Asian Correspondent » Edwin Espejo Asian Correspondent Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:23:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Top Philippine rebel leader slain Sun, 28 Jun 2015 13:04:40 +0000
NPA commander Leoncio Pitao alias Ka Parago Sandoval is dead.Pic by Keith Bacongco

NPA commander Leoncio Pitao alias Ka Parago Sandoval is dead.Pic by Keith Bacongco

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The military here confirmed that top New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao, a.k.a Ka Parago, was killed in an encounter in Barangay Pañalum, Paquibato District in Davao City Sunday afternoon, June 28.

The encounter also resulted to the death of another NPA rebel, according to the same report.

A source from the underground likewise verified the report as true.

“Initial report from the Philippine’ Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Mawab Davao del Norte indicated that one section of the 6th Scout Ranger Company led by Lt. Camarillo encountered an undetermined number of NPAs led by Parago himself,” the report said.

The military said they were able to recover the slain body of Parago and his still unidentified rebel companion.

Two M16 rifles and three backpacks were also retrieved from the clash site.

Parago is one of the oldest and most wanted NPA commanders in Mindanao who was captured in November 1999 but jumped bail and rejoined his comrades the following year.

Earlier in February of the same year, he gained national prominence when he led a rebel band that captured Army General Victor Obillo and his aide and held them hostage for several weeks before releasing them to the International Red Cross.

He was reported to have been killed several times only to resurface as head of the 1st Pulang Bagani Command, believed to be the main regional guerilla unit of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command.

The NPA’s Southern Mindanao Region is reportedly the biggest and strongest command of the communist rebels with over 1,000 fully armed regulars spread across the Davao Provinces and parts of North Cotabato, Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon.

In 2009, an international outrage broke out in Davao City when suspected military agents abducted and killed her 20-year old daughter Rebelyn.

Rebelyn was dumped in a narrow ditched in Panabo City, some 45 kilometers away from where she was snatched.

At least 4 for the 7 suspected military agents named in the Rebelyn killing were themselves executed by the NPAs.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte described the slaying as “murder most foul.

Duterte and Ka Parago have become personal friends after the Davao City Mayor facilitated the release of a number of NPA ‘prisoners of war.’

Duterte even joined Ka Parago during anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the political party of the NPA.

Parago is believed to be in his early 60s.

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Philippines: Glencore sells share of Tampakan mine to Indophil Resources Wed, 24 Jun 2015 10:35:58 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Commodities trader Glencore Plc has reportedly agreed to sell its entire stake at Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) to Indophil Resources NL, which was acquired by Alsons Prime Investment Corporation for a yet-to-be-disclosed amount and acquisition terms.

This breaking development followed the January completion of the sale of Indophil Resources NL to Alsons Prime.

The report means the complete exit of the Switzerland-based Glencore PLC from the US$5.6 billion copper and gold project of SMI in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

It also ended several months of uncertainty about Glencore plans for the controversial mining project that has been met with strong opposition from the Catholic Church here, environmental groups and the communist-led New People’s Army.

SMI exploration and operations ground to a halt several months after Glencore acquired the majority stake in the mining firm from erstwhile majority holder Xstrata PLC when the commodities firm openly expressed reluctance to finance ‘greenfield’ projects.

Xstrata  reportedly spent over US$350 million while the project was still at the development and exploration stage.

The Tampakan project never went beyond exploration stage, however.

In 2013, SMI ‘downgraded’ its operations, largely confined to maintaining community presence and skeletal office manpower, after it failed to obtain the critical nod of the provincial government of South Cotabato for its Tampakan project.

It laid off more close to 1,000 workers and employees in the last quarter of 2013 following the decision of Glencore to downscale its operations in Tampakan.

Glencore said it has already informed the Australian Stock Exchange of the planned sale of its SMI shares.

Glencore owns 62.5 percent of SMI while Alson controls the remaining 37.5 percent by virtue of its acquisition of Indophil.

The share sale agreement (SSA) between Glencore and Indophil includes “a number of conditions” which must be completed before June 30.

No details of the sale were disclosed.

Exploration firm Indophil Resources NL of Australia became a wholly Filipino-owned company effective January 13 when it delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange following the approval of its sale to Alsons Prime Investment Corporation in a stockholders meeting in December.

Alsons then was backed by Henry Sy’s SM Prime Holdings which earlier appointed Frederic DyBuncio as member of the Board of Directors of Indophil.

Nicasio Alcantara represented the Alsons Group.

Also owning minority shares in SMI are San Miguel Corporation’s Ramon Ang and PLDT’s Manny Pangilinan.

The deal was valued at AU$361 million (P14.3 billion) which was paid in cash

With the Glencore’s reported sale of its stakes to Indophil, SMI becomes a wholly-owned Filipino mining company,. although Indophil continues to be a ‘foreign-listed’ company.

There was no immediate statement from Alsons Prime Investment.

Gavan Collery, vice president for corporate affairs of Indophil, however confirmed that Glencore is divesting all its shares in SMI.

“One hundred percent,” he said in a text message.

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The search for the new Pacquiao Tue, 23 Jun 2015 20:58:08 +0000
Undefeated John Vincent Moralde has yet to book a fight after winning in Australia where his opponent Brayd Smith died two days after collapsing in the dressing room following the fight.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Undefeated John Vincent Moralde has yet to book a fight after winning in Australia where his opponent Brayd Smith died two days after collapsing in the dressing room following the fight. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – In the far away corner of Sanman Gym, John Vincent Moralde is lazily hitting the double ended punching ball.

Moralde has yet to figure in a fight after winning a unanimous decision against Australian Brayd Smith in March this year. With an impressive record of 12 wins in 12 professional fights, he should have no trouble finding another out.

The problem is, Smith died March 16 due to severe head injuries two days after collapsing in his dressing room after he lost to Moralde.

It left Moralde shaken. But Moralde knows he has to leave the tragic memory to his past.

After all, he and the rest of his stable mates are living their dream to become the next Manny Pacquiao, whose lavish mansion is just over a kilometer away from the restaurant cum function venue turned into a gym by their promoter and manager Jim Claude Manangquil.

Originally from Davao City, Moralde made this city his second home in his pursuit for fame and glory.

So are the rest of 14 others in the gym hoping to follow the footsteps of Pacquiao.

No easy road

To some, boxing is as easy as wearing the padded mitts and knocking the other guy out.

But before one even climbs the ring for a four 3-minute round professional fight, he must have already logged more than 500 rounds of sparring, ran more than a 1,000 full marathons, skipped the rope a million times, punched the heavy bag more than 100,000 times and punished himself like no other.

The punishing hours in the gym make boxing a sports with a very high dropout rate.FOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

The punishing hours in the gym make boxing a sports with a very high dropout rate.Pic by EDWIN ESPEJO

The punishing gym work has made many would be Pacquiaos quit before they can even register a couple of wins. The success rate is very slim in the brutal world of boxing.

For every one Pacquiao that made it big time – and he is the only Filipino and Asian to have reached the pinnacle of world boxing fame – more than a 100,000 others have fallen by the wayside.

There is no doubt many of Moralde’s stable mates won’t make it beyond a 10-rounder. Let alone become Philippine champion.

But they have to dream. Boxing is a poor man’s sports. Fame and glory is a boxer’s way out of the poverty rut.


Take, for example lightweight Harmonito dela Torre, one of the brighter prospects in the Sanman’s Promotion’s stable apart from World Boxing Association interim flyweight boxing champion and stable mate Randy Petalcorin.

Dela Torre had to leave his birthplace Cagayan de Oro City to pursue a professional boxing career.

So far so good.

He is undefeated in 16 professional fights and has seen action in the undercards of the tww fights of his ring idol Pacquiao held in Macau, China.

Undefeated boxing prospect Harmonito dela Torre (middle) dreams of stepping into Manny Pacquiao's huge shoes when the Filipino boxing icon hangs his gloves.FOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

Undefeated boxing prospect Harmonito dela Torre (middle) dreams of stepping into Manny Pacquiao’s huge shoes when the Filipino boxing icon hangs his gloves.Pic by EDWIN ESPEJO

Dela Torre is reported to have signed a co-managerial contract with former world welterweight champion Zab Judah.

It is a wise move. No Filipino boxer has ever made it big without signing up with foreign managers with the right ring connection.

Even Manny Pacquiao went through an acrimonious managerial dispute with Muhammad Murad who he later sued.

Like Petalcorin, who also signed up with Australian Peter Maniatis, dela Torre still trains at Sanman Gym waiting for his next bout call.

Boxing renaissance
Pro boxing has picked up in this city ever since Pacquiao broke into the world boxing scene.

But the renaissance has never been as apparent so quickly the last few months with the thought and reality that Pacquiao may be down to his last fight or two before hanging up his gloves for good.

