The plan of eight division champion Manny Pacquiao to return to the ring in April following his crushing 6th round knockout at the hands of Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last December 8 has been marked by confusion and uncertainty.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum appeared somewhat peeved over reports that others in Team Pacquiao were basically trying to arrange a Pacquiao fight on their own initiative without granting the lead role to his recognized promoter, even as Arum’s stepson and Top Rank president Todd duBeof was in Macau and Singapore exploring the possibilities of a Pacquiao fight in April.
Pacquiao himself – against the wishes and recommendations of celebrated trainer Freddie Roach – indicated his desire to step back into the ring in April with the 20th mentioned as a likely date.
Both Pacquiao and his adviser Michael Koncz said the fight would not take place in the US or Manila, but gave no reason for seeking to stage a fight in Macau, Singapore or Abu Dhabi according to Koncz, which was validated by Arum.
However, another member of Team Pacquiao, Eric Pineda, has been pushing for a Pacquiao fight in Manila, targeting business tycoon and sports patron Manny Pangilinan as the financier.
In fact, Pineda is supposed to meet later this week with a top executive of Pangilinan, Maynilad president Ricky Vargas, who is president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines and the chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas of which Pangilinan is the president.
After a duBeof trip to Macau, the gambling capital of Asia, Arum indicated that no venue was available in April while he also told us that Singapore was not “falling over themselves” to stage the fight, presumably because of Pacquiao’s devastating knockout which has taken some of the luster out of him.
When asked about Abu Dhabi as a possible venue, Arum said wryly, “I don’t know. We’ll see what we’ll see.”
The astute promoter had earlier planned a fifth showdown between Pacquiao and Marquez in September and the efforts to put on a tune-up fight in April appeared to have surprised him, although the word from Mexico was that Marquez himself was planning a tune-up fight.
There was more confusion in this regard as two possible Pacquiao opponents mentioned were the same fighters being eyed by Marquez. One was the Ukraine’s 35 year old Vyacheslav Senchenko (33-1, 22 KO’s) who scored a 9th round TKO over Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton last November as the Briton tried to stage a comeback..
The other was undefeated Jessie Vargas, a protégé of Floyd Mayweather who has a record of 22-0 with 9 knockouts. Both names were also mentioned as possible choices for a Marquez tune-up fight also being planned for April.However, Koncz told Yahoo! Philippines he had a list of nine possible opponents for Pacquiao to choose from while Pineda, for his part, mentioned the names of undefeated Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios and Humberto Sotto who some years ago was in the running for a shot at Pacquiao.
Koncz, who had planned to fly to New York this weekend to meet with Arum, said the trip may be derailed because of the Manila Standard front page story a couple of days ago about a flu epidemic in New York and instead he may travel to Singapore where he plans to meet with tourism officials.
He also planned to visit Abu Dhabi and renew talks he had initiated some two years ago with representatives of the family of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Koncz questioned the efforts of Pineda to sell the idea of a Pacquiao fight in Manila to Pangilinan, pointing out that when ABS-CBN bankrolled the Pacquiao’Oscar Larios WBC International super featherweight title fight on July 2, 2006 with a $4 million budget, it was a financial disaster.
Being businessmen who obviously don’t wish to take a hit, Koncz said he didn’t expect Pangilinan to support the project which he said would cost around $50 million, posing the question: “How are you going to recover that in the Philippines?
He believes that "since they are businessmen if they can’t make money they are not going to do it” although Pangilinan is the kind of sports patron who is magnanimous enough to take a loss provided he can give Filipinos the joy of seeing Pacquiao in action once again. Pangilinan financed the highly successful “Yanig sa Taguig” fight card where Pacquiao pulverized Thailand’s Fahsan 3K Battery in four rounds at The Fort on December 11, 2004 in an IBF featherweight eliminator for the No.2 spot.The proposal brief presented to Pangilinan included WBO/Ring Magazine and WBC Diamond Belt upper bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire and WBO/WBA flyweight champion Brian Viloria as well as Gerry Penalosa’s featherweight protégé Michael Farenas.
The overly-ambitious proposal was quickly downplayed by Donaire who said there is no way he could fight on a Pacquiao undercard. It seemed the “Fighter of the Year” remembers that his hope of fighting on a Pacquiao card in the past was turned down.
Koncz scuttled the proposal when he told us “we won’t allow it (meaning Donaire and Viloria) to be on the same card.”
Celebrated trainer Freddie Roach has made his position clear on the issue stating in an interview with Fight Hub TV, “I really don’t want the tune-up fight. I would rather just go straight into the fifth fight.”
He emphasized “I don’t think a guy of Pacquiao’s level needs a tune-up fight. Thing is, he’s going to get right back on the horse. The first thing he said to me (after the loss to Marquez) – we need to do it one more time.”
With the confusion caused by more than one authorized entity seeking to find a venue and someone to underwrite the venture plus the uncertainty of who the likely opponent will be, Roach’s wish may be granted.

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