[PHOTO AT LEFT - Filipino boxing idol Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee arrive in Los Angeles. ABAC CORDERO

HOLLYWOOD, MARCH 17, 2010 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - He had little trouble fighting Joshua Clottey, and Manny Pacquiao is confident he’ll have an even easier time against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“His (Mayweather) style is not as difficult as Clottey’s. It’s easy to study,” said Pacquiao after going 12 rounds and disposing of his Ghanaian challenger last Saturday before nearly 51,000 fans at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

Pacquiao won by unanimous decision, taking all 12 rounds with one judge and yielding only the third round with the two others, to retain his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight belt. He was in control from start to finish, and was never in trouble despite taking some hits.

He said he took them almost voluntarily.

“Kaya eh (I can take it),” said Pacquiao after disembarking from the chartered Boeing 737-800 that took him, his wife Jinkee, his family, team members and friends – more than 150 of them – from Dallas to Los Angeles.

Pacquiao, in an overcoat, white fedora and Ferragamo shades, marched down the aisle of the “Air Pacquiao” jumbo jet to be with his passengers. Then he spent the rest of the flight playing cards with friends.

He said he tried to break Clottey’s defense and go for a knockout. But the challenger was so stubborn he let Pacquiao hit him on the body instead.

“Ayaw sumuntok eh, kaya nagpapasuntok na din ako, para bumukas (He wouldn’t throw punches so I let him hit me so he’d open up),” Pacquiao said.

The pound-for-pound king said it could be the same thing all over again if and when he gets a chance to face Mayweather, also known for his defense, and his tendency to settle for a decision than risk going for a knockout.

“But Mayweather must do his business first,” said Pacquiao of the flamboyant American, who challenges WBA welterweight champion Shane Mosley for the title on May 1 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“Floyd, come to the ring and fight us,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach.

Pacquiao said he’s ready to face Mayweather anytime, anywhere as long as it’s the boxing commission, and not the undefeated ex-pound-for-pound champion, that will dictate the drug testing rules.

In the meantime, Pacquiao wants to have a good time after keeping his WBO welterweight crown.

After arriving from Dallas, he boarded his two-seater Mercedes with Jinkee and headed to their $2-million home at Larchmont Park.

All seems to be well with the First Couple of pro boxing.

They plan to spend a couple more days here in LA before flying to Hawaii for the boxer’s concert on Sunday. Details of the trip back to Manila will be determined after the concert.

Politics next in line

Meanwhile, the Nacionalista Party (NP) will honor Pacquiao with a hero’s welcome.

Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said Pacquiao phoned him after the fight and committed to join the NP campaign trail.

“When he arrives we will help him campaign in Sarangani and he will help me with my own campaign,” Villar said in Filipino.

Pacquiao is running for congressman under the NP banner in the lone district of Sarangani against Roy Chongbian, a scion of the province’s former governor.

He joined the NP last Dec. 18 during his 31st birthday celebration, with Villar personally administering the oath at his residence in General Santos City.

Even Villar’s closest opponent in the May 10 presidential elections, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, congratulated Pacquiao, saying it should not matter who the boxing icon will support in the coming elections.

“The pound-for-pound king is one of many reasons why Filipinos all around the world are proud of their heritage. I congratulate Manny Pacquiao for the ability he showed and his victory. This is a great honor for our country. This again proves that Filipinos can take a chance, succeed and be recognized all over the world,” Aquino said. “It doesn’t matter what color of t-shirt he chooses to wear outside of the ring.”

“When he is in the ring doing what he does best, the colors I see are red, blue, white, and yellow. He should be an inspiration to all of us,” he added.

LP guest senatorial candidate and Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros also praised Pacquiao but had a mouthful to say against Villar.

“Manny Pacquiao plays fair, and Manny Villar should follow suit. Pacman had the support and admiration of the people precisely because he fought fairly, a fact that the other Manny shouldn’t ignore,” she said.

“Pacman doesn’t cheat to win. He is willing to face pain to earn his victory, making each and every match a good fight,” she explained. “The other Manny, on the other hand, has no qualms about using money to win the game.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, godfather of Pacquiao’s fourth and youngest daughter Queenie, lauded his kumpadre for dominating the fight and bringing honor to the country.

But Ang Kapatiran Party presidential candidate JC de los Reyes urged Pacquiao to deliver a knockout punch to politicians surrounding him who are promoting the blood sport, which he said is doing the country no good.

De los Reyes said instead of promoting boxing he would rather inspire kids to study and pursue their ambitions in life rather than become a boxer.

Hero’s welcome

In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the Palace is also preparing a hero’s welcome for the boxer who previously received national citations from President Arroyo.

“With his ability to inspire and unite the people, Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao could make a champion public servant,” Olivar said.

“But we hope Manny can create a common denominator of being a champion boxer and a champion public servant, in the event he shifts to a new career.”

Olivar admitted that the Palace regretted the fact that Pacquiao chose to run with the NP instead of under the administration despite his closeness to the President.

He said there would be no politics in the welcome being prepared by the Palace for the Filipino boxing icon.

“He is first and foremost a Filipino boxing icon. We trust that Manny will continue to maintain himself above all else as a symbol of national unity and national pride,” he said.

Not to be outdone, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it will confer an award on Army Senior Master Sergeant Reservist Pacquiao.

“We are still determining what award can be given to Pacquiao but for sure, he will be receiving an award. He may be given an outstanding achievement medal for his victory,” AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in Filipino.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is honored to have a reservist who succeeded and who gave honor to our country,” he said.

Burgos said AFP chief of staff Gen. Delfin Bangit is planning to invite Pacquiao to visit the AFP Medical Center, where injured soldiers are confined.

“He (Bangit) saw in the face of the soldiers there that they are very happy with his (Pacquiao) victory. Many of them idolize him,” he said.

Burgos said some soldiers who watched the people’s champ’s last fight had a hard time expressing their joy because of their disabilities.

“One of the soldiers there wanted to clap but he can’t because he already lost his left hand. Another wants to stand to express his joy when Pacquiao was declared the winner but he failed because of wounds in his feet,” he said.

“Pacquiao raised the morale of these soldiers,” he added.

Around 2,000 soldiers watched the Pacquiao-Clottey match on Sunday in three venues at the AFP General headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Military personnel and civilians were allowed to watch the fight for free at the AFP Wellness Center and the AFP Grandstand.

Those who opted to watch the match inside the AFP Multi-Purpose Theater shelled out P500.

The Pacquiao-Clottey bout was also aired live at the Philippine Army Gymnasium and the Bonifacio Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City and the Philippine Air Force Gym at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

In the same press briefing, Burgos said the military did not record any armed encounter during the duration of the fight.

“The situation last Sunday was orderly, particularly during the time when everyone was watching Pacquiao. But the military remained alert and ready for anything,” he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said the peace and order situation last Sunday was “generally peaceful and orderly.” - Aurea Calica, Paolo Romero, Perseus Echeminada, Jose Rodel Clapano, Alexis Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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