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Thursday, January 13, 2005
Pacquiao-Morales not a bad Plan B

By Steve Kim

Until late last week it was assumed that Manny Pacquiao would be facing Juan Manuel Marquez on Feb. 26 in a rematch of their heated encounter from last April.

But when those negotiations fell apart, Bob Arum and Murad Muhammad put their minds together and looked for a contingency plan.

Now, on March 19, Pacquiao will be facing Erik Morales at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a bout that will be telecast on HBO pay-per-view.

"I think that the money that was being offered by HBO for Pacquiao-Marquez, while substantial, wasn't enough to make that fight, to satisfy the fighters," explained Arum, who will be co-promoting Pacquiao-Morales with Muhammad. "That got us to thinking that the bigger fight was clearly Morales-Pacquiao and that fight was bigger because it was a pay-per-view fight.

"That led Murad and myself to thinking, 'Well, if it's such a bigger fight and a pay-per-view fight, why not do that fight instead of Pacquiao-Marquez?' And so we went ahead and arranged that fight."

Sources tell MaxBoxing that HBO's license fee for a second Pacquiao-Marquez fight was $1.5 million, which was to be split between the two sides. What held up the rematch was that Marquez was asking for around $1.2 million.

As word leaked out across the industry that Pacquiao-Morales was made, many expressed glee, as well as surprise. It was assumed that Morales, coming off his grueling rubber match to archrival Marco Antonio Barrera on Thanksgiving weekend, would take a lesser fight.

But this is what "El Terrible" wanted.

"You have to listen to the fighter and Morales kept saying that he wanted the biggest fight out there and the biggest fight out there was Pacquiao and that's what we were hearing from Tijuana: 'We want to fight Pacquiao' and that was the fight all the polls were telling us that the public wanted to see," said Arum.

And it was clearly the best business decision for those involved.

"If we had had more money from HBO, we probably would've gone ahead and made Pacquiao-Marquez," Arum admitted. "But since we didn't and the fighters weren't satisfied with the money available and since I didn't think Pacquiao-Marquez was a pay-per-view fight, the alternative was to do Morales-Pacquiao."

Morales was not startled by the recent developments.

"I wasn't surprised," he said to the gathered media on Wednesday afternoon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the opening press conference took place. "Because I know for about a year they were talking about fighting me. I was waiting on it. The opportunity came and I'm very happy with it."

For Morales, it's the best way to get the bitter taste out of his mouth from last November.

"After this fight everyone is going to wonder who Barrera is," he said, through Top Rank publicist Ricardo Jimenez. "I'm going to take care of my business and forget him."

But while he doesn't rule out a fourth bout with Barrera, he says his focus is squarely on his Filipino foe.

"I don't know," answered Morales, when he was asked about getting another crack at Barrera. "I'm thinking about March 19, having a great showing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm going up to 135."

In the "Pac Man" he faces a whirling dervish, with great hand speed and power -- from the southpaw stance, to boot.

"Without a doubt he's very strong and he's probably the strongest fighter I ever faced," Morales conceded. But he was quick to note, "I'm probably the strongest fighter he's ever going to face. So we'll see who's the strongest guy out there."

Like Morales, Pacquiao takes on all comers. Since November of 2003, he has faced Barrera (stopping him in 11 rounds) and had a disputed draw with Marquez (where he dropped the classy counterpuncher three times in the first round) and now, he takes on Morales in March.

In less than two years he will have faced the Mexican "Three Musketeers."

Freddie Roach, his respected trainer, prefers this fight against Morales, much more than a rematch with Marquez.

"I think the styles are going to make a better fight than the Marquez fight," he says. "Marquez is more of a counterpuncher and Morales will fight you and exchange with you. So it makes it a lot better fight, I believe, and Marquez priced himself out of the fight. So maybe it's a nice way of saying he didn't want to fight again."

And while it may be a more exciting, action-packed bout, Roach believes that Morales has a much easier style to decipher.

"Definitely true; the thing is, Morales has been a great fighter and so forth, but he's not a young guy coming up anymore," he points out. "He's probably not as fast or hits as hard as he used to. I would say between him and Barrera, they're on the downsides of their careers a little bit.

"And we're going to take advantage of that. The thing is, we're going to fight this fight, every minute of every round and make this guy fight at our pace and not his."

It should be quite a fight. Not bad for a Plan B.