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Pacquiao armed for friendly fire against Mosley

Manny Pacquiao says his highly-anticipated bout against Shane Mosley is "the best-promoted fight because everybody is friends" ahead of their showdown on Sunday morning in Las Vegas.

Manny Pacquiao, left, the WBO Welterweight champion, shakes hands with his opponent 'Sugar' Shane Mosley.
Manny Pacquiao, left, the WBO Welterweight champion, shakes hands with his opponent 'Sugar' Shane Mosley.

LAS VEGAS // Amid an air of mutual respect, a forecast for early-round fisticuffs and a role as decided favourite, Manny Pacquiao will enter the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight seeking the perpetuation of his boxing prime.

That prime, accessed through the last 13 bouts across the last six years since his most recent defeat, finds a fresh and savvy foe in the American veteran, Shane Mosley, whose remarkable career dates to a professional debut at age 21 in February 1993.

"I've missed Vegas," Pacquiao said. "It's been a long time."

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Since the eight-division champion and Philippines congressman last fought in the United States boxing haven in November 2009 against Miguel Cotto, he has played the state of Texas twice to increasingly soaring reviews.

In the spiffy new stadium that houses the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys, Pacquiao defeated Joshua Clottey in March 2010 and Antonio Margarito last November, both performances wreaking both unanimous decisions and wows.

As one boxing pundit put it, he has risen to the top of the sport "with everybody else tied for last place".

From last fall and mentions of his place among all-time greats, he has churned towards a bout, with Pacquiao's WBO Welterweight championship at stake, that has wrought plaudits - from one camp to the other.

"I'm so happy for this fight," Pacquiao said, "because no trash talk … In my life, in my experience, this is the best-promoted fight. Because everybody is friends."

In turn, the Mosley camp has fired back compliments, including this from trainer Nazim Richardson: "Pacquiao is not just a guy off the streets. He is a legendary athlete."

Bob Arum, the promoter, referred to "two gentlemen" who "conduct themselves perfectly". Most knowledgeable forecasters think the two gentlemen will go at it early in the bout, in part because it would behove the 39-year-old Mosley to thrive early and in part because of styles, with neither prone to fleeing a fracas.

Even as Mosley has flatlined of late, losing to Floyd Mayweather in May last year and drawing with Sergio Mora in September, Pacquiao has trained earnestly as if facing a mastodon, and Freddie Roach, his trainer, has called Mosley "the best fighter with speed and punching combinations that Manny has ever fought."

"We're both warriors," Mosley said. This was shortly after Richardson had said: "You've never seen a Manny Pacquiao fight and said, 'I want my money back', and you've never seen a Shane Mosley fight and said, 'I want my money back'."

The bout brings another notch in Pacquiao's emergence with the airing of a pre-fight special Friday night on the major US network CBS, and it finds him with all Las Vegas expecting him to win even while still compelled enough by the match to forge a sell-out.

While some attention has found Mosley's three-inch height and reach advantages, most has found Pacquiao's seven-year age advantage.

Noting a benign fatigue with that, Richardson said, "You're not talking about an ordinary guy getting old in the ring. We're talking about a special guy, a legend.

"'Sugar' Shane Mosley does not have to match Manny Pacquiao because Mosley is bringing his own set of weapons."

Those got him to titles in three weight divisions, and a 34-0 start in the 1990s toward his 46-6-1 (WLD) of this morning, but while Pacquiao and Roach have respected his wiles utterly, that respect has spurred a peerless training camp that has left the Filipino champion looking dreamy.

So even as Richardson said Pacquiao "has never been hit by anybody like Shane", Roach said, "Manny will be Shane's toughest opponent", noting that Pacquiao trained on hills from the get-go in the Philippines rather than starting on flat surfaces, and that he will win "down the middle and with overhand rights followed by the left hook".

If recent fights indicate, such a barrage could look downright fearsome.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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