[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao in a very recent workout at the Wild Card Gym. Abac Cordero | HOLLYWOOD]

LOS ANGELES, NOVEMBER 10, 2009 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao, chasing history, takes a 300-mile trip to Las Vegas Monday, five days before he climbs the ring against WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico.

It would take Pacquiao and a busload of family members and friends close to five hours to get to Sin City for the final push, seven weeks after he started training here for what should be the biggest fight of his career.

But before that, Pacquiao enters the Wild Card Gym for the last time before the fight, and close the doors to his Los Angeles training camp. He’s in for just a couple more rounds of sparring, and some of the ordinary stuff.

“Pababa na. Light na lang (We’re cooling down),” said the boxer who is eyeing a seventh world title in different weight classes. No fighter in boxing history has ever won that many titles, not even the other great ones of the previous generations.

Pacquiao spent his day-off Sunday this cold, chilly City of Angels like there’s nothing else to do. After a brief morning run, he did rehearsals for his after-fight concert, visited his $2 million mansion just outside Hancock Park, and prayed the rosary as well.

“Tapos na ang hirap sa training (The tough part of training is over),” he said.

To the gym, he will drive his black Mercedes, then close out his sparring. So far, he has logged 149 rounds of sparring, and after Monday’s session would be in the same number of rounds he’d had in his previous fights, all big ones.

He’s been through some stormy days since he started training in Manila and spending four weeks in Baguio City. It was the first time he trained that long in his home country for a fight to be staged in the United States.

“I feel I’m a hundred percent now,” said Pacquiao, who will carry huge odds stacked on his favor. He’s close to being a 3-to-1 favorite against the younger, heavier and stronger fighter from Puerto Rico, and that means a lot heading to the fight on Nov. 14.

Pacquiao’s family, from his parents to his wife, are already in town as well as everybody else who’s been with him before. They’re all hoping for a safe journey to Vegas, a big win and an even happier journey back home on Nov. 18 or four days after the fight.

“Malapit na (It’s almost here),” he said of the fight, his second this year, six months since a crushing win over Ricky Hatton, for his sixth world title after ruling the flyweight, super-bantamweight, featherweight, super-featherweight, lightweight and junior welterweight divisions in the past.

As per tradition, Pacquiao takes his Lincoln Navigator to Las Vegas, while the rest board the customized bus, one adorned with all his colorful images. His chief trainer, Freddie Roach normally drives his own car, a silver Mercedes, to Vegas.

He checks in at the Mandalay Bay, his Vegas home for his most recent fights. Cotto, for his part, will be staying at the MGM Grand for the week of the fight. He’s been in Vegas training the past week now, renting a mansion that served as his home base.

While both fighters will be in Vegas by Monday evening, the formal welcome ceremony does not take place until Tuesday noon at the MGM Grand. Pacquiao comes in ahead, at 11 a.m., and Cotto will walk past the ropes an hour and a half later.

In Vegas, Pacquiao will train at the local gym owned by IBA president Dean Chance. The doors will be closed when he trains, probably except for special visitors, perhaps like Mike Tyson who dropped by for the Oscar dela Hoya fight last December.

Cotto, who trained in Caguas in Puerto Rico and Tampa in Florida before heading to Las Vegas more than a week ago, is working out at the gym owned by Top Rank, who handles both fighters.

The two fighters, who were together a few days last September for the press tour that took them to New York, Puerto Rico, San Francisco and Los Angeles, will be together again under one roof on Wednesday for the final press conference.

Thursday should be the last day at the gym for both stars because on Friday, the official weigh-in takes place. Then it’s fight time, and they meet again, on top of the ring, leaving everything behind.

Cotto confident of making 145 lb (The Philippine Star) Updated November 10, 2009 12:00 AM

HOLLYWOOD – Miguel Cotto said he’d make weight. And keep his money in the bank.

The wide-bodied left-hooker from Puerto Rico on Monday crushed all insinuations that he’s having problems with his weight, and assured everyone that he’d come in at 145 lb for the Friday’s official weigh-in at the MGM Grand.

“When we took this fight we decided that we were fine with 145. We knew we could do it and we knew we would be at our best the next night. We would not have taken this fight if we didn’t think I was going to be at my best the next night after the weigh-in,” he said.

Cotto spoke from Las Vegas, where he’s training for the fight, and told that 145 is what’s been agreed upon, and 145 will it be.

As speculated in the fight contract, Cotto will be fined $1 million for every pound in excess of 145, and he goes a fraction over 147, Manny Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddei Roach, said he’d call off the fight.

Cotto can save all his money if he comes in at 145 lb. He said he will.

The last time the 29-year-old fighter, a welterweight all his life, fought at 145 lb was against Zab Juddah, two years and five months ago. He won that fight, and retained his WBO crown in the 147 lb division.

He said the time won’t make a difference, and he’d be in at 145.

“The last fight I spent more than 24 hours doing nothing. Just waiting for the weigh-in. My weight was 145. All I have to do is add a half hour to my work every day and I am going to reach 145 with no problem,” he said.

But a lot of people think otherwise, and that includes Pacquiao.

“He’s reducing right now,” said the Filipino icon, adding that by now, the Puerto Rican star must be keeping starving.

“Malaking disadvantage sa kanya yan. Lalu na kapag dikdikan ang laban (It will be a big disadvantage particularly in a tight fight),” he said. – Abac Cordero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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