MANILA, JULY 4, 2008
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao comes home today to another hero’s welcome that is expected to surpass previous ones laid out for the iconic Filipino boxer who recently won an unprecedented fourth world title.

The Philippine Airlines jumbo jet carrying Pacquiao and his entourage is expected to land in Manila at 5 a.m. under cover of darkness, after a grueling 16-hour trip from Los Angeles.

Pacquiao, his wife Jinkee, some relatives and friends will be met at the airport by a horde of well-wishers, mediamen and just anybody else who wants to be seen around the 29-year-old superstar.

The three Pacquiao kids, Emmanuel, Jimwell and Princess, are expected to be there, too. They haven’t seen their father since he left for Los Angeles on May 12 to train for the David Diaz fight.

Pacquiao will be asked to deliver a speech at the arrival area of the airport, and probably stay a few minutes at the VIP lounge. Then they take off in a convoy of SUVs and police escorts.

It’s going to be a long, hectic day for the champion.

Eric Pineda, Pacquiao’s business manager, said from the airport, he will go straight to the Renaissance Hotel in Makati for some rest. It will be Pacquiao’s official residence the next few days.

“We expect this one to top previous welcome ceremonies for Manny considering that what he achieved last week in Las Vegas is unprecedented in Philippine history,” said Pineda.

“No other Filipino, and no other Asian at that, has won four world titles in different divisions. And the manner he won it over Diaz is very convincing compared to his last two victories,” he added.

Later in the day, he will receive the Sportsman Award from Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte who will also present the boxer a key to the city.

At 9 a.m., Pacquiao will visit the Quiapo Church for a Thanksgiving Mass. More fans, at least in the hundreds, will be there to welcome the new World Boxing Council lightweight champion.

At 10:30 a.m. he will proceed to Malacañang where Pacquiao, the first Asian boxer to win four world titles in different weight classes, gets to meet President Arroyo and another set of fans.

From the Palace, the boxer who used to work on construction sites and sell cigarettes on the street to survive heads to the GMA-7 headquarters for a live appearance at the talkshow Sis.

By 11:40 in the morning, according to plan, Pacquiao should be at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Bldg. in Quezon City for a press conference.

Lito Atienza, DENR secretary and one of Pacquiao’s staunchest supporters, will host lunch for the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter who knocked out Diaz last week in Las Vegas.

A press conference, Pineda added, is also set at the government building.

A motorcade, depending on the weather, will take Pacquiao through Quezon City, Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong and Pasig, all the way to the San Miguel Corp. main office in Ortigas.

Pineda said Pacquiao will meet briefly with SMC president Ramon Ang.

Pacquiao will be taken to the Araneta Coliseum at 4 p.m. to receive the award from Mayor Belmonte.

And from there, Pacquiao will go back to his hotel, for the needed rest, in preparation for more parties in the days before he flies to Gen. Santos City, his proud hometown.

Mexican Soto next for Manny? SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Friday, July 4, 2008

LOS ANGELES – Believe it or not, the fighter who was unfairly disqualified in a winning situation against a badly outclassed Dominican Republic pretender might be rewarded with a crack at the WBC lightweight crown held by Manny Pacquiao in December.

Mexican warrior Humberto Soto was on the way to disposing of Francisco Lorenzo when referee Joe Cortez stepped in to rule a foul blow in the undercard of Pacquiao’s mainer against David Diaz in Las Vegas last weekend.

It took Cortez five long minutes to decide the final outcome after consulting with officials of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). Cortez insisted Soto hit Lorenzo with a rabbit punch while his opponent was down. A TV replay showed Soto unleashing an instinctive follow-up to a barrage as the bloodied Lorenzo crumpled to the canvas near his corner.

Cortez’ decision to disqualify Soto was a travesty of justice. A disqualification is justified when there is malice intended as was the case in Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997. Another case for disqualification is when a fighter intentionally headbutts an opponent to cause injury.

