PACQUIAO'S CORNER GAMBIT
By Tonton Alcos-Antogop
Wed, 18 Jul 2018
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - Now it can be told, there was a big gambit in the corner of Manny Pacquiao on the day that he wrested the World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight crown from Lucas Matthysse.
That is, he fought without a cutman on his corner as head coach Restituto "Buboy" Fernandez opted to work in the ring with strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune and long-time co-assistant, Raides "Nonoy" Neri.
Dr. Ed dela Vega, the designated cut man picked by Pacquiao himself, did not climb to the ring, which surprised dela Vega himself.
"Ideally, there should have been clear definition of assigned functions," dela Vega told this writer alongside Nonito "Dodong" Donaire, Sr., another member of the Pacquiao coaching staff in the Gastro Sentral Bar of the Le Meridien hotel where Team Pacquiao was billeted during the duration of the fight.
For Donaire however, what was important was the victory of the new WBA welterweight king.
"Ang imporante daug si Manny (The important thing is the victory of Manny)," Donaire said who taped the fists of Pacquiao in the dug-out before the fight.
Both agreed that the move of not having a cut man could have been disastrous if Manny had suffered a cut from the punches of Matthysse.
Pacquiao had a contusion in the fourth round after Matthysse connected to his face but despite that De La Vega was still not instructed to climb the ring.
"I am always for the welfare of the boxer so that any injury will not worsen. I am also for preventive approach so that the boxer will not have an injury that will cause his defeat," De La Vega added, also a United States based orthodontist who is known for making the mouthpieces of Filipino boxers, including that of Senator Pacquiao.
In all the previous fights of Pacquiao a cutman is always on the ring. Miguel Diaz was Pacquiao's cutman, albeit unsuccessful, in his fight with Jeff Horn in July 2017 in Brisbane, Australia.
As of this posting, Fernandez is not immediately available for his reaction but a Team Pacquiao insider said that Pacquiao himself agreed that his cornermen in the ring would be the trio of Fernandez, Neri and Fortune.
Dela Vega according to the source is just on standby just in case Pacquiao will be inflicted with a cut, which did not happen.
Pacquiao won when referee Kenny Bayless saw that Matthysse spit out his mouthpiece at 2:43 of round 7. Matthysse also was knocked down in the 3rd and 5th.
"It was just okay, Manny did not have a cut during the fight," the Team Pacquiao source said.
Based on the WBA rules, letter E thereof (CONTEST RULES) no. 31 (SECONDS), as taken from the WBA OFFICIAL SITE, www.wbaboxing.com, it said, "Each boxer shall be allowed no more than (4) cornermen, one of whom shall be designated as responsible for behavior of all seconds/cornermen during the bout. Only one second/cornerman is allowed in the ring between rounds."
As the WBA rules has stipulated, De La Vega could then be called atop the ring as part of the four if needed. It was clear on the fight video also that only Fernandez was inside the ring in between rounds with Pacquiao as both Neri and Fortune stayed outside of the rope. De La Vega was just at ringside.
Having the trio of Fernandez, Fortune and Neri worked effectively as it led to the old form of Pacquiao, punching strongly with precision and blinding speed, moving with excellent footwork which made his ring generalship superb.
A fight fan who managed to have an audience with Pacquiao in his Le Meridien suite said that Pacquiao fought like he was young.
Pacquiao himself merrily told scribes in a post fight interview that he felt he was just "27" during the fight.
"He fights like he was 25 years. He has the hunger, it's the thing that you get from a junior person," Chris McGrath, an IT specialists from England told this writer.
McGrath who confessed that he watches Pacquiao in his fights theorized that the fighting senator wanted to prove something and that he "hungered" for a convincing victory to silence his critics.
So there you go, call it a gambit or a calculated risk, it worked marvelously for the rejuvenation of Manny Pacquiao. His critics and naysayers perhaps would now find it hard to taunt the senator-boxer. He is 39 remember, the trio of Fernandez, Fortune and Neri worked wonders for him, a gambit that paid off.
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