In a span of two months, three boxing cards have already been put up and another one is coming up on July 11. What makes the local boxing scene interesting is the re-entry of MP Promotions, a largely Davao-based promotional outfit owned by Pacquiao and managed by trusted second Nonoy Neri.

There are also at least two other promoters maintaining a good number of boxers in their stable – Amoy Boxing and Golingan Boxing stables.

Many of their boxers have not registered in the consciousness of Filipino boxing fans – like the ALA and Gello-ani boxers of Cebu who have been getting national TV exposures.

Local promoters here are hoping their wards will get similar attention soon. General Santos, after all, officially fancies itself as ‘Home of Champions’.

Pacquiao has so dominated Philippine boxing scene that for over a decade and a half, many simonpures have been relegated to second or third billing.

Now is their time to shine and prove there is life in Philippine boxing beyond Pacquiao.

After all, before Pacquiao, there were Pancho Villas, Gabriel Flash Elordes, Luisito Espinosas, Gerry Peñalosas and General Santos City’s very own Rolando Navarrette.

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Philippines presidential prospect Rodrigo Duterte reveals ‘leftist’ leanings Mon, 22 Jun 2015 00:18:39 +0000
Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

SARANGANI, Philippines – Either you love him or hate him. Davao City’s Rodrigo Duterte is a colorful man and you will drop everything you are doing to listen to his equally colorful language – like it or not.

Consider this.

When Private First Class Khen Subere was released by the New People’s Army (NPA) after two months of captivity on June 13, he asked the Army man why he was declared absent without official leave (AWOL).

The Army man said he could not call his team leader as his cellular phone was seized by the communist rebels.

Ako pa nimo balhin ka sa NPA (If I were you, I would have joined the NPA),” he matter-of-factly told the army private when he was informed that the failure of Subere to report to his superiors also led to his removal from the roster of active servicemen, 10 days after he was abducted by the rebels.

His remarks drew laughs from reporters covering the release.

But Duterte said he was serious.

“I don’t like idea that you were declared AWOL just because you were taken hostage,” the mayor said.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fields questions from reporters during the release of Army man Pfc Khen Subere in Kiamba,Sarangani last June 13.  Duterte is seated with the NPA's Ka Dindo to his right.Pic by EDWIN ESPEJO

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fields questions from reporters during the release of Army man Pfc Khen Subere in Kiamba, Sarangani on June 13. Duterte is seated with the NPA’s Ka Dindo to his right. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

Yet he said he would fly the still shaken Army man in his private helicopter to the headquarters of the 10th Infantry Division, whose commanding general is a good friend and whose unit is a long recipient of Duterte’s generous intelligence funds.

Duterte wasn’t finished, though.

When asked how he will deal with the communist rebels if he becomes president, he answered even before the question could be finished:  “This (insurgency) will be over.”

He said he will invite Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front to join his government.

Duterte went on to explain that he will give communists 3 cabinet positions under his presidency – agrarian reform, social welfare and environment and natural resources.

“Dili coalition kay kanang military mo-kuwan kuwan og coalition.  Diretso na.” he added. (Not a coalition government because the military is averse to that.  We will directly absorb [the Left in government]).

Duterte has been moving around the country on a “listening tour” to gain support for his campaign to shift into a federal form of government, although many observers believe he is getting the pulse of the people for a possible run at the presidency.

Last week, a new survey increased his poll rating for the presidency from virtually zero in February and 12 percent in March to 15 and 19 percent in two different major poll surveys in the last week of May.

So, how will he handle the military?

Duterte is confident he will be able to put reins on the military, from which he commands a high degree of respectability and acceptability.

“We will go into a land reform.  Hatag ko og kuwarta (I will provide funds for) fertilizer, seedlings, farm to market road and (better) farmgate (prices),” the mayor said.

He professed his leftist leanings, too.

“Left man gyud ko.  Ang akong partido Bayan.  Dili ko na ilimod.  Tinuod man na.  (I am really Left.  My party is Bayan.  I will not deny that.  That is true),” he added

“I just happen to be a socialist.  Sosyalista ang akong panlantaw sa katilingban (I have a socialist perspective for our society),” he went on.

Perhaps it is Duterte’s long standing relationship with both the above Left and the underground movement that has largely kept him insulated from becoming a target of the mainstream Left’s human rights campaign.

Despite allegations of maintaining and funding a death squads that target criminals, allegations of human rights abuses do not resonate against Duterte, although a special rapporteur of the United Nations and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima have openly accused him of supporting the extrajudicial killings in Davao City.

Many consider him a political maverick and so far the most formidable ‘presidentiable’ to have emerged from Mindanao. No Mindanaoan has ever been elected to the presidency.

His ‘progressive line’, despite being 71 years old when the presidential campaign period starts next year, will undoubtedly endear him to the Left, assuring him of at least 2 million in ‘command’ votes.  But no doubt, many in the political right will find him too ‘radical’ for comfort.

Will the country vote for a Left-leaning Duterte to the presidency just as many Latin and South American countries have elected communists and socialists presidents this millennium?

Duterte’s strength is that despite his tough-guy reputation, Davao City and most of Mindanao have embraced him as one of their own.  And his leadership style really works – in Davao City.

Is Duterte going to conquer the Philippine electorate where the Maoist Left has so far failed to do so:  Surround the city from the countryside?

Duterte, after all, is coming from the south and the only ‘local’ politician that, so far, mounting a serious challenge to the presidency despite his avowed denials.

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Controversial Philippines Mayor Rodrigo Duterte hits back at critics Tue, 26 May 2015 10:51:06 +0000
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Pic: AP.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

Days after a New York-based human rights group issued a call for the Philippine government to investigate him, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte dared his critics to directly file criminal cases against him in court.

The catch, however, is that they will have to face him in court.

Duterte has been linked to a clandestine assassination squad that has been targeting criminals and known drug pushers in Davao City. He is rumored to have once pushed a drug dealer out of a flying helicopter.

“I will cross examine. Each and every case of 1,000 deaths. I will let you s**t in your pants. You want to experience it? Come to Davao and take hold of shabu (methamphetamine). I will execute you in front of city hall,” said the mayor who has been described by Time magazine as ‘The Punisher’.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) however said, “Duterte’s public support for the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals should prompt a long overdue investigation into Duterte’s possible role in those deaths.”

“Duterte has a long history of inflammatory public statements that would seem to encourage the extrajudicial killing of suspected criminals,” HRW added in a press statement.

HRW claimed more than 1,000 people had been executed in Davao City since the late 1990s.

(READ MORE: A man of many names: Davao’s controversial, colorful Mayor Duterte)

“The Philippine government should take a zero-tolerance approach to any public official who publicly endorses extrajudicial killings as an acceptable means of crime control,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Duterte, a former city prosecutor, has been mayor of the Philippine southern city for more than 20 years.

The controversial Philippine mayor has been making inroads in Philippine national politics after he crashed into the list of probable presidential candidates next year.

He is advocating federalism in his ‘listening tour’ that has brought him to several key cities in the country, including a quick visit to the large community of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

He is running third in at least two major polling firms making surveys on probable presidential candidates.

His supporters have been pushing Duterte to announce his presidential bid but the mayor has been playing coy.

(READ MORE: Southern Philippines Mayor Duterte emerges as presidential prospect)

The Davao City mayor once said he will rebel against his own government if elected president.

“I will declare a revolutionary government,” he previously declared.

On Sunday during his regular TV program, he said he will turn Manila Bay into a dumping ground of executed criminals and thugs.

“I don’t want to be president. I don’t want to kill people. So don’t elect me as president,” Duterte added.

Despite his links to extrajudicial killings that have already spread in major cities and urban centers in the country, Duterte still enjoys popular support of Davao residents and is believed to corner the bulk of Mindanao votes should he run for president.

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Pacquiao Watch: Measuring greatness Mon, 11 May 2015 00:06:16 +0000
Floyd Mayweather

As good as he is, Mayweather’s greatness will be celebrated when he is long gone from boxing. Pic: AP.

When I was interviewed by Star Sports for a special on Manny Pacquiao, I was asked where he will rank in the history of Philippine boxing.

That was late in 2006.

Too bad, I did not get a copy of that sports special. While it was shown by the local cable TV provider here in General Santos City, the one-hour special which featured other great Asian athletes was cut short because Pacquiao was then in the middle of the 2007 congressional elections. His opponent apparently invoked a Philippine law that prohibits undue media exposure for candidates.

Pacquiao lost in that election.

I was tentative with my thoughts, although I already saw greatness in him.

If I remember it right, I said Pacquiao’s greatness will be measured when he is done with boxing.

Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde was then still the standard of greatness in Philippine sports and boxing.

Apparently, I spoke too soon.

