[PHOTO AT LEFT - Newly crowned WBC lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao embraces his daughter Princess at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport yesterday while sons Jimwell and Emmanuel Jr. look on. Photo by RUDY SANTOS]

MANILA, JULY 6, 2008 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - Newly crowned WBC lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao can now add a new title to his name – Philippine ambassador – after being named by President Arroyo as special envoy to the Beijing Olympics next month during his courtesy call at Malacañang yesterday.

Pacquiao, who promised to donate P3 million to the victims of typhoon “Frank,” has been chosen to carry the Philippine flag at the opening parade of the quadrennial meet despite being unable to compete in the games.

It is not yet certain if a non-participant in the Olympics can be the bearer of a country’s flag.

Swimmer Miguel Molina, adjudged best male athlete of the 2007 Southeast Asian Games after winning five gold medals, was initially tapped to carry the Philippine flag as previously announced by Philippine Olympic Committee vice-president and RP team chef-de-mission Monico Puentevella.

Pacquiao is not part of the Olympic delegation because professional boxers are not allowed to compete in the games.

POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. said the Olympic body will discuss the plan in a special general assembly meeting on July 9.

“We concur with the recommendation of President Arroyo to appoint Manny Pacquiao as flag bearer in keeping with her wish,” said the former Tarlac Congressman through POC spokesman Joey Romasanta.

“We also have scheduled a special board meeting on July 9 to precisely make way for Manny Pacquiao,” he added.

But as to how he would be put in to the RP squad remains a big question mark since the Filipinos were already allotted limited slots by the host country.

Romasanta said Moying Martelino, who is already in Beijing to attend to details of the country’s Olympic participation, will relay the decision to replace Molina with Pacquiao to the organizers.

“He’s (Martelino) working on it right now, he’ll take care of that,” said Romasanta.

If this pushes through, it would be the first time in 84 years that the Philippines would have a non-Olympian as a flag bearer in the quadrennial meet.

The POC, however, sees no problem with this. “There’s no actual prohibition, he would have to be accredited,” Romasanta added.

For the glory and honor

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said special envoys do not receive compensation from the government, as it is merely a title given by the President.

“For the honor he has given to the Filipino people, the President, as head of the Philippines, gave back the honor to him,” Ermita said.

“Ambassador Pacquiao, special envoy, pinacquiao na niya lahat eh (he has taken everything),” he said in jest.

Ermita said Pacquiao would play a significant role in the Olympics because he could provide inspiration to the country’s athletes competing in various events.

“Can you imagine, the one who would carry the flag of the Philippines during the opening is the world champion,” he said.

According to Ermita, it is up to Pacquiao to decide how long he intends to stay in Beijing after the opening ceremony.

“But if I were him, I would stay there throughout the Olympic games,” he said.

Pacquiao and his delegation went to Malacañang yesterday morning for a courtesy call on the President after hearing Mass at the Quiapo church in Manila.

As has been done in the past after winning his bouts in the United States, Pacquiao was welcomed by members of the Cabinet and held a closed door meeting with the President.

The Palace in-house chefs also presented Pacquiao with a special treat, his mini sculpture standing on top of the globe, holding his latest title and his three previous championship belts laid out at the bottom.

It was made entirely of Swiss white chocolate and was aptly named “Pacquiao, Top of the World.”

Sharing his blessings

Thousands of adoring fans gathered as early as 9 a.m. at the Quiapo church to greet their boxing hero, who came on board a Toyota Land Cruiser amid tight security.

“Manny, you may be known as the Pambansang Kamao (National Fists), but that is not what God is looking at. God is looking at our hearts,” said Monsignor Glen Ignacio, during his homily.

In an ambush interview before the Mass, Pacquiao confirmed he will donate P3 million to the victims of typhoon Frank and relatives of the victims of M/V Princess of the Stars.

He said he is planning to hold a fund-raising concert to assist the victims of the typhoon.

Atienza said the concert would be titled “Manny Pacquiao and Friends” and would probably be held two weeks from now, but they are still looking for a “practical site” for the concert.

Pacquiao arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) early Friday from Los Angeles and immediately proceeded to the New World Renaissance Hotel in Makati City for a brief rest.

Concern for environment

After the Mass the People’s Champ went to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City where he announced that he is donating P100,000 to help safeguard the “resources underwater.”

“Before I went to the United States for training, I had a chance to scuba dive somewhere in Cebu and I saw the beautiful world under the sea,” Pacquiao recalled during his pre-victory parade interview with reporters at DENR.

Pacquiao said he explored the waters around Nalusuan Island in Cebu in the first week of May with Interior Undersecretary Lito Ruiz.

It was his first time to dive to a depth of 100 feet.

“Seeing those creatures, and that it’s really beautiful under water, I realized that we have to do something to protect them, especially the coral reefs,” Pacquiao said.

After winning the fight for the WBC superfeatherweight title from Mexican boxer Juan Manuel Marquez last March, Pacquiao donated a similar amount for the protection of the Philippine tarsier.

In October last year, after winning over another Mexican fighter, Marco Antonio Barrera, the Philippine boxing icon also gave P100, 000 to the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), as he stressed his desire to help in efforts to protect the country’s environment especially since one of his staunchest supporters, Lito Atienza, whom he also regards as his second father, is now head of DENR.

Pacquiao also stressed that his anti-illegal logging campaign in Mindanao is moving forward.

In the same interview, he claimed that the anti-illegal logging team named Task Force Luwas Kinaiyahan, which he created in November last year, has made several arrests and seizures of “hot logs” that were immediately turned over to DENR’s regional office in Mindanao.

