(STAR) By Joaquin M. Henson - Calling out opponents has become a favorite pastime of top-echelon contenders ready to break out and take away the limelight from marquee fighters. It’s called the daring game.

Take WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, the hottest ticket in the sport today. There isn’t anyone in the top 10 world rankings unwilling to face Pacquiao except for Floyd Mayweather whose obsession to preserve his unblemished record has prompted Top Rank chairman Bob Arum to call him a psychological coward.

Fighters calling out Pacquiao are dreaming of a megabuck payday, something that’s almost guaranteed to whomever battles the Filipino icon. Ghana’s Joshua Clottey was assured of at least a $900,000 purse for engaging Pacquiao last March – he couldn’t have earned anywhere close fighting somebody else.

WBC lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez is probably the noisiest of those calling out Pacquiao. The Mexican drew with Pacquiao and lost a split decision in a rematch. Both encounters were close and Marquez insists he deserves a third crack. But nobody’s paying attention. In Marquez’ fight against Juan Diaz last July 31, he tipped the scales at 133 1/2 pounds. Pacquiao weighed in at 145 3/4 for Clottey. Not only is a third meeting an unmarketable exercise but it also is suicidal for Marquez who turns a ripe 37 on Aug. 23.

Pacquiao, 31, will likely tangle with Mexico’s Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13 at a site still to be determined. Margarito, 32, is a viable opponent and ranked No. 1 in the superwelterweight class by the WBC. Conveniently, the WBC 154-pound throne is vacant and the “emeritus champion,” whatever it means, is Mayweather. If Pacquiao agrees to meet Margarito, it will be for a record eighth title in eight divisions.

But Pacquiao may be biting off more than he can chew. The limit in the superwelterweight division is seven pounds over the 147-pound welterweight ceiling and Pacquiao has never fought weighing in more than 145 3/4. Even if there’s a catchweight limit of 149 or 150 or 151, Margarito will be much bigger than Pacquiao when the bell rings.

Because boxing is more a business than a sport, or at least that’s how it has evolved in the modern era, bouts are arranged mainly on the basis of the best deal a promoter negotiates. Arum promotes both Pacquiao and Margarito and that’s why other credible fighters not in the Top Rank stable are excluded from the equation at the moment. Top Rank stands to maximize its earnings by pitting fighters under its wing rather than share the booty with another promoter. Legacy is now something few fighters aspire for – their goal is simply broken down into dollars and cents.

A fighter calling out Pacquiao is WBC welterweight titlist Andre Berto who has a 26-0 record, with 20 KOs, seven in the first round. He won the title in 2008 and has since turned back four challengers. Berto, 26, is launching a movement to pressure fighters to face him and writers to demand the engagements through social networking.

“Arum wants to keep everything in house,” said Berto. “It’s hurting the sport.”

The other welterweight champions are also waiting in line but because they’re not exposed to the US market, there is doubt if they can generate sales even if their opponent is Pacquiao. The WBA titlist is Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Senchenko who has a 30-0 record, with 20 KOs and has never fought outside his country, Monaco and Russia. The IBF king is Slovenia’s Jan Zaveck, now fighting out of Germany with a 29-1 record, including 17 KOs and the only loss to Poland’s Rafal Jackiewicz by split decision in 2008.

Pacquiao could make a strong statement to protect the integrity of boxing by unifying the welterweight championship, disposing of Berto, Zaveck and Senchenko. But it won’t make economic sense.

Another fighter calling out Pacquiao is WBC No. 4 superwelterweight contender and European titleholder Ryan Rhodes. The Englishman, 33, has a 44-4 record, with 30 KOs and is a southpaw like Pacquiao.

“It’s pretty much disgusting,” said Rhodes quoted by Boxing News editor Tris Dixon. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Margarito gets smashed at welterweight, suspended for nine months, has one fight back – doesn’t look that good – and goes straight in and gets a title shot. All of a sudden, I’m getting bypassed. It’s not nice to see.”

But after all is said and done, there is just one fight the world wants to see – Pacquiao versus Mayweather and from the way Pretty Boy has been posturing lately, the probability is it will finally be staged in May next year.

