[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, MAY 20, 2009 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Top Rank chairman Bob Arum recently said if Manny Pacquiao takes on Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York City, it will be a sure box office hit and estimated at least 80,000 pay-per-view buys from Puerto Rico to deliver incremental income of $4 million.

Cotto, however, must turn back Joshua Clottey in the first defense of his WBO welterweight title on June 13 to arrange the appointment with Pacquiao. It will be Cotto’s sixth appearance at the Garden where he has beaten Muhammad Abdullaev, Paul Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Sugar Shane Mosley and Michael Jennings.

A New York City folk hero, Cotto brought in 17,135 fans to the Garden when he decisioned Mosley two years ago. The fight generated over 400,000 pay-per-view subscriptions.

Pacquiao has never fought in the so-called Mecca of Boxing where his brother Bobby has performed twice, stopping Kevin Kelley in 2006 and losing to Humberto Soto in 2007.

The late Flash Elorde saw action twice at the Garden, beating Puerto Rican Frankie Narvaez via a hotly-disputed split decision that triggered a riot in the stands in 1965 and bowing to Carlos Ortiz on a 14th round knockout in 1966.

Rabid Puerto Rican fans are expected to come out in droves to support the Caguas-born Cotto against Pacquiao, conjuring images of the wild crowd frenzy during the Elorde-Narvaez bout.

If Pacquiao and Cotto fight, a bone of contention would be the weight limit.

“It’s really up to Manny at what weight he’d like to fight Cotto, if at all,” said Pacquiao’s boxing adviser Michael Koncz. “We are told Cotto is agreeable to fight at a catchweight limit of 144. Manny might want to bring it down to 142. Manny’s comfortable where he is right now, fighting as a lightwelterweight. Why should he agree to what Cotto wants? If Cotto wants to fight Manny, it should be at Manny’s terms. This fight would mean more to Cotto than to Manny. If a limit of 142 is agreed, let Cotto struggle to make weight, not Manny.”

The lightwelterweight limit is 140 pounds and the welterweight is 147. Theoretically, Cotto could stake his welterweight crown even if there is an agreed weight limit of 142 or 144 because either would be within the division range of 141 to 147. The fight would be significant for Pacquiao with the world welterweight title at stake because if he wins, the Filipino icon will become the only fighter ever to capture seven championships in different divisions.

During a recent visit to Manila, Arum said a Pacquiao-Cotto fight at the Garden would be a sellout. It would also be easy to arrange since both Pacquiao and Cotto are promoted by Top Rank. The bout may be scheduled in the last quarter of the year.

Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach will be at ringside to witness Cotto’s defense against Clottey. The night before, Pacquiao will receive the Edward J. Neil Fighter of the Year award and Roach the Eddie Futch-Johnny Condon Trainer of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America during the 84th testimonial dinner at the Capitale on Bowery Street in New York City.

In the undercard of the Cotto-Clottey mainer, Filipino Rodel Mayol will challenge undefeated WBO lightflyweight champion Ivan (Iron Boy) Calderon of Puerto Rico.

Cotto, 28, is a switch-hitting boxer-puncher whose most potent weapon is the left hook to the body. He recently fired his trainer Evangelista Cotto, an uncle, for personal reasons and elevated nutritionist Joe Santiago to the position.

Cotto has been decked thrice in his career, once by Ricardo Torres whom he eventually knocked out in 2005 and twice by Antonio Margarito to whom he lost by an 11th round stoppage last year.

In 2000, Cotto represented Puerto Rico at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and lost a 17-7 decision to Abdullaev in his first bout in the lightwelterweight division. Five years later, Cotto avenged the setback by halting Abdullaev in the ninth round to retain his WBO lightwelterweight crown.

Last February, Cotto knocked out Jennings to capture the vacant WBO welterweight title. The win raised his record to 33-1, with 27 KOs. He had previously won the WBO lightwelterweight (six defenses) and WBA welterweight (five defenses) crowns.

Fr. Fernando Suarez  knew it all along SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson Updated May 20, 2009 12:00 AM

It was 2:30 a.m., Philippine time, Sunday, May 3, when Manny Pacquiao spoke to healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez. Pacquiao was at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas where the time was 11:30 a.m., Saturday, May 2. In about eight hours, Pacquiao would enter the ring to face Ricky Hatton at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Pacquiao had just attended a Mass celebrated by New York-based Filipino priest Fr. Marlon Beof and was with Fr. Suarez’ close adviser Greg Monteclaro in his hotel suite. Monteclaro, executive director of the Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation, had flown in from Manila a few days earlier to watch the fight and phoned Fr. Suarez, who was in Batangas City, on his cell.

“When Manny got on the line, I immediately congratulated him,” recounted Fr. Suarez. “I thought the fight was over and he had already won. Manny asked for my blessing over the phone and I prayed with him. I knew he would win. It was a feeling that came over me as soon as I talked to him. I told Manny I would offer my Mass later that morning for him.”

