(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Four quick-stepping, counter-punching sparring partners are being lined up for Manny Pacquiao who’s not taking any chances in his much-awaited rematch with WBC superfeatherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas on March 15.

Pacquiao arrived in Los Angeles last Monday and was expected to report for light workouts at the Wild Card Gym yesterday. He begins serious sparring sessions early next month in his eight-week timetable of preparations for Marquez.

San Francisco-based boxing scholar Hermie Rivera, who advises Pacquiao on a variety of issues, identified three of the sparmates as Danny Cervantes, Roger (Speedy) Gonzalez and David Rodela. A fourth sparmate, reportedly a black American, is also in the list.

“Keep in mind that Manny needs fighters who can push him and provide counter-punching sparring,” said Rivera, adding that their style should resemble Marquez’.

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach earlier said he would rotate a platoon of sparring partners to avoid familiarity and anyone getting beaten up badly on a regular basis. Roach noted that Pacquiao has a tendency to ease up on sparmates with whom he has become friendly. Cervantes and Gonzalez are first-timers in Pacquiao’s camp. Rodela has visited the Philippines twice on Pacquiao’s invitation and as a fixture in the rotation, is the only exception to the rule.

As lightwelterweights, Cervantes and Rodela are supposed to withstand the impact of Pacquiao’s punches more than fighters of his division. Gonzalez is a legitimate superfeatherweight who has a Marquez-like counter-punching style. The sparmates will simulate Marquez’ moves and sharpen Pacquiao’s focus in his quest for a third championship. Cervantes and Gonzalez are as tall as Marquez.

Rivera described Gonzalez as “ultra-quick (and) an excellent counter-puncher.” Gonzalez, 29, turned pro in 1996 and has compiled a 27-1 record, with 18 KOs. One of his victims was Filipino veteran Allan Visayas who was knocked out in Maywood, California, last April.

Cervantes is a stylish boxer-counter-puncher, noted Rivera. Cervantes, 22, hasn’t scored a knockout in a 9-0-1 record and is known to dazzle opponents with his quickness and boxing skills.

Rivera said he anticipates a “hassle-free” training for Pacquiao. “Manny is upbeat,” said Rivera. “He will be amply rewarded in his rematch with Marquez as he gears up into a seamless eight-week rigorous grind. He’s got a fine complement of new sparring mates and possibly, a new gameplan to surprise a determined defending champ.”

While Rivera said Marquez can’t be taken lightly, he predicted a rousing victory for the Filipino.

“How can Marquez do better in the rematch when at his prime, he got stewed in the opening round like a sloshed sailor out on a shore pass from the Guadalajara piers?” continued Rivera. “Pacquiao, at 29, is at his peak. Marquez is slowly leaving his time of vigor. His flawed behavior against (Marco Antonio) Barrera and a drab performance against Rocky Juarez say it all.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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