MANILA, MARCH 21, 2007
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Let’s bring back the glory.

Behind this battlecry, Harbour Centre team owner Mikee Romero rallied the members of the Philippine team that will see action in the SEABA Champions Cup scheduled April 9 to 14 in Jakarta.

"This is a big challenge for all of us," said Romero in yesterday’s PSA Forum at the Pantalan Restaurant where the members of the RP team were presented to the media.

Romero was tasked by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan as the godfather of the Jakarta-bound team made up of the country’s finest amateurs, and to be reinforced by two imports.

"This is the first Philippine team that will compete internationally after FIBA suspension. And there’s pressure because 70 million Filipinos are expecting no less than the championship," Romero added.

The players are Al Magpayo, Chico Llanete, Jason Castro, JC Intal, Jojo Duncil, Marvin Cruz, Jeffrey Chan, Jonathan Fernandez, Larry Rodriguez, Doug Kramer, Ryan Arana, Patrick Cabahug, Chad Alonso, Gervy Cruz and Beau Belga.

Only Castro has had the experience of playing for the national team as a former member of the RP Youth Team.

But Romero, who has won back-to-back titles with Harbour Centre in the PBL, said he believes that the players will be up to the task and could win the SEABA crown.

The tournament serves as a qualifier for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Tehran in September. Granting that the Philippines qualifies, the all-pro team being handled by Chot Reyes will go to Tehran.

Pangilinan also graced the PSA Forum along with PBL chairman Gil Angeles and commissioner Chino Trinidad, and coaches Junel Baculi, George Gallent and Lawrence Cheongson.

The PLDT chairman was just as optimistic.

"I’m quite excited. And it’s very important for us to win the championship if only to signal the return of the Philippines in international competition. There’s no option but to win," he said.

Pangilinan said he doesn’t expect the title to come on a silver platter since all the competing countries are allowed to field as many as two imports, mostly Americans.

"Will the games be a blowout? It will be difficult because each of the other teams are also allowed to field imports, like Thailand and Malaysia. We have to be vigilant with what these teams will be doing," he said.

"So, can we bring home the bacon? Unfortunately, there’s no bacon in Jakarta. It’s a Muslin country," Pangilinan said in jest.

Reminder from Shelly SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson The Philippine Star 03/21/2007

Manny Pacquiao’s former manager Shelly Finkel sent a brief e-mail yesterday as he assessed the impact of Juan Manuel Marquez’ recent win over Marco Antonio Barrera on the Filipino boxing icon.

"I guess what I predicted is exactly what is happening," wrote Finkel. "Guess who is on the outside looking in?" Finkel meant that with Pacquiao out of the Golden Boy loop, he’s not able to land big money contracts fighting the likes of Marquez and Barrera who are both controlled by Oscar de la Hoya.

Pacquiao, not Marquez, would’ve faced Barrera last weekend if not for a contractual snag where the General Santos City star opted to renounce a signed deal with Golden Boy to lock arms with rival Top Rank. According to Top Rank, Pacquiao didn’t turn his back on Golden Boy because the grass was greener on the other side although that notion helped. Top Rank claimed it was because Pacquiao was legally constrained from signing with Golden Boy or any other promoter until after his fight against Erik Morales last November. Pacquiao inked the Golden Boy contract two months before the Morales encounter.

Which entity – Top Rank or Golden Boy – has legal rights to Pacquiao as promoter will be decided by a court of law. But nobody’s holding his breath as to when the verdict will be made. As it is, both parties are still contesting where the trial will be heard – in Los Angeles (where Golden Boy is based) or Las Vegas (where Top Rank rules).

Meanwhile, Pacquiao has to be content fighting opponents not linked to Golden Boy. Luckily, Top Rank found a highly-qualified foe in unbeaten WBC No. 2 contender Jorge Solis for a April 14 appointment with Pacquiao in San Antonio.

Judging from what Barrera showed against Marquez last Saturday, Solis could even prove to be a more formidable opponent for Pacquiao. The Barrera who lost to Marquez would’ve been no match and blown out by Pacquiao inside five rounds. The difference is Pacquiao would’ve earned a lot more facing Barrera than what he’ll take to the bank fighting Solis in what could be a more dangerous bout.

Golden Boy’s announcement of a Barrera-Marquez rematch puts Pacquiao further on hold. That’s the predicament not only Finkel, but also trainer Freddie Roach, warned Pacquiao of. Roach anticipated a Marquez win over Barrera, quashing a huge potential easy payday for Pacquiao in a rematch against the Baby-faced Assassin.

Despite the squabbling and backbiting, the expectation is Golden Boy and Top Rank will eventually come to terms because boxing is business and neither party stands to gain by staying estranged.

Pacquiao is the fight game’s most marketable commodity today. Golden Boy knows it and so does Top Rank. In the end, Golden Boy will realize that a Barrera-Marquez II just won’t titillate the public as much as either a Pacquiao-Barrera II or a Pacquiao-Marquez II. Besides, what thrill is there for Golden Boy in pitting two de la Hoya protégés against each other. The thrill is in pitting Golden Boy’s best against Top Rank’s best and let the chips fall as they may.

For the moment, Pacquiao may be on the outside looking in, as Finkel suggested. But that won’t be for long. His priority is to score a convincing and impressive win over Solis – in the same charismatic way he disposed of Morales not once but twice. After that, expect Golden Boy and Top Rank to get together, work out a modus vivendi and announce a big co-promotion featuring Pacquiao against either Marquez or Barrera before the year ends. That would make the most business sense for all concerned.

As for Pacquiao, the pressure is on to remain the darling of the boxing cognoscenti. He’s got to take care of Solis in decisive fashion then focus on his other fight – to win the congressional seat of the first district of South Cotabato in the May polls.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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