Pacquiao ready to rumble

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE controversy on his weight issue over and done with, Manny Pacquiao can’t no longer wait to face Juan Manuel Marquez in the ring and settle who really is the best super-featherweight fighter in the world today.

A day after tipping the scale at a manageable weight of 133 pounds, the Filipino ring icon was back in the Wild Card gym training like a man possessed, sparring for four rounds each with partners Juan Garcia of Arizona and Mexican Ramon Montano – the same fighter who will clash with reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight champion David Diaz in the undercard of the Pacquiao-Marquez slugfest.

The proud son of General Santos City is set to spar six more rounds Thursday, four on Saturday and another four on Monday, before heading off to Las Vegas in the afternoon.

“I’m very OK now. My weight is no longer an issue. I’m very excited to fight Marquez now to finally bring an end to our unfinished business,” said the Pacman.

The 12-round bout slated on March 15 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino for the World Boxing Council (WBC) 130-pound title currently being held by Marquez, will be a rematch between two of the world’s best fighters pound-for-pound after their first meeting in 2004 ended up in a controversial draw.

Trainer Freddie Roach , amazed at how his famous ward had been working out in training camp, vowed that Marquez will see a new Pacquiao this time, different from the one-dimensional fighter whose powerful left hand send the Mexican crashing down to the canvass three times the first time they fought four years ago.

“I’d say he’s a 50 percent better fighter now than he was the last time they fought,” said Roach. “He has better head movement, he’s a two-handed fighter now. He understands you won’t beat Marquez by just throwing the 1-2.”

In contrast, Roach concedes Marquez hasn’t been the fighter he was since that brilliant performance he had against the 29-year-old Filipino, allowing him to salvage a draw despite the three knockdowns he suffered in the opening round.

“He (Marquez) has been more aggressive lately and maybe, it was to sell tickets, but it may just be old legs. Old legs go forward real well, but they don’t go backwards so well. He hasn’t been the same since he fought Manny,” said the Hall of Fame trainer.

But that doesn’t mean they will be taking Marquez, now 34, for granted.

“I have tons of respect for Marquez,” Roach said. “He’s a great fighter. He’s a counter puncher so sometimes he can be boring to watch, but technically, he’s unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, three exciting bouts highlight the pay-per-view undercard of the Pacquiao-Marquez title fight, including one that features Filipino Diosdado Gabi.

Gabi (30-3-1, 21 KOs) is taking on Abner Mares of Mexico, the reigning North America Boxing Organization bantamweight title holder and undefeated in 15 fights, 9 of which were via knockouts.

Then there’s the 10-round face-off between Montano and Diaz, the current world 135-pound champion whom Pacquiao is planning to challenge when he moves up in weight middle of this year.

Diaz, sporting a 33-1 record, has been unbeaten in his last eight bouts spanning three years, and is coming off a hard-fought unanimous decision win against legendary Mexican warrior Erik Morales last year.

The main supporting bout will have Steven Luevano (34-1) defending for the second time his World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight belt against mandatory no. 1 challenger Terdsak Jandaeng of Thailand (29-2). Luevano successfully retained his belt in November last year with a unanimous decision over Antonio Davis.