After all, no one at that time ever thought Pacquiao would, less than 2 years later, crush Oscar de la Hoya in a career-defining victory that transformed him overnight into a crossover sports celebrity.

Then he marched, nay bulldozed, his way to becoming the only 8-division world boxing champion ever.

Pacquiao not only enthroned himself as the best boxer and athlete the Philippines has ever produced, he is now considered one of best fighters to ever don the laced mitts.

Despite his latest defeat in the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao’s indelible mark is already secured.

Nobody doubts he will make it as a first ballot entrant to boxing’s Hall of Fame.

In fact, retiring now will even solidify the niche he boxed his way into.

How about Mayweather? If Pacquiao is great, then Mayweather is greater. Right?

As good as he is, acceptance as a consummate fighter has eluded the American Olympic bronze medalist.

Mayweather possesses the qualities that should make people consider him a great boxer. Not that he is not.

But why is universal recognition so elusive for him?

Is it because he is brash? Well, Muhammad Ali was not only a brash and vicious trash-talker, he defied and challenged the establishment when he refused to be drafted into the US Army. He once called the eminent Joe Frazier a gorilla. But he became great even before his decline.

Or is it because of Floyd’s vociferous persona both inside and outside the ring? Mayweather has had several brushes with the law, including serving a sentence for battering his wife. Before he spent time in jail, he already received several suspended sentences for minor misdemeanors.

Or is it because Mayweather put business before sport? Before he became the top money-maker of boxing, Mayweather, too, fought in less stellar boxing cards. He was defeating opponents his way, though. Sometimes by knockouts but later most of the times by making the other guy look awkward and amateurish over the distance. Is it a fault to collect his paybacks? He is within his right to make a good living.

Is it because he rubbed people the wrong way? Or is it because his moments came at a time when there is a dearth of boxing talent in with whom he can be measured up against?

True, Pacquiao is a phenomenon. Oscar de la Hoya is one of the true superstars of boxing. Miguel Angel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are fringe candidates to Canastota. Shane Mosley may even get there. Juan Manuel Marquez is a definitely going there. They all went down in defeat against him.

But the circumstances and the timing of his fights against these five common opponents are weighing against Mayweather when pitted against Pacquiao’s impressive wins over them.

Styles of course make fights and both their styles make perfect matches against their common opponents, with the exception of Marquez with whom Pacquiao had difficulties.

Against each other, Mayweather was the better fighter with a style that perfectly complements his size and height advantages over the Filipino boxing icon.

So why does Pacquiao come ahead of him in universal appeal?

Pacquiao, apart from being an explosive and electrifying fighter, has successfully created a likeable persona outside the ring that hides his ferocity when made to wear the punching gloves.

What about Mayweather? He is good, as proved by his undefeated record. It is that the style of Mayweather just doesn’t endear himself to boxing fans who thirst for blood and excitement.

Yes, Mayweather is as great as Pacquiao. Maybe even better.

But his greatness will not come in his time. If he goes on to retire undefeated, his feat will be celebrated when he is long gone from boxing.

It is unfortunate Mayweather came ahead of his time.

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Pacquiao Watch: Fall guys, alibis and PPV buys Thu, 07 May 2015 02:31:26 +0000
Manny Pacquiao, left, shakes hands with Floyd Mayweather Sr. during a press conference following Saturday's fight. Pic: AP.

Manny Pacquiao, left, shakes hands with Floyd Mayweather Sr. during a press conference following Saturday’s fight. Pic: AP.

You don’t kick dead horses. But this is not about dead horses. Nor is this a pathetic post mortem review.

Some will always criticize others for being Monday-morning-post-fight analysts. Trouble is, many still cannot move on (oh that worn out cliché) and are still in the denial stage.

Manny Pacquiao himself went through different stages of disbelief before accepting defeat. In an interview atop the ring after it was announced Floyd Mayweather Jr. won one of the ugliest and most overhyped boxing matches in recent years, Pacquiao said he thought he had won it. At the post-fight press conference later, he accepted that his best was not enough.

Indeed, Pacquiao lost the fight. But not in a manner that it took away what he has done and what he has become in boxing.

Fast forward to the injury.

Now that is something Pacquiao fans are finding comfort in after the defeat of their boxing idol.

But something was wrong about the injury or what the public did not know about it. Nobody reported about it. With all the media attention and with all the major networks and outlets keeping close watch, it was indeed a superb act for Team Pacquiao to be able to conceal it.

Either the media failed in its job or it chose to turn its back and pretended to know nothing. By opting not to publicly disclose the injury heading into the fight, however, Team Pacquiao has found sympathetic ears from disappointed boxing fans. But one cannot blame others for dismissing it as an alibi, one that leaves bad taste to the mouth. Pacquiao has certainly received flak for the non-disclosure. It did not help that he was made to explain it himself.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, hits Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, during their welterweight title fight on Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas. Pic: AP.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, hits Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, during their welterweight title fight on Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas. Pic: AP.

Perennial bad guy Michael Koncz of Team Pacquiao later put the blame on himself for (not properly) filling up the form of the Nevada State Athletic Commission asking for medical issues that the Filipino boxer might have. Even trusted friend Buboy Fernandez jumped into the fray in admitting he pushed for the fight even if Pacquiao had already injured his shoulder.

Pacquiao is now being sued for false declaration. Nothing to worry about though. These suits will go nowhere.

Still, the Pacquiao debacle will go on. For all we know, all this post-fight drumbeating could be a calculated ploy to whet the appetite for a rematch. And it looks like there will be one next year. Top Rank’s Bob Arum, the consummate promoter and shrewd businessman that he is, believes a rematch could happen. And at the rate they are drumming up the shoulder injury of Pacquiao, they may get their wish.

“The fact that he (Mayweather) won the fight, what does that mean? The two of them together created such a bonanza – numbers we’ve never seen before and without Manny who could Floyd create a bonanza like that with?” Arum was quoted as saying by boxing columnist Gareth Davies.

Mayweather himself has already said Pacquiao will get his rematch next year.

With the pay-per-view buys of the Mayweather-Pacquiao expected to break all records, the promoters and cable producers and distributors sure will be laughing their way to the bank with the  gods of Las Vegas grinning inside their vaults.

Mayweather himself was handed a US$100 million check as partial payment for his workmanlike thrashing of Pacquiao.

The 8-division Filipino world boxing champion got his US$50 million guaranteed purse from Arum, again as partial payment.

With checks like those still to come, who wouldn’t want a redux?

READ MORE: Report: Cambodia PM refuses to pay $5,000 Pacquiao-Mayweather bet

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Analysis: Pacquiao schooled, silenced in Las Vegas Sun, 03 May 2015 07:24:55 +0000
Trainer Freddie Roach, left, listens as Manny Pacquiao answers questions during a post-fight press conference. Pic: AP.

Trainer Freddie Roach, left, listens as Manny Pacquiao answers questions during a post-fight press conference. Pic: AP.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Manny Pacquiao lost the biggest fight of his life right at the start when, in the first round, his vaunted aggression was stymied by his tentativeness.

It was a round in which Floyd Mayweather Jr right away established his jabs to keep Pacquiao from teeing off.

Bigger and taller, Mayweather was able to establish his game plan, moving to his left whenever Pacquiao lunged and clinching when the Filipino came close.

Several times Mayweather hit below the belt or dug his elbow into the face of the Filipino to push him away when the referee told them to break during clinches.  He pushed down Pacquiao behind the back of his head and almost got away locking the head of the 8-division world champion.

It was an ugly win for Mayweather and a painful loss for Pacquiao.  But a win is a win.

For a man obsessed with keeping his immaculate record, it was a necessary tactic to keep the streak going.

Whoever said Mayweather would keep it clean does not know his or her boxing.

Some even said it was a bad decision. But, no, it was not a bad decision.  It was the right decision at the end of a disappointing fight that never measured up to the hype.

Two rounds

Pacquiao won clearly in only two rounds – rounds 4 and 6 – when he kept Mayweather in the pocket and connected with a flurry of punches.  But these came like rain in a hot summer.

Pacquiao said he thought he won the fight.  His relatives here in General Santos City also thought he did, according to a local TV station who visited his mansion.

But Mayweather clearly won this one. In the tactical battle between two of the biggest boxing names in their generation, it was Mayweather whose game plan worked.

Pacquiao was not able to solve the Mayweather puzzle.  Never able to execute a Plan B or Plan C when all did not work
He was schooled, his guns silenced.

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera nonetheless said Pacquiao put up a brave fight.  He said his good friend and political ally has nothing to be ashamed of.  He will still be revered as the greatest Filipino boxer of all time.

Pacquiao fan Philip Pabelic said Mayweather was too good for Pacquiao on the day.

