(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao has reportedly chosen to fight WBC lightweight champion David Diaz instead of WBC super-featherweight king Juan Manuel Marquez on March 15 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Although there’s no official announcement yet, a Team Pacquiao insider in the US, where Pacquiao is right now, said the Filipino megastar is ready and raring to invade the lightweight class (135 lbs).

The finer details of Pacquiao’s next fight will come out soon.

Marquez, who is dying for a rematch with Pacquiao, may have to wait until June or July. Pacquiao is planning to stage three fights next year, the first in March and the third by September.

Pacquiao arrived in Los Angeles the other day for a meeting with his promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, and the shooting of a star-studded commercial for Nike. He doesn’t intend to stay long in the US.

Pacquiao’s ring adviser, Wakee Salud, however, said the fight with Diaz only becomes official once the contract is signed.

“For me, it’s 80 percent Diaz. We have to see the signatures on the fight contract first,” said Salud. “But Diaz is the better fight. Manny will get much more fighting Diaz.”

Pacquiao has hinted of a forthcoming fight with Diaz when he said he prefers to face Marquez when he is already a world champion. He also stressed that he’s not running away from Marquez.

“Why should I be scared? I’ve never run away from any fight as long as we’re of the same weight. As a boxer, my job is to fight,” said Pacquiao of Marquez, the boxer from Golden Boy.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if I fight Marquez when I am the champion?” said Pacquiao.

If it’s Diaz, then Pacquiao will have to move up to 135 lbs. Marquez, the champion at 130 lbs, said he’s willing to move up in weight, too, and take a cut on his paycheck just to face Pacquiao.

Fighting Diaz would also mean fighting only under one promoter, Arum. Fighting Marquez will open all doors for Golden Boy, and probably a smaller take for the Filipino superstar.

“Both Bob Arum and Manny will make more money fighting Diaz who can give a better fight than Marquez who is known as a counter-puncher,” said Salud.

Don’t underestimate Diaz THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco Monday, November 26, 2007

Manny Pacquiao’s delayed trip to the US is an indication that he’s in no hurry to make up his mind who to fight. A wise decision, since WBC world superfeatherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and WBC world lightweight champion David Diaz are no pushovers.

Although it would be exciting to see Pacquiao to meet Marquez again, it’s not entirely unfinished business for the Pacman. First of all, they fought to a draw at a lower weight (featherweight) in 2004. Secondly, a lot has happened since then, including Pacquiao’s rise to prominence as perhaps the biggest draw, pound-for-pound, in the fight game.

On the other hand, a smaller number of people see the value of going up to challenge Diaz, a relatively unknown and therefore, underrated fighter. Even Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, has said that nobody would want to watch that.

Actually, it may be an even bigger risk for Pacquiao.

Firstly, it will be Pacquiao’s first time to fight at that weight, historically no man’s land for even the greatest Filipino junior lightweight champion. Even Flash Elorde, who was undefeated for seven years as a junior lightweight (or Pacquiao’s weight now) made two unsuccessful attempts at the world lightweight belt.

Elorde was stopped by then-world lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz of Puerto Rico, in the 14th round on two occasions. And he wasn’t the only one, just the most famous. It is unwise to assume that Pacquiao would steamroll Diaz, who has gone through a lot, not only on the streets of Chicago, but also in the ring and in his personal life, to become a world champion.

“After the Atlanta Olympics, I really didn’t expect anybody to call me,” Diaz told The STAR. “Then Bob Arum called. He was the only one who called.”

Diaz also went through a rough patch early in his professional career, when he had to give up boxing for two years to attend to his mother, who needed a kidney transplant. Diaz drove her to and from the hospital every day, and even borrowed money to help with the expenses and the transplant, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Luckily, he found friends who helped him out.

Then, his brother died of AIDS.

In 2000, the Mexican pug tried a comeback, but tore his right Achilles tendon in the process. This again slowed down his progress.

But Diaz has been on a roll of late, winning seven of his last eight fights, and getting a draw in the other. He is a natural southpaw, another of Pacquiao’s weaknesses. Pacman, like most boxers, fights right-handers, and has trouble against those who fight unorthodox, like him.

And Diaz is also looking at a big payday. Even though he did retire Erik Morales in his last fight, his biggest paycheck has been P 350,000, not truly worthy of a champion. It would be easier for him to accept a paycheck lower than Marquez, because he has much more to gain. Besides, he is also promoted by Arum, whose Top Rank also has a contract with Pacquiao.

But the biggest problem Pacquiao may have fighting as a lightweight may have nothing to do with his opponent. reports that, since Nov.18, the Nevada State Athletic Commission now requires fighters from 135 to 137 lb to use thicker 10-ounce gloves, a ruling carried out as a way of tightening measures for fighters within the lightweight to welterweight divisions. The WBC rules only prescribe 10-ounce gloves for fighters in the superwelterweight division up. That minor discrepancy would affect Pacquiao, because the rules of Nevada would apply.

The first time Pacquiao fought Morales, the use of Winning gloves was an issue, since Pacquiao preferred the “puncher’s gloves” made by Cleto Reyes. Some gloves also have horsehair inside them, which breaks down during a fight and cushions less. This would be advantageous to a big hitter like Pacquiao. Even when he tires, his opponent would still feel his punches.

So who will Pacquiao choose?

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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