Singapore proud host of first YOG SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico (The Philippine Star) Updated August 18, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0)

The 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games now being held in Singapore is the closest that the city-state will get to hosting the regular summer Olympics. Though that may be the case, hosting the YOG by the once malaria-infested nation is a big feat especially compared with what Singapore’s neighbors have done in terms of hosting Olympic-style tournaments.

The international multisport event for athletes between 14 and 18 years of age and officially known as the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), started on Aug. 14 and ends on Aug. 26. It is known as the inaugural event of the Summer Youth Olympics that features 3,531 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees who will compete in 184 events in 26 sports.

Over the past several years, we had traced the history of the YOG and have written about the Singapore YOG and the measures taken by the Singaporean government to ensure its success, especially when we were in the area for various professional and personal reasons. We had a chance to talk to Singapore sports officials who had a direct hand in Singapore’s preparations and were privy to their concerns and anxieties about the magnum opus that the country was crafting.

The Singaporeans won the right to host the event over eight other countries on Feb. 21, 2008 through a mail vote by 105 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members according to the website www.olympic.org/uk/news/olympic_news.

A brainchild of IOC president Jacques Rogge, the 13-day games is meant “to inspire young people around the world to participate in sports and adopt and live by the Olympic values”, according to the IOC. Unlike the Olympic Games, youth athletes are expected to stay in Singapore all throughout the Games, even if they have been eliminated from competitions, to take part in culture and education activities.

The www.sgyoutholympic games.com states the birth of the idea of having the Youth Olympics was planted on Apr. 26, 2007. On May 22, 2007, the international forum on Sport of Peace and the Olympic Truce came up with its list of recommendations that supported the IOC’s idea of a YOG. Further discussions ensued until the IOC members approved the YOG on July 5, 2007.

On Aug. 10, 2007, the IOC announced the bid procedure, questionnaires and Games procedure for YOG 2010. Singapore then set up a committee to prepare for its bid for the inaugural YOG. On Sept. 3, 2007, the IOC announced that there are 11 countries interested in hosting the YOG: Singapore; Algiers (Algeria); Athens (Greece); Moscow (Russia); Turin (Italy); Bangkok (Thailand); Belgrade (Republic of Serbia); Debrecen (Hungary); Guatemala City (Guatemala); Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Poznan (Poland).

On Nov. 8, 2007, Greece, Thailand, Russia, Singapore and Italy were the top five shortlisted countries. Russia was ranked first and Singapore second. A month before the award of the YOG, on Jan. 23, 2008, Alexander Chernov, Russian external affairs director of the Moscow’s 2010 bid committee said that “(he) wants Moscow to have the honor of hosting the 1st YOG”, according to the Singapore YOG web site. Chernov was said to have added that Singapore should host the YOG in 2014 but this did not deter the Singaporeans from pursuing their bid with even greater vigor and single-mindedness.

Certainly, hosting the YOG was not without its problems for Singapore, whose citizens are known more for their concentration on commerce and industry. I remember having been told by a Filipino who was given a two-year contract to coach a team sport in Singapore that he had great difficulty getting his national athletes to devote their full time to train since “they were more interested in their business and entrepreneurial careers rather than the national team and sports”.

It is therefore not surprising to hear that the YOG has not attracted the interest of the population. In addition, government overspending on the YOG has, according to Earth Times, provoked anger among Singaporeans, some of whom have called the project a “massive waste of money” which would be better spent on citizens in need. Originally estimated at 104 million Singapore dollars (US$76 M or P3.5 B), the cost of the YOG has ballooned to US$387 M or almost four times budget.

How is the Philippines faring? As of Tuesday morning, Filipino swimmer Jessie King Lacuna, ranked seventh in the world, finished eighth in the boys’ 200-meter freestyle finals. The US Virgin Islands basketball squad downed the Philippines, 34-28, in 3-on-3 basketball.

The YOG should give us a clearer picture on what lies ahead in the 2010 Asian Games, 2011 SEA Games and the 2012 London Olympics.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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