Fr. Suarez’ Mass started at 10 a.m., Philippine time, Sunday, at MonteMaria where a religious haven is now under construction dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the slopes of Batangas City overlooking the bay and the Verde Island Passage. When the Mass was ended, Fr. Suarez saw a text in his cell from Monteclaro announcing Pacquiao’s victory.

* * *

Pacquiao and Fr. Suarez had a close encounter of the spiritual kind at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati last year. Fr. Suarez prayed over Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee who sat at the edge of their hotel room bed, closed their eyes and were “slain” by the touch of the Holy Spirit. Devotees are usually “slain” during a pray-over with Fr. Suarez and “catchers” are posted to break their fall from behind. Pacquiao and Jinkee fell on the bed, their eyes tightly shut, and it took a few seconds before they came to.

Fr. Suarez described Pacquiao as “a man of great faith.”

Fr. Suarez, 42, said he’s been a boxing fan since he was a boy and recalled his grandfather buying a TV set to watch the Ali-Frazier fight, the “Thrilla In Manila,” in 1975. Fr. Suarez said his boyhood boxing idols were the big heavyweights of the era and Dodie Boy Peñalosa.

Fr. Suarez said he watched the replay of the Pacquiao-Hatton fight on TV and thanked the Lord for the Filipino’s victory, which he called a blessing to the nation.

Although he enjoys watching boxing on TV, Fr. Suarez’ personal connection to sports is playing tennis. He plays regularly with his tennis “barkada” including Raymond Suarez, Roland So, Roland Kraut and Romee Chan. Fr. Suarez has even played with Cecil Mamiit.

* * *

The other day, Fr. Suarez celebrated his seventh anniversary as a priest at a Mass presided by Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle at the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord on the fifth floor of the SM Mega Mall in Mandaluyong. The Mass was con-celebrated with Bishop Raul Martirez, Bishop Antonio Palang and 40 priests, some of whom came from as far as Catarman, Northern Samar.

The chapel was full-packed. After the Mass, Fr. Suarez thanked the Lord “for seven years of sustained mercy and love.” He was ordained on May 18, 2002, at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa by Archbishop Marcel Gervais and joined the religious order Companions of the Cross.

With his gift of healing, Fr. Suarez has touched the lives of millions of people all over the world. “I never thought that in my priesthood I would be able to travel the world and preach the Word of God,” he once said. “I am even now more convinced that this gift of healing, attached to my priesthood, was given to me for the poor.”

Family and friends stayed with Fr. Suarez after the Mass for dinner at the Megatrade Hall II where singers Pilita Corrales, Ivy Violan, Dulce and 10-year-old Miaa Torre of Bacoor treated the well-wishers to a wonderful program. Even Canadian priest Fr. Jeff Shannon took to the stage and sang two songs, one in Visayan.

Among those who joined Fr. Suarez were Bishop Ted Bacani, MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando, Rep. Hermilando Mandanas, Rep. Cynthia Villar, Ambassador to the Holy See Mercy Tuason, former Ambassador Tita de Villa, former Sen. Butz Aquino, Batangas Vice Gov. Mark Leviste, Sec. Rudy Albano and son Tonypet, Deedee Siytangco and daughter Sandee, Boots Anson-Roa, Speaker Prospero Nograles’ wife Rhodora, Patrick Antonio, Danny Dolor, architect Nestor Mangio, Lily Chan, Maritess Lopez, Archit Bartolome and Glenda Barretto.

One of the well-wishers Jon Samilin, who just arrived from San Diego, said Fr. Suarez made quite an impact during a recent visit to the California city.

“He was on TV and the newspapers which reported that his acts of healing are now being documented and verified by the Vatican,” said Samilin. “I can testify that a Caucasian, in his 40s, came out of a coma at the Palomar Hospital in Escondido and swore he was revived by a Filipino priest. When I showed a photo of Fr. Suarez, the man confirmed he was the priest. Fr. Suarez had just celebrated Mass in Escondido for about 6,000 people. But when the man was revived, Fr. Suarez was already in New Jersey – I had brought him to the airport. I think it was a case of bi-location. By the way, the lay ministers who gave Communion to the 6,000 people never ran out of hosts during Fr. Suarez’ Mass. They started out with about 7,000 hosts and after giving Communion, they still had 7,000. I don’t know how to explain these mysteries.”

Monteclaro said Fr. Suarez also brought out of a coma an executive of Universal Studios in Los Angeles and healed singer Wayne Newton who had been inactive for two years because of a throat problem. When Newton returned to the stage in Las Vegas early this year, he invited Fr. Suarez as his special guest.

For details on Fr. Suarez’ schedule of healing Masses, please call Tel. No. 772-2190 and 772-2192.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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