For the nth time in 13 years, streets in Manila and the rest of the country would be at a standstill until lunch time on Sunday (Manila time; Saturday night, Nevada time).



In that short span of time, the country’s peacekeepers would be doing nothing as crimes in the Philippines are expected to drop to almost zero.

The government soldiers and the rebels will both lay their arms down, and peace, no matter how short, will prevail over the strife-torn areas in Mindanao.

Despite being a Sunday, priests won’t be surprised if only a small number of people attend the day’s masses in all churches.

Reason is Manny Pacquiao, the nation’s sports hero, will again take the center stage atop the ring here in quest for more honors, not only for himself but for the country as well and all Filipinos.

The 32-year-old Pacquiao, who since 1998 has been winning world championships left and right to become the only man to own belts in eight divisions, fights arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico in an effort to remove one of the two remaining blots in a successful 15-year career.

The Pacman will be facing a man, in this, a completion of their trilogy, who, for the last three years has been saying he beat the Filipino pound-for-pound king twice.

The two of the world’s best fighters today battled each other twice in a stretch of seven years, the first in 2008, ending in draw, and the second four years later saw Pacquiao managing a razor-thin one point split decision triumph. Such results left more questions than answers and created animosity between the two camps, hence this Act III of a trilogy that is expected to end, if the World Boxing Organization welterweight champ will prevail and extended if Marquez scores an upset.

This sin city’s odd makers install the defending champion an extraordinary high, near impossible 9-1 favorite besides many predicting that Pacquiao will win by a knockout and prove that his slim victory in 2008 was no fluke.

The Mexican “Dinamita,” on the other hand, will be trying to prove true what he has been brandishing and make the unbelievers eat their words.

So profuse was Marquez’s belief that he won both their first two fights that he once went to the Philippines to ask Pacquiao a third meeting, even wearing a T-shirt pronouncing he beat the Filipino twice.

This infuriated the Pacman’s camp which eventually obliged to give him a chance to redeem himself, but promising a convincing win, preferably a stoppage to shut him up.

Both made the catchweight 144-pound limit during yesterday’s official weight-in held at the jampacked MGM Grand Arena, site of Saturday night’s showdown, with Pacquiao tipping the scale at 143 and Marquez at 142.

From the time they last fought, Pacquiao has grown bigger and, in fact, jumped from the super-featherweight division, then to lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and even junior-middleweight, besting opponents bigger and heavier than him in a seven-fight streak, four of them via knockouts.

Marquez, on the other hand, had gone 5-1 with his only loss –- an overwhelming one — against undefeated Floyd Mayweather in the only welterweight fight he had.

He had mowed down elite fighters as Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz, but still, nobody is giving him a fighting chance despite improving in all departments of the game.

This is because boxing pundits believe he’s too small for a welterweight. In their first fight, it was in featherweight, while the second was in junior-lightweight. Hiring a conditioning expert in the person of suspected drug dealer Angel Heredia, he’s blown out so big that led many to believe he lost his speed in both hands and feet.

Pacquiao is at home in the weight to be disputed and has, in fact, gained in speed and punching power. Under trainer Freddie Roach, he also developed his right hand that was not his asset when they fought last, unlike in their first two fights when he only relied in his left. (PNA)

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