At the gym in Lagao, General Santos City, the loud roars of some 6,000 fans during the introduction and the start of Round 1 had turned to tense silence by the middle of the fight when it was apparent Pacquiao’s electric ways were not working for the fight.

When the bell rang at the end there were boos.  Perhaps because of the lack of action, or maybe because many felt Pacquiao came up short. When the runaway unanimous decision was announced, there were no loud protests.  The jeers were halfhearted. They knew their idol lost this one.

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Pacquiao Watch: The longest night Sat, 02 May 2015 12:41:54 +0000

Until they have gone through the first three or four rounds, nobody really knows which versions of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao will show up for the biggest fight tomorrow, Sunday in the Philippines.

The two boxers have been cloistered away for much of their 10-week training time. Each has carefully laid out his own strategy and tactics to proclaim himself the greatest of the generation come crunch and decision time.

That Mayweather will stick to his defensive best is already a given. What remains to be seen is how he neutralizes Pacquiao’s relentless assault.

Pacquiao will be all by himself atop the ring tomorrow.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Pacquiao will be all by himself atop the ring with Mayweather tomorrow.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Mayweather will also be hitting at a target more agile or even faster than he is.

Nothing has prepared him for this.

When the two are left alone atop the ring with only the referee inside, they may or may not be able to execute their plans.

The first three or four rounds will be a tactical battle. Like chess, each fighter will position their pieces and hope to build a strong offense or defense as the case may be.

But because they are a study of contrasting styles, somebody has to take the risk to make a fight really happen.

Pacquiao’s strategy is to give Mayweather the controlled aggression more than the American can handle.

Freddie Roach said he forced Pacquiao to use his left more often in the most difficult training camp the two had ever put up.

Roach, like a true ring tactician, is probably telling us only half-truths because there will be a lot of feinting and faking and plenty of rights that will come from Manny’s way.

What Roach probably also did not elaborate is that Pacquiao will use a lot of double and triple lefts to confuse and put Mayweather’s defense off guard.

Of course I am just trying to figure out which strategy will work best against Mayweather.

But there are givens that Pacquiao should avoid.

There should be no pattern in his offense. No careless rushing in. And never lose patience.

The offense must not be static. He must never allow Mayweather to get into his comfort zone.

Give Mayweather different looks in every round.

Lots of bobbing and weaving. Plenty of body shots. And abundant lateral movements. Vary the punch combinations. These will help confuse Mayweather and forget that boxing means hitting not evading.

When Mayweather is reduced to avoiding being hit rather than compelling Pacquiao to miss, half the battle is won.

Meanwhile, the two will sleep in the longest night of their boxing life.

Tomorrow, the will make their deliverance.

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Pacquiao Watch: Arum is right (he is lying) Sat, 02 May 2015 03:09:28 +0000

Top Rank’s Bob Arum is famous for saying “I lied yesterday. Today, I am telling the truth.”

And he is right on target when he said the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight tomorrow is not the biggest fight ever in professional boxing.

It was the Muhammad Ali-Jose Frazier I that will go down in history as the greatest ever, according to him.

Imagine if it happened today – in the age of social media, internet and cable TV. How big would it be?

Until the Mayweather-Pacquio fight is played out in a manner that equals or surpasses the level of ferocity and animosity of, say, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns and the Ali-Frazier Thrilla in Manila, no one can call it the greatest ever.

Floyd Mayweather Jr

Floyd Mayweather Jr has been carefully packaged throughout his pro career Pic: AP.

Ali and Frazier have bad blood against each other amid the global anti-Vietnam War movement that polarized not only America but the rest of the world.

They fought at the height of the Cold War.

Their first fight was politically charged. Ali was coming from forced ‘exile’ after refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War. Incidentally, he had just renounced his christen-name Cassius Clay to embrace Islam.

Imagine if that happened today in the American ‘War Against Terror’.

In the last of their three fights, an exhausted Ali, who won via technical knockout when Eddie Futch vehemently prevented Frazier from answering the 14th round bell, said it was the closest there is to death.

Hagler and Hearns came from a talent-laden era where the best fought the best. They were their generation’s pure and unadulterated fighters. Boxing purists hail their encounter as the best ever three rounds in professional boxing which ended in a Hearns’ knockout.

During their time and prime, it was not unusual to fight six or more times in a year.

Today, with big money and pay per view television effectively cutting off boxing fans from live gates and free viewing, only marquee fighters get to have their fight shown on live feed.

This also adds new meaning to marquee fighters. Marquee means cash register ringers and plenty of hype in the buildup of a fighter.

Floyd has become the symbol of new marquee fighters. His career has been carefully plotted but his choice of opponents often times has left much wanting.

Pacquiao belongs to the old school with a different twist. A charismatic demon atop the ring.

On Sunday, I hope Arum will again be lying.

Everybody wants a fight to live up to its billing as The Biggest Fight in the Century, including the Ali-Frazier I offering.

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Pacquiao Watch: When parallels meet Sat, 02 May 2015 00:26:05 +0000

In many ways, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao share many things in common.

They both grew up in a dysfunctional family.

Pacquiao’s parents were estranged and Mayweather’s were hooked on drugs.

Both lived in the squalor of poverty and made boxing their ticket out of it.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, pose for photos during a news conference earlier this month. Pic: AP.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines.Pic: AP.

Perhaps, Mayweather was luckier. He went on to box in the Olympics, a dream Pacquiao never got to realize.

They eventually rose to overcome their troubled and deprived childhood to become boxing’s most bankable stars to add to their impressive and Hall of Fame-bound accomplishments.

At some point, they got drowned by their successes. They gambled. They womanized. For Pacquiao, he added booze.

Making up for their childhood depravity, they now surround themselves with dozens of newfound friends, hangers on and burly security.

They become the celebrities they dreamed of all their lives.

They now travel in style. Live in opulence and extravagance.

They share the same stage. The same fame. The same exaltation as boxing’s best.

One found his way to a new religiosity as they approached the end of their illustrious careers. The other tamed (at least for this fight tomorrow) his ranting.

Now they come to a point where their parallel struggles and successes became their shared fate and destiny.

In a twist of fate that many wished should have happened half a decade ago, they will share the same stage and spotlight – for their own personal ‘Battle for Greatness’ – in 24 hours.

Yes the countdown now begins.

While many consider both of them greats in their own right, one will become the first among equals when they clash Sunday, May 3 Philippine time.

The parallels in their career and personal paths will also end Sunday when these great men of two contrasting styles trade more than just punches but also strategy and tactics.

Their own version of the Fight of the Century will settle which one takes the lead in their journey to boxing’s eternal greatness.

Each will want to score that decisive and indisputable victory.

This one is for their career legacies to complete.

We were taught in algebra that parallel lines never meet.

Algebra is an exact science.

Boxing is not.

It is sweet science.

Sometimes, it also defies exact science.

Like how can a good big guy lose to a good small guy?

Yes, Mayweather will come in the bigger guy on Sunday. Much bigger than his official weight of 146 lbs to Pacquiao’s 145.

When they will rehydrate in the next 24 hours, the weight disparity will become even more obvious to the cameras and the naked eyes.

Conventional wisdom says the undefeated is better than one who already has five losses and one who has three of those defeats by the count out.

The betting odds in the City of One-Armed Bandits are a 2-1 favorite for the immaculate-clean record of Mayweather.

But four of six boxing fans say the underdog will win.

Now, that is defying science.

The demeanor of the two protagonists during the weigh in early this morning is exactly the opposite of their betting favors.

On being the smaller guy, Pacquiao had this to say, “I have been fighting guys bigger than me – Margarito, de la Hoya. It does not matter.”

In physics, size matters.

But in boxing, the bigger they are the harder they fall. That is about the only law on physics with which boxing totally agrees.

Physics has mathematics in it.

Algebra is a branch of mathematics.

But tomorrow the parallels will finally meet to defy Algebra, Math and whatever laws on exact science there are.

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Philippines celebrates Mary Jane Veloso reprieve Wed, 29 Apr 2015 03:00:49 +0000
Protesters, who had been keeping vigil at the Indonesian Embassy in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines, celebrate Mary Jane Veloso's reprieve. Pic: AP.

Protesters, who had been keeping vigil at the Indonesian Embassy in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines, celebrate Mary Jane Veloso’s reprieve. Pic: AP.

A multi-front and multi-prong campaign to save Mary Jane Veloso from what seemed like certain death in Indonesia paid off as she was given an eleventh-hour reprieve Tuesday night.

Eight other convicts were not so lucky. They were executed by firing squad early this morning at Besi prison on Nusakambangan Island. The Indonesian government announced shortly after that Veloso was not executed because her alleged recruiter had been arrested in the Philippines.

The Filipina mother of two has insisted that she did not know the 2.6 kilograms of heroin was stashed in the traveling bag lent to her by the recruiter.

