(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Boxer Manny Pacquiao arrived from Cebu yesterday afternoon on board a private plane, and in just a few hours became the newest member of the GMA-7 family.

“He’s now a Kapuso,” said his associate Wakee Salud who arrived with Pacquiao at 4 p.m. on board a private plane loaned to the boxer by his friend Luis “Chavit” Singson.

From the airport, Pacquiao was brought straight to the GMA-7 headquarters in Quezon City where he met station officials and signed an exclusive talent contract.

The amount of the contract, according to GMA-7 publicity manager Ramir Orteza cannot be divulged. But it should be in the millions considering the stature of the boxer.

“Some of the details will be finalized after his coming fight. But he’s now a member of the GMA-7 family. He will do future projects with the station,” said Orteza.

Pacquiao’s Oct. 6 fight with Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas will be carried by GMA-7 on free TV.

Pacquiao worked out in Cebu in the morning, and boarded the plane with Salud and his business manager Erik Pineda. A TV guesting is on tap today, and the boxer flies back to Cebu in the afternoon.

During his workout, Pacquiao was cheered on by 43 school kids from Cebu. The kids joined him on the ring, and even sang Pacquiao’s hit “Para Sa’yo Ang Labang Ito.”

This made Pacquiao very happy, according to his chief-of-staff Jake Joson who stayed on in Cebu to join Freddie Roach in a short trip to Bohol today upon the invitation of Tagbilaran Mayor Neri Lim.

Roach said Pacquiao’s training will go a notch higher starting tomorrow with the Pinoy champ sparring for 10 to 12 rounds. In three weeks, they’ve logged close to 50 rounds of sparring.

Roach also said starting tomorrow, the gym will be totally off-limits to fans, saying there’s no need to get a pass because none will be issued anymore.

Bad blood SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Sunday, September 9, 2007

(STAR) There’s no love lost between Ateneo and La Salle. The competition for bragging rights goes beyond the basketball court and dates back to the pre-war era when the schools developed a fierce rivalry that is now a tradition.

Nothing wrong with healthy competition. It brings out the best in you. The only problem is when emotions get in the way of clear thinking, all hell could break loose. That probably won’t happen when the Green Archers and Blue Eagles tangle in a crucial UAAP game at the Big Dome this afternoon. But you’ll never know.

A lot is at stake in the contest. Not just bragging rights. Both teams are in contention for the No. 2 spot in the standings and that’s more than enough motivation to play their guts out for a win.

Here’s the situation.

University of the East is on top of the ladder with a 13-0 record. La Salle is running second at 9-3. Next is Ateneo (8-4) then University of Santo Tomas (7-5) and Far Eastern University (7-6).

If UE sweeps the double-round eliminations, coach Dindo Pumaren’s charges gain an automatic ticket to the best-of-3 finals, leaving No. 3 and No. 4 to slug it out in a knockout playoff for the right to play No. 2 – with a twice-to-beat advantage – in the pre-finals.

If UE doesn’t sweep (it plays La Salle on Thursday), the Final 4 format kicks in with No. 1 against No. 4 and No. 2 against No. 3 in the semifinals. No. 1 and No. 2 take a twice-to-beat advantage into the semis. The winners move on to dispute the crown in the best-of-3 finals.

* * *

After La Salle, Ateneo has only NU to play before winding up its schedule. If the Archers lose to Ateneo and UE, they’ll end up at 9-5. If Ateneo beats La Salle and NU, the Eagles improve to 10-4. If La Salle defeats Ateneo, it will lock up the No. 2 spot automatically.

In case of a two-way tie, a playoff will be set regardless of the standings of the deadlocked teams. In a three-way tie, the team with the highest quotient earns a bye and the other two teams figure in a knockout eliminator.

The first round meeting between La Salle and Ateneo went down to the wire. The Eagles prevailed in overtime, 80-77, with 20-year-old rookie guard Jai Reyes (whose father Len is national coach Chot Reyes’ younger brother) compiling 18 points and six assists in 26 minutes.

An incident in the second period led La Salle to file a protest. La Salle coach Franz Pumaren argued that Ateneo sent in two foreigners, Kirk Long and Zion Laterre, with the ball in play, violating a league rule. The error was admitted by Ateneo coach Norman Black who, realizing the mistake, hurriedly pulled out Long and sent Reyes back in without reporting to the officials’ table. Ateneo was assessed a technical foul for it.

The penalty should’ve ended there but La Salle pursued the ill-advised protest anyway. An Ateneo official was quoted as saying La Salle doesn’t know how to lose. La Salle officials explained they weren’t after a forfeiture but just wanted to make a point.

The UAAP did right in dismissing La Salle’s protest for lack of merit. Black never tried to cover up the error and was penalized appropriately during the game with a technical. Long and Laterre were in the game only for a few seconds, in the first half – the miscue had no bearing on the outcome of the game. The UAAP rule assures no undue advantage for any team with two foreigners in the lineup by limiting them to play one at a time. Surely, Ateneo’s oversight did not violate the spirit of the law.

Entering this afternoon’s game, both La Salle and Ateneo are coming off four straight wins. The Eagles are fresh from a rousing 34-point massacre of UP and looking deadlier with the playoffs just around the corner.

* * *

Pong Ducanes, who heads the six-man UAAP statistical panel, revealed that Ateneo is 5-0 when the Eagles score at least 75 points and La Salle is 6-1 when the Archers force at least 19 turnovers in a game. By the way, Ducanes – a 2002 FEU accounting graduate who’s only 26 – developed the statistical software for the PBA and UAAP through Fernando Contreras’ company Interium Technology.

La Salle is at its most lethal when the Archers’ press works. Defense propels the Archers attack. Pumaren’s boys are averaging 81.8 points when their opponents commit at least 20 turnovers. Jayvee Casio, TY Tang, Rico Maierhofer and Cholo Villanueva are Pumaren’s top guns but Bryan Ilad, Bader Malabes, P. J. Walsham and Ferdinand do their share of damage, too.

Ateneo has a deeper bench. Ford Arao is the key contributor – averaging 15.3 points in the Eagles’ eight wins and 9.3 in their four losses. Reyes, Chris Tiu, Rabah Al-Hussaini, Long, Jobe Nkemakolam, Laterre, Nonoy Baclao and Eric Salamat are also reliable scorers.

What’s weighing the Archers down is their sub-par field goal shooting, 39 percent. Poor execution and irresponsible shot selection are cramping La Salle’s style. Still, the Archers are averaging 80.2 points, 48.5 rebounds, 16.3 assists and 15.4 turnovers compared to Ateneo’s 75.2 points, 45.2 rebounds, 15.9 assists and 17.8 turnovers.

La Salle was suspended from playing in the UAAP – in all sports and all divisions – last year and is out for vindication. Ateneo is just as determined to make an impact. This afternoon’s clash will be nothing less than total war.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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