Atienza said Pacquiao’s task force has been deputized by the DENR to arrest violators or illegal loggers.

“Of course, those people that our team apprehended were complaining and were even angry at us, but I explain to them the importance of caring for our forests. I explain to them that the denudation of our forests causes the landslides and floods that we don’t really experience before when the mountains are not stripped of their cover,” Pacquiao said.

This time, the Pinoy boxing sensation pledged to “actively advocate” for the protection of the country’s marine biodiversity, notably the coral reefs. The DENR said that only five percent of the coral reefs in the country are currently in “healthy” condition. – With Sandy Araneta, Katherine Adraneda, Joey Villar

Why Pacquiao won’t fight Campbell THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco Saturday, July 5, 2008

Home is the hero. Manny Pacquiao arrived to even greater fanfare following his historic feat, and the momentary relief it brought to a burdened people, worldwide, even the most staid boxing authorities cannot deny him accolades.

Now the question is who is next on the menu.

Much of the discussion centers around Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton, who, due to a fortuitous case of timing, is already slated to fight IBF junior welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi in November. Hatton’s camp has expressed great interest in a Pacquiao fight, “a fight that can be held in a phone booth,” and a massive moneymaker. Hatton has won 44 fights with 31 knockouts, and has only lost once, to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

In the interim, Pacquiao will probably look to shutting up Edwin Valero, the inflated WBA superfeatherweight champion. Valero, who has repeatedly challenged Pacquiao, has a deceptive record of 24 wins, all by knockout, with 19 in the first round. Valero supposedly set a new world record in February of 2006, winning his first 18 fights by first-round knockout (a record which has since been broken).

The only logistical problem is that in the US, Valero is only cleared to fight in Texas (which gave him permission only in March of this year). On Feb. 5, 2001, Valero (who wasn’t wearing a helmet) was involved in a motorcycle accident, fractured his skull, and needed surgery to remove a blood clot inside his head. That has prevented him from being recognized by sanctioning bodies within the US. Valero claims that his doctor gave him a clean bill of health a mere 11 months after the accident.

He was scheduled to hit the limelight on HBO’s Boxing After Dark in after signing with Golden Boy Promotions. But he failed an MRI in January of 2004 and, as a result, was not allowed to fight.

Valero has been fighting mainly in Japan, Panama and Venezuela, not exactly the meccas of world boxing, and has only gone beyond three rounds three times so far, which gives you an idea of the quality of opposition he has faced. He entered a WBA super featherweight title eliminator in February of 2006. On Aug. 5 of that year, he knocked out Vicente Mosquera for the WBA belt, knocking down his opponent twice in the first round, but himself getting sent to the canvas in the third round.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum has already opened discussions with the Venezuelan’s Japanese manager, Akihiko Honda, who is one of the microscopically small minorities who believe Valero has a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Pacquiao. Nov. 8 has been mentioned as a date, with no final venue having been selected.

But the problem with Valero is that he is a brawler who hasn’t really fought anyone serious. On top of that, he will have to move up in weight against someone who has already beaten naturally heavier fighters. It may be exciting on paper, but it will probably be a very short fight. If Pacquiao fights the way he did against David Diaz, he will knock Valero into tomorrow.

And as for Humberto Soto, including his controversial loss of the interim WBC super featherweight to a great acting job by Francisco Lorenzo, he has lost two of his last three fights, and will also have to move up to face Pacquiao. His fight with Pacman’s brother Bobby back in 2007 was a mismatch. Going into that fight, Soto had won his last 19 fights, 13 by knockout; while the younger Pacquiao had lost his last fight, a WBC Continental Americas title bout, because he was overweight. Was it a script to get Manny to go after Soto?

Unfortunately, Marco Antonio Barrera got in the way.

One name that isn’t really being emphasized as much as Valero or Hatton is Nate Campbell, who owns the WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight belts, the only other acknowledged championships. Wouldn’t it make sense? Why not unify the title?

Imagine the advertising. Four world titles. Four weight divisions. One champion.

So why isn’t it happening?

Campbell (32 wins, 5 losses, a draw) only turned pro in 2000, and is now 36 years old. He has been very active the last few years. After beating Matt Zeagn in an IBF title eliminator in 2006, he was not given a title shot, but instead required to fight Ricky Quiles, whom he beat. The Galaxy Warrior, as he calls himself, then went on to beat the previously undefeated Juan Diaz by split decision for the three titles on March 8 of this year. Judge Joe Garcia scored that fight 115-112 for Campbell, Bill Cloancy gave it to him 116-111, while Ric Bays had it 114-113 for Diaz.

This writer spoke to three well-known boxing personalities who each been covering or have been involved in boxing for at least 20 years. Each of them believes Pacquiao will avoid Campbell. And each requested me not to quote them, fearing the backlash from an angry Filipino public.

The consensus is that Campbell will outbox Pacquiao and beat him on points. They say Pacquiao will not be able to impose himself on Campbell, who is sturdy and supposedly good at defending himself against heavy hitters. It will therefore not be an exciting fight for Filipino fight fans. And it may be an unwarranted risk for Arum, who would want more than anything else to protect his cash cow. Besides, has Pacquiao ever fought an African-American boxer?

Pacquiao has already made history, and the WBC is the most credible among the four boxing organizations at this point. So why not go for fights that will bring in bigger money? Everybody wants to fight him, so he can choose.

Campbell may eventually become enticing if he keeps his belts. But if Pacquiao ever gets around to fighting him, he’ll be that much closer to 40, and an easier target.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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