But it took the Philippine government more than 5 years before it hastily filed charges against her suspected recruiter, who is also her stepsister.

That case was taken into consideration by the Indonesian government as it rushed through a late reprieve.

For now, it remains only a reprieve – she has not been granted clemency.

There is a long road ahead if the Indonesian government is to be convinced to grant her clemency and order her return to the Philippines so she could be united with her family.

The nation is grateful Indonesia heard the collective voices of Filipinos, many of whom see Veloso as a victim not only of international drug syndicate but also of human trafficking.

Those who organized the campaign to save her deserve praise. They kept the fire burning.

That cannot be said of the embassy officials in Indonesia who failed to put up a credible defense for the domestic helper.

That the Philippine embassy in Jakarta overlooked Indonesian and international laws on human trafficking which could have spared Mary Jane from conviction in the very first place needs to be closely scrutinized. It took Migrante lawyers to cite Indonesia’s ‘Law on the Eradication of the Criminal Act on Trafficking in Persons’ which, according to National Union of Progressive Lawyers (of the Philippines), contains a “non-punishment” clause for criminal acts committed by trafficked persons like Veloso.

Why did the Philippine embassy not contest the charge of drug trafficking thrown against her and fail to present her as a victim of human trafficking?

Again this is a fundamental question that the Philippine government will have to reassess when dealing with similar incidents in the future. It may be time for it to review all cases of Filipinos abroad convicted of similar offenses.

Mary Jane Veloso’s case was not the first. Neither will it be the last.

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Pacquiao Watch: More than just a southpaw Wed, 29 Apr 2015 01:05:10 +0000
Manny Pacquiao's right hand could be a factor in the fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Manny Pacquiao’s right hand could be a factor in the fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

Over the years and in the course of his famed and fabled boxing career, Manny Pacquiao has been known to possess a lethal left.

Matter of fact, that left – whether straight or hook – has already sent many into dreamland.

It will again be his main and, without doubt, best weapon against Floyd Mayweather Jr who he will engage in the most anticipated fight in more than three decades on Sunday, May 3 (Philippine time).

Trainer Freddie Roach was reported to have coached Pacquiao to throw those lefts more often and with the meanest force. But I do not think he has exclusively conditioned Pacquiao to forget his also-lethal right hand.

While almost everybody knows Pacquiao is a southpaw, he is ambidextrous too. He writes and eats with his right hand.

In basketball, one is trained to shoot with both hands. But in boxing, the norm is to use the weaker to set up the favored and stronger hand.

Roach began forcing Pacquiao to use his right hand after he suffered a decisive defeat against Erik Morales.

Pacquiao went head hunting against Morales with his left. He paid dearly when the strategy failed against a boxer of Morales’ caliber.

It also didn’t work with Juan Manuel Marquez in their first fight.

But when Pacquiao “rediscovered” his right hand, he hit phenomenal form.

Pacquiao’s right hand is one of his most underrated strengths, apart from his often overlooked defense

It was his right that finally sent David Diaz to the canvas in winning the lightweight crown en route to breaking through the barrier of the elite company of 5-division world boxing champions. (His win over Marco Antonio Barrera was for the lineal featherweight title after capturing the regular flyweight, super bantamweight, super featherweight boxing crowns)

Against, Ricky Hatton, it was his right hook that sent the brash Briton to the canvas for the first time in the second round. Less than 2 minutes later, Hatton fell like a timber from a left straight thrown with the full weight of the Filipino’s waist and hips.

It was his right hand that repeatedly rocked and did equal damage to Oscar de la Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito who were all wary of his vaunted left coming into the fight.

It would be a disaster if Pacquiao again fell in love with his left hand after the painful lesson of the Morales loss – the only defeat in his career in which he was totally outclassed.

Against the shoulder roll defense of Mayweather, right hooks to the face and the side of the body could open up and lure the American into the center of the ring where both their foot and hand speeds will be tested.

Pacquiao cannot afford to be predictable with his left against Mayweather, whose greatest strength is the ability to read and anticipate punches although, admittedly, the direction and trajectory of Pacquiao’s punches will test that tactical strength of the American.

Pacquiao needs angles to launch his two-fisted attack.

And the right hand is the other side of his arsenal.

Who says he is all left?

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Pacquiao Watch: What to look for Mon, 27 Apr 2015 23:49:38 +0000
Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, pose for photos during a news conference earlier this month. Pic: AP.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines square off this Sunday (Philippine time). Pic: AP.

By this time, Team Pacquiao is on its way to Las Vegas for what could be a long wait to eternity.

Despite the glare of the spotlight and the chaotic frenzy of the media and fans as the fight nears, it will be the loneliest week for both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Deep inside them, they will conjure the fight the way it was laid out and strategized for them in training.

They might be able to set these scenarios aside for some brief moments for the obligatory press briefings and deluge of well-wishers. But when they see those billboards of their fight and are held to brief moments by themselves, they will have those fast-forward flashes.

Only the closest in Team Pacquiao knows what his fight strategy will be come fight night.

Like Pacquiao, Mayweather was cloistered during training. Like the electric Filipino boxing champion, he too has reviewed the tapes of his opponent’s best fights. Each has been looking for opportunities to exploit the slightest mistakes.

But all those preparations will be behind them when they face each other atop the ring. What one was set and prepared for might not be what they will have when they begin hitting each other.

There are many nuances of the fight that are worth looking for. That Pacquiao will throw punches in bunches and in a pace that he is known for, albeit a little more discreet this time, is a given. Mayweather, as everybody knows, is a master of evasion. He makes a living out of it. It is the nuances of the fight that make the Mayweather-Pacquiao encounter worth waiting and interesting to watch.

Hometown decision. Mayweather makes Las Vegas his principal home. He rakes in big money from high-rollers whenever he fights in the Sin City. It is hard to imagine him losing by a close decision. Pacquiao, despite fighting a total of 14 times already in Las Vegas – 11 of them at the MGM Grand – clearly is still a gatecrasher. He needs to score a knockout or a very convincing decision to offset Mayweather’s perceived hometown advantage.

Dirty tactics. Mayweather has all the smarts to make some foul shots look legit. He pushes with his elbows and in the case of Victor Ortiz, may hit during break. He will surely use all the tricks in the books to unsettle Pacquiao.

Fear factor. Pacquiao has always been known to illicit fear in his opponents, even before the first punch is thrown. Those who didn’t already quickly realize how strong he is the moment Pacquiao lands his introductory power punch. Pacquiao needs to let Mayweather feel the sting of his punches.

Patience and Frustration. Pacquiao needs to be patient against Mayweather’s vaunted defense. That means absorbing a lot from Mayweather in order to get that opening. He can look to the past. Against Chatchai Saisakul, he was way behind on points until he was able to connect the one big punch in the 7th round that sapped the will of the Thai to engage him. The following round, he hit Saisakul with a powerful left hook to the chin and put the lights out for the Thai. Pacquiao can also turn the table and work frustration to his favor. He must make Mayweather believe that he is already a loser in agreeing to fight him. And proving he can take the best punches of the flamboyant American might just do it because at these late stages of their careers, Pacquiao cannot hope to outbox the slick Mayweather.

Adjustment. Mike Tyson once said “everybody has a plan until they get hit”. When everything in training does not work, it is the fighter – seasoned as both are – who can easily adjust and shift gears and dictate the tempo of the fight that will emerge superior. Mayweather is very good at it. But Pacquiao could be a difficult challenge.

Again, the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter have been scrutinized to the limit.

But nobody has an idea yet how the fight will turn out to be. Oh, Sunday what will you be?

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The tragic circumstances of Mary Jane Veloso Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:37:59 +0000
Philippine national Mary Jane Veloso, who is on death row for drug offences, pictured at a judicial review at an Indonesian court earlier this month. Pic: AP.

Philippine national Mary Jane Veloso, who is on death row for drug offences, pictured at a judicial review at an Indonesian court earlier this month. Pic: AP.

Unless the Indonesian government orders a stay of her execution, Mary Jane Veloso is expected to face the firing squad tomorrow, Tuesday, along with eight others convicted of drug trafficking.

Like many before her who were also arrested, charged and convicted for similar offenses in other countries, the Philippine government’s last minute appeal to overturn her conviction appears to be another case of too little, too late.

That Veloso said she didn’t know that heroin was in the suitcase lent to her in 2009 should have long ago prompted the Philippine government to launch an investigation into the circumstances that led her to fall victim to an international drug syndicate.

You just don’t stash 2.6 kilograms of heroin into a suitcase without somebody paying and waiting for it in Indonesia.

Even if the 30-year-old mother of two Veloso was a knowing victim in her pursuit for quick money, the least that the government could have done was file a case against her recruiter.