But in Soto’s case, he was clearly robbed of a victory. Soto swept the three rounds in the judges’ scorecards and Lorenzo was on the way to dreamland when Cortez came to his rescue. At first, it seemed like Cortez would raise Soto’s hand in triumph because Lorenzo was in no condition to continue. But Cortez later declared Lorenzo the winner. A chorus of boos greeted the decision.

Lorenzo lay on the canvas until Cortez made Soto’s disqualification official. He was floored twice in the fourth round. Former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez, annotating the fight for Mexican TV, vehemently protested Cortez’ decision. So did nearly everyone in the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

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The fight was supposed to determine the interim WBC superfeatherweight champion since Pacquiao vacated the 130-pound throne to move up to the lightweight division. But WBC president Jose Sulaiman refused to accept Cortez’ verdict and said the organization wouldn’t recognize Lorenzo as champion. Instead, Sulaiman said the WBC will enter the result as a “no-contest.” The NASC, however, is expected to affirm Cortez’ decision in the record books.

Soto’s manager Fernando Beltran called Cortez a “racist” for the blatant injustice. But Lorenzo said he will go to court if he is not given the WBC belt.

Beltran said despite the “loss,” Soto is in the race to be Pacquiao’s next opponent. WBA superfeatherweight champion Edwin Valero of Venezuela is the top candidate at the moment with IBO lightwelterweight titleholder Ricky Hatton the No. 1 option early next year.

Obviously, the money trail leads straight to Pacquiao’s doorstep. Juan Manuel Marquez, begging for a third bout against Pacquiao, faces Joel Casamayor in an interim WBO lightweight championship bout in Las Vegas on Sept. 13. WBO superfeatherweight ruler Joan Guzman is joining the lightweight bandwagon and battles WBA, WBO and IBF titlist Nate Campbell, also on Sept. 13. Former WBA lightweight champion Juan Diaz is set to battle Michael Katsidis of Australia on Sept. 6 in another fight that could lead to a Pacquiao duel.

Then there is former IBF lightweight champion Julio Diaz who recently demolished previously unbeaten David Torres. Diaz wants a piece of Pacquiao, too.

“Make no mistake about it, a fight between Pacquiao and me would be a fight with me being from Southern California and Mexico,” said Diaz. “A fight between Pacquiao and me would be a big draw and a great fight for the fans. I would take a Pacquiao fight in a heartbeat.”

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A Pacquiao-Soto bout would be a revival of the fierce rivalry between Filipino and Mexican fighters - something that was missing in the David Diaz fight. An interesting storyline is the revenge angle because Soto knocked out Pacquiao’s younger brother Bobby in New York last year.

Soto said Lorenzo should be awarded an Oscar for his acting job. He claimed Lorenzo’s cornermen told the fallen fighter in Spanish to lie on the canvas and pretend to be badly hurt while Cortez conferred with state officials on what to do. Actually, Lorenzo was badly hurt but it wasn’t because of the glancing blow that Cortez saw as the basis for the disqualification.

Soto, a 9-1 favorite, couldn’t believe his misfortune because there was no way Lorenzo could beat him. Lorenzo was bloodied and beaten to a pulp when the end came.

Top Rank boss Bob Arum was furious.

“There’s something wrong when a guy is going down and he gets hit with a glancing blow and it’s ruled he was hit when he was down and therefore, it’s a disqualification,” fumed Arum who represents Soto.

Jeff Haney of the Las Vegas Sun said the fight “with an odd ending” drew comparisons to the first Roy Jones-Montell Griffin bout and the two Terry Norris-Luis Santana fights.

Jones was disqualified for striking Griffin, who was down on his knees, with a knockout blow in 1997. Norris, a lightheavyweight, was disqualified for downing Santana with a rabbit punch in 1994 and again, in 1995 for decking him after the bell sounded to end the third round. In their third meeting, Norris knocked out Santana in the second round.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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