Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Extra fire consumes Manny Pacquiao this time

LAS VEGAS—Asked yet again about the added muscle Juan Manuel Marquez has put on, Manny Pacquiao decided to make light of it.

Is he happy with Marquez’ added size as trainer Freddie Roach is?

“Maybe,” Pacquiao said. “Because he’s a bigger target.”
Pacquiao was formally welcomed by MGM Grand Tuesday noon and held a press conference before members of the print media where the reigning pound-for-pound king gamely answered questions regarding the bout against Marquez on Nov. 12 here.

Pacquiao was greeted by a huge throng of supporters and journalists upon his arrival at the MGM Grand main lobby and told reporters he was all set for the third fight against his Mexican archnemesis.

The two have fought to a pair of close decisions—the first one ended in a draw and the second was a narrow split victory by the Filipino ring sensation—but Pacquiao said the third fight will end up very differently, if only for the fighter he has become.

“I think I’m more improved right now compared to three, four years ago,” Pacquiao said. “I’m more experienced especially in strategy and techniques. More improved right hand, the movement, side-by-side, the timing. I learned to be a counterpuncher and be an aggressive fighter.”

Pacquiao also said he is only worried about Marquez laser-like counter punches and little else.

“Speed is not a problem, power too,” Pacquiao said. “His counterpunching is the only thing I’m concerned about.”

Roach, who is expecting—and hoping—Marquez to use all that added size to engage Pacquiao in a brawl, said the third bout will be the best fight in the trilogy and had earlier said people should not be surprised that it will end in the first round.

“Marquez has become a fan friendly fighter,” Roach said. “And let’s face it, the reason you put muscle is because you want to exchange. And I like that. I think he’s going to fight us. This will be the best of all three fights with the way both guys prepared.

“He’s hurt Manny in the past, he’s had some success attacking Manny and I feel he’ll come after us in this fight and we’re ready for that.”

Jalen Rose, the former NBA star who will do coverage work for cable giant ESPN, also sees Pacquiao as the favorite, saying a knockout will come in the late rounds.

“Marquez has shown he can give Manny problems,” Rose, a member of college basketball’s famed Fab Five, said. “But Manny has grown so much since their last fight. I don’t just expect Manny to show up and do it. I expect him to show he’s pound-for-pound [king] and do it.”

Throw in the fact that Pacquiao trained harder than usual for this bout, it seems that the Vegas oddsmakers were not out of line when they installed the Pacman a -950 favorite, with Marquez a +650 underdog.

“This fight is one of the most important of my [career],” said Pacquiao. “This fight is really important to me because there is the doubt [over who] won the last two fights, that’s why I’m very motivated.”

Pacquiao said he felt disrespected over Marquez luring him into a third fight by constantly claiming he won both their previous bouts.

“This fight is more personal because of what Marquez did,” Roach said. “He went to the Philippines and tried to embarrass Manny. Manny has extra fire under him for this fight.”

“I don’t think the fight will go the distance,” added Roach.

Meanwhile, at least 60 Filipino congressmen are expected to be at the MGM Grand to watch as Pacquiao defends his WBO welterweight title against Marquez Saturday.

“At least 60. We’ll do a roll call here,” said Pacquiao, who is a member of Congress representing Sarangani Province.

“I’ve met I think about 20 of them already in the gym,” joked Roach.
Pacquiao also took time out to offer his condolences to the family of the late heavyweight great Joe Frazier, who was one half of the celebrated Thrilla in Manila at the Araneta Coliseum in the Philippines in 1975. Frazier, who fought Muhammad Ali in that card, succumbed to liver cancer Monday.

“We will pray for him,” Pacquiao said. “He was a great fighter, a legend fighter. His memory will always remain in boxing.”

Pacquiao could earn close to $30 million for the bout, including shares of the pay-per-view income, while Marquez is guaranteed $5 million, which could go higher depending on the PPV numbers.

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