Drug mules are called as such – mules – because they are expendable once caught.

But that does not take away the Filipino in them. They still deserve legal assistance from our embassy which, as revealed, was not extended in time.

Why do we only get to read the story of Veloso by her own account recently?

Anyone who bothers to read her narrative will see the anguish of a poverty driven mother forced to leave her children in search for a living, only to fall victim to a heartless drug syndicate.

It no long matters if she was telling the truth or not. What is paramount is that we have failed to give her all the protection that she needed. Protection from poverty. From syndicates who exploited her plight.

We just hope that the last-minute appeal of the government – including President Benigno Aquino III – will work and help save the life of Veloso.

Like many before her – Flor Contemplacion among them – Veloso’s story shows the dark side of the lives of overseas Filipino workers who are trumpeted by the government as the new heroes of the country.

Not all who seek employment abroad end up sending remittances to their families. Others pay the price with their lives.

It is tragic.

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EU removes Philippines’ illegal fishing ‘yellow card’ Sat, 25 Apr 2015 23:56:39 +0000
Philippines Tuna

Fishport workers carry tunas for processing in General Santos City. Pic: AP.

The European Union (EU) has removed the Philippines from the list of countries being challenged in the implementation of measures to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“Today, the European Commission has revoked the warning yellow card issued to the Philippines in June 2014 regarding measures to fight illegal fishing. The EU acknowledges Philippines’ efforts to partner up with us in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” the European body said in its website.

The Philippines was issued warning – a yellow card – in June last year for possible violation of the strict European standard on traceability of imported fish products.

The country was advised “to fulfill its commitment in deterring and preventing IUU fishing (IUUF) to avoid the possibility of being identified as a non-cooperating country in the international fight against IUUF.”

Philippine agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala immediately welcomed the EU decision to remove the Philippines form the yellow card list saying it will secure the long-term livelihood of 1.8 million Filipino fisher folks.

The Philippines exports US$180 million worth of fish products to the EU market every year.

Most of the fish products that the Philippine exports to Europe are canned and processed tuna.

The EU decision also came after the Philippine government enacted a new fisheries law that will ensure compliance to international agreements on fishing as well as institute measures to help curb illegal fishing and protect marine resources.

“The Department is pleased with this development as it formally recognizes the government’s serious efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of fisheries resource abuse,” Alcala said in a statement.

The European Union earlier granted the Philippines a GSP + status, allowing zero tariffs on over 7,000 Philippine export products, among them tuna and other marine and aquatic products.

Generalized System of Preference or GSP is a preferential tariff system which provides for a formal system of exemption from the more general rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

RELATED: EU puts Thai fishing industry on 6-month probation; threatens import ban

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Philippines counts the cost of China build-up in disputed sea Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:01:40 +0000
A Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Pic: AP.

A Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Pic: AP.

The Philippine government says it is bearing the brunt of US$108 million annual losses in marine life and resources as China continues occupy and build military structures in the disputed South China Sea.

University of the Philippines professor and national scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez last week presented a comprehensive study on the damage inflicted to marine biodiversity and economic productivity by China’s increased militarization in the region.

The Philippines has been claiming China is already encroaching into its territorial waters in the area it calls West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine Bureau Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said “satellite photos have captured the massive and irreversible damage by China’s reclamation activities in several coral reef ecosystems” and islands that dotted the disputed waters.

“As of March 2015, reef ecosystems destroyed in Spratlys or the Kalayaan Group of Islands have already reached an estimated area of 311 hectares,” BFAR further claimed.

That is a total of US$108.9 million of annual economic losses to countries around the South China Sea.

The Philippines said the two groups of islands are part of its territory.

Dr. Gomez said in the same presentation that Spratlys’ coral reef ecosystem services or both the direct and indirect contribution of the ecosystem to human well-being have a value of US$350,000 per hectare per year.

China is claiming the Spratly group of islands as part of its territory under its self-proclaimed 9-dashed Lines which was first announced by the deposed Kuomintang regime of Chiang Kai Shek.

Map courtesy of Rapper.

Map courtesy of Rapper.

The claim covers imaginary U-shaped lines covering the entire South China Sea.

Several Asian countries have protested China’s continental shelf claim submitted to the UN in 2009.

Among them are Vietnam and Malaysia.

The Philippines has formally protested China’s aggressive incursion into its territorial waters and filed a case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea questioning the legality of the latter’s 9-dashed line claim.

“Aside from the construction of military bases in the West Philippine Sea, poaching of giant clam shells, corals, and other marine species by Chinese fishing vessels has repeatedly caused damage to the area’s ecological balance,” Gomez said in his presentation.

“Healthy coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea are very important not only to us but also to the productivity of neighboring marginal seas made possible through larval connectivity,” Gomez added.

BFAR director Asis Perez meanwhile stressed the significance of these resources as they provide livelihood for Filipino fisherfolk.

“Unabated destruction of coral reefs affects at least nine fishing municipalities along the country’s western seaboard,” BFAR said in a statement.

“That is equivalent to more than 12,000 people who directly rely on fishing for income. Total combined volume of catch in these regions is estimated at 21,186.8 MT based on the 2014 data of BFAR’s National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP),” it further said.

RELATED: In-depth: China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea

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Pacquiao Watch: Rating the defense Wed, 22 Apr 2015 22:11:32 +0000
Pacquiao's underrated defense rests on his sturdy yet spry pair of legs.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Pacquiao’s underrated defense rests on his sturdy yet spry pair of legs. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

At first glance, Floyd Mayweather Jr enjoys the decided advantage over Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao when it comes to preventing an opponent from hitting him.

Defense has always been the trademark and hallmark of Mayweather’s boxing style.

His signature shoulder roll has been the bane of fighters who want to engage the American in a slugfest.  Coupled with his quick jabs and above-par foot speed, he has successfully kept that defensive puzzle intact – winning all 47 of his fights as a professional boxer.

Mayweather often sits and waits for his prey to rush in and get frustrated.  But he will pounce on the slightest opening and any hint of mistake from his opponents.  At least, that is what he did when he was at his best some eight years ago.  He will even take the extra step to gain advantage.  Right, Victor Ortiz?

He has good eye and hand coordination, allowing him to evade punches while throwing his own with uncanny accuracy.  That is perhaps the reason why he throws less than Pacquiao, who is not really defense personified

But make no mistake about it. Pacquiao does have his own defensive style, only it is overshadowed by his reputation as a ferocious two-fisted attacker who throws punches in volume and at odd angles.  And don’t forget, those punches sting – real hard.

Pacquiao’s defense rests heavily on his feet, legs and thighs.  They are among the quickest and sturdiest for boxers his size.  This allows him to move side to side, dart in and out in a blur.

Forget about how he gets tagged once in a while.  A slugger does not become one without getting hit.

No pain, no gain.

That is his signature.

He does not pretend to be the boxer that he is not.

He is a puncher and he seeks to destroy.

Despite making a living out of hurting and getting hurt in return, Pacquiao is not really the easiest to nail down.

No fighter – at least in my memory – has put together a string of five to six punches on his face in an exchange.  The only fighter that really outclassed him was Erik Morales.  That was in their first fight and unless you are an avid fan of boxing you will not remember it happened 10 years ago.

Pacquiao has added 15 more pounds since then and exacted revenge from Morales via two KOs.

Nobody really wants to trade bombs with him without the fear of getting knocked out – except Juan Manuel Marquez who got lucky with a well-timed Hail Mary punch that knocked the lights out of the Filipino congressman.

Still, Mayweather will be viewed as the better defensive fighter.

And Pacquiao the quicker puncher.

But that is what conventional wisdom tells us.

Nobody really knows what kind of fight the two will bring when they clash on May 3 (Sunday, Philippine time).

We have 10 days to go.

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Philippines communist rebels steal 74 firearms in deadly raid on mining firm Tue, 21 Apr 2015 03:14:27 +0000
NPA file foto

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Communist rebels have claimed they carted off 74 firearms in a raid at a mining firm owned by a town mayor in the southern Philippine province of Davao Oriental a week ago.

Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA’s Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command, said the raid netted the rebels a total of 54 high powered rifles including three M-60 machine guns and 20 other assorted hand guns and sub machine guns.

It was the biggest rebel haul in recent memory.

The NPAs also reportedly seized more than 14,000 rounds of ammunition.

A company guard was killed when he put up a fight in the five-minute rebel raid. Also slain was a government militiaman when a separate rebel unit attacked a nearby military detachment.

The military said the attack on the military detachment was a diversionary plot in addition to three roadblocks to prevent the police and government soldiers from reinforcing the beleaguered mining company owned by Monkayo town mayor Joselito Brillantes Jr.

Ka Aris said the raid was in retaliation to the mayor’s actions, which included, “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law for building and maintaining a private armed group in pursuit of mining interests.”

