(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao tipped the scales at 139 lbs Thursday, saying he felt terrific in his first two days at the gym and that he sees no problem making the weight for his Oct. 6 rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas.

“Maganda ang simula ng training (The training is off to a good start),” said Pacquiao yesterday in an overseas call from Los Angeles. He said he’s been to the Wild Card Gym twice since flying in Wednesday evening.

Pacquiao was in his expensive La Palazzo apartment when he gave a very brief rundown of his first two days in training for the big rematch with Barrera whom he knocked out in the 11th round in 2003, catapulting him to instant stardom.

“Jogging in the morning and two hours in the gym in the afternoon,” said Pacquiao of his typical workout that includes 1,000 sit-ups and crunches a day. This will go on religiously for the next seven weeks or so.

“Everything’s okay. I feel fine. I’m at 139 pounds,” added the 28-year-old superstar who worked out Wednesday and Thursday under the supervision of Pinoy trainers Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri.

His chief trainer, Freddie Roach, is in Sacramento, California, handling the bunch of RP boxers that will face their counterparts from Mexico in a bilateral slugfest set this Saturday at the Arco Arena (Sunday morning in Manila).

Roach, however, will sit beside Pacquiao in a press conference at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel on Friday. Barrera will be around, too, in the media event that was supposed to be held Wednesday.

Pacquiao will be at ringside for the Boxing World Cup: Mexico vs Philippines.

He said he did seven rounds of mitts with Fernandez Thursday. Those who were present at the gym, including sports dentist Ed dela Vega and boxing analyst Hermie Rivera, said the boxer “is in good shape as ever.”

This is going to be Pacquiao’s first fight since his April 14 victory over Mexican Jorge Solis in San Antonio, Texas. It will also be his first since the May 14 elections where he sought a seat in Congress.

The future of RP basketball THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco Saturday, August 11, 2007

What a tough month it has been for Philippine basketball. It seems that earth-shaking events have rocked the sport to its very foundation.

First, our proud men’s basketball team finally hit the wall, and the odds caught up with them as they failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. It was heart-breaking to watch, and an expected shock. Next, the most senior guard in the NCAA, College of St. Benilde’s Paulo Orbeta is accused of manipulating the scores of games for money, a cloudy debate that gets murkier as time goes by, at best. Then, PBA commissioner Noli Eala stepped down in the midst of a swirling personal and legal crisis that will not be immediately resolved. Now, our Philippine women’s team is fighting time and the odds, trying to come up with a decent lineup (and stepping into the pool of Fil-Ams for the first time) as it hopes to place in the SEABA next month, and the SEA Games in December.

But Philippine basketball is more than any or all of these events. Now may be perhaps the best time to clean the slate and start afresh with long-range plans for commercial and international success. The PBA is at a crossroads, in more ways than one. First, they have to decide to what extent they will support the next campaign to make it to the Olympics. I once proposed the Olympic campaign as the league’s exit strategy. In my conversation with Eala before the program was undertaken, I suggested that the PBA do everything to get into the Olympics (although I maintained it was not their job), and, once they fulfilled that promise, could gracefully bow out and hand the reigns back to the appropriate national sports association.

Now that the BAP-SBP has laid down its network and appointed regional training directors, there will be a pipeline for both grassroots development and the formation of an elite team (or two or three) for international competition. What remains to be done is the drafting of a gentleman’s agreement among all the leagues in Metro Manila and the rest of the country not to recruit the members of the national team for a certain prescribed period (perhaps a four-year Olympic cycle), and the provision of a competitive compensation plan for the players involved. In the long run, this will be of greater benefit to the national team and the PBA. A cursory review of the roster of the NCC squad which was the core of the national team back in the early to mid-1980’s shows that, percentage-wise, they continue to make a mighty contribution to the development of the sport as coaches or team managers.

Also, the BAP-SBP has gotten buy-in from all the major amateur basketball leagues like the PBL, NBC and MVBA, in the organization of a major regional basketball tournament, the Pilipinas Cup. Four venues will be hosting games simultaneously: Baguio, Antipolo, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro. The two-week tournament will be a showcase of talent from all over the country per region, regardless of league affiliation. The basketball NSA is currently seeking a television partner with nationwide muscle to provide adequate exposure for this maiden project.

The BAP-SBP is also putting together a US NCAA-style tournament, ranking the top 32 collegiate teams against each other, and playing 1 versus 32, 2 versus 31, and so on. You lose, you’re out. Win or go home. That would be a very exciting format which has never been done on that scale.

Aside from the activities of the BAP-SBP, the national women’s team recently received a quiet boost with the news that Fil-foreigners from the US and Canada are ready and willing to play for the flag and country. The first would be 27-year old Vicki Brick, a 5’8” point guard who was a high school All-American recruited by the University of Maryland Terrapins. Brick averaged 3.1 steals and 4.3 assists per game on her first year in the WNCAA, the second- and third-highest totals for a rookie in US history. She also played in Australia, and is raring to come over and play. Aside from Brick, there are at least six other players of Filipino descent planning to plane in, including a pair of twins averaging a combined 31 points per game in Illinois.

Privately, another school-based group is putting up a league for non-varsity grade school and high school players, to reinforce the development of the sport. Although details are still confidential, the group will launch its first tournament within the year, with a surprising list of prominent schools in its fold.

Beyond that, television networks are also planning made-for-TV basketball events, to shore up local programming and fill in valuable airtime. There is a growing competition even on cable television, for basketball content. One international cable channel is even planning a promotional basketball event in the Philippines to re-launch one of its basketball anime programs.

Bottomline, to parapharse Noli Eala, basketball is bigger than any one team, any one player, or even any one league. Basketball is alive, well, and unbowed. All the events that have stirred things up are like waves in the ocean that is our favorite sport, crashing onto the shore before being pulled back into the immeasurable grandeur that basketball continues to be.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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