Pacquiao, Diaz rarin’ to fight

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — WITH almost a week left before they finally meet in the ring, both Manny Pacquiao and reigning champion David Diaz declared how ready they are for one of the biggest fights in the lightweight class in recent years.

Pacquiao’s training at the famed Wild Card gym in Los Angeles, California has finally tapered down, as the Filipino ring icon already reduced his sparring from 12 to eight rounds beginning Thursday.

“Handang-handa na si Manny, kahit bukas na ang laban,” quipped long-time friend and corner man Buboy Fernandez after the `Pacman’ called it a day following a two-hour workout that had him trading blows with regular spar mates Julio Gamboa, Carlos Tangaro and Steve Quinorez.

Over in Chicago, Diaz, the 32-year-old champion whose World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight belt will be at stake come June 28 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, held a public workout for the media and fans at the JABB boxing gym where he had been holding training camp as early as April.

“We’re ready to go,” declared Jim Strickland, Diaz’s manager/trainer.

Nine days from now, the two will duke it out in a 12-round slugfest that has the boxing world abuzz over the 135-pound division, the same weight class where the late Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo figured three years ago in what many considered as one of the greatest boxing fights of all time for the WBC lightweight championship.

For Paquiao, it marks his first salvo in a division that is also the heaviest so far he’s fighting at as a 13-year pro.

Diaz meanwhile, has been a natural lightweight since first making a name for himself by twice stunning former world champion Zab Juddah for a slot with the US boxing team in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s celebrated American trainer, said the climb from super-featherweight (130) to lightweight may have an effect on how Pacquiao will move in the ring, but then again, that’s the risk one has to take especially with history at stake.

“I think he can handle it, but we won’t know until the fight if he can take the power of a 135-pound guy,” Roach said, back at the Wildcard gym one day after skipping training owing to a heavy cold.

“I believe his punch and speed will be there but we can only guess right now. It could be like (Ricky) Hatton when he moved to welterweight. He didn’t have the same power or strength,” he added, referring to the heavy-handed Briton, former two-time light-welterweight king who was stopped on his track late last year when he challenged Floyd Mayweather for the WBC welterweight title.

“There’s not much you can do to test that out in the gym, so it’s really hard to say until fight time. But you can make an educated guess.” Roach pointed out.

In the event Pacquiao dethrones Diaz, he’ll become the first Asian to win four world titles in four different weight classes after reigns in the super-featherweight , super-bantamweight and flyweight divisions.