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'I WILL DIE FOR MY COUNTRY'


PhilBoxing.com




Filipino ring gladiator and national treasure Manny Pacquiao steps into the ring tomorrow determined to finish some unfinished business when he engages WBC super featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez in a fight fans dream rematch before a sell-out crowd at the plush Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In one of his last workouts Pacquiao ripped the punch mitts screaming ”I will die for my country! Mabuhay Filipinas!” even as he appealed to his countrymen to come together to enjoy his fights and also in national unity.

The story of Pacquiao is a rags to riches story that dreamers weave and a whole new generation of young Filipinos seek to emulate.

Four years after their sensational first encounter in which Pacquiao dropped Marquez three times in the opening round with his awesome left but was amazed as the Mexican fought back to turn the tide for several rounds before Pacquiao recovered with a vengeance, nailed Marquez and earned a draw which both sides were unhappy about.

Pacquiao said later he “couldn’t believe it” even as celebrated trainer Freddie Roach told HBO Sports that after the “three knockdowns in the first round I thought the fight was over.”

Both Pacquiao and Marquez made it clear they didn’t want Joe Cortez who refereed their first clash and also the first Pacquiao-Erik “El Terrible” Morales battle to be appointed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission which apparently took their sentiments into consideration and named Kenny Bayless who handled Pacquiao-Morales II as the third man in the ring.

After going their separate ways with Pacquiao opting to stick with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and Marquez leaving Arum and joining Golden Boy Promotions after Arum junked a planned rematch with Pacquiao for the first fight in an epic trilogy between Erik “El Terrible” Morales and Pacquiao, the two sides have finally got what they both longed for – a chance to finish some “Unfinished Business.”

The fight card will be telecast by Solar Sports in cooperation with GMA 7 and will also be shown on pay-per-view over Dream Satellite TV and in several theaters throughout the country.

The nation’s life is certain to grind to a halt as fight fans, families and friends gather around television sets in their homes or public venues to watch the Philippines most popular personality by far, strive once again to enhance the pride and glory he brings to the country even as he continues to appeal for national unity.

The fight may be just as difficult as achieving national unity. A poll among twenty experts handpicked by the “Bible” of boxing Ring Magazine was dead even, 10-10, with Pacquiao evening it up through the magazine’s Philippine correspondent Ted Lerner and this reporter picking Pacquiao to win. But while the Ring chosen experts were deadlocked, the magazine’s respected editor-in-chief Nigel Collins predicted that Pacquiao, being the great fighter he is will win “convincingly” over a very good fighter, Marquez.

Among those who have regularly visited the Wild Card Gym to provide Pacquiao with moral support have been Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, the “Living Legend” of Philippine basketball, former Sen. Robert Jaworski and the Filipino member of the hit group Black Eyed Peas Apple Pineda.

Also expected to be at special ringside aside from Jaworski will be his brother-in-law Sen. Bong Revilla and a host of other government officials led by Vice president Noli De Castro and Speaker Prospero Nograles.

Golden Boy Promotions vice president and international matchmaker Eric Gomez says Marquez has “mentally prepared like there’s no tomorrow” for the rematch which will be telecast by Solar Sports in cooperation with GMA 7.

On the eve of the fight Gomez told Viva Sports/Manila Standard, “obviously Marquez feels he has the advantage because to him its do or die. He’s got to win this fight if not, there’s nothing after this.” For Pacquiao he’s got bigger and better things while for Marquez it doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

The Golden Boy executive said Marquez’s “mentality is very, very good right now and it looks like his body has built up already to a 130 pounds” pointing out that when he fought Marco Antonio Barrera last year that was the first time he moved up to 130 and he still looked a little small but now he looks a lot bigger. He’s built himself into that weight.”

Gomez however conceded that Marquez who is promoted by Golden Boy has a “very , very tough task because he’s fighting the best fighter in the world. Manny is the best fighter right now and he’s the top guy and Marquez has a very tall hill to climb.”

Gomez who watched Marquez train at the Romanza Gym in Mexico City said he expects it to be a very tough fight but that Marquez was “in the best shape I have ever seen him.”

Top photo: Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, poses for photos on the scales during an official weigh-in ceremony at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas on Friday, March 14, 2008. Pacquiao will challenge Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico, in a 12-round WBC super featherweight title match on Saturday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Ronnie Nathanielsz.


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