MANILA, JULY 9, 2007
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - It’s still 90 days before the fight and the odds are already out: Manny Pacquiao is a 4-1 favorite over Marco Antonio Barrera in their rematch at Mandalay Bay in Vegas.

It will be a complete reversal of roles from that cold November night in 2003 when Pacquiao, then the underdog, knocked out Barrera in the 11th round, and rose to stardom. said “the bookies are looking for some early action” and “it’s an obvious sign that (they) are giving the Mexican veteran a very slim chance to conquer the Filipino terror.”

The oddsmakers may be right.

Pacquiao, at 28, could be considered close to the prime of his career. He’s coming off big wins over Erik Morales and Jorge Solis, and is eager to finally get a crack at the world title.

On the other hand, Barrrera, turning 34 in January, has thought of retirement since losing the WBC super-featherweight crown to Juan Manuel Marquez last March.

But the opportunity to face Pacquiao a second time, and earn probably no less than $3 million at the end of the day, is just too hard to resist for the former champion from Mexico.

Besides, a win could set up Barrera for a third and deciding match with Pacquiao, and of course, an even bigger purse. To do that, however, he’s got to hurdle tall odds.

Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, feels that this could be Barrera’s last fight and expects the ex-champ to be at his best.

“Barrera’s durable. He’s a tough guy and you can’t take anybody too lightly in this game,” said Roach.

RP five peaking up, routs Taiwan By Nelson Beltran Monday, July 9, 2007 TAIPEI

Improving by the day, the SMC-Philippine team gave the Filipino workers here a big treat yesterday as it fashioned out a relatively easy 82-64 victory over host Chinese Taipei in the 29th Jones Cup at the Hsinchuang Stadium.

Buoyed by their 89-79 win of Iran Saturday, the Nationals conquered another FIBA-Asia championship top contender in the Taiwanese, underscoring the fact that the squad is getting closer to peak form for the Tokushima joust.

The Nationals established control early for the convincing victory watched by a sellout crowd, almost half of them Filipinos.

Coach Chot Reyes and his players said the big Filipino crowd served as their “sixth man” as they became the first RP team to beat Chinese Taipei in their home court since the RP Centennial Team ruled the Jones Cup in 1998.

“To me, it’s a satisfying win since we hadn’t beaten Chinese Taipei in the Jones Cup for nearly a decade now,” said Reyes.

“Secondly, we’re really looking to step up our game. We divided into three phases our stint here. We’re now on the final stage and we’re looking to press our bid. It seems pieces are falling into place,” Reyes added.

The Nationals caught up with Lebanon, Iran and Chinese Taipei at third place behind Jordan (5-1) and the United States (5-2) on similar 4-3 win-loss records heading to the last two games of the nine-day, 10-nation tourney.

They play Qatar today and Kazakhstan tomorrow.

“In our first three games here, we’re looking how we could get together with the entry of new players. The next three games were the discovery phase since we’re to play Jordan and Iran. Against Chinese Taipei, Qatar and Kazakhstan, naghahanap na kami ng pangdiin. Matagal na tayong hindi nanalo sa kanila,” said Reyes.

Against the Taiwanese, the Nationals pressed their bid early while working on a fluid motion game and torrid outside shooting.

As in their previous games, the RP team‚s guards and wingmen accounted for much of the team‚s production with Mark Caguioa and Jimmy Alapag finishing in double figures with 20 and 15 points, respectively.

Reyes, however, thought the team‚s collective effort defensively spelled the big difference in the contest.

“We talked about working harder on defense and we‚ll continue to work on it. Kasi tingin ko sa depensa magkakatalo sa Tokushima,” said Reyes.

The Nationals dominated the Taiwanese, leading by as many as 20 points to great satisfaction of the flag-waving Filipino supporters, who almost matched the number of the hometown crowd in the venue.

“They (the Filipino crowd) gave us an adrenaline drive. They neutralized the local crowd that it looked like we‚re playing on our home court,” said Reyes.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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