MANILA, APRIL 20, 2007
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Two 40-year-old former world champions conjured visions of fighting Manny Pacquiao in their prime but neither speculated on what would or could have happened if they battled the Filipino boxing icon.

First on the hot seat was Genato (Chicanito) Hernandez of California who ruled as WBA superfeatherweight titlist from 1991 and 1994. He was on the TV panel with blow-by-blow commentator Al Bernstein and sports columnist Wallace Matthews to cover Top Rank’s "Blaze of Glory" card at the Alamodome in San Antonio last Saturday night.

Hernandez’s eyes rolled when I asked how he would’ve done against Pacquiao in his heyday.

"It would’ve been a heckuva fight," said Hernandez. "Manny’s tough. He bangs from all angles. He’s got speed and power. But I’ll fight him from a distance, using my jab. I think my technical skills will give me a big advantage."

As to whom would’ve won, Hernandez hesitated to name a winner. "I don’t know about that," said the man who has the distinction of having faced both Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather.

I wondered if Hernandez would settle for a draw in a hypothetical fight.

"Yeah, that would be okay," he said.

Hernandez wound up his pro career with a 38-2-1 record, including 17 KOs. His only losses were knockouts to De la Hoya in 1995 and Mayweather in 1998. He turned pro in 1984 and relinquished the WBA 130-pound throne after eight successful defenses to face De la Hoya for the WBO lightweight title.

The distinctive footnote in Hernandez’ record is he never lost a fight at 130 pounds.

Hernandez was the focus of a recent article written by William Dettloff in The Ring Magazine as the fighter who battled both De la Hoya and Mayweather. He predicted Mayweather to beat the Golden Boy by decision in their May encounter.

"Oscar has to try to time Floyd when Floyd jumps in with that right hand," said Hernandez, quoted by Dettloff. Oscar has to throw his left hook as soon as he sees Floyd throw the right hand. But it’ll be hard because Floyd is so quick. Floyd is a hell of a counterpuncher. If Oscar makes Floyd come to him and Floyd tries to make Oscar lead, sooner or later one of them will make a mistake."

Another former champion Jesse James Leija, a San Antonio native, said if he fought Pacquiao, the Filipino would’ve won.

There was no hesitation on Leija’s part when I popped the question.

I spoke to Leija a few minutes before Pacquiao stepped on the scales during the weigh-in the day before his fight against Jorge Solis. Leija clearly showed a lot of respect for Pacquiao.

In the backroom waiting for his turn at the scales, Pacquiao sat beside his wife Jinkee. Leija walked up to Pacquiao and wished him luck, shaking his hand. When I asked Leija to do it again so I could take a photo of them shaking hands, he politely declined.

"I know what it’s like before a weigh-in," said Leija. "I don’t want to bother Manny by asking him to pose with me. We could do it after the weigh-in."

If that wasn’t respect, I don’t know what is.

Like Hernandez, Leija said he would’ve loved to fight Pacquiao in his prime.

"It would’ve been a brawl because both of us like to get it on," said Leija. "I think he would’ve beaten me. He’s definitely one of the best superfeatherweights ever. He’s got talent and a big heart—that’s why he wins."

Leija, who once beat Filipino contender Miguel Arrozal on an eighth round disqualification in San Antonio, was a former IBA lightweight champion. He blew two chances to capture the WBC superfeatherweight title, drawing with Azumah Nelson in 1993 and losing on points to Gabe Ruelas the next year.

In 1995, Leija was stopped by De la Hoya in the second round in a WBO lightweight title bout.

Leija turned pro in 1988 and retired after he was halted by Arturo Gatti in a WBC lightwelterweight championship fight in Atlantic City in January 2005. His record was 47-7-2, with 19 KOs.

Because of their championship experience and legendary status, Hernandez and Leija are considered shoo-ins for induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame.

Pacquiao is such a popular figure in world boxing that retired former champions think of fighting him—even in their dreams.

Pacman hopes row ends by June By Abac Cordero The Philippine Star 04/20/2007

Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao flies to New York in June to see his brother Bobby fight Humberto Soto on June 9 at the Madison Square Garden and gets a toast from the Boxing Writers Association of America as fighter of the year during a formal gathering.

Pacquiao also hopes that officials of Top Rank and Golden Boy will end up sharing the table and try to settle their differences that have caused both parties some amount in legal bills.

Top Rank, of Bob Arum, and Golden Boy, of Oscar dela Hoya, are locked in a legal dispute as both outfits claim to be Pacquiao’s promoter. Making things worse is that they both have contracts signed by the Filipino.

The dispute that started late last year has denied boxing fans the opportunity to see great fights between fighters from Top Rank and Golden Boy.

In this case, it’s Pacquiao for Top Rank, and the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera or Juan Manuel Marquez, the reigning World Boxing Council super-featherweight champion, for Golden Boy.

Not unless the issue is settled with things really clear up for a possible rematch between Pacquiao against either Barrera or Marquez. Otherwise, it will once again be Pacman versus someone else by the end of the year.

The other day, Top Rank president Todd DuBoef suggested in New York "that the warring parties sit down at the table of boxing brotherhood and work things out so that Pacman and the crew of Pacman likely opponents that GBP handles can grow and prosper with big bouts."

Michael Marley of boxingconfidential.com reported that Arum has cited "the mounting legal bills his company and Oscar de La Hoya’s company keep getting from their respective high-priced law firms as they squabble over the promotional rights to Filpino ring idol Manny Pacquiao."

DuBoef said he hasn’t received any reply from GBP chief executive officer Richard Schaefer.

"But I hope we can (set) things aside and make some of the great matches. Maybe they’ll do what we do and look at those big legal bills that keep coming in. But we’ve had no call from them," Duboef told boxingconfidential.com.

DuBoef admitted that Pacquiao is currently busy with his political plans, but hoped that the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter will be ready to tackle the latest on his boxing career at least two weeks after the May 14 elections in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Freddie Roach has flatly denied a story that said he and his long-time assistant Justine Fortune had gone separate ways just days after Pacquiao knocked out Mexican Jorge Solis in San Antonio.

Reports came out of philboxing.com that Roach and Fortune argued over the trainer’s fee as Top Rank issued a check under Fortune’s name.

Roach told Brad Cooney of boxingconfidential.com that he knew nothing about the reported "split-up."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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