Pacquiao ready to face all comers
- Joaquin M. Henson () - April 30, 2003 - 12:00am
International Boxing Federation (IBF) superbantamweight champion Manny Pacquiao isn’t afraid to fight whoever is mandated as his next challenger.

Pacquiao’s business manager Rod Nazario told The Star yesterday he’s not in the habit of picking opponents.

"Kung sino ang piliin ng
IBF, okay lang sa amin," said Nazario. "Hindi kami namimili ng kalaban. Lalabanan namin si Satanas kung ‘yan ang order ng IBF. We’re not scared of any opponent."

Nazario confirmed that IBF president Marian Muhammad has designated unbeaten Emmanuel Lucero of Mexico as Pacquiao’s next challenger in a scheduled 12-round title fight at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on July 26. Muhammad also decreed that the winner will stake the crown against leading available contender Jose Luis Valbuena of Venezuela in 90 days at a site to be negotiated.

Muhammad earlier ordered Pacquiao to face Valbuena on or before July 26, the deadline for a mandatory defense since the IBF requires its champions to fight the top available contender every nine months.

But Muhammad’s former husband Murad, who is Pacquiao’s exclusive promoter in the US, cut a deal with Main Events for a slot in a Home Box Office (HBO) card headlined by Fernando Vargas. Lucero is managed by Main Events, a New Jersey company controlled by Gary Shaw.

It didn’t seem difficult for Murad to convince his ex-wife to recall her order. Nazario said he didn’t know if Valbuena took a step-aside fee to give way to Lucero.

Murad offered Pacquiao a paycheck of $180,000 plus TV rights. Nazario estimated the gross purse to be at least $200,000. Because Main Events is promoting the show, Murad isn’t investing a cent in the card. Murad is paying Pacquiao from funds raised by Main Events with HBO a main contributor.

Last Thursday, Nazario spoke to Murad in a long distance phone call and laid out his cards.

"I told Murad that frankly, I’m disgusted with him," said Nazario, fuming because Murad hasn’t kept his part of the bargain in a 2 1 /2 year $2.65 Million contract to promote Pacquiao in the US. "I don’t care whom we fight. Whoever is designated by the IBF is okay with us. When I arrive in the US, I will talk to the HBO people and find out exactly how much they’re paying Manny. I want to find out what’s really happening."

There are rumors that Murad got the lion’s share of the money earmarked for Pacquiao in earlier US fights against Agapito Sanchez and Jorge Eliecer Julio. Nazario said he’s not accusing Murad of anything–he only wants to know what the real score is when it comes to dollars and cents.

Nazario, however, ruled out suing Murad for breach of contract. "I don’t want trouble and I don’t like going to court," he said. "I’d rather negotiate and talk it out to settle things." He also dismissed the notion of a conspiracy purportedly hatched by Murad to take away Pacquiao’s title with his ex-wife as accomplice. Nazario said it is in Murad’s interest that Pacquiao remains IBF champion because the New Jersey promoter no longer represents Valbuena in the US.

Nazario and Pacquiao will leave for the US on June 15. Pacquiao will train under Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles until the fight.

"Manny will have more than a month to train for Lucero," said Nazario. "Mabuti sa L.A., walang distractions. Kung lalaban siya rito, katakut-takut ang kanyang inaalagaan ng kamag-anak at kaibigan. In his last fight, he took care of about 40 people from General Santos who came to Manila and stayed in two rooms at the Dona Josefa Apartments. Sabi ko kay Manny, tapusin niya ang kanyang mga shooting commitments so that when we leave, wala na siyang ibang iniisip kundi boksing."

Nazario said even as Pacquiao is busy filming TV shows, he trains every day at the L&M Gym in Sampaloc although the regimen does not include sparring. Pacquiao now weighs about 133 pounds. The superbantamweight limit is 122.

Nazario admitted knowing nothing about Lucero. He has asked Murad to send tapes of the Mexican’s fights.

Lucero, 24, turned pro in 1998 and is the reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) Continental Americas superbantamweight titleholder. He has compiled a 20-0-1 record, with 12 KOs. The quality of his opponents is suspect and his only recognizable victim is former IBF superflyweight champion Juan Polo Perez. A bleeder, Lucero outpointed Perez three years ago when the Colombian was past his prime.

Lucero, raised in the Bronx, New York, won the WBC Continental Americas crown via a foul-filled unanimous decision over John Lowey in Connecticut in 2001. Lucero and Lowey made a mockery of the Queensberry rules as they butted, held, and hit below the belt. Lucero, a southpaw, appeared vulnerable to the overhand right and lost steam in the late going. He finished with a bad cut on his head.

In March last year, Lucero figured in a brawl with Frankie Archuleta in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Lucero floored Archuleta early in the first round then went down twice himself before the bell rang. Lucero breezed to a clear win on points after decking Archuleta in the sixth and eighth rounds.

Lucero hardly raised a sweat but filled a bucketful of crimson in his most recent outing against Angel Chacon in Texas last July. He was cut twice on the head from accidental headbutts and the referee ruled it a first round technical draw. Lucero bled profusely from the wounds.

While Lucero’s record may be unblemished, it’s far from being impressive because his victims were largely nondescript. What’s frightening is his nickname–Carnecerio which is Spanish for "butcher."

Nazario said after Pacquiao disposes of Lucero, he will try to stage the defense against Valbuena in Manila. Then, the goal is to fight for a million bucks against World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight king Marco Antonio Barrera.

"We’ll take care of our IBF obligations before we go for Barrera," said Nazario. "We’re ready for Barrera. If he’s willing to fight Manny, we’ll do it. I hope he’s still around after Manny beats Lucero and Valbuena."

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