The NPA haul was the biggest since April 2007 when guerrillas in the same region raided the armory of Davao Prison and Penal Farm and escaped with 101 firearms, including 50 rifles.

The NPA has been waging a Maoist-inspired protracted guerrilla war since 1969.

From a ragtag army with only 35 vintage rifles, it grew to become a nationwide guerilla army operating in over 72 provinces in the Philippines.

The military however said it has greatly diminished the arms capability of the rebels and has reduced their strength to a little more than 4,000 armed regulars, compared to 20,000 at the height of the Marcos dictatorship.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, the political organization of the NPA, however said it has recovered it armed strength to the level where it was in 1986 when President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a popular revolt.

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Pacquiao Watch: The ring smarts Thu, 16 Apr 2015 23:52:31 +0000
Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, pose for photos during a news conference earlier this month. Pic: AP.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, pose for photos during a news conference last month. Pic: AP.

In a battle of contrasting styles, the guy who dictates the tempo of the fight will have an added edge.

As their styles are perfect counterfoils to each other, it is not too farfetched the Floyd Mayweather Jr-Manny Pacquiao fight, in the end, will disappoint compared to other epic battles that came before theirs.

Yahoo’s Kevin Iole hopes Mayweather and Pacquiao will approximate the level of intensity and ferocity Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns displayed when they traded blows in what is now considered as the greatest three rounds of professional boxing. Seven minutes and 52 seconds to be precise.

Others are wondering how it will compare to the legendary 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier classic that set the bar for what marquee fights are all about.

What separates the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight from the two greatest boxing encounters of all time is the primacy of their ages.

Hagler was 31 when he fought the 27-year-old Hearns.

Ali was 29 and just two fights removed from forced inactivity after he was stripped of his license for refusing to go to war in Vietnam.

Frazier then was 27 who, like Ali, was also an Olympic gold medalist.

Pacquiao is now 36 while Mayweather is 38.

They are by no means shot fighters but the best of their years came 5 or 6 years ago when they first came close to fighting each other.

But as they added years in leaving behind their prime, they brought along with them wisdom and ring smarts.

Mayweather, since becoming the top marquee fighter and PPV draw, added business acumen to his ring smarts, carefully selecting opponents that had trouble with his style and no patience to carefully go after him.

Meanwhile, by force of the times and circumstances, Pacquiao opted to transform himself from a pure slugger to a more complete and finesse fighter.

Now on the final mile of their long journeys to boxing immortality, the two will rely on their guile and ring intelligence to outsmart and outpace each other on May 3 (Philippine time).

Mayweather has the definitive edge over Pacquiao as he is a natural and classic boxer.

One of the most gifted defensive fighters of all time, Mayweather is an intelligent boxer who knows how to read and adjust to the fighting style of the man in the opposite corner.

Very few were able to cut the ring and forced the hand of Mayweather into a slugfest. Those who thought they had him ended up paying dearly.

Did we mention that he is undefeated?

But his ring guile and business savvy may not help and even fail him against Pacquiao.

Because he has not fought the likes of Pacquiao (is there anybody like the Filipino sports great?), his ring smarts will be tested.

Pacquiao does not fight in bursts. His pace is relentless. The angles from where his punches are coming will provide difficulties for Mayweather. Over the years, Pacquiao morphed into a complete fighter and rediscovered the other tool in his arsenal – the right hand.

Pacquiao however has repeatedly displayed impatience and disinterest running after fighters who refuse to engage – the likes of Shane Mosley, Timothy Bradley and Chris Algieri.

He can be careless too, as shown by his two knockout defeats – against Rustico Torrecampo and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Against Mayweather, he needs to be patient but persistent. He needs to be the aggressive but calculating predator.

To Pacquiao’s rescue, Mayweather has not seen a fighter that has better foot and hand speed as him.

That offsets Pacquiao facing the unknown in Mayweather as an equally fast and quick puncher.

But because both fighters are treading into an unknown territory, their ring wisdom will be another X-factor in the fight.

Who has the better ring smarts?

We have three Sundays to go before know.

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Fugitive Islamic rebel leader Ameril Umra Kato dies in Philippines Tue, 14 Apr 2015 10:49:14 +0000
Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

The founder and head of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is dead.

Ameril Umra Kato, who led a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), died early Tuesday after suffering from another cardiac arrest, sources in the rebel group said.

Kato was earlier reported to have suffered a debilitating stroke just months after breaking away from the MILF.

The BIFF was formed due to Kato’s disagreement over the peace negotiations and the decision of the MILF to drop its secessionist bid.

Kato came under fire for leading Moro rebels in attacking several towns in Mindanao following a Philippine Supreme Court decision in 2008 declaring unconstitutional an earlier agreement between the Philippine government under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the MILF.

Scores of civilians and combatants were killed during the violent skirmishes that ensued.

The MILF later expelled Kato for leading the attacks.

Unfazed, the rebel leader formed the BIFF, bringing along with him hundreds of guerrillas under his command.

The BIFF has vowed to pursue the establishment of a separate Islamic state in Mindanao.

Sheik Ismail Abubakar was installed as the new chairman following the death of Kato earlier Tuesday, according to rebel sources.

Abubakar was former Vice Chairman for Political Affairs of BIFF.

In a 2011 report by Jeffrey Tupas, Kato was described as an Islamic teacher in Davao Oriental before joining the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) in 1972, although he was born in Datu Piang.

He later joined the late Salamat Hashim who broke away from the MNLF in the late ’70s and formed the MILF.

Kato joined the MILF in 1980 while pursuing his Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia where he met Salamat.

Kato died at 2.30am Tuesday in his remote hideout in Guindulungan, Maguindanao. He was buried at 7.30 in the same morning in accordance to Muslim rites.

He was 69 years old.

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Mamasapano debacle aftermath: Their true colors Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:05:08 +0000

After milking every bit of political mileage out of the Mamasapano debacle, Philippine senators are it again.

This time, they are pouncing on Mohager Iqbal, or whatever his true name is, for using an alias while heading the peace negotiating panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who heads the Senate Committee on Local Government, has repeatedly derided not only Iqbal, but also the government’s peace panel for entering into negotiations and agreements with people whose identities are “bogus”.

MILF's Mohager Iqbal.Pic by Edwin Espejo

MILF’s Mohager Iqbal. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

He was joined by colleague Sen. Tito Sotto, who walked out of the committee hearing on Monday.

Along with senators Allan Peter Cayetano and Francis Escudero, Marcos and Sotto are among the vocal critics of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) unto which the basic principles and provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) are going to be codified into law.

The BBL will put an end to the MILF rebellion in parts of Mindanao that has spanned more than fourd decades and claimed the lives of more than 200,000 civilians and combatants from both sides.

As the Aquino administration rushes to put closure to the Mindanao conflict, many are still living in the past and holding on to their warped understanding of the internecine war in the island.

It is dangerous and may even be malicious to reduce their nitpicking ways as products of their ancestry. But come to think of it, the majority of those who are still holding on to their unfounded biases against the people who are waging war against the government have Martial Law written all over their DNAs.

Marcos, of course, bears the name of his late dictator father who probably exacerbated and flamed the war in Mindanao, if not started it all.

Remember the Jabidah Massacre?

Cayetano’s father Rene once served as legal counsel of the late henchman’s closest crony Eduardo Cojuangco, while Escudero’s father also served as agriculture minister under Marcos.

Sotto? Well, they are among the television personalities that thrived under martial rule because they were harmless and escapist entertainers.

Marcos and Escudero, in particular, have already issued statements that the Senate will likely pass a watered-down BBL in the wake of the Mamasapano tragedy where 44 members of the elite Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were killed in a bloody operation that killed alleged Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli ‘Marwan’ bi Hir.

They have stooped so low they are now trying to scuttle the peace process altogether by fussing over the names of the people across the peace table.

They don’t trust their own on the other side of the peace talks, even.

It was tragic that the Mamasapano debacle happened. But as we journalists are always trained to be discerning, there are always contexts to events and stories.

The aliases of Iqbal and everyone else are the least of them – if not even unrelated at all.

It is the misdirected and least informed reaction of the people that these senators are carelessly riding on with.

Passion and emotions ran high after the deaths of the brave policemen.

But there were other needless deaths too. How about the 18 MILF combatants who were also looking forward to a lasting peace when Mamasapano happened?

Marcos, his cronies and their ilk are merely acting according to their true characters as politicians.

Opportunists of different order.

Of a dangerous kind.

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PH telco wars heat up Fri, 10 Apr 2015 22:25:21 +0000

The Philippine mobile phone industry continues to be among the brightest spots of the country’s economy with combined revenues of over P200 billion (US$4.5 billion).

