NOVEMBER 10, 2008
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Oscar de la Hoya is expected to be a serious threat in the first three rounds which experts consider critical for Manny Pacquiao to survive in their "Dream Match" at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Events Center in Las Vegas on Dec. 6.

"Manny should show more defense than offense in the early rounds," said former WBC secretary-general Rudy Salud the other day. "But it doesn't mean Manny should pass up openings if they're there. From the fourth to the sixth round, Oscar will remain dangerous but the situation wouldn't be as critical for Manny anymore."

Salud predicted that in rounds seven and eight, Pacquiao will start taking control. But from the ninth to the final round, he said Pacquiao will dominate De la Hoya to win the decision.

Pacquiao's adviser Michael Koncz agreed with Salud but suggested a different ending. He said Pacquiao will stop De la Hoya in the late rounds.

"Manny is very focused in training," said Koncz in a long distance phone call from Los Angeles yesterday. "Since Jinkee arrived in Los Angeles two weeks ago, Manny has trained even harder in the gym."

Koncz said when the fight was initially confirmed, he was apprehensive about Pacquiao pulling off a win. But after seeing Pacquiao train, he is now convinced De la Hoya will fall.

"I don't think Manny has that one-punch knockout power to take out Oscar," he said. "It will be an accumulation of punches that will finally bring down Oscar. I see Oscar going down from body shots anywhere between the sixth and eighth round. Oscar will be dangerous in the first three rounds so Manny should be careful."

Koncz said Pacquiao's handspeed and his footwork will make things difficult for De la Hoya.

"Manny will move and turn Oscar who'll end up fatigued," said Koncz. "Even in Oscar's prime, he had problems with stamina. And in his last two or three fights, you saw his lack of movement. Oscar will use his jab to keep Manny away so it's important for Manny to slip the jab and go to the body."

Koncz said fighting at the ideal weight to preserve Pacquiao's speed is crucial.

"We expect Manny to weigh in less than 147 and come in for the fight no more than 150," said Koncz. "That's the gauge."

Koncz, meanwhile, admitted he wrote the WBC in Pacquiao's behalf advising the governing body of the fighter's future plans. The tenor of the letter to the WBC was polite and cordial.

"We respect the WBC and wanted to keep Mr. (Jose) Sulaiman informed of Manny's plans," said Koncz. "We mentioned that as Manny has a year to defend the lightweight title, he will likely fight Ricky Hatton or even Floyd Mayweather in the first quarter of next year. If Manny decides to defend the WBC lightweight title, I expect (Marco Antonio) Barrera or (Edwin) Valero to be named the mandatory challenger. That would be a $2 to $3 Million fight for Manny. So Manny will sit down with Bob (Arum) and determine what's really out there for him."

As to what should be the sanction fee paid to the WBC for the De la Hoya fight, Koncz said the reasonable amount would be between $20,000 and $40,000. He said the WBC's demand of $100,000 is more than 1.5 percent of Pacquiao's purse.

"I'm not authorized to disclose what is Manny's purse but I can confirm 1.5 percent is much less than $100,000," said Koncz.

Salud said if Pacquiao refuses to pay the sanction fee, the WBC will not be able to enforce payment through the courts.

"The rule is governed by practice," he explained. "It's up to Manny whether or not to comply. If he doesn't comply, the WBC will strip him of the title. Going to court is not an option. Lennox Lewis once refused to pay the sanction fee after a WBC title fight and threw his WBC belt in the trash can."

Salud said it is unfair for the WBC to assess sanction fees without a cap. "I think sanction fees should be fair and reasonable," he continued. "With the enormity of purses, there should be a limit to the amount of the fees. At present, it is three percent for title fights and 1.5 percent for non-title fights. If the extent of the WBC benefits and recognition is limited, so should there be a limit to its sanction fees."

"Sanction fees are not enforceable," he said. "If a champion refuses to pay the sanction fee, then he faces the penalty of getting stripped of the title. It's as simple as that. But I remember Don Jose once mentioning that it is the WBC's goal to sanction fights that the public wants, that money isn't the main thing. I wonder if that position has changed."

Golden Boy matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz said it was over a year ago, during the WBO convention, that he heard of the possibility of Pacquiao fighting De la Hoya.

"I thought it would never happen, that too many lawsuits would not make it happen," he said. "But it's the perfect way for Oscar to get even after Manny betrayed Golden Boy. I'm excited. Knowing Manny, you can never count him out."

Lewkowicz said if the fight were a book, it would be the best seller of the year or even the century.

"This is bigger than Mike Tyson against anyone," he said. "This isn't just about boxing. This is about emotion and love of country. We're talking about real warriors - two men who will step into the ring and put their lives at risk."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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