[PHOTO AT LEFT - Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao (second from right) admires Brian Villoria’s IBF lightflyweight belt during the two fighters' conference with the media at the Crowne Plaza in Ortigas. Others in photo are top officials of Solar Entertainment Peter Chanliong (left) and Wilson Tieng. Jun Mendoza | MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 5, 2009 (PHILIPPINE STAR)  By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao yesterday cleared the air as to where and when he’d like to start training for his upcoming fight with Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto.

Pacquiao also said there’s no rift between him and his chief trainer, Freddie Roach, and they’d finalize the training schedule during the fight’s press tour next week.

Then the reigning pound-for-pound champion said Baguio remains as his choice as training headquarters. In fact, he said his Filipino trainer, Buboy Fernandez, is now up in Baguio.

“He’s up there to check the facilities,” said Pacquiao of the country’s summer capital, chilly most of the year, around 150 miles north of Manila and 1,500 meters above sea level.

Roach said Baguio is not an ideal place to train because of the distractions (too many fans and tourists), and has offered a secluded resort in Toluca, Mexico, instead.

Bob Arum of Top Rank wants Vancouver, but in the end it’s Pacquiao who makes the call, and as it is, it’s Baguio for the main bulk of his training for the Nov. 14 title fight with Cotto.

Pacquiao said he will discuss things with Roach when they hook up next week for the press tour in New York, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

“Then maybe from there he can come along with me, and we’d start training in Baguio. It won’t be short. Kailangan niya pumunta dito (He needs to come here),” said Pacquiao.

He said eight weeks should be enough to get him in top shape for the fight, and said the last three weeks he might move to the Wild Card Gym in LA for the final push.

“I understand our countrymen or my fans feeling worried about my training. I want to assure them that I’m not taking it for granted. I know myself. I know that eight weeks should do it,” he added.

Pacquiao faced the press yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas and announced his latest partnership with Solar Sports, led by Wilson Tieng and Peter Chanliong, regarding a new promotional outfit.

Together, they’re setting up an outfit that would help promote more Filipino fighters for fights overseas.

“Basically we’ll engage in the business of production, promotion and distribution of boxing shows to the world market, not only here in the Philippines. We have a lot of boxers who can fight on an international scale,” said Chanliong.

The Solar Sports chief operating officer said the outfit, which will be named soon, will not have any direct clash with the Manny Pacquiao Promotions which “has its own business.”

Chanliong said that in the new outfit, Pacquiao will be the “chairman and the boss” and that we’ll help “Manny make more money” as if Pacquiao is not yet close to being a Filipino billionaire.

“More money?” Pacquiao cut in.

He also said he’s now at 150 lb which is just five pounds off the catchweight agreed upon by both boxers.

“No problem,” he added, just enough to assure everyone that there’s really none.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao got another promotion in the army reserve force, this time being installed as sergeant major of his unit.

From being a master sergeant, Pacquiao was promoted to the rank of senior master sergeant, the second highest rank for enlisted personnel.

“Master Sgt. Manny Pacquiao was given the rank of Sergeant Major for the 15th Ready Reserve Division of the Philippine Army,” said Lt. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, army spokesman.

Pacquiao was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement Medal for the honor he has given the country in his past fights and serving as inspirations for many of the Filipinos, Burgos said.

In his speech, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who also attended the event, said that the boxing champ, instead of joining other civic organizations decided to “volunteer for Team AFP and don the military uniform where he could be of service to the country.”

He said that his fights are no longer a quest for personal achievement, but for the honor of the country that is truly proud of his feats in sports.

“Even groups who are fighting against each other stop just to watch Manny fight,” he said. with report from James Mananghaya.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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