FIT  PACQUIAO  READY  FOR  WBC  WEIGH-IN

MANILA, FEBRUARY 13, 2008
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - After another hard day’s work Monday in Los Angeles, Manny Pacquiao said he’s all set for the WBC-mandated weigh-in 30 days before his rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez.

“I feel okay. My weight is fine. No problem,” said Pacquiao over the phone as he waited for dinner to be served in his La Palazzo apartment following his training at the Wild Card Gym.

Pacquiao said the WBC weigh-in might take place Thursday in Los Angeles, while Marquez will be weighed in Mexico. Both fighters should weigh no more than 142 lbs 30 days before the rematch.

This is being done so the WBC can monitor the progress of each boxer, and that they are not forced to lose too much weight, in this case 12 pounds, with only one month remaining.

“I’m right on it,” he said of the limit.

But Pacquiao refused to say how much he exactly weighs right now, or barely one month since he started training in Los Angeles for the big fight scheduled March 15 in Las Vegas.

Latest reports regarding his weight, and it came two weeks ago, said he’s somewhere near 138 lbs.

Pacquiao had difficulty making 130 lbs against Marco Antonio Barrera last October. But though he made it and won the fight, it seems that this will be his last fight as a super-featherweight.

Pacquiao, however, assured that there’s nothing to worry about.

“Our training is going on smoothly. We are not hurrying things up. I’m taking this fight very seriously,” said the 29-year-old megastar who spars Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Pacquiao said he’s never skipped a day in training since Jan. 16, except on Sundays where he normally runs in the morning, then goes to church and spends the rest of the day in his $4,000-a-month apartment.

“It’s always been 30 rounds a day when I don’t spar,” he said, counting every three minutes spent on the mitts with Freddie Roach, speed ball, heavy bag, double-end bag, ropes and shadow boxing.

Meet the Whoppers SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Wednesday, February 13, 2008 (STAR)

Mail and More will undergo a metamorphosis in the coming PBL Unity Cup set to start Feb. 23. Coach Allan Gregorio’s team, formerly known as the Comets, is being transformed into the Burger King Whoppers – a major facelift aimed at generating more public recognition for the hamburger chain.

If you ask me, it’s a whopper of a change. Burger King is a significant global brand and offers the best-tasting, flame-grilled patties in the fast food business.

What’s more, Gregorio is bringing in a pair of PBA veterans to bolster his coaching staff. Pro legends Jerry Codiñera and Vergel Meneses will be on the Whoppers’ bench to lend their expertise. Also in Gregorio’s staff are Mark Jomalesa, Gino Manuel and Mark Herrera.

Although the Whoppers lost the rights to UST star Jervy Cruz, Gregorio isn’t sulking. He guarantees that Burger King will still be competitive with the likes of Marcy Arellano, Kelvin Gregorio, Mike Bravo, Abby Santos, Nestor David, Khiel Misa and Mark Canlas.

Gregorio says giving up Cruz to Hapee Toothpaste was a blow but he’s not losing sleep over it.

Last October, Gregorio picked Cruz second overall after Gabe Norwood in the PBL draft. Neither Norwood nor Cruz attended the draft proceedings. Norwood was excused as he was in the US. Cruz, however, was conspicuously absent.

Gregorio knew he had to sign up Cruz within a week from the draft or else surrender his rights. So he desperately tried to contact the elusive player. Calls to his cellphone weren’t returned. Gregorio contacted agent Charlie Dy, whose stable includes several UST players, to locate his whereabouts. Even national team manager Erick Arejola was informed that Gregorio was reaching out to Cruz.

At the same time, Gregorio realized Cruz wouldn’t be available to play in the last PBL conference because of his commitments with the national squad. A memorandum from PBL executive director Butch Maniego confirmed Cruz’ inability.

With the next PBL conference just around the corner, Gregorio revived efforts to bring Cruz to his camp but was told the UST star had already signed a contract with Hapee. Naturally, Gregorio cried foul.

Did Cruz deliberately avoid being contacted by Gregorio so he could break loose and join a team of his choice? Of what purpose is the draft if a player can pick a team to play for, instead of the other way around? And now that Gregorio has lost Cruz to Hapee by default, will he be compensated for it?

Gregorio insists he lost out in the sweepstakes for Cruz on a technicality. He says Maniego’s memo is basis that because of Cruz’ inability to play in the last conference, the team with his original drafting rights should be given some leeway to negotiate a contract beyond the one-week deadline.

Cruz, meanwhile, has gone out of his way to make amends. He personally apologized to Mail and More president Johann Ramos (whose father Lambert, by the way, was a candidate for PBA commissioner) for the “misunderstanding.”

Gregorio says he has finally talked to Cruz.

“We both agreed to just move on,” reveals Gregorio. “He’s quite a loss to us because we had intended to build a new marketing campaign around him as our Big Bite Man. ”

Air21 president Lito Alvarez, representing Burger King, has raised the issue of just compensation before the PBL Board because it appears the franchise was short-changed. Giving up a quality player like Cruz for nothing can only be viewed as being grossly unfair.

Gregorio says as a form of settlement, Hapee may yield future draft picks but the problem is there’s nobody in the horizon who even comes close to matching Cruz’ huge upside.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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