[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao poses with a huge poster of Time magazine which features the Filipino idol on its cover. Abac Aordero |LAS VEGAS]

LAS VEGAS, NOVEMBER 14, 2009 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Manny Pacquiao, who just recently landed on the cover of TIME Magazine, is now a hot candidate for the Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award.

The mother of all sports magazines will announce its choice for the 2009 award on Dec. 1 and it shouldn’t come a surprise if Pacquiao, now regarded as the face of boxing, nails it.

He’s been through tough fights and has beaten the toughest opponents, and for this month he landed on the cover of TIME Magazine, becoming only the first Filipino to do so after the late ex-president and icon of democracy, Corazon C. Aquino.

The November edition has turned out to be a best-seller, and this early, there were orders of a reprint of 50,000 copies.

In the SI’s November issue, there’s a six-page feature on Freddie Roach, the trainer, and Pacquiao, the boxer. And Chris Mannix of SI had just placed the name of Pacquiao in the box of nominees.

“If Manny Pacquiao didn’t win a single fight in 2009, he would still be a viable candidate for SI’s Sportsman of the Year. If Pacquiao had not put down once-beaten Ricky Hatton in a stunning second-round knockout last May, he would undoubtedly warrant consideration. If Pacquiao hadn’t cemented his status as the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter this year, I would still be touting his candidacy,” Mannix wrote.

“Why? Because Sportsman, by my definition, is about more than just a superior performance. It’s about contributions, to both sports and the world. And in that regard, Pacquiao has no peers. A commonly used cliché in sports journalism is that Pacquiao “fights with the weight of the world on his shoulders.” A little hyperbolic, certainly, but in Pacquiao’s case, it rings true. In the Philippines, Pacquiao borders on deity.

“He’s an athlete and a rock star, an actor and a politician. He’s Derek Jeter, Jon Bon Jovi, John Travolta and John F. Kennedy rolled into one. His popularity stems from his athletic accomplishments; the Filipino army, in which Pacquiao is a reserve, routinely declares a temporary truce (P-Day, they call it) with insurgents on days Pacquiao fights. But Pacquiao’s impact extends even deeper into the culture,” he added.

Words are not really enough to describe Pacquiao, and his great accomplishments on and off the ring.

But in this case, they may be enough to land him as the top choice for 2009, regardless of what happens this coming Saturday at the MGM.

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Alex Ariza, Freddie Roach and Buboy Fernandez during break in Manny Pacquiao’s final workout. ABAC CORDERO | LAS VEGAS]

Manny in fine shape; Cotto still struggling? By Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star) Updated November 14, 2009 12:00 AM

LAS VEGAS -  After a light workout and a hearty meal, Manny Pacquiao tipped the scales at 146 lb, and should have no problem, none at all, for Friday afternoon’s official weigh-in at the Grand Garden Arena of the MGM.

A group of scribes from Manila bumped into Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza, just outside The Noodle Shop of Mandalay Bay Thursday evening, and his big, round eyes gave away all the excitement in him.

“Perfect. Everything is perfect,” he said.

He was asked how much Pacquiao weighed on the eve of the Friday-the-13th weigh-in, and he responded by saying the reigning pound-for-pound champion was at 146 lb “after a meal” inside his $15,000-a-night suite.

Earlier, at the IBA Gym, where he trains when he’s in Vegas, Pacquiao said the weighing scale that he has inside his suite is as “accurate” as it can get. How much he weighs in there, is how much he’ll weigh at the MGM.

It only meant one thing: that Pacquiao is in perfect shape for the 145 lb contest, and that everything’s going on as planned, in that he can weigh in Friday at 145, or even a shade under, and climb the ring at 149 the next day.

Ariza said he doesn’t want Pacquiao to go over 150 for the fight because it could slow him down a bit.

Ariza said Pacquiao will go out for a brisk run in the morning, can have some fruits and a couple of hard-boiled eggs, and make it to the official weigh-in at 3 p.m. safe and sound, smiling as he’d done all camp long.

There were unconfirmed reports reaching Team Pacquiao Thursday that Miguel Cotto may be struggling with his weight, and that there were efforts to keep the temperature high inside the Top Rank Gym when he trains.

“It’s a hundred degrees (37 degrees Celcius) inside the gym when he trains,” said a Pacquiao assistant.

But in Wednesday’s final press conference, the 29-year-old Cotto assured everyone that his weight is in check, contrary to insinuations he’s starving himself to death just to make weight.

Members of Team Pacquiao, however, have their own thoughts, and as Pacquiao wrapped up his last day at the gym Thursday, there was some discussion regarding the schedule of the official weigh-in.

Pacquiao’s adviser, Mike Koncz, assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez, and Ariza were overheard discussing the 3 p.m. weigh-in, when in the past, the fighters for the main event are weighed an hour earlier than that.

This should give the boxers a longer period to recuperate and replenish. But in this case, it seemed that the time was pushed an hour late to give Cotto extra time to reduce.

“Baka nahihirapan kunin ang timbang (Maybe he’s having difficulty making weight),” said Fernandez, adding that they don’t really mind tipping the scales at 3 p.m.

“Kahit alas-sinko pa kung gusto nila (If they want, we can do it at 5 p.m.),” he added.

If Cotto makes it, he has 24 hours to replenish, and based on previous reports, the WBO champion from Puerto Rico is planning to climb the ring at around 160 lb for the fight.

“Maganda yun sa kanya (That’s good for him),” said Fernandez.

“Tingnan natin (Let’s see).”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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