NOVEMBER 23, 2006
(STAR)  By Joaquin Henson - Top Rank head Bob Arum will assume the cost of all legal expenses and provide a private lawyer for Manny Pacquiao in the event the fighter is sued by Golden Boy Promotions for renouncing a contract he previously signed with Oscar de la Hoya.

That’s the word from Rex (Wakee) Salud who told The STAR the other day the decision to junk Golden Boy for Top Rank was in Pacquiao’s best interests.

Salud, who is one of Pacquiao’s closest advisers, found himself out of the loop when on the night the fighter arrived in Los Angeles from Manila last September, de la Hoya put a total of $500,000 in cash on the table as bait to sign a seven-fight deal.

Salud said Pacquiao, lawyer Jing Gacal and trainer Freddie Roach mysteriously disappeared during a late dinner at Denny’s shortly after arriving from Manila. It turned out that de la Hoya and Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez met secretly with Pacquiao, Gacal and Roach — without Salud — at a nearby steakhouse.

When news leaked out that Pacquiao had come to terms with de la Hoya, Arum cried foul. He said there is a specific clause in Pacquiao’s contract with Top Rank prohibiting him from signing any fight contract until after the rubber match against Erik Morales. The implication was because of the clause, the contract that Pacquiao signed with Golden Boy was invalid.

The day before Pacquiao faced Morales, Arum sent a letter to de la Hoya, informing him of the renouncement, and returned the $500,000 that was previously given. The $500,000 was broken down into a signing bonus of $350,000 and an advance of $150,000.

It was not certain if Golden Boy would sue Arum or Pacquiao who is in the middle of a bitter war between the rival promoters.

Pacquiao’s manager Shelly Finkel said the conflict may result in a protracted legal battle but is optimistic he can get the Filipino out of the entanglement.

Finkel’s contract to manage Pacquiao expires on Jan. 31 next year but he is offering to remain in the team under the fighter’s terms.

Finkel entered Pacquiao’s world through Roach after the sidelining of previous manager Marty Elorde, business manager Rod Nazario and promoter Murad Muhammad early last year. With over 20 years of experience managing a slew of high-profile fighters, Finkel negotiated Pacquiao’s break from Muhammad, made sure the Filipino would not be at a disadvantage in the Morales rematch (particularly in choosing gloves) and built in penalty clauses in the contract for the third Morales fight in case of failure to make the weight.

From being out of the loop, Salud has bounced back with a vengeance.

Salud said he met with Arum and other Top Rank executives to iron out a new four-year deal that was announced after the knockout over Morales in a press conference.

"For about 12 days, I did nothing but work out this new contract," said Salud. "This is the best thing that could have happened to Manny. He’s very happy with this contract and Top Rank is committed to provide all-out support for Manny."

Salud said he’s not at liberty to disclose the terms of the contract but mentioned it stipulates six bouts each year — two for Pacquiao and four for other Filipino fighters.

"It’s a contract that’s good not only for Manny but for other Filipino fighters who could be the next Pacquiao," said Salud.

Another key stipulation is Pacquiao will be awarded full Philippine TV rights for his fights without Top Rank sharing in the fees.

After de la Hoya signed Pacquiao to a contract, he said there would be no legal impediment to executing the agreement and even dared Arum to bring a case to court. De la Hoya promised to be in Pacquiao’s corner for the Morales fight. But when the bell rang last Saturday, the Golden Boy was nowhere around. He was told of the renouncement the day before.

Pacquiao declined to comment on the legal implications of renouncing the Golden Boy contract and signing a new four-year deal with Top Rank.

Kevin Iole of the Las Vegas Review-Journal said "legal complications might result" from the renouncement but Arum said Pacquiao has nothing to worry about because he’s on top of the situation.

Salud said Pacquiao made the right choice in electing to stay with Arum instead of joining de la Hoya who manages Marco Antonio Barrera — the World Boxing Council superfeatherweight champion tipped to face the Filipino in a big money fight next year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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