THERE was concern that Erik Morales would struggle to meet the 130lb weight limit for his November 18, 2006 rubber match with Manny Pacquiao. So much so that the Mexican would have been forced to pay Pacquiao $500,000 for every pound he came in overweight – and if he came in any higher than 136, the Filipino insisted he would take the money and run. But the 12-rounder – at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas – went ahead when both combatants weighed in at 129lbs.

MORALES, 30, insisted he began training camp in top shape – for the first time since he was 23 – and was pounding through 12-round sparring sessions with ease. “I feel no pressure,” he said. “I’ve done everything I’ve needed to, worked really hard and feel strong. That’s going to be the key.”

“AS far as I’m concerned there’s going to be a really good fight,” Morales continued. “I heard Pacquiao say I’m an old man, that I’m done, but we shall see. I’ve looked good in the gym and, believe me, I feel really good. I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m going to win and that’s all I have on my mind.”

PACQUIAO and his team were also confident and with good reason. Although Morales had outpointed Manny the year before, the Filipino had won their rematch by halting the Mexican in 10 rounds. “Manny’s going to make this guy fight for every minute of every round,” said trainer Freddie Roach. No doubt he’s going to knock out Morales again. First time he [Morales] gets hit, he’s going to have flashbacks.”

THE 18,276 crowd got to see a violent fight. It only lasted three intense rounds but no one felt short-changed by the end. Particularly not the fighters; Pacquiao picked up a cool $3million while Morales pocketed $2.75million.

IT was fierce from the start as they exchanged punishment. In the early going, both would react to the punches as if they were nothing, all but beckoning their opponents to do their worst. But Pacquiao was soon in control, dropping Morales in the second. Incredibly he rose to enjoy the better of a furious exchange at the end of the session, but it was all over in the next as Manny scored two more knockdowns.

THE ageing warrior opted not to get up following the third fall. “I saw my corner urging me to get up,” he said. “But I knew it was futile. There was no point.”

“PACQUIAO was too fast, too strong,” Morales said. “I did everything necessary in camp to win this fight. It wasn’t my night. It’s the first time in my career I’ve felt the power of my opponent.”

ACCORDING to Roach, Pacquiao felt unwell before the contest. “He told me he felt dizzy and his throat hurt… I was really worried. But he fought really well.”

IN the build-up it had been reported that Pacquiao had signed a massive deal with Golden Boy, but as it turned out, he changed his mind and signed with Bob Arum’s Top Rank instead. Oscar De La Hoya was reportedly at the Thomas and Mack alongside Marco Antonio Barrera and waited for Manny to join them, but he never did.

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