On Tuesday, Globe Telecom claimed it has captured leadership in mobile phone postpaid revenues and market share in 2014 with P29.9 billion in total revenue last year.

Globe president and chief executive officer Ernest Cu said their postpaid revenues represented 58 percent of the market share towing behind rivals Smart Communication and Sun Cellular’s P21.7 billion for a combined 42% revenue market share.

Cu likewise claimed Globe is now the leading revenue earner on a per brand basis, dislodging chief rival Smart.

Globe's Ernest Cu crunching the numbers.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Globe’s Ernest Cu crunching the numbers.Pic by Edwin Espejo

The telecom giant achieved several other milestones aided by a record P99 billion of consolidated service revenues, 79 percent of which was generated from mobile revenues.

“The numbers reveal that we have already gained foothold in leadership in the local telco industry,” Cu proclaimed in a press conference at the start of the company’s annual stockholders meeting.

SMART has yet to release its 2014 revenues.

On a per brand basis, Globe now has a market share of 32.9 percent compared to erstwhile industry leader SMART with 28.2 percent.

SMART Communications however is still the combined overall leader factoring in the market shares of sister brands Talk and Text and Sun Cellular which have market shares of 16.8 and 11.1 percent respectively.

Its parent company, Philippine Long Distance Telecommunication, reports a P165 billion revenues for 2014.

Smart likewise is still the industry leader in terms of subscribers with more than 70 million users while Globe has a subscriber base of 44 million.

Globe’s other brand is TM which has a market revenue share of 10.8 percent.

In mobile messaging, Globe claimed it bucked the trend of declining industry revenues.

“The country (mobile user) is moving and shifting usage from calls and SMS to data messaging and VOIP type of calling.”

Still, Cu said, Globe recorded a one percent increase in mobile messaging revenues.

“I cannot stress how large 1 percent is in SMS revenue growth,” he emphasized.

Mobile SMS, according to Globe, accounted for 37 percent of total mobile service revenues which closed the year at P29.1 billion.

The figure is one percent above the P28.8 billion at the end of 2013 “driven by the continued popularity of bucket and unlimited promotions.”

“We plan to sustain our momentum for the long haul as our driving force to continuously provide Filipinos with innovative products and services that will cater to their digital lifestyle,” Cu said in an accompanying press statement.

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Pacquiao Watch: The fear factor (Mayweather fight) Thu, 09 Apr 2015 02:28:53 +0000
Manny Pacquiao. Pic: AP.

Manny Pacquiao. Pic: AP.

In Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao rest the fearsome reputations of two of the best pound for pound boxers in the world.

Both have instilled fears against pretenders for different reasons.

Mayweather for being a difficult fighter because of his guile and ring intelligence.

Pacquiao for being too unorthodox with his foot and hand speeds that go along with enormous power, in addition to being a southpaw.

There were periods in their careers when nobody wants to be inside the ring with either of the two boxers except the referee.

By quirks of fate, the two eventually ended up in the same division where the inevitable has to happen.

Some of their fearsome reputations may now be gone but they are still the best of their generation.

When they collide for an epochal fight on May 2, the one who will be overwhelmed by fear will have one foot in the loser’s box.

Mayweather has been vilified for cherry picking opponents. To his credit, the guys many critics said he avoided in their prime were bigger boxers than he was then.

With the exception of Miguel Angel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley were all already full blown welterweights while Mayweather was just coming out after dominating the super lightweight division in 2005. All, including Mayweather, were in their prime back then. Ten years have since gone and a lot more.

He did eventually face a competitive Cotto, winning a 12-round unanimous decision. But by then, much of Cotto’s zip was gone after suffering KO losses to Margarito and Pacquiao.

In contrast, since his shocking TKO victory over consensus and lineal featherweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera, Pacquiao fought the bests in every division he toiled in, winning world titles in the process.

Even when he himself agreed Juan Manuel Marquez was a difficult fight after their first encounter that ended in a bloody, controversial draw, Pacquiao never backed down. He fought the Mexican three more times, eking out two split decision wins before being knocked out cold in their 4th fight.

Pacquiao has seen them all.

Brawlers. Boxers. Punchers. Avoiders. Even runners.

In the last 5 years, the two have come close and then far from fighting each other.

It is believed that Mayweather finds Pacquiao too unorthodox for his comfort. Five years ago, the consensus was the electric Filipino boxing will give him the best competition and probably hand the American his first loss.

When Pacquiao stopped knocking out opponents and got knocked out himself during that period, Mayweather thought his greatest rival was ripe for the picking.

Coupled with the economics of making the ‘Fight of a Lifetime’ happen, Mayweather finally relented to a date with history and destiny.

But who will be destiny’s child on May 2?

Both having not fought opponents that resemble the style of each other, it will be a test of courage and resilience for Mayweather and Pacquiao.

The critical moments of the fight will come in the first four rounds as they try to impose their will against each other.

But imposing one’s will over the other may not be enough. One must instill fear.

Mayweather will have to make Pacquiao respect his punches because the only way the ‘Man from Gensan’ will stop running after him is when he begins to feel the American’s punches.

They only way to make Pacquiao hesitate and tentative is the sting of Mayweather’s punches, which many believe may not be enough.

Pacquiao has taken on a lot of bigger punchers.

On the flipside, Pacquiao will have to prove that he is the only man capable of hurting the Las Vegas denizen and play on Mayweather’s fears of tasting his first defeat ever.

For arguably, it is the inordinate fear of losing that caused Mayweather to delay the Pacquiao fight for so long.

Fear factor.

We may well see a hint of it in their eyes during the introduction and touching of gloves in the middle of the four-cornered ring.

Let us hope their eyes will be shown up close in between rounds thereafter.

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Pacquiao Watch: The X-factors – age and legs Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:31:00 +0000
The legs are like car tires, the longer they are on the road running, the more they lose their treads.  Pacquiao has been doing  more sprints to refresh his muscle memories.Pic by Edwin Espejo

The legs are like car tires, the longer they are on the road running, the more they lose their treads. Pacquiao has been doing more sprints to refresh his muscle memories in preparation for his Mayweather fight on May 2. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

The Las Vegas moneyline says Manny Pacquiao is almost 2-1 underdog when he goes up against Floyd Mayweather Jr on May 2 (May 3 in the Philippines).

It is the first time in 7 years Pacquiao is stacked up against a betting favorite. The last time it happened, he was fighting a bigger fighter and a bigger boxing superstar who went by the name Oscar de la Hoya.

Everybody knows Pacquiao humbled de la Hoya into quitting and retiring after a dominant career-defining 9th-round technical knockout win.

De la Hoya was 35 years old when he fought Pacquiao. Pacquiao is 36 and will turn 37 in December.

Mayweather is now 38.

Pacquiao and Mayweather however are nowhere near the state of decline of de la Hoya when the latter fought his last professional fight against the Filipino, quitting in his stool before the sound of the bell for the 9th round.

Pacquiao and Mayweather are excellent specimens of extraordinary athletes, naturally gifted if not freaks of nature.

While they may have seen their best years, they are still the best in the business – pound for pound.

So age is not really a big factor between the two of them.

The legs are.

While Pacquiao is almost 2 years younger the Mayweather, he has already plenty of mileage in his pair of feet: 64 fights compared to Mayweather’s 47, 407 rounds to 363.

Average rounds per fight come in at 6 to 7 in favor of Pacquiao (it took Pacquiao a shorter time to demolish his opponents, on the average).

Those pairs of legs are like the tires of your car. The longer years they are spent running on the road, the more they lose treads. They loe traction. When you lose traction, you lose speed.

Pacquiao camp insiders, including Freddie Roach, say the Filipino boxing icon regularly suffers leg cramps during training and sometimes in actual fights. They are good indications that Pacquiao becomes dehydrated more often. He is losing steam as fights wear on.

But make no mistake about it, I will take a ‘tired’ Pacquiao going into the late rounds against anybody in the business.

Mayweather on the other hand has become more hittable against volume punchers.

Marcos Maidana, in their first fight, crowded Mayweather like no other.

For the first time, Mayweather’s pretty face grew lumps. He got his lips busted and took punches more than anyone he had fought against during the last 5 years.

Is he slipping? Pacquiao coach Freddie Roach says so.

Roach is good at seeing signs of deterioration. He has experienced it himself – a case of overstaying his welcome.

He once said de la Hoya cannot pull it (the trigger) anymore. Now he is saying Mayweather’s legs are there no more.

Well, at least against the likes of Pacquiao.

And there is only one Pacquiao.

Mayweather can hide but he cannot run. And when he cannot run, Pacquiao will run roughshod over him.

Ever wonder why Pacquiao is doing more sprints than long distance running? He is not building stamina. He is reclaiming his lost speed and hoping his muscles will build on past memory.

(Next: The heart of champions)

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