Pacquiao Vulnerable? Don't Believe the Hype

LYLE FITZSIMMONS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 5:44 PM ET

It's one of those modern-day friendships.

Rick and I work for the same company. We're in contact virtually every day.

But because our respective offices are nearly 2,000 miles apart and across an international border, we've never actually met.

Still, that doesn't prevent a little boxing talk during the down-time hours.

Whether by telephone, e-mail or Facebook, chances are pretty good that once we get the middling daily details of our magazine publishing lives out of the way, the chatter will shift gears.

And because he's married to a native of the Philippines who's still very much connected to the goings-on back home, it's no surprise that Manny Pacquiao is a frequent topic.

All through the flyweight-turned-welterweight's recent run at all-time greatness, I've been on the receiving end of a predictable blend of hollering/hero worship/hyperbole a fan of the dynamic "PacMan" would figure to unleash on a contrasting die-hard non-believer.

And though it seems like ancient history, the stretch when it appeared a Pacquiao clash with Floyd Mayweather Jr. was imminent was a particularly creative time for both of us. But now that "Money" seems more intent on cleaning out the 147-pound female ranks, we've had to move to other things.

This week -- it's Antonio Margarito.

I'm already on the record a couple times regarding the upcoming mega-bout at Cowboys Stadium -- initially with disgust that it's been sanctioned as a catch-weight title bout, then coming to believe anyone who's committed Margarito's alleged gloved deeds has no business in a ring at all.

But thanks to Bob Arum, Jerry Jones and their casts of minions-- the show will go on.

So if and when it does, I've made it equally clear I think Pacquiao wins going away.

And does so in nine or 10 rounds, tops.

The boys who set the betting numbers seem to concur, too, with the multiple- time BWAA "Fighter of the Year" requiring a $600 wager to return $100, while a $100 bet on Margarito would yield a $400 payback as of Monday at World Sports Exchange (wsex.com).

The over/under in rounds is 9.5, leaving a coin flip for me based on my own 9/10 guess.

We'll soon see on which side my 100 bucks falls.

But bottom line, a lot of people see it as a sure thing.

Which made it all the more surprising when, just recently, my pal began seeing trouble in his Pac-colored lenses.

"This one is scaring the people back there (in the Philippines) a little bit," he said. "They're worried about Manny being focused enough, like maybe he's got too much on his plate.

"Too many commitments going on."

When I first heard him say it, I thought, "Hmmm, maybe he's got something there."

After all, Manny is pretty much God in those parts.

And with his new gig as a legislator, perhaps it's a dangerous game to play distracted when your next foe is nearly five inches taller head to toe, six inches longer knuckle to knuckle and has more than twice as many knockouts in title fights at 147 pounds (eight) as you've had fights (three).

Not to mention he's probably itching for something to prove post-Mosley.

Heck, even trainer/media whore Freddie Roach has gotten in on the act and left lingering questions as to who got the better of training camp sparring sessions between Pac and 140-pounder Amir Khan -- including a Monday gem in which he claimed Khan "punched the sh*t out of Manny" back home.

It's pretty compelling stuff. And a lot of it makes sense.

But even with a ticket available on the "he can lose" bandwagon, I'm still turning it down.

Rather than a genuine crack in the foundation of the multi-division empire they've built, I'm thinking instead Roach's commentary ought to be construed in three other directions before being branded truly indicative of Pacquiao's impending demise.

Perhaps he's trying to get in Margarito's head.

Perhaps he's trying to drum $54.95's worth of interest in the PPV.

Or perhaps he's looking for a way to boost the long-term street cred of another client -- Khan -- who's preparing for a title bout of his own with Marcos Maidana on Dec. 11 in Las Vegas.

No matter which you prefer, each has got to be far more feasible than an idea anyone not named Manny gets his hand raised on Nov. 13.

It simply cannot happen.

Besides, I'm not quite ready to talk to Rick about hockey just yet.


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