(STAR) By Joaquin Henson – Freddie Roach said yesterday Manny Pacquiao’s right jab will be the key in setting up WBC lightweight champion David Diaz for the kill in their 12-round bout at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 28.

“I’ll be disappointed if Manny doesn’t knock out Diaz, possibly in the late rounds,” said Roach. “I don’t think Diaz can take Manny’s power and Manny’s too quick for him to hit.”

What appears to be Diaz’ weakness is his lack of mobility and Roach said Pacquiao will exploit the chink in the 1996 Olympian’s armor.

“Diaz will use body weight to lean on Manny so Manny has to be quick to slip away from the ropes or the corners,” continued Roach. “Diaz is hittable. He comes forward and throws a lot of looping punches. Manny will use footwork to keep him off-balance.”

Roach said Pacquiao can’t afford to lower his guard against Diaz whom he described as a brawler with a relentless attitude.

“Against (Erik) Morales, Diaz came on strong in the last four rounds to get the decision although I thought he didn’t deserve it,” said Roach. “Still, he showed his staying power. Against (Jose Armando) Sta. Cruz, it was the same thing. I don’t think Diaz won a single round until he knocked out Sta. Cruz in the 10th round. Manny has to make sure Diaz won’t be able to stage a comeback late in the fight.”

Roach said the plan is to hammer Diaz’ body until he breaks down.

“Manny will wear him out,” said Roach. “I don’t think there’s any fighter in this weight division who can take Manny’s punches. We’ve thrown in six big sparmates for Manny to pound in the gym so he’s prepared to give it all he’s got. The way I see it, Diaz will take a lot of punishment until it’s time for him to go.”

A sparmate whom Roach brought in for three weeks was superlightweight Noel Rodriguez. Roach paid the 22-year-old, Mexico-born Texan $800 a week to be banged up by Pacquiao.

“Rodriguez is a junior welterweight but he enters the ring weighing about 150 so I took him in for Manny to load up on,” said Roach. “I liked the power that Manny showed. It’s the kind of power that I know will take out Diaz.”

Roach said the promotional tours to San Francisco and Chicago had little effect on Pacquiao’s training schedule.

“I don’t think they were distractions,” said Roach. “By the time we’re done with training, Manny will have gone seven weeks in the gym. That’s enough to prepare for Diaz. Manny’s about 144 now and I think he’s a little slow at that weight. When he gets closer to 135, you’ll see his quickness back.”

Roach said he’ll monitor Pacquiao’s food intake after he weighs in the day before the fight.

“Manny won’t put on more than 10 pounds after the weigh-in,” said Roach. “We’ve already talked about it. In the (Juan Manuel) Marquez fight, he bloated up to close to 20 pounds after the weigh-in and got sluggish. That won’t happen again. Manny’s a very disciplined fighter. He knows what’s good for him.”

In a workout at the Wild Card Gym the other day, Pacquiao went 14 rounds with Roach holding the mitts. Thrice, Pacquiao sent one of Roach’s mitts flying out the ring. After 14 rounds, Pacquiao asked to do more but Roach said, “I quit, I’m too tired.” Pacquiao doesn’t seem to tire out.

Pacquiao’s assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez, timing the workout, said the Filipino icon is stronger than ever.

“He’s already sparred over 100 rounds and we’ll probably finish 150 before leaving for Las Vegas,” said Fernandez. “We’ve watched lots of Diaz’ fights on tape and we know where he’s strong and where he’s weak. Manny and Diaz are both southpaws. It’s easier for Manny to hit a southpaw coming in than a right-handed fighter.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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