(STAR) By Abac Cordero – He said it a few times before, and he’d say it again and again.

Juan Manuel Marquez is going for the knockout, a big one, when he locks horns with Manny Pacquiao on Saturday in the great rematch of their classic, controversial draw in May 2004.

“Pacquiao is fast and strong. Maybe to knock him out is ‘gonna be hard. But I’m ready. I’m in the condition to do it,” Marquez, through an interpreter, said Monday of his fight plans.

Still, he’d settle for something less.

“I’m gonna win. Maybe by decision or maybe by knockout. But I’m gonna win,” vowed the Mexican champion. “I’m coming to fight. I’m coming to box. I’m gonna be different.”

Unmindful of Marquez’ pronouncements, Pacquiao pushed through with his schedule for the day.

He sparred for the last time at the Wild Card Gym, doing four rounds against Juanito Garcia, and closing the book with a total of 140 in a full eight-week training that should serve him in good stead.

Pacquiao then pushed for Las Vegas, in his Lincoln Navigator with wife Jinkee, her twin sister Jeannete, close friend Joaquin Hagedorn, trainer Buboy Fernandez and Edward Lura at the wheel.

A convoy of 12 cars made up the Team Pacquiao entourage which needed a little over four hours to get to Sin City, at the Mandalay Bay which also served as home to Pacquiao in his last fight.

There was no fanfare as Pacquiao arrived, and he went straight to his spacious suite, the very same one he occupied when he fought and defeated Marco Antonio Barrera last October.

“Why would we change address? I like it here. That’s why they gave me this same suite,” said Pacquiao still in a very jolly mood despite the 300-mile journey along the great Nevada desert.

He treated more than 20 guests to dinner prepared in advance by close Pinoy friends based here in Vegas.

Little did Pacquiao know that when he stepped into the hotel, the fight odds had even grown bigger in his favor. From -210, he’s now at -230 (a $230 bet only wins $100) while Marquez is at +190 from +180 ($100 wins $190).

The days before the fight will be quite slow but busy, consisting of morning runs at UNLV and limited gym work until Thursday. Tuesday is the formal welcome ceremony for both fighters, Wednesday another press conference, and Friday the weigh-in.

Marquez, who sparred 120 rounds during training that started on Dec. 15 (a month ahead of Pacquiao), flew in from Los Angeles Monday evening, too.

They’re both here now. And they’re both ready to fight.

‘Most dangerous fighter in planet’ Wednesday, March 12, 2008

LAS VEGAS – Even the best of Juan Manuel Marquez shouldn’t be enough if Manny Pacquiao is a hundred percent ready.

This bold opinion was provided by Top Rank spinner Ricardo Jimenez who said Monday that Pacquiao can be considered the most dangerous fighter in the planet if he’s in top shape.

“If he’s a hundred percent then it’s not ‘gonna be a dangerous fight. You’ve seen how dangerous he was during the Erik Morales fights if he’s a hundred percent,” Jimenez said in downtown Los Angeles.

Jimenez, who forms Top Ranks dynamic duo with Lee Samuels, couldn’t find the ways to say how Marquez could pull it off.

“Yes, he (Marquez) can counter-punch but he can’t counter-punch the whole night. He will get tired,” said Ramirez.

“Manuel is more disciplined that his brother Rafael (the deposed WBC super-bantamweight king) because he knows how to stay back. But if he mixes it up (with Pacquiao) he’d lose the exchange.”

Ramirez couldn’t even guarantee that Saturday’s bout will be a great one.

“I don’t really know if it’s going to be a great fight. But it will be a good fight,” he said. – Abac Cordero

Rivals meet again amid cheers, jeers Wednesday, March 12, 2008

LOS ANGELES – Under the warm California sun Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez came face to face at the historic Plaza Olvera in downtown LA.

And with their respective fans hooting in the open-air venue, the press conference that took place at noon turned out to be a great preview of Saturday’s clash.

“You’re going down Pacquiao!” a burly Mexican fan shouted at the top of his lungs as Pacquiao prepared to deliver his short short speech.

Plaza Olvera is a famous Mexican landmark in downtown LA, and Mexicans who came to root for their WBC super-featherweight champion held their ground.

Pacquiao, never in a combative mood outside the ring, was gentle as he spoke to the crowd.

“I know you want Marquez to win because he trained hard. But I trained hard, too,” said Pacquiao as the jeering continued among the fans.

Pacquiao smiled and flashed the peace sign as he returned to his seat.

Marquez, who pumped his fist holding on to his WBC belt, took turn to speak, and the Pinoys took a shot at him. But he spoke in Mexican.

“Man-ny! Man-ny! Five rounds! Five rounds!” the Pinoys shouted, anticipating a knockout win by the Pinoy slugger inside five rounds.

It was all over in less than an hour, and Pacquiao was immediately whisked into a long, black Lincoln Krystal limousine.

Marquez, who came in blue jeans, suede shoes and Versace jacket, stayed on. He granted interviews and signed autographs as the song “Eye of the Tiger” was played.

Pacquiao, the eye of the storm, had already left by then. – Abac Cordero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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