[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather]

MANILA, DECEMBER 21, 2009 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - It didn’t come as a surprise that the Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather fight did land in Las Vegas.

“As far as we know it’s always been Vegas,” said Pacquiao’s adviser, Mike Koncz, yesterday when news broke out that promoters have already agreed to stage the fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Koncz, who was with Pacquiao yesterday afternoon, said he expects an announcement to come very soon as to the final details of the fight that is scheduled to take place on March 13.

The state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium in Dallas made a spirited bid to host the fight, probably the biggest in boxing history, and owner Jerry Jones reportedly made a $25 million offer to get it there.

But Vegas is just the place to hold a fight of this magnitude.

“There’s no other place to hold it than Vegas. With all the casinos and the high-rollers coming over, it’s just hard to match. Nasa Vegas ang pera (The money is in Vegas),” said Pacquiao’s lawyer, Franklin Gacal.

“It’s the MGM. It’s definite,” an article that came out of quoted a source as saying, and that the choice was based on both fighters’ “familiarity with the location as well as their past success there.”

According to reports, the MGM Grand could generate as much as $28 million in live-gate sales. Also in store are 40,000 closed-circuit seats through MGM/Mirage properties, and at $100 a head could present a total package of $32 million.

And that’s enough to quash Dallas’ $25 million offer.

Pacquiao has fought six times at the MGM Grand, winning four (against Lehlo Ledwaba, Oscar dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto), losing once to Erik Morales and drawing once with Juan Manuel Marquez.

Mayweather, on the other hand, has fought six times at the MGM during his unbeaten run of 40 fights. His wins at MGM came against Gregorio Vargas, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Dela Hoya, Hatton and Marquez.

The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is expected to generate more than $100 million, and both fighters, guaranteed of at least $25 million each, could get as much as $40 million when everything comes in.

A press conference, a major one, is scheduled Jan. 6 in New York and two days after another one will take place in Los Angeles. There will be no press tour for this fight which the whole world wants to see.

The fight is set at 147 lb and Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight crown, which he took from Cotto last month, will be at stake. They will use 8-ounce gloves, and both camps have also agreed to random drug testing weeks leading to the fight.

There’s no confirmation whether both fighters have signed the fight contract, but now that it’s all been agreed upon, there’s no reason for them to hold back and get it done.

Zubiri fumes vs Arnis Phils; X'mas wish list THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) Updated December 21, 2009 12:00 AM

A livid Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri contacted this writer yesterday, reacting to press releases made by Arnis Philippines (ARPI), taking credit for the passage of his arnis bill into law. A little over a week ago, Pres. Arroyo signed the bill into law, ending years of struggle by Zubiri, who has been pushing the measure since he was in Congress. It has been almost a decade since the arnisador legislator first proposed the law, which will include changing the logo of the Philippine Sports Commission itself to include the traditional Filipino fighting sticks.

“(Arnis Philippines head Raymond) Velayo is taking credit for something he never helped us achieve. Unbelievable!” the senator said in a text message.

A few minutes later, the former national athlete sent this statement directed at ARPI.

“I don’t think it is right that you put out a press release on my arnis bill being signed into law. To be honest, I single-handedly passed that measure with no help from you.....Your credit-grabbing is foul, and all the masters know who truly worked for its passage. I’m deeply disappointed with your group.”

In some of their press releases, ARPI also takes credit for batting for the inclusion of arnis in the 1991 and 2005 SEA Games, conveniently forgetting to recall that its inclusion was a prerogative of the Philippines as a host country. A real accomplishment would be the inclusion of the sport in all SEA Games at the very least. This is typical of old-school sports officials who arrogantly think it is their God-given right to railroad sports to their will. They don’t belong there.

* * *

The year 2009, more than most, has been a turbulent, colorful year for sports, with unprecedented triumphs, avoidable foibles, and incomprehensible blunders by the very people assigned to safeguard sports. If there were a higher power that could hear our prayers, what would we wish for?

Proper review, rewards and sanctions for national sports. Despite the advances in management of certain sports, there are still many living in the past, whose leaders are merely serving as toll-collecting gatekeepers. Unsuccessful sports programs should be reviewed by the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission more thoroughly. The PSC, for its part, has strongly followed its policy of suspending assistance to sports that have been excluded from two successive Southeast Asian Games. But each national sports association (and this is really wishful thinking on my part) should police itself, instead of merely perpetuating its failing leadership. After international multi-sport events like the SEA Games, what next? Who is accountable?

Full implementation of the arnis law. Forget what you’re read in the papers that the current leadership of the sport has lobbied for the implementation of the law making arnis the official sport of the Philippines. Even the law’s proponents have denied this. What remains to be seen is how the sport will be implemented, and how the Department of Education will act on this. If sports like ice skating and dancesport can be included in the physical education curriculum, why not arnis, which has its roots deep in our cultural heritage?

There is already a growing movement to unite the arnis masters from all over the archipelago, and even this writer has been dragged into the politics of the sport. But the good news is that real sportsmen who have promised to help arnis like Sen. Zubiri and Sen. Alan Cayetano and businessman Mikee Romero are doing so. The current system does not work, so a new one is being constructed.

Keep sports clean of politics. Again, the feuding simply has to stop. It has held back our athletes long enough. If the PSC and POC can’t get along, maybe a third agency should step in. Each side has its strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures. Will they ever bury the hatchet? Will the elections overtake these issues and bring change? If so, what kind of change? The top spots in sports proved to be a roller-coaster. Will there be meaningful change? How come some successful sports still do not get support, even though they have proven themselves?

Support for new sports. There are several new sports taking root in the country. Sport stacking, for instance, has been around for almost two years, and is spreading throughout the schools, spurred by the unbelievable success of record-shattering world champion Steven Purugganan and his brothers. Filipino kids are starting to make inroads in international competitions. Softball Pilipinas, the first semi-professional league of its kind in Southeast Asia supported by Cebuana Lhuillier, is also off to a great start with their fall season underway. Arenaball, the first American football league in the Philippines, has also been launched. Rugby has been climbing up the rankings in Asia, and is now among the region’s elite. All these sports really need is a benefactor to ensure their sustainability.

More sports on television. Basketball and boxing are already firmly entrenched on TV. They are inescapable. But other sports also need this exposure to crack the mainstream. Few people have even noticed that our highest-rating primetime news programs don’t even have regular sports segments unless they involve Manny Pacquiao. Isn’t it about time they embraced the practice of broadcast news organizations around the world? I understand that there are no schools that teach sports broadcasting or even sports newsgathering here in the Philippines. But if newspapers can fill whole sections to overflowing (and some broadsheets even have two sports sections), can’t one-hour newscasts even fill one minute a day with sports?

Keep insincere politicians away. This is a warning to voters and athletes alike. Beware of politicians, new and old (especially new) who claim to be for sports, but are using it as a way to getting into public office and protect their business interests. If they have no track record in sports, and their only claim to fame in sports is having token exhibition games or renting unknowing known athletes to further their cause, they do not deserve your votes. Be particularly wary of party-lists who claim to be supportive of sports, even co-opting names and reputations of credible sports entities and personalities. One group has even “rented” a very popular Pinoy sports icon to endorse them. Experience has proven that these people will forget sports once they are in power. If they need to bask in the reflected glory of our champions and members of the sports community just to get into Congress, then they are already betraying their true character by merely using sports for their own gain. What good can they do when they don’t even bother to be in sports in the first place? Keep them out of sports.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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