is a polished gladiator who is technically proficient. He moves around the ring with precision. Whatever he does is for a purpose. He is smart and calculating. Pacquiao isn’t as proficient although he continues to improve fight after fight. Morales patiently breaks down his opponent’s defense while Pacquiao likes to rush things and sometimes, gets careless in the process. Edge: Morales.

• Strategy. Making adjustments during a fight is critical. Morales has shown more resiliency than Pacquiao in modifying tactics as the bout transpires. Morales’ father Jose and cutman Miguel Diaz are experienced cornermen who will no doubt provide sage advice. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach is a master of the game. A crucial element is the ability to understand instructions without language barriers. Edge: Morales.

Pacquiao and Morales have fought only two common opponents - Reynante Jamili and Marco Antonio Barrera.

In July 1999, Morales stopped Jamili in the sixth round to retain his World Boxing Council superbantamweight title in Tijuana. Five months later, Pacquiao halted Jamili in two in Manila.

Morales has tangled with Barrera thrice. Morales won a split decision in their first encounter in February 2000. Two years later, Barrera scored a unanimous verdict in the rematch. And in 2004, Barrera defeated Morales anew, this time via a majority 12-round decision.

Pacquiao faced Barrera only once, posting an 11th round knockout in San Antonio in 2003.

Pacquiao has been beaten only once in his last 19 outings while Morales has lost three of his last four bouts, including the last two. Before losing to Pacquiao, Morales went the full route in his five previous matches, indicating an inability to close out with a stoppage.

Morales has everything to lose because this could be his farewell assignment. The pressure is on the Mexican to survive and fight another day. He hasn’t fought since bowing to Pacquiao 10 months ago and the ring rust will undoubtedly show.

Pacquiao went 12 rounds with Oscar Larios since knocking out Morales so he’s kept busy in the interim. The sky is the limit for Pacquiao who just signed a seven-fight contract with Golden Boy Promotions.

Fans admire Pacquiao because he is gutsy, fearless and fights with all his heart and soul. He never backs down, stares adversity in the face and always rises to the occasion because he fights not only for himself but also for the entire Filipino nation.

Morales, however, can’t be discounted as a threat. He is a man on a mission. Morales is out for redemption and Pacquiao can’t afford to be careless against a dangerous and desperate opponent who’s fighting for his life.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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