(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - This is a game the Talk n Text Phone Pals badly need but standing on their way is former franchise player Asi Taulava in their first encounter since the celebrated trade.

Taulava finally gets to play against former teammates as Talk n Text and Coca-Cola clash in the final match of the Smart PBA Philippine Cup double-round eliminations at the Astrodome today.

The Pals seek a playoff with the Magnolia Beverage Masters for the last outright slot in the quarterfinals as they mix it up with the Tigers at 7:20 p.m.

Purefoods and Red Bull collide in a no-bearing game at 4:50 p.m.

The game has also no significance on Coca-Cola’s campaign with the Tigers having settled for a slot in the wildcard round. But this should mean a lot to Taulava.

“This is our very first encounter with Asi (since his transfer to Coca-Cola). We’ll surely run into a tough challenge from him,” said Talk n Text coach Derrick Pumaren.

If Coca-Cola denies Talk n Text the win, the two teams will find themselves clashing again in the first stage of the wildcard round.

But should TnT prevail, the Pals have a chance to join the Alaska Milk Aces and the Red Bulls in early passage into the quarterfinals.

There’s actually the possibility of Red Bull, Talk n Text and Magnolia ending up tied at fourth to sixth places with identical 10-8 win-loss cards. In this eventuality, Red Bull automatically gains the fourth spot on a superior quotient, leaving Talk n Text and Magnolia to dispute the No. 5 seeding on a playoff.

“Our fate is still in our hands. We’re still on track on our goal for an outright quarters seat. All we have to do is come out and do our work,” said Pumaren.

The team’s biggest concern is Taulava, the 6-foot-10 behemoth traded to Coca-Cola in exchange for Ali Peek.

Taulava has been constantly churning out double-double performance for Coca-Cola.

The Tigers went on a streak upon the arrival of the former TnT star center but sputtered in the last stretch of the elims, losing their last three games.

Coca-Cola playing with no pressure at all is another cause of concern for the Phone Pals.

“It’s hard to play a team playing with no pressure. So we really have a job cut out for us against Coke,” said Pumaren.

Pacman begins tough LA grind By Abac Cordero Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Unless Freddie Roach says otherwise, Manny Pacquiao will report to the Wild Card Gym on Tuesday (Los Angeles time) to resume his training for a March 15 showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas.

“I will work out tomorrow,” said the 29-year-old superstar late Monday evening as he was settling in after taking a 12-hour trip from Manila together with his Pinoy trainers Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri.

The cold LA weather, a high of 13 and a low of eight degrees Celsius, greeted Pacquiao as he stepped out of the airport. He was brought straight to his $4,500-a-month La Palazzo apartment unit to rest.

Pacquiao took a late phone call from Manila, and said he planned to work out the next day, and begin his eight-week grind for the blockbuster showdown with the Mexican WBC 130-lb champion.

Sparring sessions will begin on the first week of February.

Roach, the American trainer, however, is thinking of allowing Pacquiao to take a day off and shake off his jetlag before plunging into serious training.

Besides, there’s a 1 p.m. press conference Tuesday at the Rodeo Room of the posh Beverly Hills Hotel.

For the first time since their controversial draw in May of 2004, Pacquiao and Marquez will meet anew and probably trade dagger looks in front of the media.

The promoters, Bob Arum of Top Rank and Richard Scaheffer or Oscar dela Hoya of Golden Boy, will be there, too.

Marquez, who claims to be the rightful winner of the 2004 showdown, was expected in LA Monday evening, and should fly back to his Mexican headquarters after the press launch.

Before leaving for LA, Pacquiao trained four days in Gen. Santos City, saying it’s his way of waking up his muscles for the hard grind in the Hollywood gym owned by his trainer.

Word came out the other day that Pacquiao stands to receive the biggest paycheck of his career for his fight against Marquez, who agreed to a drastic pay cut just to get the rematch going.

Pacquiao, according to reports, can earn as much as $8.5 million or P348 million for this fight, but that’s if the pay-per-view sales reach the 500,000 barrier at $49.95 per hit.

Aside from the PPV sales, Pacquiao stands to earn more through his guaranteed purse, his shares on gate receipts and merchandise, and the TV rights in the Philippines.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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